“Welcome Enfeitar Navihm, Regus Hart, Professor Ward, Rose.” The Rei rose from his seat at the top of the room. “I am Rei Ryo. Welcome.” He pronounced his name Ree-uh. It was an unusual name to find in Genticus. It sounded to Navihm more like a Quadan name. He’d met some people from the country just north of Pershus and they all had glossy black hair like the Rei. Perhaps he had some Quadan in his bloodline.
“I’ve been expecting you,” continued the Rei. “I received a message from Sachem Ahmet this morning. Quite surprising to receive this communication actually. I was under the impression that Ahmet wanted to invade my territory, kill my men and enslave my women and children. That is the sort of interaction I expect from the Nomads, but now there is talk of an alliance.”
“That is my doing, O Rei,” said Navihm.
“You brokered an alliance between the Nomads and the Tribes without my consent?”
“Yes,” said Navihm without hesitation.
“I am sorry that you went through, what I can only assume to be a lot of effort to negotiate this treaty. Unfortunately I can’t agree to it.” The Rei looked anything but apologetic.
“What?” said Hart, outraged.
“I refuse to be allied to those foreign dogs.” Rei Ryo spoke calmly with both eyebrows risen disdainfully. “I welcome the contribution your warriors bring to the cause Regus Hart, but I cannot accept any other help you would like to offer in regards to unauthorised treaties.”
“You can have every Genti warrior in the north at the shore but the Ninth will still fall without the help of the Nomads,” said Navihm darkly. There was silence in the room as Rei Ryo glared at the two cousins.
“We need them, O Rei.” Navihm’s tone was polite but unyielding. “Otherwise, we will be defeated and the continent will be overrun.”
“The Nomads have been our enemies since they arrived on the continent,” Rei Ryo said.
“You need to come to terms with the fact that we are no longer enemies,” said Navihm firmly. “We face the same threat and unless we face it together, there is no hope for us.”
“Do you really expect to hold the Ninth with that force camped outside?” Hart chimed in, his tone much less polite than his cousin’s. “I saw perhaps a hundred and fifty men out there, maybe less. Most of which have never fought as an army.”
“We have over two hundred men ready to fight,” said the Rei indignantly.
“I suppose a good portion of that number is made up of fishermen.” Hart was less than hopeful of the quality of soldiers the Ninth could provide. “This is a fishing village, O Rei,” Hart continued. “It is mostly women and children and your men have no experience fighting.”
“We’ve been fighting the Nomads for generations.”
“Your squabbles are hardly fighting,” Hart snorted. “The Nomads raide merchants travelling in and out of your territory and the Ninth occasionally steals some of their herds. This is war, O Rei. This dispute you have with the Nomads is play fighting when compared to what is going to be arriving on your doorstep in less than a week.”
Rei Ryo was silent for a moment, thinking about what the boys were saying. As Regus and an Enfeitar, the Rei was obliged to hear what they had to say. He was under no such obligations to actually take their advice, just listen to it. Navihm was confident that the Rei would see reason. Most of what they were saying had most likely already occurred to Rei Ryo. He just needed someone to help him overcome his prejudices. Navihm’s theory was confirmed when the Rei spoke.
“You propose that the Nomads fight with us?” He asked tentatively.
“That is not enough,” said Navihm, unwilling to give any ground when the Rei was still compromising. “The Nomads must be put in positions of leadership. They have men, yes, but more importantly, they have experience at being an army.”
“I propose we set up a war council,” said Hart, running on Navihm’s momentum. “Of course, you will be head of the council, O Rei, as well as Sachem Ahmet and any Nomad the Sachem appointed to command.”
“I suppose you two will also be on the council?” the Rei said, slightly scornfully. Navihm shook his head.
“Neither of us has experience, which is the main objective in setting up this council,” said Navihm. “We will be happy to report to the council with any information we may have, but we will not lead.”
Rei Ryo seemed impressed with Navihm’s lack of ambition and took it as a sign of sincerity. He chose to believe Navihm when he said that the Nomad’s authority was necessary. After all, what other incentive could the boy have? Navihm was a Genti, an Enfeitar.
“Very well,” said Rei Ryo, folding his hands in his lap. “There will be an alliance.”
The war council met two days later when the Nomad’s arrived. The tribes had never had need of a war room so the council gathered in the Solium.The Rei usually used the Solium to meet with visitors or his tribesmen seeking his counsel. It made sense to use this room for a war council meeting, it being spacious and easy for guests to get to. The Solium was currently packed with Nomads dressed in leather armour sitting around a large table that had been brought in. Sachem Ahmet and Rei Ryo sat at either end of the table, showing their mutual authority.
The Sachem had requested that Professor Ward also attend the meeting so he currently sat wedged between two boisterous Nomads, watching them nervously. It would take only one over enthusiastic gesture for one of these men to put the Professor in hospital with a concussion. He noted their bare, muscular arms and their propensity to talk with their hands. He scooted lower in his seat.
Rei Ryo rose from his seat, the Sachem followed his lead.
“It is time this meeting was brought to order,” said the Rei. As one, every man in the room fell silent. Somehow, this made them feel even more imposing to Professor Ward.
Navihm and Hart were waiting in the other room. The Rei’s Exedrium was comfortable enough with sprawling, cushioned seats and refreshments but the two men were not able to relax. Hart kept rising from his seat and pacing around the room. It was putting Navihm on edge.
“Hart. Sit.” Hart followed his cousin's instructions without thought, throwing himself on the nearest seat and knocking pillows to the ground. They both knew that the outcome of this meeting could determine the fate of the continent and the tension in the room was thick because of this.
Professor Ward entered the room. Both boys stood up immediately.
“How did the meeting go?” Hart asked.
“It was a bit of a rocky beginning; both the Sachem and the Rei Ryo wanted to take charge of the session.” Ward took a seat. “Rei Ryo almost rioted when Sachem Ahmet revealed that his prisoner had escaped in the confusion of travelling here.”
“He probably wanted to question him himself,” noted Navihm, not surprised at the reveal. He’d heard that news from the Sachem when he’d arrived at the Ninth.
“Eventually they started discussing battle strategy and the Sachem was able to take over.” Ward continued. “After that, things went smoothly. There was very little threatening of violence, overall.” Both boys let out a sigh of relief. Navihm hadn't been sure that the two leaders would be able to work with each other after generations of bad blood, even after they had agreed to an alliance.
“Did you find out why they invited you to the meeting?” asked Navihm. When Sachem Ahmet requested that the professor attend the meeting, he’d offered no explanation. The small group had been speculating as to the reason all morning.
“They wanted to know the magical capabilities of our elemental magic.” This wasn’t unexpected, the Sachem was a brilliant tactician and it would be unlikely for him not to take advantage of an asset like the group from Ianterran.
“He questioned me on the limits of my magic and the sorts of things I could achieve with it and the council spent most of the meeting discussing how Rose and I could be used in the battle.”
The Sachem had done much the same thing with Navihm following his interrogation of the prisoner back at the Nomad camp. He’d posed endless questions and come up with applications for Navihm’s gifts that he’d never even considered before. Navihm was glad that the Nomads were on their side of the war.
“There will be another meeting tomorrow,” the Professor continued. “The Sachem wants you two and Rose to attend. We will be getting our final instructions then, along with the rest of the commandant.”
“This is it,” said Hart, looking at his hands somberly. “We really are at war.”