By the graves of his honored forefathers, Baduk of Telanar could ramble on, Rheyn thought, shaking himself awake a moment before he nodded off….again. How many ways were there to say: Sayulia continues to encroach on Enna’s territory, the Ennai must put a stop to it? The war council had dragged on for three days already and still all of the clan leaders had not been heard. Was it absolutely necessary? How many tales of slave raids, stolen property and displaced farmers must one hear before the one sensible course of action could be agreed upon? Rheyn shifted in his seat; his bottom was numb, his eyes burned from endless hours in this damned candle smoked room and his sisters were poking fun at him. Ina and Akela sat across the room in the women’s gallery, mimicking their lovely heads falling to their chests and pretending to yawn behind their fans. He would have to remember to leave a well placed gift of nettles in a dainty slipper, or maybe a pillow covering filled with the stinking black darisa blossom would do the trick. That rotting stench wouldn’t come out for weeks! At least it hadn’t when Akela had put it in his saddle bags some years ago. Perhaps he would tell whining, lazy, unwashed Baduk, if the man ever shut up and let him talk, that Ina had been secretly pining for him for years but was too shy to approach him so had sent her trusted brother to speak for her. That would pay her back well and good, and might give Rheyn an excuse to kill him if he pressed his suit too far.
He stretched his neck, glared at his silently giggling sisters and still Baduk talked. And talked. Rheyn looked to Sekol, his father, and pleaded with his eyes and upturned palms to intervene. Sekol shook his head at his son, lifted one shoulder in a shrug but before too long it was enough even for the leader of the Ennai.
“I will hear no more!” Sekol shouted, slamming a hand on the table and silencing Baduk. Some clan leaders looked as if they might protest but Sekol put up a hand and said “You can bring the tally of your losses to my servitor Caimon when we are done here and you will be fairly compensated. For now, we must decide on a response and I believe the response must be swift and clear. These Sayul have overcome countless tribes and smaller nations and still it is not enough! Still they want more! The Sayul will not rest until they own everything from the boundaries of the Kotalena desert to the shores of the Natir to the Ytama mountains. As it is, our merchants can hardly ship goods down the Yoloc without giving up most of their profit in passage fees. They will consume all if they are not stopped. If the council agrees, I will send emissaries at once to our allies in Chiron, Dhargit, Rhoditai and Kin’um requesting men, weapons, armor and horses to confront the Sayulian threat. I hear we are not the only ones harried by Sayul raiders and soldiers. Let them see what poking the bear will get them!”
A great cry went up in the hall, men calling for vengeance and women cheering on their men.
“Ready your men, your families and farms!” Sekol’s voice boomed over the noise, “I will send emissaries today and we will have our answers soon but know this, no matter what our allies decide, we will ride against Sayulia! It is only a question of ‘how’ and ‘on what day’, it is no longer a question of ‘if’. We do not ride for vengeance, though we have injury enough, we do not ride for honor though it has been infringed. Any of these would be just cause for war but our cause is graver still. We fight for our lives and our freedom from Sayulian domination! If we would keep our people from being enslaved, starved and murdered then we must put ourselves between them and the Sayul for without a doubt, their advance will stop no other way.”
Warriors and clan leaders got up to boast of past glories on the battlefield or tell of what retribution they would deal to the greedy, thieving Sayul. Rheyn pushed his blonde hair back from his face and tied it back in it’s queue, slipping away from his place at the council table. Before he could escape, two yellow haired ladies, wrapped in silk and lace and mischief, waylaid him.
“Oh my word Akela, I can scarcely keep my eyes open,” Ina said through an exaggerated yawn but Akela’s only response was a delicate snore as she rested her head, eyes closed, on her sister’s shoulder.
“You two have missed your calling. Surely you should be traveling jesters, why should I be so greedy as to keep such high comedy all to myself? In fact I will arrange your transport at once,” Rheyn said, trying to shake off the two ladies who had attached themselves to either arm.
“Oh but Rheyn you are the handsomest, bravest man of the Ennai. Who deserves all of our loving attention more than you?” Akela answered.
“I will give you credit for your keen powers of observation Akela, but there must be a pair of unfortunate souls in all of Enna who deserve such as you. Speaking of which? Why hasn’t father married you two off already? Ow! That is my sword arm Ina!”
Rheyn made a display of rubbing his arm where Ina had struck it with her fan, though it had made little impact through his leather armor.
“You are such a baby,” Ina laughed, “Let us hope the Sayul do not defend themselves with ladies’ fans or I fear the cause is lost before it is begun.”
“Cousin! Spar with me!” came a welcome voice above the fray. Navar, cousin to Rheyn and his sisters on their mother’s side appeared like a battalion of reinforcements in the heat of battle.
“Rescue me Navar!” Rheyn cried “I am being mercilessly beaten with fans!”
“He was also being mocked,” Akela said.
“And called names,” Ina added.
“I see I have arrived in the nick of time. Come, Rheyn, let us get to the practice fields where we shall be safe from upstart ladies and their impertinent fans.” Navar extricated Rheyn from the the sisters’ grasp and hauled him away, Rheyn pretending to cower in fear at Ina’s menacing look that soon gave way to more giggles. Rheyn sometimes wondered if marrying his sisters to the sons of Kaleon might not solve all of their problems. No man could contain one of his sisters and still press for war. There was simply not the time in a day. Send both sisters and Sayulia would be agreeing to terms before the planting season was done, he was sure.