Chapter 8

by Ski Hemulen

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It was three weeks since his last meeting with Otmakla. On their set meetings he couldn’t find a way to go alone to the cot. They had a mark that he would remove only if it was safe for them to meet. Now he just left it. He couldn’t go alone without being noticed.

THat afternoon Romjigan and Timotei gathered the men for a talk in the Romjid hall. Romial quickly understood he had to hide his emotion during it. Romjigan and Timotei were standing in the middle. Timotei worked up the crowd and Romjigan explained things carefully.

‘Soon enough life in the mountains will become impossible. We won’t have enough supplies to survive this winter, not while fending off all these refugees!’ Timotei howled. A lie. Life will become uncomfortable, that was likely. Most of the men probably knew it was just a figure of speech, but they got carried away by the rhetoric anyway.

‘It’s obvious at times like this the mountains must cut their losses. Smaller, weaker houses must fall!’ he continued.

‘I’ll put it differently’, Romjigan interjected in a calm and loud voice, ‘The mountain men need to unite. Smaller houses should be led by stronger. This may have to happen by use of strength, but it is for the best of all. At least all who would not resist. It’s the honorable path through this hardship’.

‘The Stoyanjid are too weak to keep such a big part of the land and the resources of the area,’ Timotei went back to his fervent rant, ‘We must make them surrender. Then Romjigan can divide the resources to the benefit of everybody!’

People cheered. Some bought the story. Some saw the opportunity. Some just wanted action. He wanted to cry, to attack, to run away. Instead he sat quietly and waited for it to end.

The attack was planed to be at nighttime in two days. He knew it would be horrifying. The Romjid had more than twice as many men as the Stoyanjid. And he knew they will target Otmakla above all other. You don’t have to kill everybody. You might be able to get the fealty of some. You just have to kill the head. Maybe you can have the remainder of the house as a kind of vassal, owing part of its produce and income to the Romjid.

When things calmed a bit and people started to disperse Romial rose and started walking slowly towards the inner courtyard. He needed to leave the house without drawing too much attention.

At the doorway to the courtyard he bumped into Vasil, who was walking as if in a daze. He saw Romial and grabbed him.

‘I don’t want to do this thing’ he whispered. ‘Why the hell are we doing it?’

‘I know’, he also whispered, looking around to see if they were noticed. ‘I don’t know what to tell you’.

‘I can’t watch when we butcher a goat, now were supposed to go and butcher these people the worst we can say of is that they slightly insulted our house a couple of years ago, for which they paid dearly’. It was more like a year and a half ago. Romial could hardly forget the events that so deeply reshaped his life.

‘I know how you feel Vasil. I feel the same. But there’s nothing we can do right now’. There’s nothing we can do. Period. But he needed to leave, quickly. ‘I have to do something. We’ll speak tonight. We’ll figure something tonight. Don’t draw too much attention’.

Vasil nodded, looking beat.

‘Go and arrange the supplies we need for next week in the southern orchards. That’ll need doing anyway, now or later’. He had a growing uncertainty whether anything later will be the same.

Romial went alone towards the gate in the courtyard. It was deserted. The announcement made people excited, and it seems work has yet to resume for the time being. He walked out and started pacing towards the northeast. He would look suspicious to any who’d see him, especially since, as he now figured, he didn’t take a weapon with him. He still headed for the northeast, where he could say he went to the orchards.

Only after crossing one of the lower ridges above the household did he start northwestward toward the Stoyanjid house. He ran as fast as he could.

Only when he got closer did he understand he didn’t know what he was doing. He started approaching their house slower, raising his hands to show that he was unarmed.

‘What is this?’ asked one of the Stoyanjid guards, approaching him with a spear pointing towards him.

‘I bare warning of an attack from the Romjid. Please, I need to speak with Otmakla – Otmakil’ he corrected himself quickly, but the man gave him a strange look.

‘What kind of trick are you pulling?’

‘No trick, please… Let me talk with Otmakil’.

The men searched him for weapons, wary, then one of them took off his belt and tied his hands behind his back with it. He didn’t resist.

They brought him into the courtyard. The one with the spear guarded him, while the other went somewhere. The last time he was here was the night they killed Otmakla’s sister.

And then Otmakla arrived. She looked like a different person than the one in their meetings. She showed Little recognition on her face when she looked at him. Hard movements, a somewhat brutal presence emanating from her.

‘Romial’. She acknowledged him curtly. ‘So the attack is coming. Thank you for informing us. When will it be?’

‘T-two nights from now’ he stuttered.

‘Alright. I have to prepare everyone. We’re attacking tonight’.

*****

Mikal didn’t understand this. Why the hell was this fool betraying his house? He only knew a Stoyanjid attack tonight would ruin his plans.

When he found an opportunity he slipped out of the house and headed toward the Romjid house. He might have a lot of explaining to do afterwards, but no gains came without risk.

Timotei promised him the house. He was still planning to get it.

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