The Deal - Part 2
Posted By: Slaskia<email@example.com>
Date: 29 November 2009, 3:41 am
Nant howled with despair.
The baby was stillborn.
Why!? He thought, as he held Lun close, comforting her the best he could. Why Gods!? Why are you punishing us like this!? What have we done to deserve this!?
Three children now, they had lost. Their first was bitten by a vi'got before he had reached his first year, the insects poison taking his life within moments. The second died of a respiratory infection within a month of birth. This one did not even make it beyond the birth itself, a terrible shame for Lun. And now Lun herself must be watched, to ensure no infection struck her down as well, as it had so many other women as of late.
?" A cautious voice queried. Nant looked up to see one of the guards, his head just inside the doorway. "Forgive me for intruding on such a delicate time, but the remaining scouts have returned."
"Please tell me they have good news," Nant said, his voice soft and desperate.
The other Sangheili hung his head. "I am sorry, shuka, but they report that they were unable to get any closer to the Girvum keep."
"I see. Go
leave me be." Once the guard had left, he punched his fist into the hard earth in frustration. Their biggest chance at improving their lot was slipping away from him by the moment and they could not confirm the strength of their opponent. No
'we' can't, he thought, suddenly remembering the offer the San 'Shyuum told him. But 'they' can.
Gently he laid his wife down, nuzzling her face softly before standing. "Nant
?" she queried weakly.
"Rest, my beloved wife. There is something I must do." Nant stepped out of the hut, his kisen and shield once again on his side and back respectively. "Gather the people, I have an announcement to make," he told one of the nearby warriors, whom nodded and quickly ran off to do his bidding.
In the sky above, the first sun was starting to set somewhere beyond the high canyon walls. In the dimming light, his people gathered before him. They all looked upon him with expressions of anxiety and some hope, all wondering what he had to say. Nant knew that some of what he would say would not sit well with some and there was a risk he could even be challenged. A risk, he would have take if he was to save his clan.
"Honorable brothers and sisters. Honorable mothers and uncles," he began. "Long we have suffered and endured our planet's challenges. Long has it tested our resolve and will, trying to break us. Long have those more fortunate then us looked down their muzzles at us and viewed us as nothing more then savages, dirt beneath their hooves." He saw nods of acknowledgement and he continued.
"You all have heard the sounds of war around us, a war that has ravaged and weakened those that looked down upon us. You all heard and saw the fire that rained down upon the Girvum lands a few nights ago. Our opportunity has come, my brethren. The Girvum are weakened and vulnerable! It is time to take their land and form a state of our own!"
"Weakened yes, but how much so?" one of the warriors asked. "The scouts have been unable to confirm how many of their fortifications have fallen. How many of their forces are still intact? We cannot risk underestimating them in our own weakened state."
"That is true, but there are those that are willing to help us, provide use with the knowledge needed to counter what defenses they have remaining."
"You mean that creature you spoke with earlier? The San 'Shyuum? How can we trust the word of an enemy?"
"They are enemies no longer," Nant told him. "The war between our peoples is over and an allegiance has formed." There was murmuring in the crowd. "The Girvum has refused to accept this alliance and threaten the stability of our people. The civil war that may result could lead to our extinction. The Hierarch of Transparency has asked us take their land for our own and remove this threat, for the sake of all of Sangheilos. All he asks in return is to accept his people as spiritual advisers and they will bestow us with many gifts, gifts that will elevate our status."
"You are delusional," the same warrior growled. "The failure of your wife to bring a live child into being has clouded your thinking! How do you know this Hierarch is speaking the truth and will follow up on his end of the deal? How do you know this is not some elaborate Girvum trap to rid themselves of a threat?"
"I have faith that he speaks truly," Nant said lowly.
"Faith? Faith in a creature that only so recently became a so-called ally to our people? No, you lack faith in the old Gods that have served us well for generations. Faith that has faltered the moment they sought to test your devotion. I do not believe you are fit to continue as our shuka."
"You challenge me then?" Nant moved his hand to the hilt of his kisen.
"For the sake of the clan, I do. When you are dead and I rule, we will attack the keep without this Hierarch's help."
"Very well, for the sake of the clan."
The crowd quickly backed away, forming a fighting circle around the two combatants. Nant slid his shield down off his back, its handle stopping within the grip of his left hand, his right rested on the kisen's hilt. His opponent also had a shield, but used a standard blade rather then a kisen. They circled each other, Nant tightening his grip on the kisen hilt as they both looked for signs of weakness in their opponent's defenses.
It was his opponent that attacked first. His blade came fast in a forward thrust, Nant angling his shield so the blow was deflected off its surface. Then unexpectedly, the man changed the strike to a slash, moving his sword toward his face. Nant jerked back instinctively, but the tip of the blade nicked his lower left mandible: he felt a faint trickle of blood from the wound that resulted.
"First blood is mine," his opponent taunted.
"Yes indeed, however
." Nant said, finally bringing up his kisen blade to bare. He lunged at his opponent with a vicious elbow strike, the blow connecting with his shield and sending him back a pace. The other warrior attacked with an overhead swing, a strike Nant blocked with the back blade of the kisen. Then, before he could recover, he swiftly twisted his moved his arm crossways, slashing the fighting end of the kisen across the warrior's neck. The warrior gasped as his life blood gushed forth, staggered, then fell to the ground. "Last blood is more important." Nant finished, then finished him off with a decapitating blow to the neck.
The challenge won, he looked around at the gathering, looking for other dissenters and possible challengers.
There were none.
The second sun was fully set by the time Nant and his two bodyguards reached the San 'Shyuum's camp. It consisted of a single tent, which was set up next to some sort of transport vessel. There were two guards on either side of the tents entrance flap and said guards stiffened at their presence and brandished their weapons. "Peace, brothers." Nant said, holding up his hand. "I am Nant and I come to speak to the Hierarch about the deal he offered me earlier in the day."
The guards stared at him for a moment, and then one of them sheathed his weapon and entered the tent. A moment later, he returned and beckoned for him to enter. "Wait for me here." Nant told his own guards, whom nodded.
"I was not expecting word from you until the morrow," Transparency said as he entered.
Forced my hand," Nant said softly. "I will accept your deal Hierarch. As we speak, my clan is preparing to attack the Girvum keep. We will need, however, the information you promised us."
"Of course. Follow me." Transparency beckoned him to follow as he directed his floating seat out a back exit of the tent. The Hierarch led him inside the transport vessel, the inside of which Nant had never seen or heard of before. It took all of Nant's will power not to gawk at its majesty. Soon, things like this could be mine, Nant thought.
The San 'Shyuum finally stopped before some type of control panel and after manipulating its surface for a moment, a large bright 3D display suddenly popped up over a table in front of him. Nant blinked a moment, trying to comprehend the image and what it meant.
"This, is a map of the Girvum keep." Transparency said, gesturing to it with a three fingered hand. With one hand he manipulated the controls more and the image flipped to a topside view and zoomed out, showing most of the valley. "Your camp is here." A green dot appeared on the right edge of the map. "The latest scans of the Girvum forces put them as so." A series of red dots appeared, most formed a loose perimeter around the keep, with most predictably within the keep itself. The total number of red dots was far less then Nant had expected.
"If this is correct, then the majority of their fighting forces are in the perimeter ring, the rest being women, children and other non-combatants," Nant said, awestruck. "The bombardment of the keep several days ago must have decimated their fighting force greatly."
"Yes, it has. You are most fortunate that whatever allies they had refuse to aid them due to them refusing to join us. A perfect opportunity, for those more worthy to strike and take what is rightfully yours."
"Yes. Indeed." Nant studied the map of the keep itself for a moment more, memorizing locations of likely importance: such as the possible location of their Stone Hall. "Thank you, Hierarch. This information will aid me greatly. I must go now, back to my people and share the knowledge you have given me."
"Best of luck to you, Nant. Walk the Path."
Nant gave the San 'Shyuum the customary Sangheili salute, and then found his way out of the transport on his own. Once he reunited with his guards, they jogged back to their camp. There he made a poor reproduction of the map Transparency showed him using the dust in the ground, showing his warriors what was shown to him. Quickly a planned formed.
When the night was at its deepest, they went into motion. The twin moons of Sangheilos lit their way and the tall plains grasses masked their approach. The gods surely were smiling upon them, for the wind came from the west, keeping their scent away from the wary perimeter guards. The Girvums would not know an attack is coming, until it was too late.
Nant had separated his warriors into three groups. One would attack from the northeast, another from the southeast, while the group he personally led would strike in the middle. A three-pronged attack, to make their numbers appear greater then they really were, to strike fear into their foe. Even before the attack began, Nant could smell the Girvum apprehension on the air, if not outright fear.
The biggest challenge was the agyat herds. Though the lumbering beasts were tamed and used to the scent of Sangheili, the sudden appearance of a large number of them would likely startle them. So his warriors were given instructions to give the animals a wide berth if at all possible.
They managed to pass the herds without incident.
Then a cry of alarm: they had been spotted. Nant lifted his head to the sky and roared, signaling his warriors to attack. Corresponding battle cries sung through the air and the clan warriors rushed forward toward the Girvum line. The first perimeter guards fell quickly to the assault and in no time at all, they reached the ruined wall that surrounded the keep property. Here, half the warriors, including Nant himself, climbed over the wall and began the assault within the keep, while the remainder circled around to deal with the remaining perimeter guards that were doubtless rushing toward their position.
Now another set of instructions came into play: only those that took up arms against them were to die. They would need the male serfs to continue to tend to the herds, which they would claim as their own. The women and children that did not resist them would be absorbed into the clan, or allowed to commit suicide if they wished. The streets of the keep were already starting to flow with much Sangheilian blood, the air filled with the screams of the dying.
Nant, with a couple of chosen warriors, loped purposely toward a specific structure: the structure he suspected held the keeps kaidon and elders. He guessed correctly: there were guards posted at the entrance. Guards that looked confused and uncertain as to what to do. Nant's approach clarified their minds, but it did not save them from his skilled blade. They cut a bloody swath through any opposition as they searched for their quarry and at last one of them appeared.
The Girvum kaidon stood before them, blocking the way to what had to be the Stone Hall just beyond. Nant was disappointed, for the kaidon was not in fighting shape: half his body was marked with burns, likely from the bombardment the keep suffered not long ago. The man was shaking, due to pain if not fear, and barely able to hold the sword in his hand. Nant almost felt guilty for removing his head from his body, but guilt was not a luxury to have in this matters such as this. At the very least, he gave the kaidon an honorable death, even if it was no challenge to do so.
Within the Stone Hall, there was a small gathering of elders, arguing amongst themselves. An argument that ceased the moment Nant a walked into their hallowed hall. "You do not belong here!" One of them cried, pointing a shaky finger at him. "When our allies hear of this
"Your allies have turned their backs against you," Nant scowled as he advanced upon them. "You who refused to join the new world order. I know this, for I am a part of that new order. If you had not resisted, your lives would have been spared, but now only death awaits you." With one strike, the elder was dead. The others quickly joined him as Nant's warriors assisted him in ending the rest of their pathetic lives.
The deed was done and now one more task awaited completion. Nant turned his attention to the stone slabs that ringed the room of the Stone Hall, the slabs that had the Girvum Saga etched upon their surfaces. Impressive slabs of solid stone nine feet high, they stood the test of time itself as told by the weathering upon their surfaces, but time had run out for them.
Nant seized one of the slabs by the edge and pulled with all his strength. The other two warriors watched, forbidden to aid in this task, for it was Nant's duty as shuka and future kaidon to be the one to break the first stone. If he failed, then he would be unworthy to be the first kaidon of the new state.
The stone refused to be pulled down, but only at first. Then with a roar of triumph, the stone gave way and fell, crashing to the earth and splitting into pieces. The witnessing warriors roared in victory, then lent their strength to aid Nant in the destruction of the remaining stones. Within the hour, the Girvum Saga was no more.
By the time the first sun of Sangheilos started its ascent into the sky, the bloodletting was over. Most of the remaining Girvum had either died in battle, or took their own lives rather than to serve another. Those that remained surrendered, hoping their lot under Nant would be kinder to them then it was under their former masters. They would be absorbed and treated as if they were always a part of them.
Nant himself stood upon one of the few intact balconies of the keep. Below him, the bodies of the dead were being ferried out to a chosen spot in the fields where they would be burned, the ashes later spread across the fields. The ashes would fertilize the fields, making the grasses hardier and more nutritious for the herds, which would in turn strengthen and provide ample meat and hides for the lands new masters.
Kaidon." A voice announced behind him. Nant chuckled slightly at the error: it would take some time for his new title to set in. "You have a visitor."
"Then by all means, let him in," Nant said, turning to see the Hierarch of Transparency join him on the balcony.
"I see things went very well for you," the San 'Shyuum said. "If not a bit bloody."
"Such is the way of the Sangheili," Nant said. "The strong rule, while the weak must either obey, or die."
"And thus you are the new masters of this land, as I said you could be. Though I can see rebuilding these war torn ruins may take some time."
"Rebuilding will take time, yes, but not because of the damage war has done. I have no intentions of rebuilding these ruins, for the location is in an open and less defensible location. I intend to construct a new keep, within the valley mountain walls itself."
"A wise choice. Many keeps survived the worse of the war because of such a decision. Vadam, Gotern
and many others, still thrive."
"And so we will, so long as the gods permit it."
"I feel they are indeed smiling upon you as we speak, kaidon. One question remains."
"Speak it, noble Hierarch."
"What will you call your state, if you have not decided already?"
Nant smiled when he gave his answer. "Ribal."
King of the land.