Nov 18

Kieri’s First Command, Part IV

Posted: under Background, Deed of Paksenarrion, Excerpt, the writing life.
Tags: , , ,  November 18th, 2022

Though Kieri Phelan, captain of Fox Company, was confident he had behaved well in the matter of raw youths spying on his bath–and just as glad it had not been a murderous attack by Pargunese soldiers–he was not at all sure the youths had really understood the magnitude of their error or his reaction to it. Of equal interest, a youth he would have expected to be with them…had not been.  Duke Verrakai’s kirgan, usually one of that group in the commanders’ tent…usually, in fact, standing next to Kirgan Marrakai and Kirgan Serrostin, sometimes between them…had not been with them.  Duke Verrakai and Duke Marrakai appeared to occupy a secondary level below that of Duke Mahieran, and slightly above Dukes Serrostin and Elloran.

A mercenary commander, Aliam had told him, must know as much or more about the power structure of employers as the employer knows about the commander.  You’ve met a prince of Tsaia, a future king, and he’s mentioned offering you a contract?  Pay attention whenever you see him among his nobles.  So Kieri had, and knew that Verrakai and Marrakai were rivals, and not friendly ones.  That Serrostin and Marrakai were friends, and Elloran was afraid of Verrakai.  That Kirgan Verrakai, whose father was not friends with Kirgan Marrakai’s father, had been cultivating Kirgan Marrakai for some purpose not yet clear, and yet…had not taken part in yesterday’s hunt.  Had the others told him?  Deliberately not invited him?  Or had he chosen not to go for reasons of his own?

He puzzled over this and the currents of ambition that swirled among the older men, not just the dukes but the counts and barons.  The nobles were not skilled at war of the type he himself knew best, but quite skilled at the methods of courtly intrigue, wielding small units of influence as skillfully as a man might use a small weapon–a dagger–to penetrate the weak points in armor. As in fighting physically, some were more direct and others more apt at ruse and guile.

Verrakai was certainly that kind.  For himself, he knew Verrakai deeply resented his having a direct contract.  His attempts to discredit the upstart mercenary were not so obvious as to catch the prince’s attention–always courteous, always mild, little corrections that weren’t, seeming deference to Kieri’s practical experience, but with little suggestions and questions that hinted at his concern Kieri–so young for such expertise but of course mentored by the famous Halverics–might not quite measure up to the task they laid on him. Under them, Kieri sensed both hostility and more military knowledge than most.  He had found the man annoying, but he found many non-soldiers annoying–a risk of his experience, Aliam had said–but now he wondered if Verrakai and his Kirgan were part of a coordinated attack…but on what?  The Marrakai family as a whole?  Or more?



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