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guard stood, Guroth at their head " & to lay before King Nefus. I will throw
myself on his mercy, and if he judges me wrong in what I have done, let his
will prevail. But I think he will call this night's work wise. And then I
shall lead you out against the real enemies of Pendar the Lanyri!"
Blade had never fancied himself as a speaker. He had never dreamed he could
say anything to move such a mass of tough men. So he was as surprised as
anyone by the reaction of the soldiers. They gave a single shout that was
almost terrible to hear, two thousand men all yelling their throats out. Then
they broke ranks and swarmed forward toward Blade, raising their
hands and shouting, "Hear the
Pendarnoth! Klerus is dead! Long live the Pendarnoth and King Nefus!"
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They reached Blade and nearly trampled him to death in their enthusiasm. Then
a few strong ones formed a circle around him, while others lifted him up onto
their shoulders. It was on their shoulders that he made his way through the
gates, into the palace, to the audience chamber of King Nefus. And it was from
their shoulders that he greeted King Nefus. Even if the boy-king had wanted to
punish Blade for killing Klerus, he would not have dared.
He would have faced a revolt of his own soldiers if he had done so. All he
could do was wait a
long wait until the soldiers quieted enough so he could make himself heard.
Then he climbed up on the throne and called out:
"Pendarnoth, you have this day slain a notable traitor to Pendar and to our
house. You have done well. This day I call you by a new name, 'Pendarstrin,'
the Savior of the Pendari." This set off another round of cheers, and Nefus
took advantage of the uproar to slip out. Blade did not see him again until
that afternoon, when the king summoned the Council of Regents to his presence.
Standing in full ceremonial robes, with Guroth on one side and Blade on the
other, Nefus addressed the council in blunt, clipped phrases. "It is Our royal
will that the Pendarnoth shall be now the High
Councilor of Pendar. There are some among you who played your part in the
treasons of the late Klerus.
If you accept the Pendarnoth and give him and Us good and faithful service,
you will be forgiven. If not, you shall die as Klerus did." At Nefus' signal
both Blade and Guroth drew their swords. And behind them so did fifty of the
Pendarnoth's Guard, with Princess Harima standing among them.
The message went home. Indeed, it could hardly have done otherwise, unless the
councilors were very foolish or very tired of life. They voted Blade into the
office without a dissenting vote. Then they sat down to discuss how to prepare
Pendar to meet the Lanyri invasion.
Blade kept the meeting short and the discussion perfunctory. He had no
intention of revealing his plans for surprising and destroying the Lanyri too
soon. And he would never reveal them before a group whose loyalty he
distrusted as much as the councilors'. So he merely spoke of the need to
increase the output of the armorers' shops, train the soldiers, lay in
supplies, and so on. The only specific item he mentioned was the need to
increase the number of siege engines, particularly the long-range ones. There
were already a hundred of these, but Blade wanted three times as many. The
councilors listened in silence, not even bothering to ask questions. Those who
had always been loyal didn't need to; those who had supported Klerus were
afraid to. Again, without a dissenting vote, they endorsed Blade's program.
Blade saved the meat of his plans for a very private session that evening.
Only Nefus, Harima, Guroth, and some other reliable officers attended. Blade
gave them a frank outline of the way he saw the situation, then turned to his
plans.
"I will no longer be content with merely driving the Lanyri back," he said. "I
want to see them destroyed, destroyed the way they have destroyed Pendari
towns and lives."
"That will be difficult," said Guroth. "If there was nothing but the Lanyri
infantry coming against us, we could do as we have always done. Ride around
and around them, picking our time of attack to take them at their weakest, and
then drive home our charge. But the Rojags are riding with them, and that will
make it hard for us to choose the time we will fight. We need to destroy the
Rojags as well if we wish to destroy the Lanyri."
"That may not be as hard as you think," said Blade. "The Rojags are strong
when they are in a mass.
But break up that mass, and they have no discipline, no courage. They scatter
and run. If we can break up their formations, we will have the chance to fight
the Lanyri in the usual manner."
"That is true," said Nefus. "But how can we do this thing? It is not as easy
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to attack another army of horsemen as it is to attack soldiers on foot. The
horsemen can choose where to fight much more easily."
"Then we tempt them to fight where we choose," said Blade.
"You make it sound so easy," said Guroth sourly.
"It is not easy," said Blade. "I have never thought it is, or will be. But it
is our best chance." And he began describing his plan for the decisive battle.
Occasionally Guroth or one of the other officers would
ask a question. Usually it was simply to clarify a technical point.
But once Guroth broke out in indignation. He was joined by Nefus and
Harima.
"This cannot be, oh Pendarnoth! We cannot let you risk your life again, after
you have already risked it so many times. What would be the effect on the
minds of our soldiers, if they saw you fall?"
"I hope they will avenge me properly," said Blade. "No, I must ask you to let
me do this as I have proposed. General Ornilan is too able to miss an open
trap unless we somehow blind him to its presence.
And the best way of blinding him is to offer me as the bait of the trap. I
humiliated him by my escape. He will desperately want to wipe out that
humiliation by killing or capturing me."
"Desperately enough to throw sound tactics to the wind?" asked Guroth.
"I think so," said Blade. "I cannot make any promises. But can any general do
more?"
Inevitably, for they recognized the realities of war, they accepted this. And
because they accepted this, they also accepted Blade's plan. Blade walked out
of the chamber arm in arm with Harima, feeling certain that he had done his [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]