Khardym waited for Niobe to be completely armored before escorting her to the arena to continue her training. He would not be with her while she traveled to Tyrannos. She had asked him to govern in her absence.
Alendghar had warned him that the blade and armor had both been enchanted, so he would have to be careful there would be no using her personal sword for training. No need to risk his death or that of any other while training her. safety first.
He went over everything he and his team of trainers had to teach her. Proper use of the javelin. Proper use of the man-catcher and halberd. Proper use of the long and crossbow. Not to mention, the long and short swords.
Up to this point, all she had known was the use of a dagger. When he was done, she would be a fully trained warrior. He hoped upon hope that she would use the new skills wisely. He felt she would.
There was a war brewing and he knew it. Kyrzhad would not sit back and accept her terms. It was not the emperor’s way. No one made demands.
And she was getting ready to make demands. She was getting ready to take a big piece of the empire away from him through allegiances. That meant that the resources of Sudia would no longer go directly to the capitol. Instead, they would go through Yndarr first. If the resources were more than right, she would remove the overage in order to make it right. The overage would be returned to the city it had come from.
She was out to humble Kyrzhad, maybe even bring him down. She had declared war against her brother with her call for Sudia to unite and there was no turning back. He only hoped that she could get the lords and ladies of Sudia, those who governed, to unite as a small kingdom. Maybe if she did, it would inspire the honest governors of Nordia and Estryn to do the same and cripple the empire. Austryn was lost. That was where the capitol sat.
He hoped that if three out of the four lands united, they could unite as a single, solid alliance. With three of the four lands united, it would force Kyrzhad to either capitulate or to change policies. It could possibly cause him to abdicate and flee the lands altogether. but would it do any of those things? Or would it make him wage full blown war upon those he saw as the instigators?
Only when the revolt was under way would they begin to discover the emperor’s mind. Until then, they had no idea what he was capable of doing. Still, Niobe’s plan was a good one. It would force his hand and show him for what he was.
He smiled as they reached the arena. The time had come to make a warrior out of her. Once inside the arena, she was his pupil and he would be the teacher. He had much to teach her and so little time to do so.
He ushered her through the giant doors and into the sandy-floored arena. She looked around in awe. She had never been inside a battle arena, not even to witness the gladiatorial contests used to empty the prisons. She had lost way too many friends and family to those battles. She noticed that there were no seats for an audience to sit in and she wondered why the arena had been built. Had it intentionally been built without seating? Were those same events held here? What was the purpose of this arena if they weren’t?
“Not every city has an arena for gladiatorial battles, my dear Niobe,” he stated, a smile upon his face, “unlike the capitol, some arenas serve as training grounds for conscripts and volunteers. Yndarr’s arena is one such arena. Are you ready to learn the art of war?”
“Yes, General,” she smiled, “I will be a most attentive student.”
The gods had been watching the events now unfolding. They had foreseen all and had sent the Renge a savior. They only hoped that it was not too late and that their chosen one would accept his destiny. Darakte stood at the edge of the vision pool watching man’s attempt to rule himself fall apart.
She remembered the wars. First, it had been god versus god. Then, as man came into his own, it became man and god against each other. The third, and final, war was man against the gods.
The third war had been their own fault. They had let their collective guard down. In an instant, man rose and dethroned the gods. All of them.
After their fall, those who’d once been enemies united and solved their differences. Together, they resolved to save the Renge by sending a savior. The prophets had played their parts well by foretelling of the savior’s birth. The new governess of Yndarr had also played her part well by giving birth to the savior.
She continued to play her part well by uniting Sudia. Perhaps they could aid her in doing so. Perhaps they could influence the governors to make the agreement. Then, they could work on influencing things in Estryn and Nordia. That would only leave Austryn under the emperor and the influence of the Inquisition. She smiled.
A small empire would be easier to defeat than the whole Renge. If those lands that separated from the empire could acquire the outer kingdoms and barbarian peoples as allies, then the empire would fall. But the ancient alliances had all but been forgotten. Old friends had fallen away, leaving the Renge to fight its own battles.
Worse still was the fact that the emperor was, even now, planning a war on those beyond the Renge. That war had to be prevented, even if it meant the gods dealing with the upstart general who was doing the emperor’s bidding. So much to do, so little time.
“Sister Harakte,” Thryduin, one of the seven high gods, began as he entered the sanctuary, “what is on your mind?”
“Kyrzhad, emperor of the Renge,” she began, “plots against ancient allies. He has turned his eyes toward the mountain kingdoms. at this very moment, he plots war with his general.”
“What are our options?” He inquired.
“Zarange of the Dark Ring has already asked for an alliance from both east and west,” she replied, “and has received their pledge. If Kyrzhad is allowed to wage his war, our servant Zarange will lose her allies.”
“Then send our messengers to the barbarians that lie between both ranges,” he commanded, “and instruct them to keep any army sent from the Renge from reaching the mountain kingdoms at all cost.”
“Perhaps it would aid our cause if we—convinced Estryn and Nordian governors to follow the example of Niobe and the Sudian governors,” she suggested, “and secede from the empire.”