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Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Brothers' War - Chapter 5

Aftermath of the Caves of Koilos.

Chapter 5 - Sundering

Things changed after that day.

Urza became more distant and mostly stuck to his quarters. Mishra moved out of their shared space to live amongst the diggers and Urza turned the empty space into his own workspace which only infuriated Mishra. The dinner arguments were no longer about a sharing of ideas and had evolved into spiteful challenges until both brothers stopped eating with the students. True to Urza's fashion he ate alone while Mishra one more kept to the diggers.

Urza wore his stone clasped within a gold chain around his neck while Mishra wore his around his neck secured within a leather pouch in Fallaji fashion. Tocasia asked to study the stones but both brothers made up excuses to keep theirs with them at all times, fearing that she would give the stone to the other brother to study.

To make matters worse, there was political change with the desert people. There were no leaders by birth or by vote amongst the Fallaji, but rather leadership was gained by respect. Sometimes one clan would be followed because their leader was recognized by all to be wise. Sometimes another would be followed because their leader was recognized to be a great warrior. These days the latest shift in power was towards the Suwwardi, whose lands border those of the the state of Yotia.

The Suwwardi believe that the outsiders are becoming a threat. They're encroaching on their lands and all the wondrous artifacts are leaving their people and going to strangers' hands. The result was that the flow of artifacts from other tribes dwindled. And the Suwwardi sentiment combined with the fear of the legend of the area known as the heart of the Thran led to Tocasia's Fallaji diggers to slowly abandon their work and leave camp.

Tocasia becomes silent after Ahmahl explains to her the situation, and he recognizes that her thoughts have drifted once more towards the brothers. She tells him that Urza has dubbed their stones the mightstone and the weakstone , names that Mishra no doubt doesn't appreciate. Their latest argument arose when Urza insisted that Mishra was wasting the diggers' time by ordering them to digger deeper than they should. When Mishra later uncovered the missing onulet parts Urza was looking for, Urza pretty much accused him of planting the parts at the site just to prove him wrong.

Ahmahl leaned forward. "The Fallaji believe that man is made of stone and fire, sky and water. The perfect man holds all these elements in balance. The young brother - he had more fire than he needed on the first day I met him, and he has more fire than he needs now. The older brother is consumed by stone: cold and unyielding. Unable to bend, he will shatter or be worn away."
"The Argivians have a similar belief, though few follow it these days," said Tocasia. "The world is divided into reality and dreams. The old temple priests of Argive would say that both those young men have been consumed by their dreams and are forgetting their reality."

Ahmahl then asks Tocasia if Urza has dreams. He tells her that he was told by one of his younger assistants, Hajar, who also has too much fire and is a great admirer of Mishra, that Mishra has dreams of a darkness that reaches out for him. He sometimes wakes in the night screaming at things that aren't there. Tocasia tells him that she knows nothing about Urza's dreams. He doesn't talk to anyone.

The conversation moves on to other subjects and eventually the two bid each other a good night. As Ahmahl walks about the camp he catches a clearly drunken Hajar and Mishra sneaking about. Mishra says he was just going to Urza's quarters to get something important. He declines Ahmahl's offer of help and tells him that it's nothing that's too heavy that would require three people to carry it. In fact Hajar is only with him for company. Well, if that's the case, Ahmahl asks Mishra if perhaps Hajar could accompany himself for a task. Mishra has to choice to but agree.

Out of earshot of Mishra, Ahmahl insists that Hajar tell him what they were doing.

"We are Fallaji," said the older man. "If I cared to find out, I could show that your mother's family and my mother's family shared a common mother. Come out with it. What were you up to, stinking of nabiz and slinking through the shadows like jackals?"

Ahmahl realizes quickly that maybe Mishra really was going to Urza's quarters to fetch something and not just continue one argument or another like he first assumed. He's going there for the stone. Ahmahl sends Hajar to fetch Tocasia while he goes for the brothers. Outside the cabin he can hear the two yelling, and when Tocasia appears he tells her he's heard no sounds of furniture breaking and maybe it was time no one stepped between the two. Perhaps they finally need to get this out of their system.

When strange red and green lights can be seen coming from inside, Ahmahl thinks that maybe it wasn't such a good idea to let them have at it. Tocasia runs forward and Ahmahl chases after. Inside both Urza and Mishra are using their stones against each other. When Tocasia tries to intervene the whole place explodes, sending shards of wood into the crowd that had gathered.

When Ahmahl gets up he finds Mishra with a hand at the unnaturally bent neck of his mentor. Urza glares at his brother with accusation and hate until Mishra runs from the camp. The funeral is held the next day and Ahmahl sees Urza cry for the first time.

Urza remains in the same spot before his mentor's resting place for a full day when Ahmahl eventually has a talk with him. Urza thinks it must about how to continue Tocasia's work but Ahamahl says it's over. The Fallaji respected Tocasia and were working for her and not for the work itself. They may have followed Mishra, but him, they do not know. With no Fallaji diggers, the camp will be in danger of attack from raiders.

Word is sent to Penregon and Loran and Richlau appear to oversee the cataloging and documenting of everything. Urza tells them everything of importance and then leaves before the camp it taken down. He says he can't bear to watch it being taken apart.

Ahmahl is the last to watch Urza go, and the only one to see him take on last glance towards his mentor's grave.

Ahmahl thought he understood. The young man had lost his mentor, his home, and his brother, all because of the actions of a single night.

What Ahmahl did not understand - and what would take years for him to understand - was which of the three losses was the hardest for the young scholar to bear.

* * *

So rich in detail

It's hard to stop gushing about this book, but I most definitely felt the sadness and at the distance that drove the brother's apart and definitely at the end of the chapter when the whole thing comes apart. It's strange how the book can feel so mythic and distant, yet deeply personal at the same time.

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