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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Brothers' War - Chapter 9



Mishra's apprentice.


Chapter 9 - Ashnod

The Suwwardi invasion party is stalled beyond the walls of Zegon. Mishra is concerned, but those concerns will not be expressed to the qadir by Mishra or Hajar himself. Over the years the young qadir has grown tyrannical and overweight. Power has too clearly gone to his head.

After his father's death, there was no guarantee that the other tribes would stay loyal to him, however after making a tour of the Fallaji lands to show the power of the dragon engine to all the tribes. With such a force at his command, most tribes decided to remain loyal and those that did not were brought back in line.

Hajar thinks to himself that the power of the qadir, is actually the power of his raki. After the attack, it was made plain that if anyone besides Mishra held onto the stone, the dragon engine would return to its feral state. The stone was permanently given to Mishra, but and eventually Hajar noticed that Mishra and the machine seemed to gain a mental connection and his commands became less vocal and sometimes all that would be required was a wave of the hand or a nod of the head before the mak fawa acted.

While Mishra would have enjoyed time to study his machine, the qadir allowed for no such thing. The tribe was constantly put on the move to expand its riches and territory. The Fallaji were mostly a nomadic people, but some tribes did have what came close to cities which led those segments of the Fallji people to think much more like the outsiders. The Thaladin was one such tribe, but after a quick demonstration of the mak fawa, they soon bowed down before the Suwwardi qadir and gave tribute.

While Mishra wanted to head towards the city of Tersia, which was said to be a city of scholars, but the qadir decided to head towards the Fallaji city of Zegon instead.

The problem now... is the dragon engine.

A half-mile from the city it simply wouldn't move forward no matter what kind of commands it was given. It could be commanded to move to the left or right, but never closer to the city. The qadir demands to know what's wrong, and while Hadir thinks to himself that he never allowed them to time to properly research something like this, Mishra is more diplomatic with his answer.

In fact, Mishra has become well respected among Suwwardi when it became clear that he always knew how to say the right thing or present the right metaphor to often get the qadir to accept another point of view other than his own. Soon many Suwwardi would often come to him first for advice before needing to tell the qadir bad news.

In the end, the qadir decides they'll ransack the nearby villages and force the villages to flee to the city while they wait for enough reinforcements to simply attack without the need of the mak fawa. Mishra says that with some simple battering rams the plan will most likely succeed, and then the two are dismissed from his presence.

Outside of Mishra's tent, he and Hajar can see the a glow from lit candle coming from within despite the presence of a guard. There's a woman inside and Mishra tells her that she's been expected. The woman is a bit surprised and he clarifies that he's been expecting someone from Zegon to discuss terms.

The red-haired Ashnod is quite clearly not Zegoni herself, but he guessed right, and requests that they talk in private. Mishra sends Hajar away despite his protests. Before proper introductions are even finished, the woman requests to have a moment. She pulls out a skull-topped staff and aims it at the doorway. The soft scream of Hajar is heard and Mishra once again tells his friend that he'll be okay, then thanks him for not screaming too loud.

With that display, Mishra understands it all. The staff is what was used to stop his dragon engine. It takes a lot of energy to use as he can quite clearly see by the amount the woman is sweating after such a small display. The city leaders at first were eager to arm their soldiers with the staffs to stand up against the qadir, but after seeing how much their soldiers were drained they began to regret the decision and sent her with terms. Her specifically because it was her fault they decided to fight back in the first place. Ashnod confirms that the staffs used by the Zegoni are of her design, and that the city is ready to declare the qadir as their ultimate leader and provide a tribute.

Mishra says that can be arranged. The qadir likely doesn't want to spend too much time here anyway, but back to her staff. Mishra wants to take a look. She hands it over and explains that it attacks the nerves, with diminishing results at further distances, which is what caused the boundary that the dragon engine didn't want to cross.


"Nerves," said Mishra, nodding and rapping the small power crystal that had been set within the staff's skull.

"Right," agreed Ashnod, setting her cup down and leaning forward. "The body has all manner of systems within it. Living tubes for blood, soft wires for nerves, strands of cable for muscle." She reached out, touching Mishra's arm. He did not flinch or pull away. "You are no book scholar. Your arms are like spun steel."

"Life in the desert is hard," said Mishra softly. "I never thought of the body as a machine."

"It is the best machine!" said Ashnod, releasing his arm. "Tested in the field, continually growing, and self-replicating! Once we understand the mysteries of our own bodies, we understand the world. Everything else will fall into place. Your dragon engine is a wonder but it is a crude imitation of living things."

Mishra is sufficiently impressed. He hasn't had anyone to talk with that could actually stimulate his mind. He tells her that Zegon will have to give up more than the city of Thaladin, who submitted without any resistance. Perhaps by giving up their chief artificer as a hostage in addition to the tribute would suffice. Ashnod smiles as this was her intention all along, but only if she will be considered as his apprentice and not a hostage. Mishra agrees. Ashnod is quite pleased and says they've done enough talking for the night and draws him in close.

Soon after, news reaches the Suwwardi that outlanders along the coast were making raids into their lands, and so the army turns east.

* * *


Contrasts

And now w have Mishra's apprentice, and she seems so much more sinister than Tawnos. It will be quite interesting in how her approach to starting with the foundation that living things are a blueprint, not through overall form like Tawnos and his bird suggestion, but through the basic fundamental wiring of the human body by way of blood and nerves.

Side note: While Urza is the one that's married, he also seems to just ignore his wife, while Mishra most definitely notices and gets the girl on a physical level.


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