The Blood of the People: X
He had been called to the castle that evening but the Vasaath went reluctantly. Thirteen days, he had been able to stay away—thirteen days of suffering and torture. At nights, he was kept awake by the thousands of thoughts that rushed through his mind of how he could possibly keep seeing Juniper without anyone’s knowledge, but nothing seemed good enough. He missed her terribly and it made him even more frustrated. To see her now, knowing he could not hold her, would be devastating.
Not only that, but the recruits were in miserable shape as well. Most were only boys and even though he knew that humans’ strength developed slower than Kas’, he had barely any hope for these youngsters—no strength, no coordination, and no discipline. They did try their best but most of them were slow learners, and he had little patience. They complained, cried, failed, over and over again. The Vasaath was no stranger to training humans, but these people—they were something else.
As he was sitting by the long dinner table that evening, he tried not to glance over at the girl a few seats down but failed. She seemed wistful, pensive, as she barely touched her food.
Next to her sat the advisor that had been placed as ohkasethen earlier that day. Apparently, he had been deemed valuable to the Vasmenaan and the Vasenon—at least, he was considered important enough to join their table. The Vasaath was uncertain, however, how his two comrades reasoned with the fact that the ohkasethen had been the Duke’s closest advisor.
The dinner was as tedious as he’d expected it to be. He had never liked spending time with these people—politicians and philosophers. He wasn’t a stranger to such discussions, he quite enjoyed them at times, but these people’s heads were simply too far up in the clouds for his liking.
Moreover, he knew it would be difficult seeing Juniper and once the dinner was over, he wanted nothing else but to go to her, take her in his arms, but he knew he couldn’t do that. Instead, he was called in to discuss some matters with the Vasmenaan and the Vasenon. Inside the study, he impatiently poured himself a glass of wine and sat down to wait for them to speak their minds.
“How is the training going?” asked the Vasenon.
“It’s coming along,” muttered the Vasaath. “They aren’t warriors. Not even close. But I’ll get them there, sooner or later. If you could hurry along and name them kasaath, they might find a sense of belonging in that.”
“All in good time,” said the Vasmenaan as she, too, sat down with a glass of wine. “We need to sort out this situation with the nobles.”
“Yes,” said the Vasenon, “there are quite many loud voices out there, and the men of faith are starting to gather more and more against us.”
“Juniper had a rather interesting idea today,” said the Vasmenaan, and the Vasaath tensed. “Given that she knows the nobility of this city, I believe her when she says that these people don’t fully understand the gravity of this situation. She suggested a warning, and I think that’s a good idea.”
“What kind of warning did you have in mind?” asked the Vasenon.
“We will execute one at a time and let the others reconsider in between,” said the Vasmenaan.
The Vasaath snorted loudly. “I hardly think that’s what Juniper meant.”
“She has a gentle heart, yes,” said the Vasmenaan, “and that is very amiable, but that will not be enough to bring peace.”
“I agree,” said the Vasenon. “These people have declared that they will not bow to anyone but Duke Arlington. Kindness will not be what subdues them.” He sighed and sat down. “I suggest we execute the Duke and the boy, and if we must, we execute the highest ranking nobles as well.”
“Yes, those were my thoughts, too,” said the Vasmenaan. “What do you think, Vasaath?”
The Vasaath gritted his teeth. Discussing with the Vasmenaan and the Vasenon was never easy, but how could he possibly convince them to spare the boy? He grunted and took a deep sip of his wine.
“The Duke must die,” he said. “I’d be happy to do the deed. But I think we could use the boy. A few more weeks in the dungeons would probably do the trick.”
The Vasmenaan raised a brow. “Is that so? Since when would you rather break minds than bones?”
He rolled his eyes. “Oh, I’m sure I will have the opportunity to break plenty of bones in the future. I just think we could use the boy—he was the heir to the Dukedom, after all. We could use that to our advantage when we expand to the other cities.”
“But the risk is too high,” said the Vasenon. “We can’t be so naive as to believe that the one considered by the people to be the rightful heir to the throne would help us in our endeavours.”
“Indeed, we cannot,” said the Vasmenaan and glared at the Vasaath. “Why would you of all people press the matter?”
“I only think it would be a waste of resources and information,” the Vasaath muttered. “If we want to conquer the Free Cities as soon as possible, we will need all the help we can get.”
“Perhaps all these years with Kasethen have affected you, after all,” said the Vasenon. “Either way, I don’t think we should take any chances. I say we kill the boy.”
“I second that,” said the Vasmenaan.
“I don’t,” growled the Vasaath. “We need to be unanimous in this.”
The Vasmenaan raised a brow. “He isn’t a King, a majority would suffice.”
“Blood relations run deeper with these people than you think,” huffed the Vasaath. “If you want to kill him solely because you fear the support he might have, then you might as well consider him a King. We need a unanimous vote.”
The Vasenon sighed. “We need to decide soon. Uprisings can happen in a matter of days, and these people are still roused after the last one. I say we must execute them before the week’s end. We have two days to decide.”
“We will not execute the boy!” the Vasaath barked and slammed his cup onto the table. He glared at the two, his teeth tightly gritted, and he could see at once in the Vasmenaan’s eyes that she knew.
She knew his intentions, his motivations, and she did not approve of them.
He sighed. “I will not allow it.”
“The boy is not a King,” the Vasmenaan said sternly. “A majority of votes will suffice.”
“No,” the Vasaath said, trying to keep calm. “We will need a unanimous vote.”
“Why are you being stubborn?” the Vasmenaan spat and frowned.
“Why are you being difficult?” the Vasaath retorted.
The Vasmenaan opened her mouth to scold him, but only huffed.
The Vasenon sighed deeply. “If we want to bring peace to this city, we must show that we stand together. We can’t execute such an important person if we are at odds with each other. If we can’t agree on his worth, then I have to agree with Vasaath. It needs to be unanimous, if only to show that we stand together.”
The Vasmenaan clenched her jaw but nodded. “Very well.”
“Now, if you excuse me,” said the Vasenon, “I am exhausted.” The man rose, nodded to his companions, and left the room.
The Vasaath glared at the Vasmenaan, and she glared back.
Once the Vasenon was out of earshot, she said, “I have never seen you this stubborn, or this reckless! I thought I told you to let the girl go! Saving her brother won’t solve anything. Get a hold of yourself before you ruin this campaign.”
“I made her a promise,” he said lowly. “Do you wish me to betray my honour just because I have ended the affair?”
“Have you?” she growled.
He narrowed his eyes. “Yes.”
The Vasmenaan smirked. “You are a poor liar, Vasaath. Perhaps you have distanced yourself, but you have not released her.”
“I have,” he persisted through gritted teeth.
“Very well,” said the Vasmenaan and rose. “Change your vote, and you’ll have my blessing if you wish to continue this ridiculous affair with the girl—no consequences, no judgment, for either you or her. At least not from me.” She met the Vasaath’s furious gaze, but she was unfazed as she walked towards the door. “Let us see what is more important to you—your honour, or your desires. Think about it.”
The Vasaath fumed, and when the Vasmenaan had left, he roared as he smashed his glass into the wall.
Ohkasethen – “foreign teacher”