In the paling light of the setting Sun, Hyrcurian walked amongst his followers. They sat in ordered squares, thankful that the ground had ceased radiating fur-singeing heat, and that a cooling breeze had begun to circulate. They had stared in wonder at the waterfall that fell behind the Enkan, having never seen such a large amount of water in one setting. The season of Airebuk saw drenching rains for a month, flooding the Ewuakesereyo river, yet the heat of Olameyu returned rapidly to evaporate it. With little to no ability to retain water stores, and fierce competition for what little there was, it was no wonder the Leothites had turned to eating their dead for sustenance in their time on the Serengi. The scratchings into rocks spread widely throughout the sandscape said it all: Honour is optional, survival is essential.
Gesturing for them to rise, the appointed patrol fell in line, awaiting their leader’s orders. At no point was the Enkan gate not in direct view. One less avenue of attack available to the Leothites, even if it was the most obvious one, gave him one less thing to consider. The guards stood on the walkway above the gate, considering the modest army with a degree of disdain, laughing and pointing. Hyrcurian made sure he stayed in view, lest they suspect his surveillance plans.
“Two hours after nightfall, I need you all to be scouting the Enkan walls. There may be hidden passages, crumbling sections of wall, a discreet sustenance source, anything.”
Hyrcurian’s eyes scanned upward. The walls stood high against the red desert sands of the Serengi, yet small against the immense grey cliffs. He could not say why, but he felt like someone was watching him from above, where he was unable to see them. He considered it to be his father, and the Tigrisians lost to the unforgiving sands over a handful of generations, urging him on to regain the lands where it was possible to live a life not focused on survival.
The patrol leader eyed the wall for any immediate clues. “If we find an entry point, how should we approach it?”
“Find a way to test the Leothites’ knowledge of it. Position loose stonework in a particular way. If there is no change in three days, the option of a night time incursion can be considered.” He looked to his lieutenant. “How should we approach?”
The underling considered. “If we find an entrance, we should consider them knowledgeable of it until proven otherwise. Four groups of three, so if fighting is inevitable, at least six of us will be available to either fight or delay.”
Hyrcurian agreed. “Well thought. The difficulty will be you keeping track of every member of the team, especially with the length of the wall. Your travel will draw notice, but I can help you. Watch me closely.”
He looked around, ensuring others were either pre-occupied or distracted. Holding up a forefinger, he quickly touched one of the gemstones on his gauntlets. The lieutenant stood in shock as his leader flashed before his eyes. For the briefest of moments, he had been invisible.
Pulling one of the cloths from his belt, Hyrcurian covered his fingers as he dislodged one of the gemstones.
“It will allow you to disappear if it touches your skin, and you consider yourself invisible. It helps to physically manifest your thoughts. Keep it in your belt for tonight, and use it to avoid detection of any night watch the Leothites see fit to post.”
The lieutenant nodded as he used his own cloth to take possession of the valuable item.
“If that is the power of one gem, what is their combined power?”
He jerked back in shock as, for a moment, Hyrcurian’s face contorted in jealous rage. His leader quickly regained his composure, squeezing his eyes shut as he did so.
“As you say, the power of holding all twenty to your skin would be considerable. I have not done so, but in our battles with the Leothites, there may come a time where it is required.”
The group continued their patrol of the small army, ensuring everyone was well and in high spirits, and informed them of the plan for the night. In his mind’s eye, Hyrcurian saw himself as a great leader, able to inspire his charges through example and compassion. Though the gemstones sat in the metal gauntlets, their power could still be felt by its wearer. The prospect of their true power scared him, but he knew he must be strong enough. He did not want to fall in the same manner as his father had, and doom his race to another five generations of wandering barely hospitable, unforgiving lands.
As the sun fell below the western horizon, the sky moving from pale gold to light-encrusted dark, he set the team at watchful ease around the others. He took his place at the front of them all, standing defiantly in sight of the Enkan gates. The patrol could be seen changing to the night guards, their roars of derision and mockery carrying to his ears.
Let them mock us and underestimate us, he thought confidently to himself. If they have forgotten the lessons taught by the Serengi in their past generations, he would ensure that they lived long enough to regret it before he took his revenge. After that, the Tigrisians would take their rightful place as custodians of the Enkan.
The sky finally turned dark, the pale lights and swirling colours beautiful to his eyes. Keeping vigilant eyes on the night patrol, he made sure there was minimal movement amongst his tribe. The gradual waning of the sentry’s attention could be seen clearly. Where they had initially paced, they slowed and then took residence in the posts either side of the gate. Within the indicated two hours, they had fallen asleep, heads resting on the post ledge.
He subtly gestured for the patrol to begin their scouting of the wall.
– T –