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Morthander Deville with the Elevens - Part 2

The steady crash of heavy boots almost lulled Deville into sleep but he fought off the drowsiness. Sartar was still hostile territory and full of deranged barbarians who didn't know their place. Not that Deville was too worried - he headed a column of three companies of Elevens and from what he'd seen of their disposition to date, they were eager for a fight and looked capable of winning one with almost anybody this side of Hell.

Most Lunar regiments marched with drums, trumpets and cheerful singing to raise the spirits. The Elevens marched with a soulful dirge slipping from their lips and a drumbeat that sounded like the oncoming of death. "Your men seem a touch depressed dear Vrantharus!" Commented to Deville to the big warrior who rode beside him.

Vrantharus ceased his constant examination of his surroundings and frowned a look at Deville. "Depressed? What are you talking about Lunar?" He growled.

Deville smiled benignly and waved casually at the men behind them. "Oh, they seem so down, like they are at a funeral instead of enjoying the cooling breeze and endless rain!" He let only the merest hint of sarcasm colour his tone.

"They sing so for they have no joy in life as they are dead."

Deville raised a trimmed and sculpted eyebrow. "Dead? They certainly seem rather ambulatory to me."

Vrantharus scowled. "You betray your ignorance Lunar - its so often the way with your folk - you think your way is all and care not for the truths of others."

"Very philosophical! Did you practice that speech or was it written for you by a professional?" Sneered Deville, he'd had enough of the Shargashi warriors contempt and decided to return the favour.

Vrantharus stared at Deville for a few moments and Deville felt the rage in that gaze, held firmly in check. "Once, long ago, I would have killed you for your words and the disrespect you have shown me and my House but this is not my time." Though from his expression, he seemed to think his time might come soon. His gaze travelled to Devilles robes. "You wear the Runes of a Tarnils warrior - did you study in Alkoth at the College of War?"

Deville shook his head. "No, I trained in Glamour with my magical class."

"Then you don't know the power of Shargash, have never felt his stray thoughts burning through your mind or the power or his will coursing through your body and you have never seen the splendor of the College and the depth of our knowledge."

Deville wasn't impressed. "True, I've never seen your College but I heard from many of my classmates who had. They said its library was of limited use in modern warfare and the teachings there were both barbaric and archaic."

Vrantharus actually smiled, though it was a bitter smile, forced through his beard. "Ah, such arrogance! The Imperial Lunar Army thinks that a few hundred years of war is enough to give it endless victory! Alkothi have been fighting wars for millenia, we have records of every conflict back to Urvarinus and beyond! Tell me, who formulated Lunar policy and strategy on river based warfare and logistical conquest?" His tone became more educated, more cerebral with every word, as if the big man was slipping into a mindset that he had not visited for some time.

Deville knew his military history well and was not confounded by the question. "Why, Hwarin Dalthippa formulated our policy and showed the power of her birth and the strength of the Empire."

"Hwarin Dalthippa!" Snorted Vrantharus scornfully. "You sound like my cousin Hyamestes, always going on about the woman!"

"It is correct, I can show you the texts on her war with the Cynnelfing Alliance and the terrible Mitchuinn - its all there."

"And where do you thing the 'Conquering Daughter' learnt her trade? Why Alkoth of course! If you read her works and then delve into Eusibus and 'The Path of Shargash' most of the information on fighting barbarians is there and Eusibus took much of what _he_ wrote from Urvarinus! Rhadidavus' discourse on logistics and river warfare was drawn upon his experiences in Ralios, a land of great rivers and lakes and Hwarin used that knowledge. She was as much a student as any of us and less original than most." He argued passionaltly.

Deville was taken aback by the warriors education. It seemed rather better than his own when it came to military history. In the magical classes of Glamour, only the Lunar way of war was taught and in fact was considered the only way of war. They drew upon Alkothi knowledge merely to confirm their own. Still, he had his pride and argued on. "If Alkoth is so superior in battle, then why did Alkoth lose the Jannisor Rebellion to a 'mere Lunar' foe?"

Vrantharus actually nodded as if a good point were made but there was anger there too. "A victory for the Emperor! How did you win? By turning the Sable folk against Jannisor at the crucial moment, thats how. All of your armies had been crushed, your great city besieged - and as ever, the Lunars win by twisting folks minds to see their futile path. You have never defeated Alkoth in battle, only in politics and there, I do not dispute, you are the masters!"

"You sound somewhat bitter good sir!" Said Deville, surprised at the warriors vehemence, particularily to a Priest of the Red Moon in person!

"Bitter? No, not that but I _am_ filled with the wrath of Shargash for Kazkurtum sits on the throne and Monster Man lives in the hearts of his decadent people. Oh yes, I see the runes of service you wear with pride - a man like you lives in Kazkurtums Path - you rode with the Demon Bat and its foulness. You have seen how all that enter its maw are gone forever from the cycle of death and life yet you think you are superior!"

Deville was not proud of his time as an associate of the Crimson Bat but it had been a term of service he had to endure to gain his rank. Higher ranking Lunar magicians were allowed no qualms about the need to deal with chaos. "The Bat is a danger but has saved many lives in time of war." Even Deville, a man of little conscience had bad dreams about the screams of the innocent as they fed its constant hunger - and those times when they hadn't fed it enough and it ate its way through thousands.

"There is no point in arguing with you, you are a scion of their system. I have seen your like before. Even in Alkoth there are folk like you - Ignifer is one though all of House Arin-Torza are such people, even my dear sister Yulpana was corrupted by the foul impurities of Glamour!"

"Glamour is a marvellous city - it is the heart of the Goddess's benificence and beauty and the joy of the Empire - Moonson himself, holds court over the most glorious splendour imaginable - don't talk of what you don't know warrior!" Snapped Deville.

"You think me ignorant? I served in Glamour as my House representative in the Imperial Guard. I saw what went on there. Orgies of impropriety, abuse of the young and the twisting of sacred combat for the howling enjoyment of the masses who didn't know what it meant other than the knowledge that it gave them pleasure! Shargash is in all conflict but for its purpose within the cycle and path of existence - not some fodder for the souls of the impure!"

"You mean the Gladiatorial fights? Thats just a bit of fun." Dismissed Deville.

"NO! No fight is 'fun', all fights are sacred. They are part of the path and dance we weave into our own lives and through us into Shargash and his cycle of creation! So jaded, so decadent you are."

Deville smiled. "Well perhaps so but I'm not the one who's been stuck out in Telmori lands for weeks while Ignifer parades around the palace in Boldhome, am I?"

"Ignifer has always had the support of his House while my own is in less favour and I was posted in command of the Elevens because all other avenues were closed to me in the Army." Vrantharus said stiffly, as if the matter pained him greatly.

"Oh, why is that?"

Vrantharus looked stoically ahead for a moment. "I was on escort duty to a visiting Carmanian Vizier who wished to see the Emperors Zoo - I'd never been there before and did not know that the place was filled with foul creatures of Kazkurtum! Shargash filled me at their tentacled appearance and I crushed them with my mace and the strength of Shargash!"

"You mean you ran amok in the Imperial Zoo and killed the Emperor's chaos pets?" Asked Deville in amazement. The Warrior nodded. "Presumably your transfer orders were on the desk the next day?" Another nod. "And they sent you to Sartar and told you you'd fit in better there?" Another nod. "I see."

"That matters little, now we have our task to perform - look, the Jonstown road ends for us, we move into tribal lands now."

Deville nodded as the Elevens shifted their outriders and pointmen to cover the new march formation. They were quiet and efficient and Deville knew from the way they moved and coordinated that Vrantharus knew what he was about. A heavy intake of breath readied Deville to ride into the less civilised lands of Sartar and with a barked command form Vrantharus, they proceeded with their mission.

<< Part 1 | The Deville page | Part 3 >>


May 31, 2000

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