Hyrcurian stirred as the sunlight began to cross the plain, revelling in the cool before the day’s heat asserted itself. The plains surrounding the Enkan benefitted from the waterfall spray that the wind snatched from the settlement and gifted to the barren ground. The comfort of the area steeled his determination to win back the Enkan from Nemeses and his despised Leothites.
Looking into his pack, he saw that it was perilously empty. He pulled out his morning ration of food, and chewed on it as he considered how the incursion should proceed. Everyone’s meals would be as sparse as his own, yet he seemed to extract more energy from the meagre portions. If the attack was going to happen, it would need to happen soon.
“Hyrcurian! The scouts return.”
He turned to see the twelve he had selected to peruse the fortifications. At their head was the soldier he had granted one of his gemstones.
“What do you and your team have to report, Pouya?”
The group’s leader bowed in deference to his superior. “There were four breaks in the walls, wide enough for single file entry.”
Hyrcurian gazed at the fortification’s gates as he considered the words. “What did you make of it?”
“During our hunts on the Serengi, any pathways into a prey’s territory that one person wide was a trap in most cases. I decided not to risk my team, as any leader worth more than a grain of Serengi sand would have such portals scouted.”
“I agree with your assessment. Was there anywhere else we may have a chance of using as an infiltration point?”
Pouya shook his head. “The rest of the fortification seems solid.”
Hyrcurian’s forehead furrowed. “That makes things harder. It would explain why Nemeses looked so assured of himself upon our arrival.”
“May I suggest a measure?”
“Your gemstones allow one to be invisible. If the Leothites cannot see us, we can thin their numbers with minimal losses. Even two or three of us, with a gemstone each, could sneak in through their weak spots.”
His leader’s eyes flared in anger. “I see now. You think to rob me.”
Pouya’s eyes widened in puzzlement. “Absolutely not! I want the Leothites removed from the Enkan as much as you do. I believe it the wisest course.”
“You believe you can wield the power I was granted, is that it?” The anger in Hyrcurian’s eyes began to take on a hysterical edge.
“See sense, Hyrcurian. One person wielding a gemstone would risk being caught, and with no support should that happen, the power of the jewel would be lost to us and in the hands of a ruthless enemy. Having two or possibly three would ensure a greater chance of wounding the Leothites and us retaining the advantage.”
Those overhearing the exchange nodded in agreement with Pouya’s logic, and yet their leader seemed to take the proposed situation as a threat to his position as leader. Hyrcurian stood a head taller than his underling, and with a physique twice as muscled, there was no Tigrisian that could fill the authority figure better than he.
He held his hand out to Pouya, his claws extended ominously. “Return the gemstone to me immediately.”
Sensing an imminent attack, the lieutenant took a small piece of cloth and used it to remove the gemstone in his pocket. “Your will, Hyrcurian.”
His leader snatched the jewel forcefully, cutting deep gashes into the pads of Pouya’s hand. He grimaced at the pain, clenching his fist around the cloth to try and stem the flow of blood.
“You will remember your place, Pouya. Your team should take its rest; you will need to be ready to fight at my call.”
He bowed to Hyrcurian, and motioned for his group to follow him to the rear of the Tigrisian contingent. He considered the conversation with bewilderment, unsure of how he had offended his leader. So deep in thought, he startled when one of his officers placed a hand on his shoulder.
“You did not mention the cliff wall.”
Pouya shrugged. “I was about to, but he dismissed me. I felt that he’d leap for my throat if I persisted.”
The officer glanced quickly over his shoulder, stealing a look at the leader who was beginning to become a stranger to them. Hyrcurian stood with his arms crossed, facing the Enkan gates as if daring the Leothites to attack.
“Give him some time to calm, and try again. He may not know it, but he needs to know what we found. It may be our only way into the Enkan, if your suggestion is ignored.”
A wave of weariness came over Pouya, the night’s activity finally catching up to him. As he set his command in the designated area, he quickly fell into deep sleep. So deep that he did not see or hear the Enkan gates open.
– T –