posted on Mar, 30 2017 @ 11:27 AM
2 - Disappointment
Gaalen dismissed thought of the woman upon entering the Tulvar; she had to have gotten past the same guards he did. Perhaps she was a new recruit to
be part of the Ladysguard. A formidable group, they were. Every one of the women under Kaena’s command was as deadly a killer as any of the brutes
in his Color, and many of them in far different – and more subtle – arenas. Kaena, a childhood playmate of Gaalen’s, ensured every single one
was lettered and instructed in a wide variety of political and clandestine arts, as well as rigorous training in kala ratoen, the basis for all
martial arts at the Bastion. Dangerous women, they were – equally capable of seduction as they were of open warfare. Some were masters of
disguise, and could melt into any social situation so well not even Lady Macosai could tell if one was part of the Ladysguard or just some noblewoman.
Gaalen did not begrudge Kaena her methods, but more than once Gaalen had considered the ramifications of the Ladysguard abusing their power. As long
as Kaena led them, his fears were allayed, but if someday someone else took over, an entire fortress of highly skilled women with the ability to
Command or Compel a man at will was a force to be reckoned with. Aavelae – indeed all countries – needed to be wary of unlimited power in
anyone’s hands, even with the world the way it was. Humanity was losing its fight with the natural world; they could ill-afford a ruthless
While Lady Macosai’s apartments were near the top of the two keeps, her audience chamber for daily business was only on the third floor. The
entrance chamber to the Tulvar was a massive circular room, the ceiling two floors up. Wide staircases around the outside led to walkways ringing the
room on the second level. Frescoes along the balcony depicted some of the more famous battles in Aavelae history, but they hid a darker purpose.
Behind the frescoes ran a passageway dotted with murder holes that could be used to defend the entrance to the keep if necessary.
Gaalen ascended the staircase on the left, then strode along the walkway to the second flight of stairs opposite the Tulvar’s entrance. Once on the
third floor he made his way to the Lord Captain Commander’s audience chambers and was greeted by Sir Pathon, the graying Seneschal of the Bastion.
Pathon had been teaching strategy at the Bastion when Gaalen first arrived as a timid and clumsy adolescent boy, and the grizzled soldier had not
changed much in that time. His thick hair, a mixture of black, white, and gray, was cropped short. Bushy eyebrows gave his serious blue eyes even
more weight, and his neatly trimmed beard hinted at the thorough, particular way he approached anything Gaalen had ever seen him do.
“Good morning to you Lord Braeghe. She is expecting you.”
The Lady High Commander’s audience chamber was surprisingly well lit for being in the lower floors of the Tulvar, the late morning sunlight
streaming in the tall east-facing windows. Lady Macosai sat in a tall, straight-backed chair, poring over the parchments and scrolls that littered
the plain table she sat behind. A great tapestry hung behind her, depicting the Sword and Shield, the Crest of the Bastion. She looked up quickly
when Gaalen entered.
“Ah, Lord Gaalen. That was prompt.”
“Yes, my Lady. Joen indicated that you wished to see me as soon as possible.”
“I do. Please, sit,” she said indicating one of the chairs that faced the table. Gaalen could tell Lady Macosai meant business this morning –
she always reserved the comfortable chairs ringing the fireplace for less formal occasions, choosing the hard wooden chairs facing the desk for the
times she was about to give orders or about administer discipline. Gaalen had received plenty of both.
“You have done well recently, Lord Gaalen.”
“Thank you, Lady Macosai.”
“It is no secret that you had me quite worried for a time, young man. I am pleased to see you back where you belong.”
“Yes my Lady, I admit I was nearly lost. I have since found my path.”
“Good. The Bastion needs you. You will be going to the Ash River. Should hostilities ensue, Braeghe Color will have the center, but Lord Elerac
will lead the operation and oversee the cavalry. You are all subject to the command of Lady Captain Rivercross, of course. There is no better
swordsman in the Bastion than you right now save Lord Robaer, but his place is with his scouts. Besides, I could split a hair with the difference
between you two,” she said, waving her hand dismissively.
“I understand, Lady Macosai.”
“You are disappointed.”
“No, Lady. I trust your judgment. To hold the center is an honorable charge. Braeghe Color will not falter.”
She looked a Gaalen for a moment, and he attempted to keep his face as relaxed as possible. He was disappointed – it would have been quite an
achievement to command an operation this size at his age, but he was willing to wait. He could not deny that Elerac was the better choice, despite
“Very well. There is something else I need of you.”
“Yes, my Lady.”
“One of the Ladies of the Eastholds, Lady Eveleta Meron, Amaerke i'Lithelwait - is sending her youngest daughter to study at the Temple, or
something of that nature. She has asked me to ensure her safety while she stays in Avaanse. The details were not entirely clear, for the message had
been damaged during travel. Apparently the messenger had some difficulty. Regardless, I would have you assign a few of your best men to safeguard
her person. I do not think more than one at a time is necessary. This is Avaanse, after all, not some Mons Rosian pit. Choose men of integrity,
Lord Gaalen. I will hold you to account if anything untoward should happen to her.”
“I see, my Lady.” This did not please Gaalen in the slightest. Such duty was for the Royal Guard, or even a paid sword. In addition, several of
the other lords – including Lord Elerac – had served in the Royal Guard and had experience in this sort of thing. Gaalen hadn’t the faintest
idea where to begin. Not to mention he had no desire to become some child’s nanny, or to force any of his men to do so.
“Now, truly, you are disappointed.”
“With respect, my Lady, it is not my place to judge the orders I am given,” he responded stiffly. “My men and I will perform such as the Lady
High Commander deems necessary. We are the Sword and Shield, be that holding the center against the Makata dogs or keeping watch over
He struggled to keep irritation off his face, but he was not certain he had been successful. As Lady Macosai eyed him for a moment, the muscle on his
jaw popped out.
Abruptly, she spoke again. “The girl’s name is Siere. She should be…”
There was a heavy knock on the door, and Sir Pathon poked his head in. “My Lady, there is a young Lady Siere Meron to see you.”
“Thank you, Merkum. Please send her in.” She turned to Gaalen with a faint smile. “As I was saying, she should be arriving soon.”
Despite his irritation, Gaalen chuckled quietly.