Chapter 18: The Games We Play
Despite his orders that the Burning Suns go out on maneuvers, Makret had not been able to get them out of the city. General Trag, who was a less-than-private supporter of Guinira’s puppet governor, kept finding flaws in the logic of sending out the country’s only permanent standing army. The Deshika went where they were told to go, so if another threat came up, the city would be defenceless. Makret’s point was that if Guinira called on the Burning Suns, it would likely be to march on Dothoro, so he wanted them trained for forest combat. It took two weeks, but Makret finally overruled Trag, having to resort to his position as High General and not without several half-threats of replacement for insubordination. If Trag was indeed not just a pawn of the new order, but the supporter of it that he appeared to be, his usefulness to Makret was over. He was surprised, therefore, when Trag volunteered to personally command the Burning Suns while they were in the forest surrounding Whitesun Mountain.
“Why do you want to go out with them, Trag?” Makret looked up over the mountain of maps that palace servants had acquired for him. “Most senior officers will do anything to get out of maneuvers.” He gestured to a chair, indicating that the General should sit.
“I know, but as you said, sir, if her majesty calls on our forces, it will likely be to march on Dothoro, and I feel that I will have need of experience in forest warfare as a commander.”
Makret was thinking of his answer when a messenger dressed in the red and black of the Seven Devils entered. The man, or maybe boy, was not Deshik, and Makret knew that he looked familiar, but he could not place him. “Yes?”
“I have a message from Lord Vorteez to the Governor of Caladea.”
“You can leave it with me, and I will get to it in time.”
“This is written in the Lord Vorteez’s own hand, sir.”
“Boy, in this new Empire that The Kindler has made out of Anaria, the only ones I don’t outrank are the Seven Devils themselves. Now, give me this message.”
The messenger bowed his head slightly, barely a prolonged nod and much less than the formal bow or salute to which Makret was entitled. “Yes sir.” He handed Makret the letter, sealed with Vorteez’s Whip pressed into black wax.
Market read it slowly, studying the words themselves. As The Kindler’s former High General, he was well versed in all of the codes used by the Seven when they communicated in writing. But he could find nothing other than plain orders, written clearly and directly. “Why is Lord Vorteez calling for Caladean ships to be armed and prepared to sail?” “He has found, and is determined to sail against, the remainder of the Drog Imperial Navy. I have orders from Lord Vorteez himself that I am to take personal command of any war-worthy ship found anchored in Caladean waters. I am to be given complete cooperation from those in charge of this country.” The boy looked at the two older men expectantly, almost as if he believed they should drop to their knees and beg to be allowed to help him.
Trag and Makret both realized it at the same moment, and both said it at the same time. “Regath Encarthian.” Trag said it as a growl. Makret’s was a statement of surprise and shock. It was Makret that continued. “But, you’re …”
“No. My father was Regath Encarthian, and yes, he is dead. I am Regath Encarthian the second, Vorteez’s new Morschen commander.”
Makret’s bared teeth wiped the smirk off of Regath’s face. “If The Kindler finds out that Vorteez is building his own chain of command along Anaria’s coast, there will be trouble between the Candle and the Whip.”
“Lord Vorteez has learned the location of the Drog Imperial Navy, which is of interest to The Kindler as well. I have written confirmation that I may speak and act on behalf of my Lord Vorteez, and order things in his name. So, on behalf of my Lord, I order you to give into my charge any ship capable of battle to be found in Caladean waters. I will take them by force, if your cooperation is not immediate and complete.” Makret was slightly put off by this speech by the son of his former friend. He had known the lad existed, but had expected him to be more like his father. Regath had been a good man, noble and honest. He would have died unbroken. His son clearly did not have the same mental strength that he had possessed, but Makret knew just how few people did. Makret had also heard too much about Vorteez. The reputation that the Master of Pain had acquired for breaking even the most disciplined mind was formidable, to say the least. The Whip was no frivolous symbol; it had been earned over many lifetimes of torture and sadism. “General Trag, I will not permit you to go out on maneuvers with the Burning Sun. Order them back to their barracks. I believe that we have trouble brewing along the coast, and we will have need of them to help us subdue it. Dismissed.” Trag bowed his head and left, not daring to argue in the presence of not one but two representatives of two different Devils. Makret turned to the shorter Drog, but did not stand up. “Now, as for you, boy, whether you are Vorteez’s dog or his right hand, I take orders only from The Kindler himself. Not even Guinira gives me orders that I am required to follow. So, I would suggest that you rethink your way of going about obtaining my cooperation.” Makret found a mug of Gafve that a servant had brought him hours before. It was cold, but it still served the purpose of punctuating his statement. The drink tasted much better cold, in his mind.
“I have written instruction …”
Makret took the letter and tore it in half. Then he put the halves together and tore them. He did the same thing several times until no piece of Vorteez’s letter had more than one or two whole words on it. He then dumped the scraps onto the floor. “I don’t care about your written instruction. The Drog Imperial Navy is the lowest on a long list of my priorities for the Deshika: Erygan Dalrey rides through the north, the west is mostly unconquered, and Alquendiro stands. The world where I agree to raise a fleet to sail who knows where to fight Drogs at sea is not this one.” He drained the mug.
“It will be Lord Vorteez’s armies that sail against the Drogs. And Lord Vorteez is the one authorizing this, not you.”
“Were Vorteez capable of authorizing you to do anything, you would have done it by now. Vorteez has no authority in Caladea. This is The Kindler’s land. And I am The Kindler’s High General, and the High General of all Deshik forces in Seven-controlled Anaria. You need my cooperation before you can ‘authorize’ anything and, for the moment, I am not inclined to give that to you.” “On behalf of the Lord Vorteez, I order you to cooperate.”
Makret rubbed his eyes. “You are persistent, if more than a little deaf. I don’t take orders from anyone other than The Kindler: not from the others of the Seven, not from Guinira, and certainly not from you. Ra-Diavere is my city, boy, so if you want my help, you will learn respect, something that I know your father would have taught you.” “My father is dead. Whatever he taught me is meaningless now.”
“Get out of my sight, boy.”
“I have …”
“I don’t care right now. Get out of my sight until you understand that there are more powerful people in the world than you, and that sometimes, getting things done, even with written authority, means waiting for those people to decide that they’re willing to help you. Nothing moves in Caladea without me knowing. No sword is drawn but by my order. No guard moves anywhere I haven’t ordained. No ship sails without my consent. Do you understand, boy?” Regath drew himself up straight and leveled a calm gaze at Makret. “Very well, High General Druoth.” Regath offered a bow in mockery of Makret, then turned on his heel and left. Makret called to him before he left the room.
“Boy, if you leave this city without my permission, I’ll see to it that any ship you attempt to take sinks before it leaves the shore.” Regath simply kept walking and let the doors slam shut behind him without looking back. “Captain.” Carrod Horshen stepped away from the wall. “Have him followed, and issue orders throughout all the harbour towns in Caladea. No ship is to sail at the command of Regath Encarthian unless I personally say so.” “If he keeps yelling about those orders from Vorteez, there will be some harbour masters not anxious to refuse him.”
“As long as some do, and without the papers, some captains will be hard to convince. For now, I need to warn the Drogs, quickly. And the Remnant needs to know that we have a new enemy.”
“I will take a ship myself and warn the Drogs in El Redro Delshoi.”
“No. I need you here. But choose three men, and have them go in separate ships. Tell them not to sail straight for the islands. If they know that they’re being followed, go elsewhere. One of them should get through. As for me … I’ll need to stay in the city much longer than I had hoped. If word gets back to An-Aniath that I’ve taken command of Ra-Diavere, then The Kindler’s armies will descend on us here. Ready those you know will stand with the Remnant, Carrod. We’re going to have a battle on our hands. Possibly very soon.”