Vradin, Chapter Thirty-Six

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Aiden’s necessary posturing and arbitration done for the moment, he retired to the training yard, and the pleasure of assisting his garts in drilling the younger keasairs and those who were yet hopeful of attaining that honor. Though he hid his delight of the younger vradin’s antics behind a solemn facade, he often thought that it was this joy that kept him in his peak, instead of starting the long slide into the fade that Healer had begun this past century.

Aiden had learned long ago not to show his pleasure or his pain, the stoicism a burden of standing sentinel guardian, of being his people’s Montang. Too many would attempt to use his pleasures and his pains to their own gain, but he was a patient hunter, and he carefully cultivated the image of a capricious anger, though it strangely enough fell only upon those who had a history of wrongful actions.

His people were less likely to attempt to manipulate him, long experience proving how badly that rebounded upon them, but the envoys of the other races of man were not as experienced with the ways of his people. All in all, the stoicism became another game that Aiden played at, and one that kept the other races of man upon their toes, respectful of the brutal power of their ancient former guardians, the vradin.

Omric found him there, in the middle of walking one of the younglings through a particularly intricate martial dance. The keasair neegart waited patiently for Aiden to acknowledge him, knowing full well that after the many, many millennia Aiden’s edge was honed to a perfect, terrible balance.

Aiden made the youth move through the dance twice before giving the boy a coughing grunt of satisfaction, stepping away to speak with the guard leader.

Omric’s initial report was succinct, and satisfied Aiden’s curiosity about the quickly choked off Peace, the panic rush, and the fragile quality of the Luna’s current state of Peace. Upon learning that one of the clansmen in service spoke the Luna’s tongue, he instructed Omric to determine how many others might have picked it up.

Omric answered, “I asked Trill to determine that, and the old gossip said that Lyrgrul is the only one currently serving in the fortress with any reason to know the Dimeters’ tongue, but that there are two or three wolves who have walked with the Gray Tooths for a while that may know the language a bit better. I took the liberty of sending for the nearest, Vyk of the Black Furs. Their clan is due to send someone up for service soon, anyway.”

Aiden ran the back of his hand over Omric’s jaw, a sign of friendly affection among the vradin. “Good. Now tell me again about her becalming Jakat’s Rage.”

Omric was near the end of his report when Thoren streaked down into the training ground, clearly having exerted himself on the flight back from his assigned patrol.

Aiden flicked his fingers at the youngling he had been working with, who had stopped like many of the younglings on the training field to watch the hawk vradin land. “Fetch water for the scout,” he commanded.

The boy took off in a sprint.

Aiden waited until the scout had regained his breath before ordering, “Report.”

“Unknown pack, wolves, near a full counting, calling out Hunt Song. Mackryn is pacing them.”

“Where were you when you spotted the pack?” Aiden asked.

“By the Dimeter Woods, within an easy lope of Trader’s Rest, looking into reports of a drake nest. The wolves had wounded among them, but they were all running with ease, some with sacks and strange metal and wood tubes carried on straps about their bodies.”

Omric asked, “Could they be part of the Gray Tooth Clan?”

The scout paused before he shook his head. “I don’t know enough about the Gray Tooths to identify them. Crying Hunt Song, though, that doesn’t sound like what I’ve heard of them.”

Aiden turned to Omric. “Is there a reason to suspect the Gray Tooth Clan sent that pack beside the direction they came from?”

“The Luna asked about the meaning of ulfgart, and I do not recall anyone mentioning that title to her while in my presence,” Omric stated.

Aiden raised an eyebrow at the guard leader having missed mentioning that before, and Omric flushed, bowing his head. “Was there anything else she asked about?”

“I think she recognized the word ‘yes’, and Lyrgrul said Zoe Luna wanted to know about her son, Klyr.”

Aiden turned his attention back to the scout. “Rest for a mark, get some food in your gullet, then round up a flight of keasairs and relieve Mackryn from his watch. Include four of the racers for messenger duty. Watch the pack, but do not engage except to protect our people. Send the first messenger back when you relieve Mackryn, the second at either sun break or sun fall, whichever is the later, following that.”

“Ayup, Montang!” the scout said, making formal obeisance, then turning toward the kitchens. The youngling ran up to the scout when he was nearly half way across the court yard, a long cup in hand that he gave to the man.

Aiden watched as the youngling tailed after the scout. Without looking at Omric, he asked, “Who in the fortress knows the Gray Tooth Clan on sight?”

“Lyrgrul has a son among them, and learned the language when she visited with him for a season. Most of the ulfshines have made sure to greet their trading parties, to make a personal assessment in case they have a Rageful child.”

“I do not recall that any of the Rageful have returned,” Aiden observed.

Omric, thoughtful in tone, said, “Neither do I. The clan was near five hundred when Granfer took them through the Dimeter Door. Fifty would be near a pack.”

Aiden nodded in thought. “Where was Trill when you spoke with him?”

“By the kitchen fire.”

“Double the guard on our Luna, and advise Lyrgrul that I would be most appreciative if she would see to the Luna’s comfort. I think I should like to hear some of Trill’s tales, and I shall mention my request to the old gossip.” Lyrgrul’s service was currently within the kitchen halls, her cooking very much appreciated by the rest of the fortress residents.

“Ayup, Montang,” Omric said, making his obeisance and departing to carry out his liege’s orders.

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