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“He wants to erase tribal hierarchies and establish a new order.  That’s why command is given to proven campaigners, not tribal chiefs any more.”

 Septic shook his head.  “I don’t think he’ll get away with it.  When the Council...”

“No?  He has more weight on the Council than you think.  Anyway, he’s got a lot of us backing him up.  If a warrior is brave and does his job -– I don’t care what tribe or clan he was born to -– he should get rewarded.  I think it’s long over due and I’m glad Araknik’s doing it.  And,” he gave Septic the knowing look of an inside informer, “who do you think he’s going to have backing him, huh?”  He pointed at his chest.  “Me and you, that’s who.  And if those pompous kulbruks try to raise a stink about it they’ll have to deal with us.”

Septic shrugged.  He knew Koric was right, he just liked to ruffle his feathers a bit.  “Where do you dig up all this stuff?”

Koric grunted, “We’re scouts ain’t we?  I just do a little,” he waved his hand over the growing throng, “scouting.”

“Someone’s feeding you a line.”

“No.  Just look at what the Gray Wolf has been doing in the last few months.  Why do you think he’s setting up this personal guard of his?  He’s getting ready for any possible retaliation from the old class for breaking tribal customs.  The Gray Wolf rewards bravery but he’s not gonna put up with treachery.  Don’t you remember the story when he was a kid he killed one of his brothers over a fish, because his brother stole it from him?”

Septic took on a more serious and concerned look.  “Hey,” he spoke just loud enough to be heard leaning towards Koric, “you should be more careful what you say.”

Koric looked around suddenly, realizing how casual he let his speech become.  A sudden fear of conspiracy and the sense of Araknik’s sensitive hearing gripped him.  Although Araknik was just a general, some rumors said that he possessed the secrets of the lost arts, or at least some of them.  No other general wielded such power or held the people in such awe.

Out of the barren scrub grasslands, the throng followed the messenger as he neared the center of Serapool, the headquarters of the Salmonil Empire.  Only a generation ago this desert city marked a tiny crossroads of trade routes.  Suddenly one day, Serapool awoke.  What woke her was General Araknik’s consolidation of 29 nomadic tribes -- total population just under 2 million -- and the Salmonil’s ruthless victories over neighboring fiefdoms.  Its streets were a hodgepodge of mud thatched buildings and scattered habrits, the name given for round, felt tents large enough for eight warriors to sleep in comfortably.  The felt covered an interlocking structure could be easily taken apart for transport.  A habrit could be disassembled in about an hour, giving them the ability to quickly build or tear down a complete base camp within two hours.

Septic pointed at the habrits and commented rhetorically, “You ever think we’ll move into real houses?” 

Koric shrugged nonchalantly and asked, “Why?” 

Septic continued, seeing he fell for the bait, “You know what they say.  Old habrits die hard.”  He laughed and slapped Koric on the back.

Koric’s scowl turned to a snicker.  “That’s really bad.”


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Last updated: October 21, 2000.