Saturday, March 5, 2016

The King's Challenge #234 - #237

TKC 234, 235, 236 and 237

Gennirin leans in again. “The odds are not in our favour, I grant you, but Ilfin say to the stars with odds. Of course, until you were brought in, with news of Enris Makar and his mighty orb, we believed the odds were beyond overwhelming.”

“Why does Enris and his orb change it?” Kay asks.

The commander remains silent for a while, glancing at each of us in turn, as if to confirm our intentions. “What have you seen the orb do?”

Kay looks at me and I nod his way. It is no great secret, after all, what the orb did for us.

“It created a web shield against those who sought to prevent Siri and her people leave this plateau …”

“Wait. Where are you from?” Gennerin asks.

“West, the ocean cities. We brought our people to join in the march to freedom.”

The commander sighs. “Freedom from what? Leave the plateau? To where? I think you had better start at the beginning.”

And thus we tell him. Taking turns, inserting our stories at the opportune moments in the narrative, we weave a story for him. Except it is no story; it is only truth. We begin with the asteroid and continue into the desperate march across the plains into Arc. We speak of talents and reveal Horin’s protection and aid via the orb, from the web to the destruction of the soldiers on their flying shields into the bridges built. As we speak of the orb, we begin to understand why Gennerin sees the odds moving into our favour. Hal and Marian tell of conditions before and after the rock in the heavens, and their attempts to save the horses. We speak of meeting up in the dead of night, and the cave system … and the dead there.

So many dead. Here, in the caves, inside Arc. Massin will be sparsely populated if we win this war.

Gennerin leans back when silence eventually falls, wordless. I notice Corporal Allin standing in a doorway, his mouth open. Indeed, it is a fantastical tale.

Finally the commander finds the wherewithal to speak. “The asteroid was the catalyst. It brought change. Here and out there in the vacuum. Ha.” He taps the table with one finger. “Arc is where this war will be won.” He pauses and then adds, “I thought it a myth and now that is disproved.”

“Myth?” Kay echoes.

“Arc. I have heard stories about secret places, each with a spire able to manipulate souls, but I did not believe.”

“Places?” I repeat. “There is more than one Arc?”

The soldier nods. “Apparently, yes, one for each world the Glonu conquer.”

Marian hisses her shock. I agree with her reaction. We thought we are unique in the manipulation and to be told it is obviously a tried and tested method of conquer is frightening. It means the Glonu know exactly what they are doing and they intend to win this.

“Tell me,” Kay says, “what do the stories say about those other secret places and spires? What happens after the Glonu have sold a world to the highest bidder?”

Gennerin stares at him. “From what I have heard and read, the spires remain … as protection.”

Corporal Allin steps in. “Commander? If I may?” He receives a nod, and closes in. “My father is a historian and he shared many tales about the Glonu and Ilfin wars.”

“Get to the point, Allin,” the commander growls.

“Yes, sir. The spire is a command centre, but is more than technology. If left undisturbed, as in when the Glonu sell a world and move on, protection is eternal. Have our leaders not wondered why we are unable to redeem those worlds? While the Glonu remain in the region, engaged in conquer, the spire serves as their senses …”

The older soldier glares at his underling. “Senses? What are you on about?”

Allin swiftly continues, no doubt thinking his commander will muzzle him soon. “It is their eyes and ears, to put it more simply, and they are able to see and hear far. It is their first defence and also their last, until they have achieved goal.”

Kay stares at him. “I get the distinct impression the spire is vulnerable when the Glonu are in situ.”

Allin nods vigorously. “Yes! And by the sound of what you shared, this spire is particularly vulnerable. It has been unattended and ignored due to the time passed in waiting for a large enough army to come do the bidding of the Glonu.”

“It aged,” I whisper. “The Glonu lost the physical ability here to command it.”

Corporal Alin inclines his head. “”Now is the time to destroy it.” “He glances at his commander. “Using the orb.”

“Is there a story about the destruction of a spire?” Kay asks before the commander is able to respond.

“Indeed,” Allin murmurs. “My father told me of two such events.”

Gennerin looks at him when he ceases speaking. “Well? Don’t leave us hanging, man.”

Quickly I hide a grin behind my hand. Clearly the commander is as wrapt as we are.

The corporal nods. “As you say, sir. A long time ago when the Glonu were not quite as powerful as they are now, a spire imploded due to a foundation shift. My father speculates it may have been an earthquake, but it is also possible the defenders of that world placed an explosive device with accuracy.”

“Terrain instability can therefore work for us,” Hal murmurs.

“Hard to achieve,” Gennerin mutters. “Go on, Allin.”

“Sir, you know of the Makar history. Enris’ father …”

The commander slaps the table. “He sent the Glonu packing from Flonlis!”

“Indeed, but how?” Allin asks. “The popular tale is one of lasers. Our esteemed and revered ruler targeted Glonu institutions using thousands of beams to undermine their systems.”

“And the real story?” Marian demands.

“He targeted only the spire and eventually it toppled.”

I frown. “Why is that not known?”

Allin draws a breath and releases explosively. “Loss of life was catastrophic.”

Kay glares at the corporal. “And yet you suggest we destroy this spire.”

The man nods. “It is inactive at this point. Now is the time to do so. Chances are it will simply collapse and that will be the end of it.”

“Chances are?” I gasp.

“I am prepared to assume that risk,” Gennerin states and heaves to his feet. “Allin, give the order to pack and be ready to move by morning. We are going to Arc.”

The corporal salutes smartly and hastens away.

“There are thousands of Glonu inside Arc already,” I say.

“They may already have activated that spire,” Kay spits out. “We have friends and family there!”

Gennerin’s gaze is cold. He is again the man in charge. “We will match them with personnel, weapons and vessels, whatever they have in that ring of mountains. Prepare yourselves. We leave in the morning. I must now contact the other commanders.” He strides out.

I swing immediately to Hal. “Warn Damin.”

The Messenger closes his eyes without saying a word and vanishes into his world of images.

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