Of Mortals: Chapter Thirty-Two

Another clang of the finger cymbals looped on Miriam’s paw grated all the more on Imfay’s nerves as he awaited her husband’s judgment. It seemed to him as though Maxinimus were stalling for no good cause. After all, were his lands to become overrun by this scourge, it would be of no benefit to the other Yerra. Yet having dwelt on the matter for more days than Imfay would carry to admit and the better part of the season, it appeared Maxinimus was still indifferent. Initially, it was understandable to not be compelled to immediately action with the nonstop blizzards. It only made sense. Who could move through such snow without issue, and how would the army hurdle that same obstacle in good time? Those storms were fading now, and no longer was Imfay willing to leave the fate of the northerners to chance. Again he would have to clamp down with his power and try what he could to sort out the situation reasonably.

The heavy plume of incense from the censers positioned beneath the high ivory seat made the Yerra- and his wife indistinct figures, but that wasn’t important to Imfay. Sight wasn’t needed for what he would do. All the elk required was a strand of emotion to tug on. Trying once more, Imfay came up wanting. Burn his tail, but he had done this trick enough times on Maxinimus in the past. It was as though the deer had become acutely aware of Imfay, his abilities, and machinations and by some means shut himself off behind a wall of indifference. This irked Imfay more so than being denied immediate help for his countrymen, but more so than anything, it worried him. Was he found out and now being made a mockery before Maxinimus’ court until he confessed his supernatural crimes? Would this end in a decree for his death and the capture, inquisition, and execution of his other kinfolk? Worse still, was this how Maxinimus would seize control of the northlands in the same way Imfay sought domination of the south? He couldn’t guess, but quickly the thoughts were piling up in his mind, forcing his grip on the concealed blade to grow all the tighter.

After what had felt like an eternity, the room grew quiet, the cymbals stopped, and Imfay could almost swear he saw the eyes of Maxinimus glimmer despite the darkness. He had to have been mistaken, the elk thought, knowing as much as he did of the deer made that such thing impossible. The deer had dark, mahogany eyes as soft as goose down, not the unnaturally blue-green that cut through the smoke like an arrow through a myter. So taken, confused by this notion, Imfay hardly caught the man’s words. That voice, so stern and grating on the ears, barely the weak whisper the Yerra used before just didn’t seem right, and neither did the decision.

“It’s on my best judgment, with my counselors coming to a similar verdict, that at this time we have nothing to offer your kingdom, Yerra Imfay. Our hospitality can extend as far as keeping you and yours for the time being, however…” Maxinimus leaned on the word, prompting Imfay to strike, undoubtedly what the deer had planned beforehand.
Rising from his uncomfortable stool at the low end of the chamber, Imfay refused to moderate his tone, “This must be a joke. Maxinimus, we are not strangers to one another, are we? This is not the first time one of us has required the other’s aid and found their near-brother more than receptive. Pray tell, why now with this indifference to the ones who have helped you for so long?!”
“I’ll mind you, Yerra or not, in my court not a single soul is permitted such freedom with their tongue. For you, Imfay, I will ignore this indiscretion, but only out of ease and continued harmony among our lands,” there was not an ounce of passion in the remark. Imfay could even feel an emptiness of self more profound than any he had encountered before.
Fighting an urge to shout, Imfay reeled back as much as he could from the fury in his heart, “Then, henceforth, the loose union between our states is dissolved. We have abided and aided those of your line for far longer than need mention. This slight is the final fig to drop from your tree Maxin, not unlike your son.”

In the whirl of rings and chains clinking against the armor within his coat, Imfay stormed out of the chamber, not concerned what reply may chase him. Had he less sense and the low wall not been a factor, Imfay thought he may just tear Maxinimus to shreds were he to remain a moment longer. Looking to the two elk who had served as personal guards to Imfay since the incursion, there was a moment of hesitation. They were broad-shouldered and taller than the Yerra, even with their antlers trim for their appropriate ranks. Without question, they would go in there and do his dirty work with one command alone, and even were they to falter, he could force their paws. No, he thought better of it, knowing that such bloodshed would only beget more, and the last thing Desmus needed was a war at two fronts. That one front, the northern invasion, was too much already, and though capable, Terlynn could not be expected to remain in command of the army overly long.

“Yerra Imfay, what was the decision of our near-brothers?” Ellantren asked, seeing that Ghell was not willing to risk scolding.
It was evident in the man’s demeanor how things had gone, yet, when asked, Imfay allowed that moment to stay sealed in the chamber with the deer. Shaking his head, he glanced up to Ellantren, “We don’t have much time. We go back to the guest chambers and gather up our belongings. I want to be headed north before an hour out from now.”
“Gutless, e’ryone of ’em. The hornless fools got no respect, not a care what comes to us. Wasted ‘ur time ‘nd sen’us on ‘ur way. Burn their tails, they’ll regret it, Yerra,” Ghell half-murmured as they began for the rooms they had been permitted.
Eyeing the man out of his periphery, Imfay could almost smile for the passion he showed, “Ease it down, Ghell. They’ll get theirs sooner rather than later once we pull through this mess.”

Continuing on to their shared guest chamber, Imfay plotted his revenge at this crude and poorly considered verdict. He would give anything to be about the country’s citizens and present a speech marking the ramifications of this decision. Though surfs and minor nobles usually were slow in reaction if made to stir with fury and fervor at all, Imfay could light the proper fire beneath them. Revolution would eviscerate his chance to place Terlynn on the throne, but coaxing the newly established monarch would be no great struggle. However, to do what needed to be done would require time he didn’t have, and energy Imfay was not willing to expend at the moment. There would be great need of his skill in working others to his will. Their coach driver would likely want to stop and rest every so often; however, the man could be made to go until they reached the homeland when prodded right. Imfay wondered if the man would keel over this time. He hadn’t the need to press others so firmly in the past. Yet this time, with it being a deer who’s services they were renting for the task, it was possible Imfay’s generosity would fall away. Though he would usually dismiss such barbaric behavior, the elk couldn’t help but see Maxinimus in every other deer in the halls of the grand estate, that was until he laid eyes on the Yerra in truth.

“Where do you think you’re going, Yerra Imfay?” Maxinimus question was as much condemnation as it was query, his blocking the main entrance to the estate not helping this appearance.
Ghell began forward, ready to engage the Yerra, when Imfay held him back, “I must go to my people. There is nothing more for us here, and your mind will not change on this matter, I fear.”
“You are correct in that one regard, but if you think I could let you leave just yet, then you are mistaken, old friend,” the deer remarked with an unsavory grin before snapping a finger that caused two of his knights to move into position behind the elks. Ellantren wasn’t a fool and clearly put on guard at that moment.
Still, Imfay searched the invisible routes of sense to hone in on those around him, “Unless you’ve come to me with a second solution for the warring bands running amok in my northern cities, then I have no more time for you, Maxinimus. And we will not be returning as any form of guest, less you rethink your clearly rushed decision.”
“Rushed? No, we have quite well planned out this verdict. However, the same can be said as to what will be done with you. Still, what will be done with your men was quick to decide,” Maxinimus remarked, tossing up a paw in presentation.

Before the Yerra had given the cue to attack, the two knights had moved in on them, trying to take them unawares and failing. Ghell was quick to spring into action, driving a short pick just beneath the armor’s collar before disarming the deer. In only a matter of seconds, just as Ellantren was being overwhelmed by the quicker of the two knights, Ghell was freeing him, the hammer crushing the deer’s helmet like soft tin beneath hoof. Imfay was hardly moved by the attempted threat and even less so on the botched attempt at taking down his men. Now the three stood facing down Maxinimus, who looked barely perturbed by the turning of the tables.

With a sour glower at the three, Maxinimus chuckled, “You haven’t a hope of escape. There are two divisions of soldiers coming down the hall from opposite ends. You’ll be caught before you make it to the gates, even if I would let you slip-free.”
“Then the question is; did you care to die today, Yerra Maxinimus?” Imfay did not so much ask as beckon for the answer, the war blade descending from its sheath on the man’s arm.
Continuing to hum a soft note of humor, the deer stepped clear of the path, “Yes, run. They do need their exercise and, well, it has been quite a boring time simply waiting for something to arouse interest around here.”

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