This Saturday I bring you another Tri-star story. This one is on a whole different world (next to… a different star), Sol. This is only one scene of three, The point of this story is to show how Sol got to its ‘basic state’. The world of Sol is divided among many competing lords, and the mercenaries they hire to fight for them. Vurne, our main character today, was crucial in creating that dangerous status quo.
Warning: Overloaded with terrible fantasy names
“The cattle drive in Pikin was held off again, they said they still don’t feel safe.”
Vurne tapped his pen, his eyes focusing out the stone-framed window, “Send a missive, tell them that the soldiers they have are our best and bravest, we cannot send more until the talks here are over.”
Liza, Vurne’s right hand in all affairs, rolled her eyes and leaned against a desk worth enough to feed a man for a campaign.
“They aren’t going to like that, Sir,” Liza said, “Besides that ain’t all. I haven’t heard a word from the Mols in over a week, and you know what it means when those boys get quiet. Right here in the capital, The Stol Boys have been wrestling in their bunks, their captain is talking about marching East to look for real work.”
Vurne hated being behind a desk. Like Liza he was born again in blood, and made his name at the end of a spear. Now he was in an office, with paintings hanging from stone that celebrated battles he himself had fought.
The battle of two-clouds, a bloody massacre where the sun was only glimpsed for mere moments between the first clash of swords, and the last enemy falling. It rained, it never stopped raining actually. The men stank, his body ached, and someone tried to put a spear through his shoulder.
In the painting, a glorious ray of sunlight beams down to the very center of the battlefield, where Vurne’s side, for that particular battle, knocked the Claimites to the mud. Vurne didn’t remember Mayen presiding over the battle from the heavens above, maybe it was all the mud in his eyes.
“Don’t let the Stol Boys leave, no matter what,” Vurne said with his eyes drilling the point home, “We need them today, and maybe the next few days.”
Liza shook her head, “For our little chat with the Old Spinder? What would we possibly need those sorry cowards for?”
The door to his office opened, and in walked a man clasped in well crafted blue robes. He had his aging hair in large curls, the sure sign of an aristocrat that has never had to wear a helmet in his life.
“Magistrate Alonz,” Liza said. The desk whined as she stood and bowed to the magistrate.
The magistrate nodded to Liza, his chin never passing level. Then he looked to Vurne. His impatience came through immediately.
“Liza,” Vurne said, “Send the missive. Then, tell the Coccus to send a band to check on the Mols, Varaday owes me. And do not let the Stol Boys march.”
Liza nodded, took one last look at the magistrate before walking out of the office.
The magistrate looked over his shoulder, then turned back to Vurne with a smile on his face, “You continue to impress me, High Captain.”
Vurne sat back in his seat, “I would appreciate it if you announced yourself before entering my office, Magistrate.”
The man looked around the room, his eyes stopping on each painting as he went. The battle of the claw, the battle of shameful sons, the battle unforgotten.
“My apologies,” Alonz said, “I received news, and had to rush here immediately.”
The magistrate wasn’t a bad man, but as Liza would put it, “The man’s head is as soft as his arm.”
“Good news I hope,” Vurne said, “Today is an important day.”
Alonz smiled. It didn’t suit him, it twisted his face up as if he had never attempted it before. “Nothing a man of your magnitude cannot handle.”
It was Vurne’s turn to roll his eyes. This was the problem with working in the imperial capital. Men spent more time licking boot than making progress. Men like the magistrate could look you in the eyes, call you shit, and make it sound like a compliment. It was a waste of breath.
“Do you know what they call you, High Captain Vurne?” Alonz asked as he got to the picture of the battle of two-clouds, “They call you the Emperor in Shadows.”
Liza told him about this before. It was a dangerous nickname to have.
“Senseless namecalling by desperate people,” Vurne said, “There is only one emperor, Mayen’s Chosen, Silas the Third. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“May he reign forever,” Alonz said as rote action, “I just recognize why they respect. You earned your way here, you are a man of the people. Which is why the other magistrates and I were glad to have you take this station. You help us keep order, and spread reach of the empire around the world.”
And then men like Alonz held it to the emperor’s rule. New lands were marched on, conquered by the Many-Flagged Armies of the Merindi empire. Then the lawmen and taxmen moved in, and men like Vurne moved on to the next place they were needed. The magistrates would recut their domains, or promote someone else among their ranks, and a new land would join the Old Spinder’s web.
“And your news, Magistrate?” Vurne said.
Alonz turned to face Vurne, and approached the captain’s desk. “The parliament is of one mind. You will have majority support today.”
Vurne couldn’t help but make a fist, “Good, good, thank you for your work.”
“That’s not all,” Alonz said, “I also managed to convince the royal guard. At your word, they will kneel. The statement will be complete. The old beast will realize he has lost.”
A knot formed in Vurne’s gut. He didn’t like the magistrate’s tone. But he knew that with his goal today, they couldn’t avoid sounding treasonous. The world would remember this, like so many battles before it. Except this one would be fought in backrooms, with ink and parchment.
“Tonight then,” Vurne said, “I will shake your hand when all this is over.”
“By god man,” Alonz laugh, “When this is over, I will buy you a crown.”
Vurne sat back in his seat again, and watched the magistrate leave the room. The emperor in shadow, a name like that would get him killed before he could do any good. High Captain was bad enough, it made the other armies afraid to hear from him. Leaders shied away from him, answered him with trite words, or postured for superiority.
He went back to his papers. He had other letters to pen if the meeting was going to happen tonight. He needed to meet with the other captains.
Liza knocked hard on the door.
She walked inside, and looked around, “So the curl is already gone huh? I’m glad.”
“I’m going before the emperor tonight,” Vurne said, ignoring her hatred for the magistrate, “I need you there with me.”
She hissed, “Come now, captain, what good am I in a whole room of curls, I can barely deal with one.”
Vurne looked up. She was frowning at him. He knew she meant it, she wouldn’t want to be there, she felt out of place, and the fact he could trust she was telling the truth meant he needed her there even more.
“There might be a fight,” Vurne said with a shrug.
Her eyes popped, “Now that is a whole other animal. Shall I call the Offen-Hide together?”
Those were his men. Well, a band within the greater army.
“They should be ready,” Vurne said, “But hopefully they won’t be needed.”
Liza looked at Vurne, and a smile crept at the edge of her lip. It faded just as fast, but he could tell she was excited. “I know you captain,” she said, “You’re ready for something, but you seem a little on edge. What’s going on?”
“I wish I could say yet,” He replied before getting up from his desk, “Now lets go, we both have a lot of people to talk to before tonight.”