Axes and Lightning: A Leader’s Path

“The humans are coming, and there are too many of them. We need to negotiate peace with them. We need them to see that we are more than just beasts.” The shaman paused. “This is why, from this day forward, you will not carry axes when there is no enemy present. Blood duels are banned!”

Part 2

Several men were gathered around a table with maps and multicolored figures strewn upon it. Several more maps hung on the walls of the windowless, stone room. At the head of the table sat a man with a gold, bejeweled crown.

“Your Majesty, our magi have scryed for information, and they report the hoghers have settled here–” The man to the left of the king, dressed in scholarly robes and sporting a monocle, pointed at the map, arranging some green figures on it. “–right next to the outlying village of Svenby. This is where the hoghers pillaged the farms.”

The man sitting at the monarch’s right shoulder spoke next. He wore a tabard with a red gryphon emblazoned on it. “That village is located on flat land with open plains on three sides. It will be difficult and costly to defend. We believe the best course of action is to go on the offensive and clear the hoghers first from Deorfald. We will secure the hill beside Svenby here under the cover of darkness, positioning our artillery as follows.” The man laid out some wooden replica artillery on the map. “Then, we position our battle mage platoon here in this stand of trees. This will hopefully obscure and protect them. Then our main force will arrive at the break of dawn, and all three positions will advance at once. Additional cavalry will encircle the village to cut off retreats.” Wooden representations of all of the soldiers were placed on the table, each with a satisfying click.

The monarch paused to contemplate. “Advisor Bennett and General Fordrich, you’re certain of this? I don’t want any more casualties than necessary. These are real men, with families, not some pawns on a board.”

Advisor Bennett and General Fordrich nodded eagerly.

“But… what about the peace deal?” A man in a green robe spoke up from further down the table. “The hoghers sent a delegation from the Tribe of Kil’Galesh. High Shaman Grimtar wishes to sue for peace. Shouldn’t we consider that?”

“Bah, peace! After they murdered innocent farmers, how can you even think of peace, Diplomat Forsythe?” General Fordrich growled in disbelief.

“Well… we did also poison their watering hole and set fire to their fields…” Forsythe replied, and he turned to stare at a dark-haired, mustached mage with red robes. The man only smiled at Forsythe. “Have you no honor, Illius?”

“Have you considered that weakening their strength saves the lives of our own?” Illius replied cooly.

“Even if they are hoghers… it’s cruel. To target their women and children? You lack honor. It’s not who we are. It’s not the way,” replied Forsythe.

“So what?” Fordrich slammed the table, rattling the wooden figurines.

“That’s enough bickering!” the king yelled, slamming the table even harder than Fordrich. “We do need to consider peace as an option.”

“But King Aureus… they’re hoghers! Peace is not in their nature. They’ll attack us anyway,” Fordrich grumbled.

“Enough, Fordrich! The Kingdom of Tarith has always attempted peace before resorting to war, no matter the enemy. We will meet them at Deorfald. We will negotiate peace.”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” Fordrich conceded heavily.

“It’s a trap,” Advisor Bennett mumbled. Mage Illius remained quiet, his face emotionless.

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