Old Pride and New Hope
To call the conclave a disaster would have been cruel but the event could hardly be called a resounding success. Abbot Torrance and the other ranking members of the Vermillion Council had grossly underestimated the heavy weight of festering grudges that had simmered between Coal Roarkwin and Dimona Odinstar. The Iron Lord of Rustwatch and the Rayward Queen had been at odds for longer than any of the mortal men gathered in Viros had been alive. Even the wisest of the Councilmen were unable to fathom the power of that sort of long-lived animosity. It proved even more difficult for the Council to attempt mediating the situation since the only two people in the city who were old enough to remember the context surrounding the origin of Coal and Dimona’s mutual distain were the age old rivals themselves.
The conclave had been well into it’s second week before the even the slightest semblance of civility could be maintained with Coal and Dimona in the same room. The first meeting between the leaders of Rustwatch and Rayward had ended with about a dozen verbal gauntlets hurled, a score of proverbial old scars reopened and one thrown chalice of red wine that was meant for the Iron Lord ruining the Viros abbey’s oldest tapestry. Tempers were running hot among everyone in attendance with all the abundant hostility between Coal and Dimona that was threatening to bubble over. It was as if the brooding wrath between the two old warriors was an infectious disease and it was insidiously spreading throughout the venerable city.
Coal and Dimona’s old stories of war and conflict rekindled were a looming black mark placed upon the conclave. The rest of the event had gone exceedingly well. The steps that had been taken and the plans put in place to rid Argaia of the chimera scourge were all sound and possessed of great promise. The natural talent and sheer raw power of the magic demonstrated by the assembly of gifted individuals assembled by the council had been nothing short of spectacular. Even the perpetual skepticism of the Iron Lord and the unrelenting childish bravado of the Redmoons had been pierced by the wonderment of the exhibitions that had gone on during the conclave. It was plain for even the greatest pessimist to see that the collective people of Argaia stood a fighting chance against the monsters that roamed beyond the seal walls of the great cities. The one missing element that was needed for the Vermillion Council’s plan to come to fruition was something that would pass for cooperation between the two oldest wielders of magic in the world.
“I can not for any measure of rational thought seem to think why you feel my Iron Men will not be able to hold Rustwatch indefinitely against the chimera,” Coal said in an irritable voice as he glared across the table in the council room and regarded the self-assured Rayward queen. “Any time the beasts have breached our walls we have beaten then back.”
“That is precisely my point. The chimera have yet to breach the seal wall of Rayward since my rein began. None of the other cities can make such a claim,” chimed Dimona with a condescending air. The tone of her voice perfectly matched the relaxed posture that she maintained in the large hand carved chair at her end of the table. “It would only make sense that the military leader of this united army would be the one who has proven most adept at battling the foe we all seek to wipe out.”
Coal Roarkwin laughed unapologetically as he heard the words of the Rayward queen. The arrogance that dripped from her speech filled the room like a thick fog. “That is some rich comedy, lass. Most adept at battle, you say?” Coal mused with a smile that Dimona and the handful of raking Councilmen gathered around the table could see through his smoky white beard. “I should think that we are all doomed if your leadership on the field is what passes for adept. Why, if memory serves I seem to recall the last time your soldiers came to call on Rustwatch land I got a good view at what a Rayward army in retreat looks like…and in less than a seasons time no less,” Coal pressed with a rage inciting mockery in his voice.
Dimoan shot up from her seat with lightning blazing in her eyes and war clenched in her teeth. “You dusty old goat. You full well know that battle was a fluke and a farce. It was luck and fortune that spared you not any measure of tactical brilliance on your part,” the scorned woman seethed with venom on her lips. A moments of calm filled the room and the only sound was that of the Iron Lord smugly chuckling to himself at the Rayward queen’s expense. “Perhaps I should mobilize a siege of Rustwatch once more and give proper contest to the Iron Men this time.”
Coal stood from his seat at the opposite end of the table and matched Dimona’s aggressive posture. “Every blade and hammer in my city would welcome the attempt. I would adore the opportunity to see your backside fleeing my ramparts a second time,” barked the Iron Lord with rancor and battle-lust echoing from the pit of his belly.
“That is quite enough from the lot of you!” Shouted Abbot Torrance as he practically leapt up from his seat and onto the long table. “I should not have to remind anyone that our purpose is to fight the chimera, not boast, fan our vanity and make idle threats.”
“I make no idle threat,” Dimona started with malice and vengeance.
“Nor do I,” interrupted Coal.
“I said enough!” yelled the elder Councilman with passionate command. The second outburst of Abbot Torrance was sufficient enough to seat both the Iron Lord and Rayward queen, all be it begrudgingly. “This conclave is nearly at an end. All other great cities have agreed to the plan we have set down. All that remains is the pledge of Rustwatch and Rayward to the cause.”
“I am at the Council’s service as always. You should know my support is not something that falls to question,” responded Coal. “But do not expect me, or any of my men for that matter to match under Rayward banners.”
“My knights wouldn’t dishonor themselves by making ranks with your pathetic excuses for warriors,” hissed Dimona as she shot the Iron Lord a look that could kill.
Before Coal could offer a riposte to Dimona’s latest insult, Abbot Torrance interceded in the verbal duel once more. “If I could can change the geography of Areros or Ironside continents or the regions most frequented by the chimera to accommodate your feud I would but sadly this is not the case. The reaches of Frostdale, the central area of the main continent close to Viros, our east coast near Rayward and the shores of Rustwatch across the Bone Sea are where the Chimera are strongest. The Council and the great cities have settled matters pertaining to all threatened regions save for yours,” said Abbot Torrance with a waive at Coal and Dimona. “The fact that Rayward and Rustwatch are on either end of the eastern most chimera strongholds will require some collaboration between the both of you. You need not enjoy this unity but you must accept it,” he continued as he returned to a seated position.
Coal slid back into his chair as he spoke. “I will abide by whatever decision the Council comes to and trust me I certainly will not enjoy this unified effort. I only hope that the Rayward forces do not get in the way of my Iron Men as we handle the real fighting.”
Dimona scoffed and sneered at the Iron Lord as she squirmed in her seat. “My knights will perform whatever duty is required of them to perfection. I think you should be more concerned with keeping the chimera from running through the streets of your city as they have been, than what I have my fighting men do,” she said with cutting and disgust for the man seated across the table.
“It almost sounds like there is an accord here,” Abbot Torrance said with a hint of relief in his words. “Remember there is a sea and leagues of chimera occupied territory that separates your two cites, some increased correspondence and the occasional coordinated maneuver should be all that is required of a unified Rayward and Rustwatch. The Amurai and brothers of the Council will handle all messages that must pass between your two cities. Surly you can trust the skill and bravery of the Vermillion Council’s fighting force,” pressed the Abbot. His words seemed to calm both Coal and Dimona. “It is quite possible that this is the last time either of you will have to endure the other’s presence during this campaign,” continued the elder Councilman with exhaustion dripping from his mouth.
“So long as Rayward armor is left under my direct command there should be no complications. I relish to think of never having to set eyes on anything pertaining to Rustwatch ever again,” Dimona lamented.
“I will happily cross the Bone Sea and stay far and away from Rayward. I should be able to manage some civil messages passed between Rustwatch and her realm,” Coal said with a flippant toss of his head in Dimona’s direction. “Especially if it will cost me nothing but some ink and parchment to communicate. You are certain that the Amurai are up to their roll in this task?”
Abbot Torrance looked at Coal with wide eyes and a slack jaw. “The defeat of the chimera is the sole task that the Amurai have been bread for since Father Pratt established the first barracks here in Viros ages ago. This is what every man and woman who wear’s the hound’s sigil lives for,” said the Abbot after he managed to regain his composure.
“The fight against the chimera is not what I am speaking of. I know that your warriors are fine soldiers when it comes to battling the beasts spawned by the red rains,” Coal said with a partial smirk on his face.
“What are you on about then?” queried the Abbot.
“Are you certain that your men and women have what it takes to get in the middle of my history with the Queen of Light?” laughed Coal.
It took all her considerable willpower but Dimona was successfully able to stop herself from joining in the Iron Lord’s laughter. She would never admit it publicly but for the first time in centuries of life Dimona Odinstar felt she could empathize with something that Coal Roarkwin had to say.