Fields of War
Breaking tradition – Manegus Acquilla: the Senior Commander of A’Kontay – History
of Seti-Kahn – The First Instructor speaks with Manegus – Appeasing the father, while
yet honoring the son – A cunning plan – The son is appointed to the Captaincy – The
Great Game: battling for the Emperor’s Standard – The games begin – A’Kontay wins
the Standard of the empire – The rage and contempt of Seti-Kahn
1 So the son of Areta did all senior cadets elect to follow; having shown in himself
a cunning and perception beyond that of other men; possessing in himself a confidence
and strength uncommon and rare.
2 Soliciting from all his peers a strange alliance filled with high regard and deep
devotion; for in the son of Areta did they see for themselves the surest path to
glory and prestige; whereby they might find themselves advantaged midst some power
and privilege of their own.
3 And from that day did all senior cadets refrain their hands from tormenting all
younger cadets; for it was agreed upon by all, that they speak unto the young with
strong voices filled with firm regard.
4 To shape through words and constant encouragement, the hearts and minds of all
which proved young and tender; to build through discipline and rough humor, the strength
and resolve of every boy which was brought unto A’Kontay.
5 And all those which proved young and tender, even these did look upon the son
of Areta with deep regard; seeing in him a man both strong and fair; to see in him
the object of all their admiration.
6 But when the commanders of A’Kontay saw the fullness of all these things, they
grew deeply troubled; for they thought it not good that one cadet should seize for
himself the allegiance of all other cadets.
7 Now the senior commander of A’Kontay was a man named Manegus Acquilla, the hero
of Borah Terah, a man of great harshness and brutality; and being made aware of the
son of Areta, and of all his words unto the senior cadets;
8 Even he did summon unto himself every centurion and instructor of the academy;
and together they did conspire to bring down into shame, the son of Areta; for each
man remembered full well the story of Seti-Kahn.
9 How that when he, himself, was a senior cadet at the barracks of A’Kontay, even
he did become as some great one; for every cadet trembled before the cruelty of Seti-Kahn,
pledging unto him a frightful allegiance, for he was a violent and vengeful youth.
10 Evensomuch that every instructor and centurion did begin to fear for his very
life, causing that they should rule more harshly over him than they ever had before,
lest he take against every man singly, a frightful retribution in the years ahead.
11 So was it thought expedient to rule most sternly and without relent over Seti-Kahn;
but in the days of his ascendance, when he was appointed the Supreme Commander of
all military forces, even he did reach back into the days of his past.
12 And finding all those which had ruled over him at A’Kontay in the days of his
youth, even these did he cause to perish most secretly; and there was none to escape
the awful wrath of Seti-Kahn, for he was a violent man made drunk with blood and
13 Thus in that present day did the senior commander see with alarm the rising of
some greater man, for the son of Areta had proven himself already a man of ascension
and power; and all those which were made to rule over him did fear on every side.
14 For if they did not break in pieces the son of Areta, then would Seti-Kahn, his
father, take swift action against even every one of them; to crush them beneath the
weight of all his dreadful fury.
15 And if they should rule too harshly over the son, while yet they failed to break
him, then in the days of his ascendancy, when he should prove himself the man of
greatest power, then would every commander be made to perish at his hands.
16 But Manegus Acquilla was a cunning but prudent man, not given to brash or hasty
actions, but being instead most thoughtful and discerning of the issues at hand;
seeking always the best means by which he might achieve the greatest advantage for
himself above all others.
17 Now there stood forth to speak unto the chief commander, the first instructor,
even he which was foremost above all the rest; being himself a brave and fearless
18 “Tell us, Manegus, what shall we do with the son of Seti-Kahn? For except we
find some means to subdue him, to break his hold upon the senior classes, then shall
his power grow stronger still.
19 Then shall his dreadful father, in the seeing of this, reach forth unto our very
door to crush even all of us, believing in his fury that we, ourselves, have elevated
the boy far beyond his peers, thinking in his mind that we have failed to bear down
strongly enough upon him.
20 Being made to assume that in the greatness of his son have we found some advantage
for ourselves in the days to come, causing that so fierce a man as Seti-Kahn should
brood most darkly against us.
21 And yet, if we even now should increase our harshness against the boy, to strive
with all our might to break him, then are we still made to stand on feeble ground.
22 For in all these years among us has the son of Seti-Kahn refused to break or
bend before any man, being made in himself but all the stronger because of it, refusing
in himself to yield before such outward pain as others would inflict upon him.
23 Then shall he at some future time remember darkly such cruelties as we would
rain upon him today; and like his father before him, he shall reach back to find
us; and we shall perish in some dark and lonely place, to lie unremembered and unsung
midst the shadows of the grave.”
24 Now when Manegus Acquilla heard this he pondered deeply, seeking by some subtle
means to sweep away the fears of all those which were gathered before him; and when
he was decided, he spoke, saying:
25 “Let us not fear but act swift and wisely instead, for we can appease the father
while yet we honor the son; for by such a means as I shall place before you shall
we save our lives against the vengeance of Seti-Kahn today, while likewise we shall
preserve ourselves against the wrath of the son tomorrow.
26 For you know that in the four hundred years since our founding has the Emperor’s
Standard never come unto A’Kontay; for the competition for so great a prize do even
all the noble academies struggle most fiercely to gain for themselves.
27 Let us, therefore, prove ourselves more cunning than ordinary men, and with all
manner of haste and good reason seek to honor the son; appointing unto him the captaincy
of the senior classes, that he might both strive and fail in so great an endeavor.
28 And all those which today would give unto him their favor, even these will turn
against him in the midst of their defeat; thinking the sum of all his words but the
guise of some deceit; and they shall cast most quickly away, all their regard for
29 By such stratagem shall we appease the Supreme Commander which rules so harshly
over us; while yet we keep such proud regard as the son would give us, for it is
we who did but seek to honor him;
30 And if the son of Seti-Kahn should prove himself bitter and vengeful, then shall
he turn these things against those very peers which proved themselves so shallow
in their regard.
31 These then shall he seek to harm most dreadfully, visiting upon them in some
future place, the fullness of all his wrath and anger; while we ourselves continue
on in safety.”
32 Such was the cunning behind the words of Manegus Acquilla; and all those which
were gathered did find in them some great relief from all their many fears; for in
the honoring of the son of Areta would they seek to placate two opposing sides together,
and thereby save themselves from certain doom.
33 Thus did it come about that when the son of Areta was but eighteen years old,
being himself but a first year senior, he was appointed by the chief commander to
the captaincy of all other seniors, whereby he might represent in himself the honor
and prestige of the Military Academy of A’Kontay.
34 And seeing all these things, the whole company of cadets, together, felt themselves
strongly advantaged; believing most firmly that with the son of Areta to lead them,
they might achieve the first portion of that future glory which did await them in
the shadows of the son.
35 While yet the commanders and instructors and centurions felt most certainly that
once again would A’Kontay fail in achieving for themselves the Emperor’s Standard;
and thereby crush beneath the weight of bitter disappointment, such high regard as
every cadet did carry for the son of Areta.
36 Thus did the Academy of A’Kontay, on the eighth day of every week, compete against
the noble academies within their region; bringing to each opponent the pain and shame
of certain defeat; for the son of Areta was swift and cunning in attacking or defending;
and there was none which could defeat him.
37 But the commanders of A’Kontay grew more confident still; believing that within
the province of their own region was there no academy great enough to beat the son
of Areta, but in the provinces and regions round about would there step forth that
greater academy which would, most surely, beat them upon the fields of battle.
38 Yet did A’Kontay, under the captaincy of the son of Areta, continue to defeat
all other academies which came against them; to gain for themselves the victory and
the prize of each competition; to fly over the barracks of A’Kontay, the very pennant
of each academy which they had beaten.
39 And when there flew above the grounds of A’Kontay some forty pennants, the commanders
grew most fearful; for the son of Areta stood undefeated and superior above all opponents;
having crushed beneath the weight of all his cunning, all those which came against
40 Thus did the Military Academy of A’Kontay stand poised and fully ready to seize
for itself the Emperor’s Standard; having defeated in fiercest combat, every other
noble academy within their province, and region, and state, and kingdom.
41 And in the autumn of the year was A’Kontay made to stand alone in the northern
hemisphere of the empire; being chosen through the fires of war and battle to face
the greatest of all academies within the southern hemisphere of the empire.
42 And there gathered to see the Great Game, almost every man within the borders
of the empire; sitting amongst their peers before such television sets as the Emperor
did provide in all barracks both military and civilian.
43 For even the Emperor himself did gather the sum of all his councilors and advisors
to watch the game beside him; having set before his guests a feast of rich and manly
foods; giving unto each man a great flagon of amber port made with honey and spice.
44 And all those which had proven themselves men of power and worth did wager most
heavily upon the game;
45 Some believing that in the southern hemisphere was there found the greatest of
all military academies; while others believed with equal fervor that A’Kontay would
prove itself greater still.
46 Now the game which all academies struggled most fiercely to win was brutal and
filled with hardships. For out of the two hundred cadets which had begun the competition
beside the son of Areta, still did only seventy remain to compete in the greatest
game of all;
47 To win for themselves the Emperor’s Standard and recognition; to stand above
all other military academies as being in themselves the best of the best, and the
bravest of the brave.
48 Earning for themselves the choicest of appointments upon the day of their commission;
to wear upon their finger the gold ring of victory which did bear the Emperor’s seal.
49 For in the struggle to gain the Emperor’s Standard did a great many cadets fall
by the way in battle; some being killed through fearsome fighting, while others fell
broken and severely maimed; leaving on the fields of war only the bravest and most
50 Thus did there gather from all over Drakonia, the men of the empire; from the
lowest to the greatest; for the Emperor, each year, would declare as holiday, the
day of the Great Game; when the greatest academy of the northern hemisphere would
compete against the greatest academy of the southern hemisphere.
51 Now there gathered on the fields of war, in the valley of Chuzon, the soldiers
of the north dressed in red and black; while also there gathered the soldiers of
the south dressed in blue and white; each being fiercely determined to prevail against
52 And in the winning of the toss did the son of Areta elect to defend; and there
stood beside him but seventy men only; while there was arranged in opposition some
eighty-five men which stood most resolved to seize for themselves the pennant of
53 And for three hours of dreadful fighting did they battle fiercely and without
relent; and at the sounding of the trumpet blast was A’Kontay declared the winner;
having successfully defended the pennant against the enemy which strived to seize
54 But the commanders of A’Kontay were deeply troubled; for the son which they thought
to honor and to shame had proven himself victorious; causing that he should stand
most highly favored among the ranks of all cadets; to hear his name most loudly shouted
midst joyful jubilation within the barracks of A’Kontay.
55 And there came unto A’Kontay the Emperor Maximillius Drakonus, and he presented
with pomp and ceremony the Standard of the empire; and unto each cadet which both
fought and survived to win the victory, unto each of these did he give the ring of
victory; which ring was made large and heavy with gold.
56 And unto Manegus Acquilla did the Emperor give a gold chevron, to be worn upon
the tunic; which chevron bore the Emperor’s seal; and in that moment did the chief
commander see in the son of Areta, an advantage for himself.
57 But there stood beside the Emperor, in sullen rage, the father Seti-Kahn, viewing
the honors of the son with cold contempt; vowing in his bitter heart to destroy the
son which would usurp him.