Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Siege of the White Mountain; Vol. 2: Fields Running Red--Part 66

Ostrorog bin Konstancy sat in the impromptu hall, sipping his tea. The boisterous conversation went on all around him, the sounds of cups clinking and jests being exchanged filling the air. He wondered what was in those cups they were clinking. He suspected it wasn’t tea.

Not for the most part, anyway.

Moments like this made Ostrorog feel acutely alone. He was a Kizak, a son of the White Wolf, but the years he’d spent in Castle Terribel had changed him as they had the other Kizak “Princes”. But in his case, the matter was perhaps more pronounced because his father was Konstancy bin Lev, a living legend, a near perfect embodiment of what it was to be a Kizak.

The tea felt cold on Ostrorog’s tongue. He supposed he should have drunk it quicker. He was considering asking for some more hot water when he felt a heavy hand on his shoulder. “Ostrorog, my son,” came his father’s old voice. “I am tired. Please help me back to my tent.”

Ostrorog rose from his chair and turned towards his father. “Of course, Gali Khan,” he declared, with a bow. The pair left the feast together, and walked into the cold night together, in silence. Ostrorog found himself looking at his father’s craggy face, and wondering. What was he thinking, Konstancy bin Lev, the man who had fought perhaps a thousand battles, who had crossed swords with perhaps a hundred thousand foes?

A sudden breeze made him shiver. “A chilly night,” said Ostrorog.

“I’ve known chillier,” answered the Gali Khan. He wrapped his cloak around himself a tad tighter. “Still--I’m not as young as I once was. And I feel the cold… more.” He turned to look at his son. “The Marshal Mongrane is a fascinating young woman, no?”

Ostrorog nodded. “I suppose.”

His father gave a a deep booming laugh. “If I were a younger man…” And then Konstancy sighed. “But I’m not. Five times I’ve crossed the Murkenmere, son. Five times.”

“I know father,” said Ostrorog. “It’s a great accomplishment.”

Konstancy snorted. “It is piss and spittle. The boast of a man who has seen two foolish, pointless waste of lives, and the retreats they made necessary. I’d rather say I only had to cross it once.  And that after I had, things stayed as I settled them.” He laughed, and shook his silvery head. “Ahh, that would be a worthy boast!”

Ostrorog nodded. “So… what do you imagine will happen tomorrow, oh Gali Khan?”

“What usually happens when two forces meet in battle,” replied the old Kizak. “Death, and terror, and fields running red. That is battle.” He shrugged. “That is war.” He turned to Ostrorog and smiled. “But you know that, my son. You have seen it before, and you will not shame yourself here. You are a good and brave young man, and you will prove a good and brave Gali Khan.”

Ostrorog blinked. “Father… I…”

“Sometimes think you will never live up to me, and that the Horde will not accept you,” said Konstancy. “I know this. I felt it too, in my day. But it passed. As has my time, in truth.” He looked out over the tents. “It is a new age, my son. And the White Horde will need a new Gali Khan to lead them into it. A Gali Khan who understands more than war and raiding, and death.” He looked at his son, fondly. “Five times, I’ve crossed the Murkenmere. Five times.” He shook his head. “There will not be a sixth.”

As Ostrorog stood there, his father turned, and made his way quietly to his tent.

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