The Sachem was, in fact, very angry. Navihm and Hart could hear him yelling at Bohan from where they waited outside the command tent. Bohan exited the tent.
“Sachem Ahmet will see you now,” he said, with a wry grin.
The Sachem was waiting for them when they entered. He was about Hart’s height with blue-black skin and a clean shaven head.
“Enfeitar Navihm,” he said. “Perhaps you would explain what you are doing in my territory.”
“I would like to remind you that the Nomads are only in this country by the goodwill of Genticus,” said Hart angrily.
“There is no need for that, Hart,” Navihm chastised. His cousin had always been a little hot headed and had never had the patience for diplomacy. “I apologise for the rudeness of my entry into your camp and for the manner in which we approach you now. I thought it the only option considering our circumstances.”
“I am well aware of our circumstances, boy,” said the Sachem. “Rei Nael of the Fifth has been plaguing me with messengers ever since he saw this oncoming invasion. He seems to think that they only way to fight off this mysterious enemy is to become allies.”
“I assure you this enemy is very real,” said Hart, taking offense at the Sachem’s skeptical tone.
“I am aware of that, boy,” replied the Sachem. “The day before yesterday my Veiled Guard caught a Somali spy, who is now our prisoner.”
“You have a prisoner?” Navihm asked eagerly. “What information have you been able to get from him?”
“That is none of you concern.”
“You haven’t been able to get him to talk, have you?” said Hart. The Sachem ignored him.
“What exactly did you wish to achieve by coming here, Enfeitar?” he asked dryly, sitting on a cushioned chair. Navihm knew that this room in the Sachem’s tent was used for receiving visitors so the lack of chairs for the two Gentis must have been deliberate.
“A truce, between the Nomads and Genticus,” said Navihm. “Right now, young men from every tribe in Genticus are most likely gathering at the Ninth, preparing for this war.”
“I have noticed this phenomenon.”
“Then you know that this war is coming right to your doorstep,” Navihm continued gravely. “The Nomad’s desert is closer to the Ninth than any Genti tribe and you and I both know there is no way the Ninth will be able to hold out against this invading force, not with the troops it has now.”
“Every man in Genticus learns how to fight,” said the Sachem, unconcerned. “Do you have no faith your country’s combat abilities?”
“We learn how to defend ourselves and our families, but we do not have any formal armies. There is a difference between fighting as an individual and fighting as an army. The Nomads have the only effective fighting force in the entire North.”
“So the Ninth falls, why should I be concerned?” Sachem Ahmet refused to be swayed by Navihm arguments. “It is as you say; I have the most effective fighting force in the north. The Nomads know this desert better than anyone. I am sure we will be able to fight these invaders off without your help.”
“If the North Coast falls, the rest of the continent will follow,” recited Hart. “It has been foretold.”
“So you say, boy,” said Sachem Ahmet skeptically. “We are enemies, Enfeitar. How can I believe anything you say? I know why you need my help, I don't see how an alliance will benefit me in any way. I think I’m quite safe here in my desert.”
“Oh I doubt they will come here first,” said Navihm darkly. “If it was me commanding this invasion, I would head south-east to the Fifth. They aren’t much bigger than the Ninth; it would be an easy victory. Then I would continue on to the Eighth, to your South, and then the Forth to the East.”
“Every one of these Tribes would have striped their guarding force to the bare minimum and sent every available man to the Ninth,” chimed in Hart. “They wouldn't put up much of a fight. They don't even have walls.”
“And then, once they have you surrounded, they will attack.” Navihm approached a map the Sachem had laid out on a table and traced the route he had just described thoughtfully. “Are you so confident in your victory when you have no place to retreat and the supplies of four tribes feeding the enemy?”
The Sachem was silent for a moment, thinking about the scenario Navihm described.
“How can I trust you, Enfeitar?” asked the Sachem, steepling his fingers. “As I said before; we are enemies.”
“Do you really have a choice, Sachem?” asked Hart. Navihm held up a hand to forestall any more comments from his cousin.
“You have a valid point, Sachem,” he said, thinking quickly. “Perhaps a show of faith would help the situation. Let me question the prisoner. Any information I gather will be shared with you, for the benefit of both the Nomads and Genticus.”
“What makes you think you will have any more success than us?”
“I have certain skills at my disposal which I now offer in your service,” he said, giving him a small bow. The Sachem thought for a moment.
“I accept,” he said abruptly, leading the way out of the tent. Hart grabbed Navihm’s arm before he was able to follow.
“What are you thinking, Navihm?” Hart asked, panicking slightly. “You have the empathy skills of a rock.”
“The great elemental masters could tell a lie from the truth by sensing the speed at which an individual was breathing and how fast the blood rushes through their veins,” Navihm said, remembering his lessons.
“Are you an elemental master? No!” Hart grabbed his cousin by the shoulders and shook him slightly.
“That is true, but I did sense Ira and her baby’s heartbeats after dinner.”
“That was an hour ago, Navihm! That doesn’t exactly make you qualified.” Hart pressed the heels of his palms into his eye sockets. “This isn't going to work.” Navihm put a comforting hand on Hart’s shoulder.
“Don’t worry, my empathy skills are quite a bit better now my elemental magic isn't getting in the way.”
Hart laughed sardonically, giving up in the face of Navihm’s illogical confidence.
“After this is all over, you are going to explain that to me, cousin.” He pushed Navihm out of the tent gently. “Good luck. I’ll meet you back at Ira’s.”