“We must unite,” Niobe was stating, matter-of-factly, “if we desire to defend ourselves against the emperor’s attempts to take away whatever autonomy we still possess. He seeks to punish the four lands for the sins of the nobilis. This simply cannot be allowed!”
“We are all in agreement, Sister Niobe,” Adrox the mage replied, “But to whom we look to for leadership is being questioned. To you? A former nobilis? Is that your expectation?”
“Please forgive us,” Thoradonna the assassin added, “if we do not trust you. After all, you are a former nobilis. And we tend to see all nobilis, former or current, in the same light. All are untrustworthy until proven otherwise.”
“Would you have a promise from the gods?” Frigaana inquired. “If so, know that this woman is no mere former nobilis. She sacrificed her position to protect her child who was prophesied of by the lost prophets of the Renge. She exists solely to see that her own brother, the emperor, is defeated and the nobilis is brought to judgment at the feet of the gods of judgment.
“I came back from exile to see that her mission to unite three of the four lands is successful. If the gods alone will convince you, then I am here to represent their decision and my consort, the Beheader, has delivered the ultimatum of the gods to the capitol city.”
A gasp went through the room. Murmurs rippled through those present. They knew that anything that warranted the return of the gods was worthy of backing. But they still balked at who should lead them.
“I will vouch for the governess of Yndarr,” Bezreddyn announced, stepping out of the shadows, “she sent her son, my grandson, ahead of her to be in my care. She begged me to care for the boy, yet offered her services as nurse maid in order to ensure the boy’s survival despite the decree of his father, my son, to kill the child.
“Together, we care for the lad with one agreement…that he never be told that she is his mother. This is to shield him from the emperor more than it is to separate mother and son. It is also to make sure that he is kept unaware of his heritage as a nobilis.
More than this, she governs Yndarr wisely. More wisely than the last who governed. She banished the lotus smugglers from the city under threat of death and has decreed that any found within the city’s region will face capture and death. She has also ceased communication with the capitol and lessened our offerings of fealty. Our city, once overtaxed and over drugged, now sits sober and profiting from her rule.”
“Many nearby cities have also adopted the ban on lotus,” Zarange added, emerging as well, “and many Orders within the Dark Ring approve of her changes. When we travel throughout Sudia, we do so without the threat of death at the hands of the Inquisition and our own Master. Especially when we are nearest to Yndarr. The city has become a haven for the Orders when they are away from their own cities.”
“F-forgive us, milady governess,” Thoradonna stammered, “W-we were not aware of your relationship with the most honorable bard. W-we will follow your lead.”
“I do not want to lead alone,” Niobe replied, “we will form a council to aid in the leading of Sudia. Each city will be represented along with each town, hamlet, and village. We must also include the farmers as well. After all, they supply our food and other goods. They are just as important as the cities and smaller communities and need just as much protection.
“The council will be picked through special election and the posts held for only four years…that is all except the representative of the gods unless they also want to share their representation. And the gods shall be welcomed to move back into Sudia should they feel it necessary.”
“All kind and good of you, Governess,” Frigaana replied, smiling, “but the other representatives here should also decide that…as should the gods. Yet, if you’ll have us, we will consider a permanent return.”
“All in favor of a return of the gods to Sudia?” Corum inquired, standing. All hands seemed to shoot up in favor. “Any against?” No hands rose. “Any withholding their vote?” Again, no hands rose for recognition. He shrugged. “That was easy. The ayes have it.”
Frigaana smiled. “I will take this council’s decision to the gods,” she replied humbly, “and as I said before, it will depend on their decision on what the proper course will be. On both sharing the council seat and on the move back to the Renge lands.”
Hadrax stood upon the parapets of Korlabdis staring out over the vastness of his new lands. Seven cities lay within his jurisdiction, each ruled by the iron fist of one of his seven most loyal lieutenants. All were supplying youths for the mines, maintaining the uneasy peace between their lords and the creatures in main shaft of Korlabdis’ mine. His gaze wandered to the south.
There, beyond his sight, lay Sudia. He was angry with Kyrzhad, his emperor, for not allowing him to lay waste to the cities there. He could have brought the southland to its knees and back under the empire’s power. But Kyrzhad had sent that fop Khardym to besiege Yndarr and Sudia had been lost altogether to a new and unknown governor who’d banned lotus and the smugglers who plied its trade. This ban had suddenly made the drug more expensive and a lot harder to obtain.
At the moment, Hadrax was suffering withdrawals. This made him impossible for even his men to be around. It also made him very suicidal. And maybe even a bit homicidal.
Not that he wasn’t already that way. But he was even more so when he was going through withdrawals. He looked away. Something told him it was too late to do anything about it now.
Lotus would become a premium, almost impossible to get and even harder to afford. Sudia would fall away. So would Estryn and Nordia. The emperor would lose control. The Inquisition would end up ruling Austryn as a shadow empire. The Dark Ring would revolt against Olgath. He knew that was how things would be.
Somehow, he no longer cared about the empire. Or Olgath. Or the Ring. Or the Inquisition.
He had his little empire of seven cities. They were seven cities he would never allow the Inquisition’s Seekers into. There would be no need. No children would be able to leave the seven cities to serve the abomination.
He smiled. He’d never liked Golmagug anyway. The little demi-mage’s only redeeming quality was his gift of mesmerizing oratory. Not that Hadrax cared for orators.