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Mamelukes snippet #4

Jerry Pournelle’s Janissaries series is alive and well. Drop in to discuss it and — especially— the latest addition: Mamelukes by Jerry himself with a little posthumous help from Phillip Pournelle and David!
Mamelukes snippet #4
Post by runsforcelery   » Sun Sep 29, 2019 12:28 am

runsforcelery
First Space Lord

Posts: 2425
Joined: Sun Aug 09, 2009 10:39 am
Location: South Carolina

Sorry this is running late!

______________________________________________________

"I'm going to draw on your table cloth," Rick said. "This circle represents the True Sun. Tran is a world, round, a ball— I suppose you know this?"

Strymon shrugged.

"Again, I have been told this, but it does not seem reason. Yet, if the world is flat, what is on the underside? I am willing to believe it is a ball. I am told you have seen it as such, that your ships go—" He pointed up. "Up beyond the sky, above the Vault of the Sky, above the realm of the Day Father. I confess this disturbs me. If you have been beyond the sky, to the realms of endless day, you must have seen God."

"I've been there, but God hides Himself," Rick said. "Not even the Galactics have seen Him."

"And yet they believe in Yatar?" Strymon asked.

"He is not known by that name, but yes, many believe in the Almighty," Rick said. And how did Agzaral put it? 'The dominant religion of the Confederation is not inconsistent with the great Monotheisms of Earth.' Something like that. "But yes, I have seen this world as a single ball in space." He drew a circle around the dot of the True Sun. "And this is the path this world takes around the True Sun. And now, well out beyond this world, moving in a greater circle around Tran and the True Sun alike, is a second Sun that you call the Firestealer." He drew another circle enclosing the first. "When the Firestealer is on the other side of the True Sun, it's moving farther away from Tran, because Tran is moving much faster than the Firestealer. The Stealer appears to grow dimmer and dimmer because each day it's farther away, until it passes behind the True Sun. Then each day it becomes brighter again as Tran grows closer to it." Rick illustrated on the tablecloth. "Eventually Tran passes between Firestealer and True Sun and we have the high summers, warmer with the night lit by the Firestealer."

Strymon stared at the table cloth.

"If you say so," he said finally. "I confess uneasiness. When I was a child I believed True Sun and Firestealer were gods. Then I found not even the priests believed this. The gods live in the realms of endless day beyond the vault of the sky, or so it is said, but you have been there and did not see them. But what has all this to do with The Time? Every year there comes a time when the Firestealer stands in the night sky. It is always thus."

Rick drew a large arc on the table cloth.

"There is a third sun," Rick said. "Red. It is smaller than either True Sun or Firestealer, and its path carries it so far away that you don't see it unless you know to look for it. But every three hundred fifty three of your years it comes closer, close enough to bring heat and light and chaos. It is coming now."

"The Demon," Strymon half whispered. "We see it. It grows brighter. But you say it is no more than another sun? But the Honorable Matthias said—" Strymon shrugged. "I suppose it is no matter what the priest of Vothan said. This is no speculation. You have seen all this. You know."

"Yes, Highness," Rick said.

Strymon laughed.

"Highness. You have been higher than ever I shall, but you call me Highness. Well, a day, Lord Rick. Your lady's stories of The Time are true, then. The seas will rise, the days grow longer, the summers hot. Waves of refugees will come from the south. The icy plains will melt, grass grow on the tundra. All this."

"All this," Rick said. "This and more."

"And your part?" Strymon asked.

"I beg your pardon?"

Strymon stretched his feet out under the table and lifted his wine cup.

"My Lord, I am a simple man, soldier not diplomat. So, I think, are you. You will do well all the tasks that the gods give you, but you are not ruled by ambition. So. As one soldier to another, what will you do? What are your preparations for The Time? I freely confess I would copy you."

Rick smiled thinly.

"Fate has given us different roles, I think," Rick said. "My part is different from yours. Give me a moment." Rick drained a water glass and stared into the fire. "Highness, you've heard stories of the sky demons."

"Yes. They are part of the legends of The Time. Do you say, then, that all the old legends are true? The seas rise, the land burns, crops fail, and evil gods rain skyfire across the land." Strymon shuddered. "The sky demons bring the skyfire."

"They do," Rick said. "More than once in Tran's history. And that is my part, Highness, to prevent the skyfire if I can."

"How will you do this?"

"I may not be able to," Rick said.

Tylara took his hand.

"If anyone can, you will, My Lord husband."

"I hope so. Highness, the sky demons are real. They are not true demons, they are creatures of flesh and blood, but they were not born of human women. They see this world and all its people as you or I would see a herd of sheep, useful in potential, valuable even, but of no great importance. They want only one thing from Tran."

"And that is?"

"The essence of the plant we call madweed. They use it for pleasure, and they are willing to pay well for it."

"Ah," Strymon exclaimed. "That explains why you grow madweed at Castle Armagh! When it was told to me I could not believe it, yet my agents were trustworthy."

"Trustworthy and very adept," Rick said. "I had no idea you had agents watching Armagh. My security officers must not be as careful as I thought."

Strymon shrugged.

"We can discuss this another time," he said. "But you grow madweed for the sky demons?"

"I do."

"And in exchange they bring you new charges for your star weapons." Strymon's tone was emphatic. He reached into a sleeve pocket and retrieved a .45 ACP cartridge. "Like this."

"Like that," Rick agreed.

"When I was taken prisoner they naturally took my weapons," Tylara said. "The pistol among them. Later, after the attempts on my life, Prince Strymon was honorable enough to return the pistol to me for my protection."

Rick nodded.

"Less one cartridge. That much was in your letters," Rick said. "Now he has all our weapons."

"Only for the moment, My Lord," Strymon said. "Only for the moment. They will be returned to you long before you have need of them."

"All right, we'll leave it at that for now. Prince, my wife tells me you became her friend before you ceased to be her jailer. I have great regard for Tylara's abilities. Her father once asked me who last fooled her, and I had no answer. It's because of your kindness to her and her good opinion that I speak this frankly with you."

Strymon spread his hands, fingers apart.

"Thank you. I believe I deserve your trust."

"So do I," Rick said. "Despite this mystery of our weapons. So. You know what I must have from the sky demons, and why the Armagh madweed farms must be my first concern. Now I tell you that it is Armagh that will most likely suffer skyfire. With luck it will be only Armagh."

"Luck and the favor of Yatar and Christ," Tylara said.

Rick nodded. Tylara's sudden conversion to the new Unified Christian Church had been a surprise, but it was no surprise that her conviction was deep. She's never been a shallow person, Rick thought. And who am I to encourage cynicism? Maybe it's all true, here anyway. Maybe God lets us create Him. I'm no preacher.

"To business, then," he said. "You have a treaty with Ganton. May I know the terms?"

"Certainly. I would gladly tell you, but perhaps—yes." Strymon clapped his hands. "My compliments to My Lord Father Apelles, and we request his attendance," he told the servant who answered.

"My Lord Father Apelles?" Rick said.

Tylara smiled.

"He has risen since you saw him last. Justifiably. High Priest Yanulf and Archbishop Polycarp have decreed that he be raised to bishop so soon as sufficient prelates may be gathered to consummate his elevation."

Apelles was robed in blue garta cloth and wore a large pectoral cross topped with the sun disk of Yatar, as befitted a bishop-designate of the Unified Church, and he hardly resembled the young swineherd turned clerk that Rick remembered. He can't be thirty yet, doesn't look twenty-fiv e. Rick stood and bowed. It never hurt to show respect to the clergy.

"My Lord Father Apelles. It's good to see you again."

"And you, Lord Rick. My Lady."

Learned some courtly manners, too, Rick thought. Respectful, but mindful of the dignity of his offices. Odd how quickly they pick that up…

"Lord Father, Lord Rick has requested to know the terms of my treaty with Wanax Ganton. As you were one of the witnesses, I thought it best to have you recite it," Strymon said.

"As you will, Highness," Apelles said.

"It will be dry work," Rick said. "Perhaps My Lord Father would care for wine?"

"A small glass only," Apelles said. "It is a short treaty. Ta-Meltemos withdraws from the invasion of Drantos, will assist in the expulsion of all enemies from Drantos for the period of one year, and thereafter will aid Drantos in war against any power other than the Five Kingdoms for five years. In return, Drantos imposes no demand for reparations, and for five years will aid Ta-Meltemos against enemies other than Rome. Furthermore, as soon as Prince Strymon and his army have departed from Drantos, I am to share with him all I know of The Time, including what I know of sky demons, skyfire, and the box that speaks to the stars. Prior to that I am free to share what I know of the healing arts, and to preach the True Religion of the Unified Church of Yatar and Christ." Apelles shrugged. "That latter is not formally part of the Treaty, but it is an understood condition of my accompanying his Highness to the Green Palace."

Rick frowned.

"I heard nothing to prevent Wanax Ganton from pressing a claim to the throne of the High Rexja."

"Nor I, Lord," Apelles said. "Of course at the time the treaty was made, there was no serious thought of such. Am I to understand that the head was that of Akkilas?"

Rick looked to Strymon.

"I am not sure," Strymon said. "I suppose I should not be surprised that you know of the head."

Apelles shrugged.

"Highness, I would be astonished if there were any man in the army who does not know of it. Your own soldiers rejoice that you have as good a claim as any, now that the heir is dead. I make little doubt that Wanax Ganton's men feel much the same about his claims."

"And the Treaty says nothing of any of this," Rick observed.

"More to the point," Strymon said, "my chief benefit from this treaty was to be knowledge. Knowledge I do not receive until I have brought my army back to Ta-Meltemos. Ganton has reaped the benefits of this agreement. I have not."

"That is a matter of time only," Apelles said. "I certainly intend to fulfill my part of the bargain."

"Until Ganton orders you otherwise?" Strymon suggested.

Apelles's expression didn't change.

"Highness, I was given an order by a king in regards to a treaty. The Wanax swore to that treaty, and I swore as a sacred witness. No order from the Wanax can change that." He shrugged. "I do not say what I might do if I received a decree from Patriarch Yanulf nullifying the treaty, but I hardly consider that a likely event. My future seems clear enough. I shall be your advisor until am released. I expect I will also be appointed the Patriarch's Nuncio. The arrangement is not uncommon."

"With the clear implication that my interests and those of the Patriarch are the same."

"Are they not?" Apelles asked.

Strymon nodded.

"I suppose, I have no reason to think otherwise. Assuming that what I am told of The Time to come is true."

"I am convinced that it is true," Apelles said. "I believe Lord Rick and Lady Tylara are convinced. I know that Patriarch Yanulf is, for he speaks of little else by his own choice. Preparation for The Time should be the highest consideration of everyone to whom God has given authority. So says the Church. Heed that advice, Prince, and you will do well by the people God has entrusted to you."

Strymon sat nodding to himself for a moment, then stood in decision. He bowed.

"My thanks. You are welcome to join us for the rest of the evening, My Lord Father, but I suggest your time would be better used preparing to march. We depart immediately for Ta-Meltemos. I hope to have my entire army on my home soil by dark two days hence. Earlier if possible. We march."

"You said immediately?"

"Yes. I have already given orders to my officers. Now I inform you."

"There are wounded that should not be moved so soon," Apelles protested.

"Yes, I had thought of that. My Lord Rick, regarding any of my troops who must be left behind, I release them into your service and custody. When they are recovered they should be escorted to our borders, or they may remain in your service if they so choose. I pledge to pay any expenses you may incur by this. My Lord Father Apelles, will this fulfill the conditions of the Treaty?"

"My Lord Rick remains Warlord of Drantos?" Apelles asked formally. "Then all is well, and we may consider leaving wounded soldiers under the orders of a Great Officer of Drantos to be a fulfillment of the treaty requirement that all Ta-Meltemos troops return to their own soil. My Lord Rick, I will leave suitable medical officers to attend the wounded and explain to them their new status. I think you will not need a large escort to guard them. All that I know of are converts to the True Faith, and their word will be good."

He says that with a straight fac e, Rick thought. I suppose he believes it.

"And with your Highness's leave I will see to my preparations," Apelles said. He bowed and left. They could hear him speaking urgently to his assistants the moment he had left the tent.

"A young man who will go far," Rick said.

"He already has," Tylara said. "And did you know he accompanied me into captivity? Of his own free will, he surrendered in order to care for me."

"I'd heard. We owe him," Rick said. "I will think on suitable rewards."

"I would guess that you are too late," Tylara said. "I doubt he would set much value on any reward you or I could give him now. He looks elsewhere for his rewards."

Rick nodded understanding.

"So. Highness, you honor me with your trust, but I think I need to consult with Wanax Ganton on this request."

"And I think I cannot allow that," Strymon said. "I don't know if Ganton would try to stop me from leaving, but I do not intend to find out. With luck, the first he will know of our plans is when he finds my camp empty at dawn."

"And us?" Tylara asked.

"You must pardon me," Strymon said. "I regret that you must remain my guests until I have begun to march. Otherwise, honor would require you to warn Ganton, and that I cannot have."

"You do yourself little honor to make prisoners of your guests," Tylara said.

"My lady, I would hope you would not put it that way. Say rather that you remain my guests."

"Until Ganton has our heads," Rick said. "Better to be your prisoners."

"That had not escaped me," Strymon said. "It is fortunate that proper care of your weapons will require my armorer pages to work through the night until morning. I would not have them returned to you in less than perfect condition, nor can I hospitably allow you to depart without them. You will have all you brought here when you join me for breakfast."

"Oh." Rick looked to Tylara and saw she was grinning faintly. So she'd understood all this long before. "I trust your pages will not harm themselves," Rick said. "Handling star weapons can be tricky."

"As well we know," Strymon said. "They will have a care."

"Until morning," Rick said.

Strymon nodded. "We began preparations an hour after the battle ended. My main body will be on the road before first light." He smiled. "Wanax Ganton's army may be efficient, but I doubt he can march soon enough to catch us."

"He has also the services of Sergeant Bisso and his star weapons team."

Strymon shrugged.

"Who are unlikely to do much without direct orders from you."

Rick nodded.

"I suppose that's true enough."

"And, My Lord," Strymon said, "fortunately we are in border country that I know better than Ganton. Or you, if it comes to that. If I cannot take my army home I am a poor captain indeed."

And he's anything but that, Rick thought. So now what? He looked to Tylara, but got no answer.













Chapter Three : Parliament







Rick and Tylara watched as the last of Strymon's rear guard vanished over the hill. The True Sun brightened the east but was not yet visible above the wooded hills that shadowed them. There was enough light to see by from the evil red Demon Star. Rick felt no real warmth from the Demon, but that would change. Even now it had increased the illumination falling on the planet by at least a full percent, perhaps more. He didn't need to feel it, the warmth was real enough. The seas were rising. Climates changed. Rain fell on the lowlands and coastal plains but not on the high pampas above the Greatscarp. A great Volkswanderung was beginning, tribes migrating from the deserts, while civilizations drowned in the south, growing seasons longer but fields flooded. The southerners fled northward. Confusion everywhere, and it had just begun.

His reverie was disturbed by two pages, boys no more than eleven years old, who rode back from Strymon's rear guard. They dismounted to kneel in front of Rick. One spread open a cloth to reveal Rick's pistols and sword. The other opened a bag containing Tylara's pistol and dagger. The older of the boys clapped his hands, and a grizzled veteran limped up. Rick recognized him as one of Strymon's personal attendants.

"Your armor," the boy said. "Handral will assist you."

"I should arm now?" Rick squinted at the brightening east. "We've hardly had any sleep—"

"My husband, I think sleep the least of our needs at this moment," Tylara said. "My guess is that even now Ganton's ushers seek us. It will do no harm to be armed before they find us."



* * * * * * * * * *



The messenger carried a black wand. His voice was just short of disrespectful as he shouted.

"My Lord Eqeta and Eqetassa, I have been commanded by Wanax Ganton to conduct you to him, instantly upon my finding you."

"Black rod usher," Tylara muttered. "He has sent a black rod usher to summon Warlord and Justiciar. An insult."

"Not if we refuse to take it as such," Rick said.

"You are too forgiving," Tylara said. "But I think we have no choice."

"No more do I," Rick said. "Good morning, gentleman usher. We were detained by Prince Strymon through a misunderstanding which now has ended." Rick turned to Handral and the two pages. "My compliments to Prince Strymon. Tell him I say you have served him well."

"One more strap," Handral muttered. He pulled hard and fastened the buckle on Rick's shoulder holster. "That's done it." He handed Rick his Government Model Colt.

"Thank you." Rick checked the loads and holstered the weapon, then took a silver coin from his pouch and gave it to Handral. "Give the boys what you think they merit."

"Thank you, My Lord."

The boys rode north, followed by the older warrior. Tylara waved, and one of the boys waved back.

"His Majesty was impatient before I left," the usher said. "My Lord, My Lady, I urge haste."

"Coming, gentleman usher. As you see, we are armed. Have we not time even to dress properly?"

"I urge haste," the usher repeated.

Rick held Tylara's stirrup while she mounted. There was no one to hold his, and swinging into the saddle with full armor was difficult. Rick painfully lifted himself into the saddle and felt sharp pains as he always did. Did the old heroes have piles?

And now what? Rick thought. Mostly he wanted a bed and a long sleep. They followed the usher toward Ganton's camp three kilometers away, but where the road forked the usher led them to the east, toward the Ottarn battlefield, rather than west to where the main encampment would be. Rick and Tylara exchanged glances. There was nothing to do but follow.

* * * * * * * * * *





Ganton, Wanax of Drantos, had built a stage on the hill overlooking the Ottarn River battlefield. He sat on a high dais. His Council was grouped around him one step below, and on the steps below that his Lords and chief knights sat in full array. All were in full armor. Ganton was wearing the battle crown of Drantos, but his golden helmet was carried by a page who stood on the left side of the throne. The Sword of State was held by an esquire on the right. Below and around the king were the officers of the army, and to one side an assembly of the priesthood.

"A full parliament," Tylara said. "Lords spiritual and temporal, and commons."

Rick nodded agreement. A parliament summoned to meet overlooking the field of a victorious battle. In tradition and fact such parliaments enjoyed special powers, including both the high and the low justice. Rick was glad of his armor. He looked behind him, to see the assembled clan chiefs of Tamaerthan, and with them Sergeant Bisso and the earth mercenaries. A dozen men. Three mortars, and there was Arkadopholous with the light machine gun. Not enough, not nearly enough….

The sky remained overcast, but there was no more rain. Chill winds whipped across the hills. They smelled of the swamps below, but there were odors of the battlefield as well. Beyond the assembly of the officer corps, troops worked to count the dead, recover weapons, and clean up the litter of battle. All but the Wanax's personal guard. Every one of them attended the king.

As Warlord and Justiciar respectively, Rick and Tylara should have been seated with the great officers of state at the king's feet just below the throne and a level above the Council. Instead the usher halted to place them at ground level in front of the entire array, looking upwards to the Wanax and Parliament, their backs to the officers and clansmen and Rick's own troops. Rick looked for friendly faces in the assembly. There were few enough. And Rick and Tylara stood outside the parliament, though they should have great place within it.

"I've got a bad feeling about this," Rick muttered. Tylara made a short chopping gesture with her left hand to quiet him. Rick noted that her right hand was in her sleeve.

"The Lord Rick and Lady Tylara," the gentleman usher announced. "My Lord Speaker, I found them at the empty encampment of Prince Strymon."

"Empty," the Speaker said. "The reports are true, then. Strymon has marched north without any word to us of his departure."

"It is true enough, My Lord Speaker. Regarding the Lord Rick and Lady Tylara, they came immediately upon summons."

"That's in their favor," someone muttered from among the lords.

"We greet you," the Lord Speaker announced formally. "Majesty, the Lord Rick and Lady Tylara. My Lord Rick, a question. You did not think it meet to inform the Wanax that Prince Strymon departed like a thief in the night?"

"Very meet, right, and our bounden duty," Rick said. "Were it possible. But Prince Strymon made it clear enough that we would not be permitted to do so."

"You were armed," Lord Enipses shouted from his place just below and to the left of the Wanax. The place that should have belonged to Tylara.

"In fact we were not," Tylara responded. There was ice in her voice as she spoke to the man who sat in her place. "The fiction was made that our weapons and armor were being cleaned, but they were certainly not available. We were said to be guests, and we acted like guests. We did not think it seemly to begin hostilities which could only end badly no matter who the victor. Think, My Lord Enipses, if you can: would you have open war between Drantos and Ta-Meltemos? Hostility between Wanax Ganton and Prince Strymon? At the moment the treaty holds. Did we resist it would be broken."

"By Strymon," a councilor said. "No bad thing."

Tylara looked to Rick and nodded.

No bad thing, Rick thought. He said that, and no one corrected him. It's come to this already?

"And what do you know of this treaty?" another lord demanded.

"More than you daft lot!" someone roared from the assembled clansmen nobles who stood behind Rick and Tylara.

Tylara's father, Rick thought. As Mac Clallan Muir, leader of the Garioch Clans of Tamaerthan, he had been a witness to the treaty, and one of its negotiators.

"Cheeky bastard."

There were other mutters from the star men mercenaries who stood with the clansmen.

"Quiet in the ranks." Corporal MacAllister spoke in English. "At ease."

"Prince Strymon told us of the terms of the agreement," Rick said.

"And of course he told the truth!" one of the lords shouted. There was more clamor from the Tamaerthan ranks now, and a scattering of obscenities in English. Rick looked sternly at his mercenary troopers. Strymon had made himself popular with the troops during his period of close alliance with Ganton.

Sergeant Bisso broke the silence.

"Ten-hut! Corporal, next man that speaks, take his name."

"You note that the Wanax says nothing," Tylara said under her breath. "He can yet disclaim any of this."

"But he does nothing to stop it," Rick said.

"There will be worse," Tylara muttered. She struck a pose and declaimed, "The terms were recited by My Lord Father Apelles, a sworn witness to the treaty. Unless, Lord Epimines, you question his word, as well as that of Prince Strymon. Do you so? Perhaps we should have a trial by battle? I am certain Prince Strymon would choose to act as his own champion." Everyone there had heard how Strymon in single combat had bested and captured Morrone, Champion and Companion to Wanax Ganton.

"I meant no dishonor to His Highness," Epimines protested.

"I had not heard the terms before, and I listened carefully," Rick said. "And we heard no terms of the treaty that forbade Prince Strymon from returning in haste to his own lands. Indeed, all we heard urged him to do so." Rick shrugged. "The treaty required him to depart, and he was departing. I saw no need to interfere."

Ganton nodded solemnly and spoke for the first time.

"Indeed, that was the chief requirement of the treaty. Of course that treaty was made before we knew of the death of Prince Akkilas. Still, it must needs be honored. My Lord Rick, did His Highness tell you aught of his plans?"

Rick didn't need Tylara's nudge to warn him to be careful. Ganton wasn't asking for information. If he wanted information he'd ask for it privately. This was clearly a show staged for the great lords of the realm. But why? What did Ganton want? One thing was certain, Ganton would not easily ignore the advice of his lords. His father had done that and had lost his throne, and that was a mistake Ganton would never make.

"Majesty, he said he would return to his capital to prepare for The Time," Rick said. That at least had the merit of being true….

"And you believed him?"

Rick spread his hands widely.

"I had no reason not to. Certainly all his questions were directed to The Time. He asked lessons in astronomy, that he might understand what is coming."

"Which you gave freely to a rival!" The shout came from the councilors

Rival. Of course. They saw Strymon as a rival claimant to Ganton's rights as heir to the High Rexja of the Five Kingdoms.

"Yes, My Lord Enipses, freely I received that knowledge, and freely did I give it. As I have always done," Rick said. "To all who have asked."

There were mutters of approval from the ranks of the priesthood.

"The Time comes!" a thin priestly voice shouted. "Be wary, great Wanax! God humbles the proud and the unbelievers!"

And that would be treason from anyone not in holy orders, Rick thought. Close enough even for the priests.

"We met in Council during the night," Enipses shouted. "Warlord and Justiciar were summoned but did not attend. The Council met anyway."

So that's where this is headed, Rick thought.

"The War Council of Drantos has advised His Majesty to claim the throne of the Five Kingdoms," Enipses continued. "We meet now in Parliament to confirm that decision. Lord Rick Galloway, Warlord of Drantos, have you advice to offer this Parliament in this matter?"

"My Lady Tylara is High Justiciar," Rick said. "She speaks before me. As well you know."

"And I say that Toris High Rexja lives a widower, and while he is elderly, he may yet take a queen and produce an heir," Tylara said. "In the hills we know better than to count any man heirless until he is dead. Not even then. And are we certain that was the head of Akkilas?"

More shouts among the councilors.

"Strymon said so."

"I heard he has doubts," another shouted.

"Aye," Tylara said. "The prince expressed his doubts about that head. It may have been that of the tanist. So Prince Strymon said to us."

"My lady, your pardon," Lord Arandos said. "But is it not true that Tamaerthan has good reason to wish Drantos and the Five Kingdoms wary of each other?"

"I am Eqetassa of Chelm and a loyal peer of Drantos! And High Justiciar to the realm," Tylara shouted. "I give the best advice I know, without fear or favor."

Enipses stood, turned to Ganton, bowed, and received a slight nod. He turned to face Rick and Tylara.

"I am commanded to say that His Majesty no longer requires service as Justiciar from Tylara do Tamaerthan said to be Eqetassa of Chelm."

It took a moment for Rick to understand that Enipses had actually said that. He can't be acting on his own, he thought then. This is staged, and for a reason. Ganton is allowing this. But why?

"Said to be!" Drumold, Mac Clallan Muir, High Chief of the Garioch Clans, but first of all Tylara's father, shoved his way forward from among the clansman chivalry drawn up behind Rick and Tylara. "Said to be! Who dares say she is not?"

"At ease!" Bisso shouted to the mercs. "But it sure don't hurt to have your powder dry," he added in English.

"Gently, Mac Clallan Muir," Enipses called to Drumold. "You are allies, not members of this Parliament. Therefore—"

Whatever he was about to say was cut off by Drumold's roar.

"You would deny my daughter her titles! You would reject her advice? Wanax Ganton, is this your will? Barach gui haigh!" The clansmen stirred. Two young dunie wassails left ranks to run toward the Tamaerthan camp.

Jesus, he's warning the clansmen to be ready for battle! Rick thought. I don't suppose any of these Drantos ironheads know what he said, but they have to be able to guess. And once the gullfeathers start flying…

"Father, father, it is enough," Tylara shouted. "Let be, let be. Balquhain, be kind enough to go look after those young hotheads. See our people do nothing rash."

"Aye, Tilly," her brother called. He looked to their father for consent, and got a nod. Balquhain was frowning deeply as he loped off after the young warriors, and Tylara turned to Ganton.

"Majesty, is this true? You seek not my advice, because it is your will that I quit the office of Justiciar?"

"Trial!" someone shouted. "Court of Chivalry!"

And was answered by another, "How can there be trial when the Justiciar is not fit—"

"A woman as Justiciar when the Wanax is no longer a minor!" someone else shouted.

Jesus, Rick thought. Now they're saying she isn't fit to head a court of chivalry. There could be many reasons for them thinking that way, but one would be a disaster. Did they know of the Children of Vothan and how Caradoc came to die? How much of that story has got out? But the clans aren't reacting, they're supporting her, so they can't be thinking of her as Caradoc's murderer, they're loyal. Now. But for how long? What in God's Nam e—

Senior Warrant Officer Larry Warner had been moving slowly toward Rick. "Colonel, I couldn't get to you earlier. While you were in Strymon's camp last night, the barons and old Drumold had a hell of a fight over this High Rexja thing. The clans think if Ganton becomes High Rexja, he won't need the Tamaerthan alliance."

"Not true," Rick said.

"Maybe you know that, but the clansmen don't. Hell, Skipper, there was talk about pressing the old Drantos claim to all the Tamaerthan lowlands. A couple of the border lords got liquored up and said Drantos writ used to run through the Garioch, even, and—"

"Bloody hell," Rick muttered. "No wonder Drumold's upset."

"There's more. There were rumors flying about Lady Tylara and assassins."

"Specifics?" Christ, Warner knew all about Tylara and the Children of Vothan. He was one of the group that uncovered that secret!

"Nothing specific. It's pretty clear they have maybe fifth-hand information. The only name I heard was Dughuilas, and nothing certain about him."

Dughuilas was supposed to have been murdered by a prostitute's daughter. Few mourned him. But still too close to home, Rick thought. Too close indeed. It was a near certainty that he had been brought down by one of the Children of Vothan who took orders from Tylara and no one else.

"Thanks, Larry."

"There's more, Colonel, but maybe it'll wait."

Someone else was shouting "Trial!" as another was drowned out by Drumold's roars in the Old Speech. Everyone began yelling.

"Treason! Woman Justiciar! Lord Rick brings us victories! Beargha hai! Long live the victorious Lord Rick! Conflict, conflict—" Half the councilors and most of the clansmen were shouting. Some councilors sought Rick's eye before shouting the names of battles he had won. It was clear enough he had support up there, but how much?

"Who can I count on?" Rick asked.

"All of us, that's for damn sure," Warner said. "But there's more to that story, too."

The mercenaries and the clansmen. For now. Enough to get out of here alive, unless Ganton takes a hand. For a moment Rick regretted giving Ganton a Browning pistol. How much practice has he had with it?

The group fell silent as Ganton stood.

"Enough," he said. His voice was low but clear. "My lady Tylara, Eqetassa of Chelm, we are more than aware of the service you have given us. You came to this great office during our minority. You held it during the critical years when few sought any office I could bestow! You have held this burden long. Long enough, long enough! Now you have duties to your own family. Your children grow up without you. Surely this is a burden you would willingly lay down?"

"I have offered to do so many times," Tylara said. She didn't sound very eager.

"And this time your offer is accepted," Ganton said. "I mean no more than that. Lord Enipses, it was not well said to question My Lady Tylara's right as Eqetassa, and whoever advised you to do so is no friend to you or to the realm!"

"Majesty, if Tylara is to be dismissed, then perhaps it's time I laid down my offices as well," Rick said. "With peace to the North, Drantos no longer needs a Warlord."

"That was no part of this plan!" Lord Enipses shouted. "Lord Rick, we meant you no disrespect."

"No disrespect? You dismiss My Lady wife, you question her titles, and you say you mean no disrespect to me?!" Rick began removing his gauntlet. By God I'll challenge him!


"Oh, bother!" said Pooh, as Piglet came back from the dead.
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Re: Mamelukes snippet #4
Post by phreader   » Mon Sep 30, 2019 4:00 pm

phreader
Midshipman

Posts: 2
Joined: Sun Jul 29, 2018 3:30 pm

Thank you RFC, cannot wait for the book!. You have made me read my old 3 books again in 3 days. For the umpteenth time. This was one of my most eagerly awaited sequels.

Now, just another small miracle?: just a few words to Mr. Ringo........?
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