[Not actually a blog post]

This is only technically a blog post. It’s only here to satisfy the self imposed once-a-week mandate. It’s actually something that I wrote a couple weeks ago and really like, but will at this point almost certainly get shitcanned from the finished product. I copy/paste it here instead.

landscape
Functional approximation of the setting. Photocredit: this website

A band of the Hegemon’s Outriders made camp at the gate of Olom at midday in summertime, and their captain took an audience with the Lawspeaker there.

The Lawspeaker was old, and a creeping sickness had its hooks in him, but he drew back his hair and appointed himself as best he could for the audience. He instructed a grandson to burn a perfumed wreath in the smoky little fire, and seated himself on a backless divan upholstered in horsehair and wool on the north side of the yurt. His name was Etvan, and he had spoken the Law in Olom for the better part of four decades.

He shouldn’t have bothered with the wreath or the divan. In the event, the Outrider captain was a tired, officious man, with horseshit on his boots and neither time nor inclination to indulge in courtesies. He knelt curtly before Lawspeaker Etvan, and straightened without stopping to see the reciprocal nod.

“Light of Heaven, elder,” the captain said. “We’ve ridden from Ude at the will of the Hegemon. We bring you His words, and news, and when we’ve slept the night we are to depart for the Westland.”

Etvan opened his mouth to speak, and coughed instead. His back bent, his whole body convulsed as he choked on the phlegm. The grandson stirred from the shadows at the edge of the tent, and rushed forward to wave his arms in pale imitation of help, not that there was anything the boy could do. In another moment the fit passed, and the Lawspeaker waved away the boy and lifted his eyes to the Outrider.

“You are welcomed here. You will sit, here in a friendly house.”

The captain nodded, lowered himself to sit cross-legged on the rug. His form was urban, impeccable. Had the Lawspeaker just ridden the better part of three weeks, he would have flexed and rolled his shoulders, let out a sigh of relief, but the captain was young and more cultured. He hid whatever aches and twinges the road had given him, and kept his eyes on the fire as was proper.

The granddaughter brought tea, which the captain sipped very slightly. The tea was too hot, but he sipped it anyway, did not flinch as it burned his tongue as it must have. A recent addition to the etiquette of the cities, the Lawspeaker supposed, to sip the tea as soon as it was brought instead of waiting out the customary silence as it cooled. Or maybe the Captain just wanted the pleasantries out of the way, that he might do his duty and be dismissed from the smoky little house of the Lawspeaker.

So be it then, Etvan decided. Let the petty politics be dispensed with. The captain had drunk his tea, and so was protected as a guest beneath Etvan’s aegis. The rest of the ritual might as well be dispensed with.

“You bring the words of the Son of Heaven. Say them, then,” said the Lawspeaker.

The captain began at once, maybe grateful for the breach of etiquette.

“Our lord and emissary, descended from Heaven in the 78th year of the Conquest of the East and of all Lands beyond the far bank of the Utret, speaks so, and speaks justly,” the captain intoned at once.

“The Southron skraylings are broken, and the legions of the Son of Heaven stand victorious before the breaking dawn. By sword and arrow His will is done, and the Southron sea is red with blood.”

The Lawspeaker waited, but that, apparently, was all. Maybe there had been more, back when the captain had been schooled in those words by scribes in the capital, and maybe the Outrider captain had abbreviated his heavenly master’s decree by the same token the Lawspeaker had shortened the ritual of greeting. Good, the Lawspeaker thought, to see that the young were not too blinded by the glory of the Hegemon to know good sense when it happened upon them.

“And the news you bring from Ude?” said the Lawspeaker.

“Not from Ude, elder, from the road between,” the captain said, placing the little clay teacup on the rug before him. Some grace had come into his words – these were not rehearsed, not proscribed by the courtiers. These words were the captain’s own.

“Two men we passed in the night, two days ago. We stopped to ask them their business, and they would say nothing more than they were bound here, for Olom. Didn’t like their look or their bearing. The one was a skrayling. The other did not speak, and wore a cowl – I did not see his face. I do not know what they intend, but they are foreign born, and poor I would say, being they only had a donkey between them. Poor men are desperate men, and they may have evil intent. Watch for them.”

“I will, and I thank you. We open our houses to the servants of Heaven,” the Lawspeaker Etvan said, raising his right arm to indicate the whole of his small dominion. “Take what you need, and be welcome.”

The Outrider inclined his head by way of thanks, and rose.

“We’re to ride at dawn, but I’ll convey your blessings to the men. Light of Heaven shine on you and yours, elder,” he said, and bowed.

“And on yours,” said Etvan, and on the last syllable lapsed again into a fit of coughing. When he had recovered himself, the Outrider had already left.

In the morning, the Outriders rode for the Westlands as promised.

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