The Air Cats – Part 14

While the Kendt leader Dunnaut was telling the story of his people, Blaadfork had been keeping one eye on Chief Barlang. After his initial consultation with Jalath, Barlang had summoned several other Darl Sub-Chieftains together, and seemed to be having an impromptu council session to discuss something.

Initially, it was clearly Barlang, Jalath, and a few other Sub-Chieftains on one side, with most of the rest disagreeing. Slowly, however, it had appeared that Chief Barlang had won over the consent of all but a few, and then those few had given up protesting. Shortly after Dunnaut left, that meeting broke up, too.

A decision apparently reached, Chief Barlang strode with purpose toward a group of the Ayrloi which included Chief Farrawr, Torrawr, Timmoth, and three others. Sub-Chieftain Jalath accompanied him. Blaadfork did not see a reason to try to join the meeting or otherwise interfere, but decided to watch the proceedings, nonetheless. Natalie saw where the dragon was looking and also watched to see what happened.

“Chief Farrawr,” Chief Barlang bowed slightly as he addressed the Ayrloi, “I have come to apologize to you for the actions of my people.”

“Proceed.” Chief Farrawr stepped forward and faced the Darl.

“I am the one who gave the order to slay your people. The men who carried out those orders only did my bidding.”

“I understand that.”

“When I gave those orders, I was protecting a secret. At the time, those deaths were only the first of many I expected. We were preparing for war and that was the first action of a war.” Chief Barlang took a deep breath. When Chief Farrawr said nothing, he continued.

“I have given orders that the secret I was protecting be revealed to all the tribes. It will be a secret no longer. In addition, I intended to offer you some kind of recompense for the deaths of your people.” Barlang paused and swallowed hard. “However, as I walked I realized how hollow that would sound, how I would react if someone made the same offer to me.” He met Farrawr’s gaze steadily. “Therefore, I herewith submit myself to your justice.”

Jalath looked at his Chief sharply. This was unexpected, and he was at a loss for anything to say, even had there been a point to it.

Farrawr stood silent a moment, then turned his head slightly. “Timmoth.” Farrawr met the future-dreamer’s eyes. “Advise me.”

Timmoth stared at Barlang, not quite believing the situation. The Darl chief watched him warily. He recognized the markings and knew this was the son of Tawnmoth who had just been called upon. His fate now rested with the son of the most important of the Ayrloi killed at his command. He had expected to face justice Chief to Chief, not slayer to slain. Though he kept his expression neutral, small beads of perspiration broke out on his forehead.

Timmoth closed his eyes and lowered his head in contemplation, a habit among the Ayrloi. Thoughts tore through his mind in such profusion that he could not grasp them to examine them. Slowly, though, the torrent of ideas and reactions and intentions coalesced into a point of light. Growing stronger, coming closer in his mind’s eye, the light became the shape of an Ayrloi. It approached, and Timmoth recognized his father. Tawnmoth was bathed in light as he walked, and it seemed to Timmoth as if he stood there with him, face to face once more. They touched noses and rubbed cheeks in an intimate Ayrloi greeting, and Timmoth’s senses reeled with the feel and scent of his father’s fur.

“Son.”

“Father.”

“You have a difficult decision to make.”

“The whole point of being here today was to stop the bloodshed. Yet this two-legs gave the order to have you killed.”

“He gave the order. Others fired the arrows. What of them? Would you kill them all?”

“If I could. But I know I should not. But you are my father. It is hard.”

“I know that, my son.” Tawnmoth nodded. “I know.”

“How can I just let him go?”

“I cannot make that decision for you, but listen to me. If I had told Barlang of my vision, he might have avoided this day by accelerating or changing his plans. By ordering me killed to protect his secret, he unwittingly played his part in preventing this war.”

“Are you saying it was good for you to die, Father?”

“I am saying that sometimes events have a current to them; deeper, wider, and stronger than any single individual can withstand.”

“It doesn’t hurt any less.”

“I know.” Tawnmoth rubbed cheeks with his son once more. Timmoth felt the moisture in his own eye mingle with that of his father. “There is one other thing you must understand, my son.”

“Tell me.”

“When you killed the two-legs Darl who waited in ambush, you told yourself it was necessary. In some sense, it was, for it gave you the insight to speak to Chief Farrawr and change his mind.”

“But there was more, Father.”

“Indeed there was. When you killed that Darl archer, his blood seeped into your soul. It found there the hatred you had felt since the day of my death, and it nourished it.”

“I did not know.”

“The strength of that hatred has brought me here, is holding me here. If you let it win, if you satisfy it, I will never be released.”

“Father…”

“Do not bind me here. Do not bind yourself.” Tawnmoth rubbed cheeks with Timmoth again, slowly beginning to fade. “Let me go….”

Timmoth opened his eyes and raised his head. All could see the moisture rimming them. Barlang believed he saw his own death in those grim eyes, and it was all he could do to remain standing and steady. He was a Darl, and he had given himself to judgment. He would face it squarely.

Timmoth broke the silence. “You ordered my father killed, and others beside. It would be simple justice to advise my Chief that you should die.”

Chief Barlang nodded tersely. He did not trust the steadiness of his voice to say anything in reply.

“I shall not. When you ordered my father killed, you prevented him telling you of a vision which would have warned you against the events of this day. Had you heard his words, the war which has been avoided might still have ruined this world. You, and he, were subject to the sweep of larger events. Knowing that, and knowing you must live with that as well as your crime against my people, is more punishment than I could mete out to you.”

Timmoth turned to Chief Farrawr. “My advice, my Chief, is to let this two-legs live. Further, I advise that we require him to raise a memorial to our fallen people, listing their names and his crime.”

“I accept your counsel Timmoth.” Farrawr faced Barlang again. “You have heard the judgment proposed by my advisor. You will carry out the action he has stated. Then shall you live and be free of further penalty.”

Relief swept through Chief Barlang, threatening to betray his control of his muscles. Managing to keep his voice steady, he answered Chief Farrawr. “It will be done as required. You may depend on it.”

Timmoth took a step forward. “There is one thing more.”

“Yes.” Barlang wondered what penalty the Ayrloi intended to add.

“You will also inscribe on that memorial my name and the name of the Darl archer I killed. I assume he has been found.”

“He has.”

“In this manner, all who died will be memorialized for all time, as well as those who slew them.”

“This, too, shall be done. Sub-Chieftain Jalath will stand witness to my agreement.” Jalath, still somewhat shocked at his Chief’s action, managed to nod.

“And these Ayrloi present are witness as well.” Chief Farrawr nodded. “Therefore this matter is concluded.” A motion of Farrawr’s head, and without a further word all six Ayrloi turned and walked away, leaving Barlang and Jalath standing alone.

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