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probably 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.

Ransis 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.  

Surprisingly 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. 

Fear 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.

“Get up,” Cohu said flatly in a low, dry voice, “and take your place among the ministers.”

Something more than relief washed over Ransis.

Addressing one of his servants Cohu commanded, “Fetch the chieftains for a kurultai.” 

The servant ran out at once.

The 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.”

The crowd cheered appropriately.

Cohu nodded in satisfaction at the sustained cheers and continued, “Yes, victory is indeed sweet, but, I ask you, what value are they to us?”

One 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.”

“But they did resist us,” retorted another general, “and for that they shall be utterly destroyed.”

“Comrades,” interjected another general, “it is well known that they have bridge builders and iron smiths among them.”

General Cohu nodded.  “We shall have the artisans brought back to us, the women and children enslaved, and have the rest slaughtered.”

A 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. 

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Last updated: October 21, 2000.