of the Last God
(Book II of the Oerth Cycle)
(C) 2000 BY
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"Mrowrrr... My lord, it is true, I am sorry. All the clans of the eastern hinterlands have defected to R'Narr's banner. A third of the western clans, mainly the smaller ones with less-valuable lands and many young toms with no inheritance, have defected, as well. The rest appear to be loyal, for the moment, my lord."
D'Zhin looked down from his throne to the cowering Captain of the Royal Guard. The brown tom shivered in obvious terror of his life, his forehead pressed firmly to the carpet at D'Zhin's feet. The captain's fear disgusted him. 'Damn these Mentalts!' he thought with a snarl. 'They have cost me what apparently was my best war-leader, and sparked what will probably be the bloodiest civil war in centuries!' What made the situation worse was that D'Zhin knew he had none to blame but himself.
D'Zhin had never fought the mus before, and was totally unprepared to deal with their unorthodox tactics. Had he acted more swiftly, he might have obtained one of the eastern lords as a battle-advisor - he'd had his eye on D'Larin T'Mrr, one of the immigrants to the east from the west, who would, most likely, remain loyal to him. Yet, D'Zhin had moved too slowly. By the time his forces had crossed the border into the eastern hinterlands, his messengers brought word that D'Larin T'Mrr was dead, slain in a duel by R'Narr. Then, when the battle loomed, he realized that he would be ordering his warriors to kill fellow clansmen - R'Narr had somehow gathered the remnants of the forces once commanded by R'Nalas, D'Last and D'Vring. It would have been a slaughter - they were weak, and easy prey. Yet, once his own troops learned they had killed what were not merely fellow clan-members, but weak, wounded and exhausted ones at that, they would revolt. So, he had held off, hoping the mus would do the work for him - but they did not. It was only after he escaped, riding weeks to make it back to the safety of the capitol, that he learned the tactic which had beaten him so easily was considered the most basic of the tactics of the mus, and the leaders in the east had learned to deal with it months ago. He had been shamed, humiliated, disgraced - and many of the clans had split away from him, joining the rebel R'Narr's banner.
'I underestimated R'Narr... And took his skills for granted. I shall not make either mistake again,' D'Zhin thought to himself, snarling again. "Fsst! And what of the mus?!" he snapped at his Captain.
"Mrowrr... I regret to say the reports are true, my lord. The rebel, R'Narr, has apparently made a temporary peace with them - perhaps a permanent one, though that remains to be seen. Their forces have dispersed from the eastern hinterlands, and gone home to their own lands. Rumors say R'Narr is attempting to ally with them, and that if successful, perhaps they will follow his banner against you, my lord."
D'Zhin snarled wordlessly.
"Mrowlll... There is, at least, one good thing, my lord! The nuns of T'Masa Keep had officially ostracized L'Sala T'Masa! They issued a proclamation to that effect just three days ago!" the captain offered, looking up and smiling weakly.
D'Zin stared down at his captain, his green eyes flashing. "Mrr? Did they say why?"
The captain's small smile vanished instantly, and he placed his forehead back on the carpet. "Mrowrrr... No, my lord, they did not, but perhaps this means they support you?"
"Fsst! Fool! They do not! This follows on the heels of word she is to be R'Narr's mate - they ostracize her because a Mentalt may not take a mate!" D'Zhin snarled, furious. He was hoping the Mentalts might back him - he had released the other four Mentalts he held as a show of good will and offered several thousand talents in gold, but the Reverend Mother had refused his entreaties. The four who had once been in his harem, the nuns accepted back into their fold, while the other, L'Valin, they had cast out. Apparently, her breaking under torture was some violation of their rules - or, perhaps, D'Zhin had broken her too well, and she no longer had the will necessary to be a Mentalt. D'Zhin snarled again - either way, it didn't matter. "Fsst! Get out of my sight!" he snarled.
The captain rose to his feet quickly, bowed rapidly as he backed off, then turned and sprinted out of the throneroom. D'Zin sat back on his throne, brooding.
"Mrr... You have
won, for now, R'Narr... But there is still the spring... I'll
have a new army under my claw, by then... New alliances forged
with the western clans against you... And then, we'll just
see..." D'Zhin muttered, flexing his claws.
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