Chapter 112: Rise of the Sage 2
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Fain’s meditation state did not reach her usual level of tranquillity, she found the tumultuous events of the previous day impacting her ability to find balance. She gave up; it was time to admit defeat. Instead, she began to contemplate and assess the disturbance to her inner equilibrium itself.
She had advised Benzhi to take on the mantle of the qi sage, or in his case, just sage would suffice. The previous qi sage had not been seen in a thousand years, but that did not mean that he was dead and would not pop up at any time. The many tomes written about the first sage noted he would appear for a century or two and then disappear. He had done this many times over tens or even a hundred millennia.
There was no modus operandi to his appearances. Sometimes, he merely lived amongst the people quietly while other times, he broke apart kingdoms and disposed of what history recorded as tyrants. Every historian knew that the victor wrote the history.
His physical appearance was always youthful, which was understandable given his level of qi manipulation and circulation. Any of the prime species would live for four hundred odd years; he could appear once in a lifetime.
There were a few beings of these prime groups that lived for a few thousand years, they were the divine masters. Beings such as Set, a Mogui Rogue, had existed for thousands of years. These prime groups were treasure troves of information themselves. It all came back to their qi circulation and the development of regenerative qi techniques.
A mundane would expect to live for fifty to a hundred years at best. A sentient with a good level of qi circulation would live for about four hundred years. The first qi sage was technically immortal like his aether dweller companions. And this was why divine beasts could live for a thousand years, they had superb qi circulation.
Fain brought her thinking back to the topic at hand; she was drifting. He had not only taken on the mantle of a sage, but he had also extrapolated her advice into declaring himself king of his little area of a backwater plane.
AN: backwater is a figure of speech, Fain would consider it backplanar, or just slums in terms of planar worlds.
Her emotions of the previous evening had run the gamut, from incredibly inspired to horrified and back again. Fain had never before in her two hundred year life been so emotionally traumatised. The sage’s link was much to blame, not only was she experiencing these events, she was soaking in the shared experience of her fellow Vanguard members who all had much more history with this place, its people, and each other. As such, their emotions were grounded but they were also powerful.
It had been too much for her to handle. Fain was wondering if she had in fact bitten off more than she could chew.
He had handled the Daughter, Scydhel, very well. Perhaps he could have negotiated better terms for the Alamanni, but that was her fault for not telling him. It was a pity he had blocked the Vanguard from the link; he was attempting to keep Scydhel unaware of their presence, but it also had the effect of not allowing her to advise or intercede during negotiations. There was a significant part of her that was glad he blocked them off; the last thing she wanted was her organisation, the Coterie, to run afoul of a House as powerful as Val’Sharam. Although she had renounced her ties to the Coterie, that was merely a ruse. She wanted it to continue to thrive and for its members to be kept from harm.
The Alamanni was in a month.
They had one good warrior and three below average in terms of the strength required to compete against the strong factions amongst the prime species. This had to be rectified as a matter of urgency. Her initial assessment of the other warriors in the Alpine Forest was not glowing. Ailen was barely an adept, he may not even qualify as a gladiator was he taken as a slave by a Myrkalfar mistress. This was about seventeen levels below what was required.
There was one positive, the time dilation. The plane from which the Alamanni was scheduled would possibly be two months on this plane.
Fain caught herself drifting again.
Why was this happening? Her thoughts were unorderly to the extreme. Was the link changing her? The shared emotions and thoughts, were they having an effect on her? She pondered.
She had been surprised when Benzhi had announced to the people he was their king. When it happened, she expected protests from the local rulers, they had effectively had their power usurped, and in all instances when you take power away from people there were repercussions. The Vanguard would have to be used to suppress any uprisings and its power used to quell any unrest. This would detract from what should be their primary goal of improving defences and preparing for the Alamanni.
Heaped upon her surprise of the shock announcement, one which she did not advise contrary to his belief, was the reception.
Fain still could not come to terms with the reception. It wasn’t just unheard of, it was a completely foreign concept to her. The people loved their ruler? It did not make any sense. And how was this supposed to be effective? What would happen when they stopped loving their ruler because a decision did not go the way they wanted? It was a stalactite waiting to fall.
At first, she was delighted with him. The emotions he generated and subsequent yield increase to the land cores was impressive. Then she realised he did not know what he was doing, the link informed her that he had some idea of the relationship with the people and mystical beasts to the land cores. But he was totally unaware of how he affected the yield. Which was understandable in a sense, she was unaware that his actions would have such an impact as well. She would have to show him how to discern land core values, rates of replenishment, and rates of decay.
She was by no means an expert, but she had managed the domain at the coterie for many years.
Which brought her to her next horrific observation. The domain protection was at its most basic form. There were no barriers, no crystals, and no wards. The only device which had been activated was the domain itself.
The convenience of the portals would have to go and be replaced by essential protection measures. The dwarves must have the knowledge about building with wards. How could they not? They must start tapping into this knowledge and hire additions from trusted sources.
Fain had processed much of her anxiety, but she had been avoiding the behemoth in the room.
She had not expected in her wildest dreams what happened in the bedroom after they retired. It was challenging to her normal quiet self; she had read about many of the activities of other cultures, but it was one thing reading about them and another thing to be actively involved.
The worst part was, she liked it.
Benzhi: meditation over. We have much to do.
Gisael: I will go to see Mother and the guardians. I will be back for your meeting at noon.
Reyas: I too will see the clan chiefs and the seer. I will instruct them on what is planned. We will be back at noon.
Benzhi: no, just let them know what we are thinking. Let them agree or suggest a better way. We will not bully them.
Reyas: oh…now you say that. I remember our first meeting, oh mighty king. “Come and fight or be cowards!” that is what you said! You knew which strings to pull instinctively. If it wasn’t for the Seer, I would have challenged you right there and fought you to the death.
Benzhi: I do not recall any of that. All I remember is I thought you looked fantastic in your furs, with the top of your white breasts on show.
Reyas (mollified): you just know what to think. Distractions aside, I will do as you ask. But if I get any dissent I will not be meek.
Fain: where do you want me?
Benzhi: given your concerns which leaked through to my balanced state of meditation, we should go over the changes you suggest and your advice on the preparation for the Alamanni.
Fain: this link is both a blessing and a curse.
BRG: you will get used to it.
Benzhi popped his head out of their quarters. The dwarves had given the Vanguard a large apartment within the stronghold, however, this was temporary apparently. They had plans for a keep in New Vaugend, which would be the living and meeting rooms for the Vanguard, and the kingdom’s leading administrators.
“Jax, good you’re here. I would like you to fetch, Bhar, Ailen, Pian, Skandear, Carney, and Ventiry, please. Get them here as soon as they can. Check the hall first,” he asked Jax, who had begun his duties as page immediately.
“Sin,” Benzhi said with surprise, “what are you doing in the corridor?”
“I am waiting for permission to come in,” she replied. Scintilla had not adjusted to the new premise, which was to be expected as it was their first day here, and he had been remiss in looking after her. Although his memories had just returned, he had not seen Gisael and Reyas for two months while he had spent the previous evening with Scintilla.
“If you are in doubt where you should be, you are at my side,” he said, grabbing her. “We are a pack! Nothing has changed.” A lot had changed, but not his feelings towards her.
“Do you want to be with me today, or would you prefer to run around the forest, take a look around at your new home?” he asked.
She looked at him seriously, “You are busy, I will go and explore.”
“Stay in the domain,” he advised, “I know you can handle yourself, but some of those portal spawns are nasty.”
It was not long before the small group was together. All his inner circle was in the dwarven hall. They expected much to happen today, and Skandear was not far.
Fain sat next to Benzhi, resisting the urge to touch his shoulder or neck. Her schooled expression betrayed none of her inner turmoil to the group, except to the one who shared her link.
Ailen sat between Pian and Ventry, he was unable to stop staring at both Pian and Fain. Benzhi did not need a link to guess what he was thinking. When he caught Ailen’s eye, he nodded towards Pian and then he placed a hand on Fain’s cheek, caressing her. It was man code to Ailen, letting him know who was available. Hopefully, his wood elf brain got the message.
After small chit chat, Benzhi went on to summarise the last couple of months for Carney, Ailen, and Ventiry in particular. Ventiry was taking notes to alleviate Benzhi having to tell the story over and over to all his people.
“This brings us to what happens next. Ventiry, I want to rely heavily on you in setting up the administration and the government, are you up for the challenge?” Benzhi asked, his instincts had always had a positive feel on the veteran agent diplomat from Loctris.
Ventiry grinned ear to ear, “I would say I am not qualified, however, looking around, it is a scary judgment that leads me to the conclusion that I am the most qualified to assist. Assuming you have that much trust in my abilities and my loyalty.”
“Your abilities are so far above mine that I cannot but trust you,” Benzhi declared, “Bhar you will be assisting Ventiry and will curtail anything you deem excessive.”
“Argh, ain’t I busy enough building yer city, and now ye bring in another eight thousand souls. That’s double!” Bhar exclaimed.
“They do not all have to live in new Vaugend. Any that the glade, the stronghold, and the Gael holds wish to take they can. And all you need to do is use your common sense,” Benzhi suggested.
“It ain't so common I fear,” she answered.
“That is why you are chosen. With great power comes great responsibility,” Benzhi said, stealing a line from Spiderman. He had to laugh when they were all impressed with his wisdom.
Everyone except Bhar, “What do ye mean? Ye are passin all da responsibility off to me!”
Benzhi clapped his hands, “That is because I trust you to do a far better job than I would.”
With the compliments coming thick and fast from the newly named King, albeit he was their leader almost from the first day she met him, Bhar was mollified. But title or not, it would not stop her from speaking her mind, which was probably why he chose her.
“Ventiry, to make things manageable I think that three levels of leadership are needed to properly represent all the people. One is large; with ordinary folk who represent each group and meet probably once a month to air any problems and have a say in any important matters. The second will be small, it is the inner circle of leadership who decides everything day to day. This group needs to be the leaders and the most competent members of the people as a whole. And lastly, the Vanguard, who will fly in and out make large sweeping decisions, throw everyone off balance having to deal with the direction we set. How does that sound?” Benzhi asked.
“It sounds like you thought hard on this,” Ventiry propositioned.
“Only during meditation this morning,” Benzhi answered, “it seems the right way to manage things without getting overly complicated.”
“Hmm,” Ventiry started, “we will need to have judges to make rulings and some sort of police or arbiters. Like the whitecloaks who perform all three functions.”
“I think their model works well,” Benzhi said.
“The large group you describe can be the large council, unless the respective culture has another term. The small group who administer day to day is the small council,” Ventiry said. “Who is going to be in the small council?” he asked.
“Bhar, Mother, Ulfrgrim or another clan chief, yourself, Carney, the grey elf tinker and a spot open for a leader from the new refugees if one is found,” Benzhi said.
“Mother,” Ventiry asked, “does she move around? Isn’t she like a spirit being?”
“No, and she is the perfect being to lead the small council,” Benzhi answered.
Carney raised her hand, “I am not qualified for this, and I will need to be trading, won’t I?”
Benzhi looked her in the eye, “Do you wish to trade? I will not force you to do to this.”
“I…well…I…will do whatever you want me to do,” she answered.
“It’s settled then, I want you to do whatever your heart desires,” he stated.
“Let me think about it,” she said uncommitted.
“Leave a spot open for Carney when she tires of trading,” Benzhi said to Ventiry.
She scowled at him, but it was in jest and she was not that angry. He was just manipulating her to do what he wanted despite his words.
“We don’t have much time, I would like the first large council meeting at noon today. Bhar, Ventiry, Carney, and Jax take whoever you need. Gather all the leaders; all the representatives. I want to see if we have any hidden gems. We will meet in the glade so Mother can witness and partake in person,” Benzhi instructed.
Ventiry stood, “My liege,” he said bowing and grinning like he was having the time of his life.
The trio left, leaving Fain, Pian, Skandear, and Ailen.
“So,” Benzhi said ominously, “we have a few problems with the defence of our little Kingdom.”
“It’s not little, its massive! I can’t believe it now goes all the way to the mountains to the south!” Ailen exclaimed.
Fain: excitable isn't he.
Benzhi: you don’t know the half of it.
“In almost two months time, we have a fight to the death with the House of Val’Sharam, one of the most powerful Houses of the Myrkalfar Empire. We need five warriors against their five. It is known as a penta. If we lose, they take possession of the entire Alpine Forest,” Benzhi said.
Skandear stood shouting, “What?!”
Benzhi looked at Pian, “Do you mind slapping him gently to wake him up?”
She looked at Benzhi confused, “You want me to slap him?”
“Yes,” he answered, “gently mind you. Just enough to wake him.”
Pian bent down over Ailen, who had flopped off his stool and gave him a vicious slap to the face.
Ailen woke with fright, “Ouch!” he exclaimed
“I did say gentle,” Benzhi admonished Pian.
“I don’t do gentle milord,” she said, grinning.
“We cannot use any of these three for the Penta,” Fain announced unexpectedly.
“Hmm?” Benzhi queried, he had an idea where she was going from their connection.
“We are already under strength. If you do not wish these people to all become slaves of Val’Sharam, then we must find someone at least as powerful as you. Even myself, Gisael, and Reyas are weak and should be replaced if better warriors can be found and secured,” Fain stated.
“That will not happen, the connection will make us powerful, and we have time to prepare. What about Scintilla?” Benzhi asked.
Fain looked at him as if he was stupid, “I just said at least as powerful as you, stop thinking with this,” she grabbed his cock through his leathers, “and start thinking with this,” she tapped his forehead.
Embarrassing Fain did not make her angry. No amount of teasing, intrusions into her private thoughts or putting her into an uncomfortable position made her angry. What made her angry was stupidity.
Benzhi: good to know.
He thought, and she heard him through the link.
“I don’t know anyone,” he said, “can we hire someone from Loctris, or Qizhu or something?”
“You do know someone,” Pian said, “you know my brother Glamour.”