Saturday, February 27, 2016

The King's Challenge #228 and #229

TKC 228 and 229

I look to Hal, who nods at me. He confirms these are Ilfin soldiers in that tiny action. Returning my attention to the commander, I say, “There is much you need to be aware of.”

He studies each of us then and slowly nods. “We will talk, but now you need a wash, fresh clothes and something to eat.” Without awaiting our response, he gestures a nearby soldier to come forward, one of those who found us under the tree. “Take them to the shuttle and show them how to use the showers. Allocate from the spare uniforms and have Corporal Allin feed them.”

“Do I guard them, Commander?”

“They are friends. Leave them with Allin and return here.”

The soldier nods and gestures for us to follow him.

“Wait. Siri Mur, you desired to test me,” Commander Gennerin states.

I grin at him. “You have already been tested. You passed.”

His eyes narrow and again he studies us. “One of you is a Delver? You are aware of your talents?” He releases a massive breath then. “Lord Makar and an aware population; this is excellent … but we will talk in a while. Soldier, you may go.”

We follow the soldier out, leaving the fort behind as we trudge towards the shuttle. It is still raining. The plateau’s wet season is still if full command, by all appearances.

“Does it always rain so much?” the soldier mutters as he leads us.

“Wet season,” Marian murmurs, speaking for the first time. “Another month of this before the weather breaks.”

The soldier swears under his breath, causing Kay to laugh. “What is your name, soldier?”

“Ross,” the man replies, lifting his visor. He has blue eyes in a youthful face. “This is my first tour beyond our homeworld.”

“Is Massin very different to where you come from?” I ask.

“Not so much … except for this rain,” Ross grins.

“Where is your homeworld?” Kay asks next.

“Our commander will answer that better than I can. All I know is it is far from here – took damn long to get here.”

Kay laughs again. Soldiers do not enjoy inaction or long journeys. “And the name of your world?”

We are paces away from the shuttle. A door is open, a ramp leads from it to the soggy earth, and a contingent of guards watches every shadow. Ross stops to face us. “I overheard you mention Enris Makar.”

Ice flows into my blood. Hal straightens, his eyes narrowing.

“And?” Kay prompts. He seems calm, but I notice his fingers are white with tension.

“Our world is known as Makaran,” the soldier Ross informs us, and shifts his head as if to gauge our reactions.

Kay frowns, Hal does not react at all, and I shrug, but Marian draws in a breath, the enlightened kind. “Makaran … Makar.”

Ross dips his head. “Indeed. The Makar are our rulers. Our world is named for them, and Enris is the current heir.”

“By the stars!” I blurt.

The soldier laughs. “We say that as well!”

Kay remains serious. “It has been thousands of years since Enris Makar came here. How is he still the heir?”

“I do not know how it works exactly, but it has something to do with a device only Enris is able to wield. This device has not returned to Makaran and it means he is alive in some form, and therefore his status remains unchanged.”

Kay rubs his cheeks in astonishment, while I murmur, “The orb.”

“You have seen it?” Ross blurts out. “I thought it a story told to keep his name alive, to prevent the family from fighting each other. So much time, as you said, how can he be alive still, I thought, and now … wow.”

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