The Legend of the Rah
Author: LCD

Chapter 5
The Council

“Just how much longer will you have us wait?!” The husky voice of Dragar Bruuneer silenced Loar's somewhat lengthy debriefing session with the Council of the Warlord Alliance. The young man flinched slightly and looked up from the map he had been pointing at. Dragar didn't meet the eyes of their young leader but looked at the others baring his yellowish teeth to a belligerent grin. Dragar was almost twice Loar's age and the same went for his body mass, which seemed to be distributed somewhat like an inverted pyramid with mainly upper body muscles around his chest, shoulders and arms. His slender waist was wrapped with an untanned leather buckle belt and a well-used sword hung from it. His bushy eyebrows, mustache and a long, untamed mane of brownish red hair flowing around his head gave him the appearance of a picture book viking (missing only the horned helmet). The other warlords picked up on the signs of disrespect for Loar's leadership that Dragar displayed.

 

“Dragar is right, we need to act now!” Moornock came to Dragar's assistance, waving his whitish fist. Loar's eyes darted to the one who had spoken. It was the elderly warlord on the other side of the table, opposite to Dragar. Moornock had a gaunt, weatherworn face with sharp lines, the corners of his mouth turned downwards as though it never had known a smile.

 

But then Jewd stepped forward,

 

“Loar, our families are starving here in the desert... and we cannot protect them adequately outside the camp.” He said, trying to reason with their leader using a more moderate tone.

 

Loar had never liked the idea of letting the families follow the alliance's army and establish satellite camps around the wall of their temporary fortress. But many feared to leave their loved ones behind in the remote villages, exposed to danger from Zylbersdyne's dispersed and desperate men. Loar and his army had wiped out the better part of the king's followers and cornered them in the Tower of Aylashua but no one could tell for sure just how weak his position was and what resources he had left outside his final hideaway. Every single day Crah were sighted leaving and entering the Tower from the highest of its terraces, so something was going on. Loar wished his men would be able to take down or even capture one of these flying fortresses. Given any luck, they could perhaps find out more about Zylbersdyne's plans before launching a strike on the virtually impenetrable Tower. And there was one more thing Loar was hoping for. But he did not reveal it to the others at once.

 

“How often have I told you that the final battle will be the one that requires most patience and preparation!” Loar said with a cold voice. “As for now, your families are safe. Zylbersdyne is not sending his air force to attack us, which means that he is using his Crah for other tasks and we need to find out what.”

 

“I say, we gather our entire army and head for the Tower! Let's smash Zylbersdyne once and for all!” Dragar lifted both his arms in the air, displaying the underside of his massive forearms. To Loar's dismay, the six other warlords cheered him on. He shook his head.

 

“...and come next morning your wives will be widows!” Loar shouted above the men's bawling. “Can't you see?! By the time we would be down in the canyon and half way across its bottom, Zylbersdyne's Crah forces will have dropped thousands of rocks and boulders on the top of our heads.”

 

The men became a bit less enthusiastic.

 

“We have already built two of the defense units that you have devised...” Tiimodoor stated somewhat defiantly but the long look from Loar laid bare the irony.

 

“...which will protect at most a few dozen of our people. That's exactly the point! We need to prepare and we need to keep a cool head if we want to stand a chance to vanquish Zylbersdyne!”

 

“Then maybe brute force isn't the right way at all.” Dragar said slyly, looking at Loar.

 

“What are you implying?” Loar asked. Now the two unequal men were looking deeply into each others' eyes for the first time at the meeting.

 

“You just told us that an approaching army can easily be spotted and attacked from the Tower... but maybe not a smaller fellowship...”

 

Loar didn't reply. Both men seemed to be gauging each other.

 

“Dragar's right!” The old Moornock fired up again. “If a few of our best men could get into the Tower... unseen... they might be able to kill Zylbersdyne in his own nest. Without a head, the army will quickly fall apart!”

 

“Yeah!”

 

“Right!”

 

“That's it! A good plan!”

 

It came from the others who were looking intently at Loar.

 

“I've considered such a plan before...” Loar said quietly but it was clear that he didn't favor this course of action.

 

“Many lives could be saved!” Jewd pointed out, eagerly nodding his head.

 

“But it would be a gamble... if the action doesn't succeed... our best warriors will be lost.”

 

“You needn't go, brave Loar! I, for one, volunteer!” Dragar said with a sneer. Loar looked coldly at him.

 

“Such a mission takes more than a contempt for death, Dragar... skills that...” Before he could blink, Dragar's sword was pointing to the tip of Loar's nose. Dragar was breathing heavily,

 

“I'll show you skills!”

 

Loar didn't flinch. He knew he had the better arguments.

 

“Very good, Dragar. You are the first volunteer for our mission to cross the valley of Aylashua Canyon.”

 

The men looked a bit surprised at this, having expected more resistance by Loar.

 

“All the way across the Canyon! I need to find out whether Murkoodar has kept his promise and has come with his army to the other side of the Canyon.”

 

“But...” Jewd's jaw dropped. The others looked confused at each other.

 

“Kill that damn traitor!” The feisty old Moornock spat. His silvery long hair went flying left to right when he shook his head. The others joined in with cries of outrage.

 

“Loar, do you know what you're doing? That man is suspected of sending the assassin to kill your parents.” Jewd said.

 

“He didn't do it.” Loar replied dryly.

 

“How can you know that?!” Jewd pleaded.

 

“I asked him.”

 

Some of the warlords looked incredulously at Loar and weren't sure whether he was making a joke but he didn't elaborate. Instead he turned back to his map on the table that he had been showing them before.

 

“Right here!” Loar pointed to a place on the map, close to the rim on the opposite side of the canyon. “That's where Murkoodar is supposed to build up his camp... and station his army. If we then attack the Tower from two sides at once we can overpower Zylbersdyne's forces. But word from Murkoodar is overdue...”

 

“Does that really make you wonder...?” Moornock mocked.

 

“He gave me his word. -- His army is at least as strong as ours. Together we can defeat Zylbersdyne!”

 

“How can you trust that man, Loar?” Jewd asked bewildered.

 

“I have my reasons, Jewd... but I am worried because the messenger he was going to send has not arrived yet.”

 

“I repeat: nothing else is to be expected...” Moornock said bitterly.

 

“Either way! We can do it without his help! Let us infiltrate Zylbersdyne's rat hole and take him out!” Dragar stabbed his sword into the ground before him, close to Loar's feet.

 

“No, the chance of doubling our army's strength and being able to attack the Tower from two sides at once is strategically too important to give up yet. -- Dragar, I, and a few other men will make the journey across the Canyon to establish contact with Murkoodar on the other side!”

 

“You can't go, yourself, Loar!” Jewd said. “The army needs a leader.”

 

“I will go instead of my brother!”

 

All heads whirled around to face Dworne who was standing in the doorway. He had dressed himself in the outfit of a warrior, making him appear older than his sixteen years of age.

 

“Thanks, Dworne but I must do this myself.”

 

“Didn't I see your baby brother playing with the little boys and girls before the eclipse...” Dragar smirked at Loar.

 

“Don't underestimate Dworne. He's the best of our young fighters.” One of the younger Council members pointed out with awe in his voice.

 

“...and then take an eclipse-nap!” Dragar roared out with laughter. A second later half his mustache was lying on the table. Dworne had jumped forward, drawn his sword and given the warlord an unrequested shaving.

 

“If you ask kindly, I will complete the barber's work.”

 

“How dare you...!” Dragar's hoarse voice had become a bit squeaky, skewed by this surprise.

 

“Maybe you should have taken a nap, too!” Dworne suggested boldly, earning himself a few chuckles among the Council's members.

 

“I just oughta...!” Dragar pulled out his sword from the ground and turned back to the young offender. But Loar had rushed over to stand between them.

 

“Stop this nonsense! Dworne, you have no business here! This is the Council's meeting room, not a sword fight training arena for youngsters!”

 

Dworne looked in dignified at his brother but re-sheathed his sword.

 

“And Dragar... you will need to pick a handful of men for our excursion.” Loar tried to deflect the warlords attention from his brother. Dragar looked at his leader and nodded. Loar had gauged him correctly. Dragar was a man of deed and this dangerous mission fit him hand in glove. He grunted and then gave Dworne a snide look as he left the room,

 

“This is not over yet! You're on my list!” Dragar called after him.

 

“The Council meeting is closed!” Loar raised his hands and dismissed the men by waving them. Sunlight was now streaming in from outside again. The eclipse was over and the camp was awaking to life for the second time today. The Council members scattered and started chatting in couples and threes while moving to the exit. Only Dragar was mumbling something to himself and grabbing at his asymmetric facial hair style.

 

Moornock gave Dragar a heavy pat on the back as he passed him and chuckled,

 

“Be grateful! That wild mustache of yours needed shaving anyway, Dragar-boy! Haha!” But the other warlord found no humor in his situation.

 

 

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