Road to Peace: Chapter Eleven


he two men walked down the corridor in silence, one grimacing at all that his eyes fell upon, attempting to stare strait ahead yet failing miserably, the other moving casually, almost, even, with a slight bounce in his step. They made no comment as to the blood spattered across the walls, or the bodies heaped together, dirt and hay pelting mangled corpses. One was too stunned to speak, though he would recover later, and talk all too freely of this encounter. The other was naturally taciturn.

Only two human bodies lay among the gore. Most were those of horses, mutilated horribly, so that no one animal remained wholly intact. Limbs were to be found everywhere, thrown carelessly to the side, or dripping blood from the rafters overhead.

"Who in the world could have done this?" muttered Devin in a harsh voice, putting a hand to his mouth.

Easing open a stable door with his toe, Regien glanced coldly at the severed head inside. It was the head of Jacob Neery, a stable boy, and one of the two men who had been massacred. "Unknown. A mad man." Regien tilted his head toward his companion queerly. "It was bound to happen."

Devin chose to ignore whatever Regien was hinting at, concentrating instead on the trembling in his arm. It made the sword held in his right hand hard to handle. His whole body was trembling, he realized, and his stomach was doing cartwheels.

"I think it is time to pass this chore on to a grave digger," Devin said breathlessly, running a cold hand through hair already covered in sweat. "There is nothing of any use here."

Regien bared his teeth in a peculiar smile and nodded condescendingly. "Of course, sir. We wouldn't want the pride of the state to faint over a little blood."

Flashing an icy stare at his companion, Devin suddenly noticed something glinting from the corner of his vision. He turned about, stepped under the rafter from where he saw the light, and peered upward. "Call that boy in here, the other stable-hand."

Regien walked off, and when the dusty-haired stable-hand entered, Regien was no where in sight. A long, relieved sigh escaped Devin's lips. The boy, no taller then 5 feet, looked around queasily as he stepped around the bodies, running bony hands across his apron.

Abruptly, Devin slapped the boy's shoulder, noting the way his gazed snapped away from the carnage. The churning in Devin's stomach eased up when he knew he had the duty to comfort another. "What's your name, boy?"

"Samuel, sir." The child stuttered, fiddling with his jacket. "Samuel Gurris."

"Samuel, I need you to do something for me." Devin fished in his pocket, withdrawing a crumpled bit of paper. "Go to the Taltus house, and ask to see Mayor Mavoni. She should be dining there tonight."

Samuel nodded, confused but sincere.

"Please give this to her," Devin began to hand over the paper, then jerked it back. "Ah, but when you deliver it to her, make absolute sure you are alone, and that no maid might be eves-dropping at the door. The contents of this letter must be kept as the utmost of secrets." He let the boy slide it out of his hand. "Tell her it is from General Devin, and that she may not discuss it with anyone. Once she has read it, do not leave until it has but burned entire. And never discuss what I have said this day, or what she might say, with anyone. Understood?"

The boy was quite innocent, large brown eyes looking upon Devin with baffled admiration. He nodded slowly. Then he was out the door and running down the road, heading for Tzen.

Devin sighed, hardly noticing the churning of his stomach any longer. Important things were afoot, and he had little time to worry on personal ailments, or even to feel his own emotions. Looking around, he shook his head, put a hand to his chin, and muttered, "Amazing. Who'd have thought it could actually work?"

* * *

For a long time, the icy dawn could not breach the great, vaulted chamber. Instead, candles remained lit well into day, and the only indication that it was light out was an overcast sky visible through windows set high overhead.

Below the intricately carved rafters a hushed conversation had been taking place throughout the night, where nineteen men and womyn sat, rigidly eyeing one-and-other, discussing plans for the locating and seizing of their lord. Each was well aware of the delicacy in such matters, and their conversation was one of restrained emotion, unexpressed thoughts, and meticulously chosen words.

"There are some who say a man has risen in South Figero, claiming right to Kefka's title." A tall, pale gentleman was saying, as he twirled a bit of long, pitch-black hair through his thumb and forefinger.

"Rumors and speculation." Devin reproached, seated at the head of an long wooden table. "I ask you to bring me fact of such a thing, and then I will listen."

"Sir," piped a girl of no more then twenty, in a neatly pressed uniform and with her hair pulled back tightly, "If I may be so bold as to ask, what greater evidence has been given to support your side over Lord Besnik's?"

Not for the first time did Devin feel glad Regien never learned of these late-night meetings. "Must I remind you, Colonel Croft, that there are no sides in such a discussion, only ideas." Here he attempted to catch the eye of everyone present. "I do not presume to say that my idea is any less valid then Lord Besnik's, only that each must be dealt with on it's own time, and that in this instance we are discussing our Lord Kefka's being alive somewhere in the northern regions, near Doma."

"I sense our General would just like some consolation, and perhaps a few provisions, toward his venture northward. Is that not why you invited us here, Devin?" Only General Teishi, so assured of her position, would make such a statement. A hard, sturdy wommon with wisdom in her eye and admonitions upon her lips, she was one whom Devin respected and ask advice of whenever he found the chance.

"Perhaps." He suppressed a yawn and smiled to hide his fatigue. Showing weakness among these guests might be the worst he could possibly do, especially in such a situation when his career was in jeopardy. Finding Kefka also meant rearranging the chain of command to suit his wishes, and Devin was more aware of that now then at any other time. "But I would still entertain any other ideas brought to my attention." Catching a surprised gaze from Teishi, he quickly began to correct his demeaning statement, but she beat him to it.

"I'm sure what out General means is that we must devise the most probable location of our Lord Kefka, and an effective way of retrieving him. But for the moment, the strategy currently put forth seems to be the most likely that we have drawn up." Devin was staring at her blankly.

"Far be it from me to contradict General Devin's position," returned Lord Besnik in a tone soaked with resentment and hurt, "but haven't we all agreed that there is no more evidence to support his conjecture as there is to support each of ours?"

Laughing, Devin said with a completely unrestrained burst, "Our Lord Besnik is quite an actor! But sympathy is not your game, man. We will sail for Doma at dawn." A stunned silence fell upon the room, and Devin could feel the sweat beading on his face. Such an outburst could easily cost him his position. To hide his embarrassment, he growled "dismissed" as if he were cursing the entire assembly, and stood leaning against the table edge.

There was a screeching of chair legs against the stone tile floor as people rose to leave, and then Teishi was at his side and leading him into the halls.

"Our General is beginning to feel the pressures of command, yes?" Teishi inquired jokingly, her gaze pinned to the far wall. Devin knew she was trying to lighten the mood, yet his anger toward himself did not lessen.

"Our General is exhausted." He returned, giving her a half-smile. She did not see. Instead, her tone became serious, her eyes questioning.

"If you are correct about Kefka, then it wont be long before he takes over once again."

Devin stopped abruptly and turned against her. "I am entirely loyal to my lord!"

"I would never say otherwise." She replied soothingly, with a hand on his shoulder. "But isn't it true that you have never met him, nor seen his face? Things are changing my friend, and time is receding." Then, without another word, she turned and walked away down the hall, leaving Devin to stare confusedly after her.

Go To:
Prologue || Chapter One || Chapter Two || Chapter Three || Chapter Four || Chapter Five || Chapter Six || Chapter Seven || Chapter Eight || Chapter Nine || Chapter Ten || Chapter Eleven || Chapter Twelve || Chapter Thirteen