Flanked by his lieutenants, Mursidev stood at the edge of a tall cliff. The nearby waterfall fell into the large lake at the rear of the Enkan, the mist coming off the descending liquid quickly evaporating in the hot afternoon air. The persistent heat made the land of Asamai what it was, and ensured the ongoing value of the Enkan. The altitude and abundance of forest cover kept the Oltim cooler, while its anti-thesis, the low-lying sands of the Serengi, baked nearly everything that tried to eke out a living on its unforgiving surface.
The Ursidaean leader wove his hands through the air, calling on the spirits of the forest to enhance his sight. As he closed the tracing of a rectangle, the space within the lines began to descend into the scene far below. With an expression of thanks concluding his invocation, he focused on the feline form leading those outside the Enkan.
“For a desert dweller, he certainly looks hearty,” the bear spoke out loud to those flanking him. “I believe I recognise him, though he is not quite as I remember.”
The bearman who had summoned Mursidev to the forest edge spoke. “How so?”
“If I am not mistaken, his father was the one who led the last Tigrisian assault against the Leothites.” He probed his thoughts for a moment. “I believe the previous leader’s name was Hyrcule, while the boy’s name was in a similar vein.” His eyes narrowed in concentration. “Hyrcurian! That our young leader down there.”
Mursidev considered the distant figure more closely. The Tigrisian’s strapping form spoke of one born to lead, standing ahead taller and more muscular than any near to him.
“Of course! I see it now.”
“What is it?”
“His gauntlets. The gemstones inlaid in them look like those found deep within the Gumoto.”
The gemstones were strewn throughout the many tunnels of the Gumoto, running underneath the Oltim forest. Mursidev had travelled many of them during his campaigns, and been exposed to the otherworldly beauty of the purple glowing mineral. But the allure of the gemstones included a deadly aspect.
“How large are the jewels? Are there many inlaid?”
Their leader considered the metal armplates adorning the Tigrisian leader. “They are small gems… smaller than those we have come across in the tunnels below. But there are at least ten in place on each gauntlet.”
“Twenty small gems adds up to a sizeable amount. One would need to be exceptionally strong to resist.”
“That is true,” Mursidev agreed. “While I cannot see any reliable signs of the contagion, it has been a tenyear since the last attack. It is impossible to separate the boy’s normal growth from any that the gemstones assisted with.”
He knew that a vigil would be needed to keep an eye on this young commander. His impeccable physique and air of command was of concern. The young one could already be balancing on the cliff edge, and woe to anyone near him when he fell.
– U –