Last week I rearranged my living room to make more space. So my blogposts suffered as I vacuumed, dusted, and moved my stuffed rocking chair, bookcases, tables, and sorted through my accumulated stuff. I am definitely a bookworm and even with the kindle, I have some heavy tomes from my English Literature days.
Of course this need to clean and rearrange wandered into other rooms. I’m still going through my coats and sweaters. I’m washing them so they will be ready for the winter. Even though I live on the edges of the Sonora desert in a large paved city, it does get cold in the winter. Thankfully not Chicago cold. It is a dry cold that blows through the layers.
So without further ado, here is the snippet I promised.
Hero of Corsindor – Chapter 5b
In his private tent, the walls shook a little as the breeze slapped against them. The fall wind would be a reminder that the tent walls were too light. Most of the Ahrah would leave to go to their strongholds built of wood and stone in the high mountains.
Malkiah and his mother would retreat with the other high-born and follow the Councilor. The Councilor was not a life-time appointment. Every four years the Ahrah would get together to decide who would be the best leader. This Councilor had managed to hold the position for fifteen years.
Every other year the Ahrah would get together, bringing their families and their animals to the meeting ground in the biggest valley. They would meet, marry, and settle their differences.
When they first escaped from Corsindor, they had been a small group. The gathering was necessary to keep track of their numbers. Now this was the largest gathering Malkiah had seen in his lifetime.
It also meant that the Councilor needed a ceremonial guard, who could actually defend her. Before Shira left, Malkiah had thought that the honor would be given to her. It had been a great source of tension between Malkiah and his mother, Cianne.
Cianne stood holding the mirror, while he adjusted his ceremonial cape and then placed a headscarf on his head held with a white rope. He did look elegant in black trousers and a simple jacket that came to his mid thigh. He was shorter than Shira, but compared to other Ahrah his was tall. He straightened his back.
His mother put the mirror down and adjust his jacket shoulders and fiddled with headscarf. “There,” she said. “You are a credit to me.”
Malkiah tried not to wince. Cianne was more conscious of her position than him. She liked the old ways where the woman hid her face, but was the steel behind the man. He was well aware that she wanted more power.
She had bit her lip when he told her that he would be guarding the Councilor. For a moment he suspected that she was one of the conspirators that wanted to change their system and install a king. But then she smiled and congratulated him.
He knew she was a snake. He had lived with her his entire life. He tried to relax as he strapped his curved scimitar to his waist. It reminded him of his father, who had died long ago.
He took a deep breath and turned away from her. She tried to hug him, but he shrugged her off. It was time for him to leave his mother. She wouldn’t like that.
He left her standing in front of the tent.
The main tent they had used last night for the banquet had been set up as a judgment hall for the Councilor. Today was when the groups who had grievances could air and settle them.
Malkiah reached a wooden table where the main clerk sat, checking in the folks who would see the Councilor today.
The clerk was dressed in a white desert robe that covered him. His headscarf declared that he was of the group that rode the border between Corsindor and Ahrah. He wasn’t of the usual clerk class.
“Name,” barked the clerk.
Malkiah told him his name.
Malkiah showed his scimiter. “You must leave that here,” the clerk said.
“I’m the ceremonial guard,” Malkiah said patiently. “I won’t leave it.”
The clerk sent a boy into the tent. The boy came back and nodded his head to the clerk. The frowning clerk waved him in.
A long carpet runner reached from the front to where the Councilor was standing. There were no chairs except on the dais. The petitioners would have to take that long walk to the Councilor so that he could think if he wanted to bring a petty problem to such a high authority.
There would be observers in the tent, who would be unarmed. This was unusual in the Ahrah life. Most everyone carried a long knife or weapon. Councilors had been assassinated before in such surroundings. The guards around this Councilor didn’t want to lose another one.
When Malkiah reached the dais, a priest of the “one God” stood next to her. He was leaning into her and Malkiah hurried toward the Councilor.
He heard the last of the priest words, “but you cannot mean…” his words trailed off when he saw Malkiah.
The Councilor turned away from the priest. It was a moved calculated to infuriate the priest. “Malkiah,” she said almost gratefully.
“You will stand here.” It was a place to the right and behind the Councilor. “Your position is mostly ceremonial,” she continued. Malkiah knew this. Her eyes said otherwise. She was not as comfortable as her demeanor suggested. He would watch carefully. No petitioner would hurt her while she was under his eye.
His loyalty was under question of course. His mother was part of the “loyal opposition.” But he wouldn’t let his mother get between him and his duty.
For the next two hours he stood behind her, listening to much of the same complaints. This one was more interesting.
Two tribal leaders stood in front of the Councilor. They were in dispute of the same summer fields.
“Why is this a problem?” asked the Councilor. “You’ve shared this summer fields before.”
The two men looked at each other, then the older one spoke.
“Councilor,” his voice was deep and the sound filled the tent. “We have both grown, and we can’t share anymore.”
This caught the Councilor’s attention. “Have you adopted stragglers from the border? Or were there new children?”
“Go to the clerk and have your people counted,” she said. “Have you forgotten the compact?”
The two men bowed to her and were escorted out.
Near the end of the supplicants the two came back. The clerk handed her the count. She perused it and then said, “In the next two months you will each send people for a new tribe. The summer fields will still be shared.” She sent a significant look at the two men.
“Remember you are now the mother and father of this new tribe. You will teach and help this tribe for five years. Is that understood?”
Malkiah watched them as they agreed. One of the tribal leaders frowned, but what could he do? The Councilor had stuck to the compact.
The tribal leader who had spoke before said, “Councilor, we have already picked the new leader.” He called up a young man who had been with the observers in the back of the tent.
The young man had that stunned look on his face that said he had no idea. The three leaders walked out of the tent, talking of new plans and alliances.
More petitioners and more problems. Malkiah quit listening and watched each one carefully, looking for any weapons. Many of these problems were petty and could have been fixed in their own groups.
The Councilor was patient, but he could tell that she was getting tired because she leaned against the priest. Her lips were pale.
“Maybe you should sit down,” the priest said.
The Councilor nodded her head no and kept standing.