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Monday, December 26, 2011

The Brothers' War - Chapter 14

Plans revealed.

Chapter 14 - Night Moves

Urza and Kayla eventually left the dinner arm-in-arm, and while Mishra sent his men back to camp, he announced that both he and Ashnod would spend the night in the palace.

With his bottle of wine in hand, Tawnos drops by the orniery with the idea to ask Urza what kinds of questions he should ask Ashnod when he examines the dragon engine , but he runs into Kayla quietly closing the door on her way out. She tells him that Urza's already asleep. She tells Tawnos that it has been a good day, but it's best not to disturb him. Noticing the bottle with him she mentions that it looks like they both have other places to be and the two go their separate ways.

Tawnos walks in on Ashnod weaving some gold wire though an animal skull that she's attached to her staff.  She tells him it's just a project she's been working on, and then is quite pleased when she notices he has the wine. She tries to make a toast to the madmen known as their masters, only to find Tawnos shocked at referring to them as madmen. Ashnod tells him that apprentices are supposed to complain about their masters. It's a tradition. Hasn't he ever complained about any of his masters? When he tells her his previous master was his uncle Jorlinda she laughs all the more.

Ashnod must have read the disappointment in Tawnos's face, because she quickly cut her chuckling short. "You sound like a baby duck, always following along behind its mother duck. Such loyalty is so sweet. So your first master was a relative, and your new master is...?"

Tawnos shrugged. "He is Urza. He knows more than anyone else I've ever met."

Ashnod looked at Tawnos, and said in a low voice, "Gods below, you're serious, aren't you?"

That's what having masters are for. She says that he must know things that Urza doesn't, and he counters that he doesn't in the important matters.

The conversation then transitions into comparing each master with the other, and striking similarities between the two. Tawnos admits to her that he knows Urza is also jealous of Mishra. He feels that the desert life gives him a freedom that he can't have because of his responsibilities to the nation that he has on his shoulders. Ashnod tells him that he and Urza must not understand what kind of iron-grip the young qadir has them in.

"It's the love of artifacts that binds them together and probably us to them as well. There's something about getting beneath the skin of a new device."

"Understanding a new concept," agreed Tawnos.

"Unlocking its inner secrets."

"Understanding the design philosophy behind it."

"Feeling its power."

"Comprehending its purpose," said Tawnos, "and expanding its abilities."

Ashnod laughs an easy laugh and says there are so few people like them. Ashnod tells him that not only do the Suwwardi not understand, but she often gets plenty of hostile stares. She then says she bets that his work keeps him away from his family and his wife, and Tawnos says he doesn't have a wife, or even a lady friend in general. He then asks her about Mishra and she tells him they were lovers for a few months in the beginning, but it was more about power with him and he soon got bored. He'd rather worry about his precious engines.

Engines? Plural? There's only one dragon engine right? What's that about?

Ashnod clarifies that they refer to the giant metal wagon as an engine, but also as his war machine, but ssshhhh... don't tell anyone that. It might upset people.

(Nice. Quick thinking there.)

Tawnos asks if Mishra has the power to enforce peace, and she tells him he does and breaks down the political situation among the Fallaji. He then asks what does Mishra want? Urza can help him establish a school if that's his ultimate goal. She says that while he's Argivian, he's lived so long among the Fallaji that he thinks like them deep down. They don't accept aid. They get what they want by force or by trade or by way of cunning.

And he covets what Urza has.

Tawnos thinks back to the argument between the Urza and Kayla and realizes it's the stone that they were arguing about and Ashnod agrees. He then asks if the talk about giving up the Sword Marches is worth it? She laughs once more and agrees that the "talk" is worth it, but if everything's gone well as it seems, Mishra's already succeeded.

All the events of the night take on new meaning in Tawnos' mind. Kayla's insistence that Urza not be disturbed and her doting on him at dinner despite their earlier argument during the day. Tawnos gets up and excuses himself. He calls for guards to find Mishra and runs towards the orniary.

Ashnod realizes she's said too much and removes her earrings and inserts them into the skull atop her staff and it comes to life.

...At the orniery...

Tawnos shakes Urza awake.

Tawnos looked at Urza, and said, "Sir, your stone."

Urza touches his chest then begins tossing up his blankets and clothes and then Tawnos tells him he ran into Kayla leaving here earlier. Urza takes off without getting dressed, and despite Tawnos being the taller of the two he can't keep pace with him. The guards from earlier run up to Tawnos and tell him that Mishra is not in his quarters.

By the time he makes it to the royal chambers Tawnos can hear the brothers going at it and can see a bright spectrum of a light within. Inside the brothers have turned the power of their stones upon each other, and it's clear that Mishra had just recently put on his clothes with haste and Kayla simply has a bed sheet wrapped around her.

It could have been Tawnos's shout, or his wave of his arms. Or it could have been seeing Kayla, stepping almost into the energies between the two stones. Or it could have been a moment of weakness on Urza's part.

But Urza dropped his stone.

Urza's struck by a beam of energy from the weakstone and is tossed across the room, smashing through a cabinet. Tawnos suggests grabbing one of the healing amulets to Kayla but before either of them can act, Urza's stone glows brightly and the ease in his breathing is immediate.

Kayla tries to tell him he should rest but Urza pushes her aside and charges after his brother. She tells Tawnos she was trying to do what was best for her country, and he just tells her to get dressed and call the guards.

Out in the halls Tawnos doesn't find Mishra, but he does run into Ashnod fighting off against some of the guards. She turns her staff upon him, and he does the only thing he can. Blinded from the pain he tosses the toy snake he had brought along with the wine to show off to Ashnod, and he tosses it in her direction. She turns the staff upon the toy and immediately he runs and tackles her and the guards rush in to help restrain her.

* * *

Kayla, What Have You Done!?

Oh no, she did it! Not because of loneliness but out of a dedication to her country. Was Ashnod part of the plan? Was she supposed to distract Tawnos? She was reassembling her staff so she knew something was up, but there didn't seem to be much need to distract him, and in fact things would have gone more smoothly if she didn't get drunk and accidentally spill the secret.

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