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Chapter one —Ructions in the Peace Conference
During the second week of the Peace Conference only forty-nine duels were fought, so the delegates realized they were making real progress.
The main sessions took place in a long-disused assembly chamber of the palace of Ruathytu and here day by day the benches filled with vociferous people all determined to have their say about the horrible fate to be meted out to defeated Hamal. The people divided by nation and race, and each faction felt convinced its own solution was not only the perfect one, but the one to be adopted by everyone else.
This led to differences of opinion.
"A gold deldy per person," shouted a king from the Dawn Lands. In the overheated atmosphere, with the drapes drawn away from the long windows and still the air stifling, his face looked a bronze mask of sweat. He shook his fist. "Nothing less—"
"Less?" A king from a neighboring realm of the Dawn Lands sneered, white lace kerchief to face, not bothering to rise to speak. "Less? Make it two gold deldys."
"Aye!" called a high-ranking noble, gold-bedecked. "Hamal has the gold. Hamal can pay!" Then, no doubt feeling that although no king he must maintain his dignity, he bellowed: "And make it three gold deldys!"
Stylors wrote busily at long tables positioned near the center of the open space between the ranked seating. They covered reams of paper with what was said, proposals and counterproposals. They recorded very few agreements.
Other delegates joined in the raising of the indemnity, and shouts of "four!" and "five" and "seven" brought the blood flushing to forehead and cheeks, brought a sparkle toeyes, brought feathers ruffling dangerously and fur sparking with static. The punishment rose until there was scarcely gold in all of Paz, let alone merely the empire of Hamal, to pay what would be demanded. Then someone raised the question of saddle flyers being taken in compensation, demanding their fair share of zhyans in preference to lesser birds. This caused fresh outbreaks of acrimony. Another delegate banged his sword on the floor and demanded full restitution plus damages for all the airboats his country had lost.
"Take all the fliers that Hamal has!" he cried. "And—"
"You would fly your own airboats home and claim they were lost!" challenged a puffy-faced king with hair noticeable by its absence, for it had been torn off by a wild animal seasons ago. "The Peace Conference demands a full accounting from you—"
"Aye! And from you, King Nodgen the Bald! We have sure proof you flew undamaged vollers back to your black-hearted kingdom and—"
The ensuing sword-flourishing and blade-whickering was dealt with by the marshals. On this day that task fell by rotation to four-armed Djangs, who had no trouble separating the combatants and escorting them back to their seats. Djangs, aside from being among the most superb fighting men of Kregen, are less in awe of kings and nobles not of Djanduin.
"You are not allowed to fight in the Peace Conference." The Djang Hikdar in command of the marshal detail carried off his duties with that Djang blend of competent military expertise and wild warrior fanaticism. He made sure the rival kings were both sitting in their seats before he marched his men off. No blood was spilled on that occasion over that particular quarrel in the chamber; blood flowed in the duel that followed. Outside.
All in all, the Peace Conference to decide what to do with Hamal presented a sorry spectacle.
From Vallia, Drak, the Prince Majister, and Kov Seg Segutorio made eloquent appeals for progress. King Jaidur of Hyrklana expressed his contempt for the delegates. His queen, Lildra, hushed him in her queenly way; but the feeling was abroad that the Peace Conference was doomed.
Young King Rogpe of Mandua announced that he did not feel secure enough on his throne to waste time in Hamal. He had only turned up after the battles, his armies being commanded by Kov Konec and Vad Dav Olmes, because his succession to his father had been challenged and the law had, tardily, upheld his claim. If everyone began to go home, Hamal was likely to be plundered without check in revenge for her own sins of the past.
The Kingdom of Djanduin was represented by O. Fellin Coper. As an Obdjang —equipped by nature with a cheerful pert gerbil-like face and only two arms and a keenly incisive brain —he was no fighting man. At his side sat K. Kholin Dom. As a Dwadjang —equipped by nature with a ferocious assemblage of fighting equipment and a brain completely at sea in the arcana of Higher Command —he was a warrior who upheld O. Fellin Coper's decisions. The aerial assault delivered on the Hamalian capital city of Ruathytu had decided the issue and won the battle. That assault had been a Djanduin affair. The forces commanded by Seg Segutorio had joined in the final assault.
Now that mere mortal kings and princes and kovs sought to put together a Peace Treaty, the actual course of the fighting was conveniently pushed aside. Everyone demanded an equal say. That proved perfectly acceptable, provided common sense prevailed. As the Prince Majister of Vallia said: "Common sense seems to have fled! By Vox! Are we all a pack of ninnies unable to agree on anything?"
Some of the delegates from the Dawn Lands left off arguing and quarreling among themselves long enough to shout answers. Then, they went back to slanging one another.
Seg said, "I suggest we take into consideration the views of those members of the conference—"
Copyright © 1981, Kenneth Bulmer.