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Chapter 9


A Valor Uncommon

Life in the world of First Man: treachery, deceit and suspicion – The Emperor is made aware of Seti-Kahn’s intentions – The Emperor receives a report of the boy – The Emperor asks a centurion about the boy – Centurion commanded to guard the boy – An uncommon incident occurs in the barracks: the son of Areta defends a young cadet – “Why will you rob us of our right?” – Cadets agree to listen to the son’s reason for acting against tradition

 

1  Know then my children, that in the world of the First Power did every man spy upon every man whereby they might take some advantage against him; to gather to their personal benefit both gain and profit; to take into their hands an increase in privilege and power.

2  For every man of rank and station did conspire darkly against those which ruled over him; striving through subtle means, to trap midst intrigues and deceits of every kind the men of greatest power.

3  Being hopeful and most desirous to bring down unto death the man which would rule over him, plying with dark intent, flatteries of every kind, being ever hopeful that by such means they might be appointed to the place of the man which stood above him.

4  For men of ambition were ever seeking and plotting for that greater place where they might stand closer to the men of greatest power, to seek through obedience and treachery the fulfillment of all their many aspirations and desires.

5  For such deceitful men as these would consign unto agony and death, any man which would impede his way; being in themselves suspicious and uncertain of those which stood above or below them; being made discontent and ever restless through jealousy and constant brooding.

6  And so in the world of First Man did treachery and deceit weigh most heavily upon every heart, to fill the minds of men with weariness and longing; causing that some should seek most feebly, to find someone which would prove worthy of the slightest trust.

7  Thus in the days when the son of Areta walked upon the earth did every man stand alone against every man; being guarded and uneasy towards those which worked beside him.

8  Now in that day when Seti-Kahn conspired to rid himself of the son of Areta, there rushed unto Maximillius Drakonus, in the great fortress city of Trajenium, a report which would reveal the plottings of the father; causing that the Emperor should take note of the son.

9  And calling forth an agent of security and order, the Emperor commanded that a spy be secured to keep a watchful eye upon the son; for the Emperor would know most fully why the Supreme Commander of all his military forces should fear the doings of the boy.

10  And after many months there came to report unto the Emperor, a certain centurion which taught within the Academy of A’Kontay; and he did give unto the Emperor a full report concerning the son of Seti-Kahn.

11  Causing that the Emperor should hear for himself of the son’s excellence in all things pertaining to his many courses and studies.

12  Being made superior in excellence in the mastery of war and science together; being in his youth most accomplished in math, language, battle tactics and strategy, weaponry and psychology.

13  And unto the Emperor did the centurion speak also of the boy’s great will and strength; being filled within and without by an indomitable and unbreakable determination; being from his very youth most resolute and unyielding.

14  For despite such hardships and cruelties as were forced upon him in the days of his youth, yet would the boy refuse relief or seek surrender, but bore in himself all things well.

15  Yet, despite the strength of all his will and determination, still was the boy most respectful and obedient, giving to all cadets, regardless of their rank or station, a firm but kind consideration.

16  To earn for himself the respect of all who dealt with him in the military barracks of A’Kontay; for it was certain already, that many of the sons of great and mighty men did seek to cast their lot with the son of Seti-Kahn.

17  Believing most firmly that he would rise in greatness and worth, and thereby lift them also above the glories and honors of their own fathers; to take to themselves places of privilege and power.

18  And hearing all these things, the Emperor did ask of the centurion, saying: “Tell me then, what think you of this boy? What will you say of him? If he should prove too great, will he not show himself a danger to other men of power and authority?”

19  And the centurion, taking careful thought, did answer the Emperor, saying: “Your Majesty, the boy I have known from the beginning, when first he was brought by force unto A’Kontay; and in all these years I have seen neither guile nor treachery; neither have others seen this of him also.

20  For the boy is as he appears; for he is of quiet and solitary nature, having neither pretenses nor haughtiness; being in his person, brave and fearless in the arts of war;

21  Yet in the moment of his victory he has proven himself most uncommon and not as other men; being filled with softness and kind regard towards those which are vanquished because of him.

22  To bind with his own hands, the wounds and injuries of the fallen; speaking to them of such faults and imperfections as did lead them to defeat, being himself ever diligent and most determined to encourage them to some greater effort;

23  Causing that all cadets of rank and privilege should seek favor of the boy; feeling in his presence a confidence and power above that of all other cadets and cadre alike.

24  Being in himself imbued by some strange but inward light which would make all which stand beside him to feel both safe and strong within themselves also.

25  But despite such regard as others would give unto him, yet is the boy most unassuming; seeking not for himself the glories and prestige of others, but striving with most inward zeal to achieve an excellence all his own.

26  Know then, Your Majesty, that the son of Seti-Kahn has proven himself constant and trustworthy in all those things which we would require of him; and at no time has he ever flinched or cried aloud against us.

27  Thus would I, myself, feel most confident to stand beside the youth in battle; knowing full well that he would move most quickly to attain the victory for his lord and master, the Emperor.

28  For this I know most surely: that in the Academy of A’Kontay do all those which command feel this boy of greatest worth; having in his noble bearing a most uncommon greatness; which thing shall prove to the empire, a rare but true asset of value and worth.”

29  Now when the Emperor heard the fullness of the centurion’s report, he sat himself down to ponder; and after some deep but inward reflection, he commanded the centurion, saying:

30  “Go then and return to the Academy of A’Kontay and there resume again your duties, and speak not a word concerning me, but watch the boy closely to guard him.

31  For there are those which seek to kill him, and by their treachery steal away from me the service and duties of the boy; causing that the empire of all my power and glory should be diminished by the loss of him.”

32  And saluting the Emperor, the centurion did bow most gravely, saying: “I will obey.” And the centurion left most quickly to return again to his own place; and the Emperor, being left alone to himself, did brood most darkly against Seti-Kahn.

33  Now there was thrown into the barracks of the upper classmen, a certain youth which was but eight years old; being in himself filled with fear, shaking and trembling in constant dread at the harshness imposed upon him by the customs and training of the Military Academy of A’Kontay.

34  And there fell upon the boy the jeers and scorn of the older cadets; and they did slap and kick the boy midst howls of laughter and derision, causing the boy to cry in pain and terror.

35  But there stepped calmly forth from out of the ranks of the senior cadets, the son of Areta; being himself but eighteen years of age; being first and foremost among his peers in respect and high regard;

36  Possessing in himself a strength and speed uncommon and unmatched; having in himself a fierceness and determination which was strongly bounded on his left and right, both before and behind, with calm reasons and hidden goodness.

37  And seeing that the boy was in fear and pain, he did step before a large and brutish cadet which was kicking at the youth; and grabbing hold of him, he did strike him hard in the face, causing him to collapse upon the floor being unconscious.

38  And there immediately fell a silence within the whole barracks, and in the silence did there rise up a great murmuring; for it was the right of the upper classmen to make sport of the younger cadets.

39  Being made to believe, according to their customs, that by such brutalities they might cull the weak from the strong; to turn those which were but children, into men of war and ferocity.

40  And there stood forth to speak unto the son of Areta, a senior cadet of rank and privilege, saying: “Why will you rob us of our right? For what cause would you steal away our sport and merriment?

41  For it is needful that we make this boy both strong and fierce like unto us; being able to endure in his flesh, the cruelties and hardships of war without complaint.

42  That in the midst of some future battle he might prove himself both skilled and resolved in subduing such enemies as would rise against the state; being most capable, regardless of pain or injury, to achieve the victory through an indomitable will which cannot be broken.

43  Why then will you stand alone against those very traditions which would make us strong and ruthless in the performance of all our duties and obligations to the state which gave us life; to build in each of us a relentless determination in fulfilling our future place as imperial officers of the empire?

44  Come then and stand beside us and prove yourself yet again, as someone worthy of our fellowship; for why will you rob this boy of such strength as we would force upon him through harshness and pain?

45  For it is cruelty and torment which would prove us worthy of command; for pain is the fire in which we burn, forging from its fiery blast a strength both fierce and determined, purging out from the very midst of us a multitude of weakness and corruption, casting away as dross, the softness of our flesh.

46  Return, therefore, and stand beside us; for we have found within the ranks of all your peers a great regard for you. Why then will you cast it all away, to place in jeopardy such considerations as we would give concerning the very worth of you?”

47  Such were the words which were spoken to the son of Areta; and placing himself between the child and those which would bully him, he spoke unto all the cadets which were present, saying:

48  “You brave and noble men hear me, and judge me not wrongly; for I did not step forth to save this boy, but ourselves instead; for I would rather rob this boy of his pain today, than to have us robbed of some greater glory tomorrow.

49  For there is a glory which does await us, if we will but choose to act both nobly and well in this present moment; for glory is subtle and most elusive, passing into our lives but once only.

50  And if we shall see but the moment in which it stirs about us, then might we seize it for ourselves by force, and thereby dress ourselves in some greater worth; bringing to each of us a rank and privilege greater than all our dreams together.

51  Hear then my defense and be not offended because of me, for even now does the glory of our future lives move most subtly about, moving in the shadows of all our actions; and if you will just hear me, then shall you see it for yourselves also. For I am not against you but for you.

52  Think not therefore that I would separate myself from out of the midst of you; for where you believe in strength, I believe in strength also; where you believe in courage, even I do likewise believe in courage.

53  Know then that I am even as one of you, and in the traditions of our fathers would I stand beside you, being myself most firmly committed; being hopeful myself, even as you are hopeful, that I might achieve both rank and privilege in the years to come.

54  Yet let us even now consider some subtle means by which we might exceed the greatness of our fathers; and by some small and hidden measure prove ourselves greater than the fathers which came before us.

55  For the traditions of men are born of men, and if we would just prove ourselves brave enough, then might we which are gathered here forge a new tradition which, if others should follow, will but add glory and stature to all of us together.

56  Hear then my defense, and to all my words give full attention; and if by chance you should see some advantage in agreement, then are we altogether benefited, being bound in fellowship as befits brave warriors.

57  But if you will not agree, then shall I but stand beside you still; and will myself turn upon this boy and beat him with all my fury; for I know myself that victory is taken by the strong only, while unto the weak and fearful is nothing given.

58  Come then my brave and noble peers and tell me plainly: Will you hear me? Is there not even one among you who would take to himself that certain glory and honor which shall prove greater than all those which came before us? Tell me now and hold not back: Will you hear me?”

59  Such were the words which the son of Areta spoke; and the whole company shouted in one voice, saying: “We will hear you; speak on!”

60  Now there began to recover, that large and fearsome bully which the son of Areta had struck down to the floor; and being awakened by the shouting of the whole barracks, he stood most shakily upon his feet, saying: “Why did you strike me? By what means have I offended the son of Seti-Kahn?”

61  And the son answered, saying: “Do not be angry against me; for those of us which are your peers know that you are a wild and brutish man, and that the words of men cannot restrain you in the exercise of all your many passions.

62  For this cause was it needful that I should touch you gently upon the cheek, whereby you might prove yourself the man of reason, and not the brutish beast which plunges to and fro in madness.”

63  And the whole company, when they heard this, they did laugh with a mighty roar at the good sport between the son of Areta and the large and fearsome bully.

64  And he which was chief cadet of the whole barracks did raise up his hands with a mighty shout; and in a voice made strong and stern did command two others, saying: “You men go and watch the doors and let no one disturb us; for we will hear the words of the son of Seti-Kahn.”

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