high-ranking merchants and ambassadors.
Beyond them and closer to the offering table stood a couple of
servants. To his right
stood ambassadors of state and beyond them and closer to the high table
stood the lieutenant generals. Among
these were some of General Araknik’s sons.
Those sons too old to fight were either governing elsewhere or
dead. (For a man of six
hundred plus years, Araknik had many sons.) Directly in front of him, beyond the smoking pit and the
offering table sat the five generals of the Council and one vacant seat.
took a deep breath. Even he
-- three time winner of the Radia horse race and chosen to run the
honored last leg of the silk road messenger service -- usually felt
apprehension approaching the Council, but not this time, so confident in
his message was he.
the generals did not wait, but immediately bid him come forward with a
wave. Ransis crossed before
all silent eyes. He knelt
before his masters holding up the scroll and tablet before him.
General Cohu stood and took them.
It was the month of the rat, his turn to be the presiding
general. Ransis remained
down, not daring to look up until bidden.
He heard the seal break and the crackle of the scroll opening.
Had he looked up he would have been disappointed in General
Cohu’s reaction, for the general just read it silently without emotion
and rolled it back up.
struck Ransis. Was the news defeat, he asked himself. Ransis didn’t read it, he couldn’t have without breaking
the seal, but every indication made him believe he delivered good news.
His fear was well founded, for the council often killed the
messenger for bad news received.
up,” Cohu said flatly in a low, dry voice, “and take your place
among the ministers.”
more than relief washed over Ransis.
one of his servants Cohu commanded, “Fetch the chieftains for a kurultai.”
servant ran out at once.
crowd outside the habrit saw the servant rush out and chieftains arrive
a few moments later figuring that Cohu had called for a consultation.
Council of Tribes, though it wielded supreme authority of all
Salmonil tribes, used the open door policy of the kurultai for decision
making. This helped bind
the tribes together under them because they valued public opinion on
military strategy. The
chieftains took their respective places around a large horse area just
outside the council’s habrit where the scouts had already staked out
their seats. The open-air consolation began with Cohu’s announcement;
“General Araknik has secured victory over the Samar.”
crowd cheered appropriately.
nodded in satisfaction at the sustained cheers and continued, “Yes,
victory is indeed sweet, but, I ask you, what value are they to us?”
of the generals with a representative of his contingent behind him
shouted out, “Their soldiers are cowards.
They bring us no military good.
Only a few have stood up against us.”
they did resist us,” retorted another general, “and for that they
shall be utterly destroyed.”
interjected another general, “it is well known that they have bridge
builders and iron smiths among them.”
Cohu nodded. “We shall
have the artisans brought back to us, the women and children enslaved,
and have the rest slaughtered.”
scribe, who had written all this down on a scroll handed it to Cohu.
With hot wax provided by the scribe, Cohu sealed the scroll.
He handed it to Ransis, who remounted his horse with a jingle of
bells and headed back to the sixth horse port house, tablet in hand.
The sealing of the scroll signified that the public consultation
had come to an end. The
generals and chieftains retired to await the return of General Araknik
and the crowd dispersed.