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Chapter 10


Till Someone Stronger Comes

The son of Areta speaks – A subtle plan to rescue the young – A change in timing – Only twenty out of every one hundred cadets endure – Seeking to be champions of the Emperor – Strength taken from tormentors – “Shall we seek weakness or power, strength or softness?” – Refrain from beatings and harsh words – The secret designs of the instructors – “Noble fellows, how shall we decide?” – A roar of approval

 

1  These then are the words which the son of Areta spoke unto all the senior cadets of A’Kontay; revealing in their content a plan both subtle and wise, whereby he might rescue the young from cruelty and torment.

2  For when the whole company proclaimed aloud their desire to hear him, the son of Areta spoke most boldly, saying: “Men of A’Kontay, hear me. For I would give into your keeping, a counsel both cunning and wise.

3  That you may weigh in the hand the words which I would speak; that you might, perchance, see in them some advantage for yourselves, whereby you might achieve both gain and profit.

4  For we will do ourselves disservice by tormenting such young and tender boys; for such as these are but fresh from their mother’s laps, having no strength or power; neither have they earned for themselves any worth or consideration; for they are just children small and frail.

5  Why then will you throw away the strength and power which you have earned through hard and toilsome effort; to cast it upon those which are weak and helpless of themselves?

6  For even you do know for yourselves that if two men of strength and power should engage each other upon the fields of war, then does he which is strongest take to himself the strength of the other, to stand as the victor, earning for himself an increase in power and prestige among his rightful peers.

7  But look you at this child and see: What strength has he to give you, seeing that he is young and filled with fear and trembling?

8  If then we should beat this boy with all our strength, how then shall we be advantaged? For it is certain that by the outpouring of our strength upon this youth we might make him stronger; or still might we break him altogether.

9  But if we should do this, then what will this child add to us but his softness and weakness? To take from us the thing we most need and value, while yet he would add to us nothing worthy of consideration.

10  Come then and let us reason well together, for even I would set before you that certain course which would make this boy both strong and fearsome; for I challenge not our traditions but in our timing would I put forth some objection.

11  For will you eat the fruit before it is ripe? And if it so be that you should partake, will you not be made weak and sickly because of it?

12  Let us therefore, be both cunning and wise concerning the things which we would do; for if we would choose wisely, then might we seize by the very throat that glory which would pass but once through the shadows of our life;

13  To gain for ourselves both notice and rank, causing that in some future year we might stand as men of power and privilege; to bend as the grass beneath some hot and fearsome wind, such men as shall be made to serve us.

14  Consider now the design beneath all my cunning, and weigh for yourself such advantages as you might take to yourself through some agreement with me.

15  For now are we but cadets ourselves, having given into our hands no real power save that we are permitted to rule over all cadets younger than ourselves; to prove through all our cruelties, the strength and worth of little boys.

16  Men of A’Kontay, warriors proud and fearless, hear me; for I will place even now before you that certain means by which we might cast aside such triviling privileges afforded us, and seize through some cunning and frightful ploy, a power of our own design.

17  Consider then, how that there is brought into this academy, a great many children which would be made into warriors like unto ourselves; yet for all those which are brought into our barracks, still do only few survive such hardships as we are made to impose upon them; causing that they should stand forth in their manhood as officers of the empire.

18  For you know for yourselves already, how that out of every one hundred boys which are brought unto A’Kontay, there will endure but twenty to stand beside us on the day of our commission and naming.

19  But consider and weigh most carefully, that if this be true for us, so then must it stand equally true for all other academies within the empire; giving themselves unto the Emperor but twenty officers out of every one hundred cadets.

20  Hear then, my brave and noble fellows, for I would yet devise some means whereby we might give to our lord and master, Maximillius Drakonus, a gift greater than all other academies; causing that we should gain for ourselves the Emperor’s notice and favor.

21  For if we would but change the time in which we would prove such young and tender boys, then might we teach and encourage them to be strong as we are strong, and to endure with good humor such trials as we shall force upon them when they are ripe and worth the picking.

22  Thus might we increase the numbers of those which would stand beside us in the days of our commission and manhood; to cast in doubt and gloom all other academies which would bring forth less than we would give.

23  For if we shall increase in numbers within our several ranks, those cadets which would stand beside us, then are we advantaged altogether; for you know that in each year are the academies made to compete in games of war; being ever hopeful that they might win the Emperor’s Standard.

24  And if it so be that we should win it, then might all who see it proclaim aloud that in A’Kontay are there found the greatest warriors in the land; to earn for ourselves, the favor of the Emperor above all other academies.

25  For you know already that unto whichever academy should go the Emperor’s Standard, then unto that senior class will go the choicest of ranks and commission; causing that we should wear upon our finger, the ring of war and victory; to proclaim to all which see that we are but the champions of the Emperor himself.

26  Look you round about and number well our ranks; for of the three senior classes, we have but some two hundred men only which would compete upon the fields of war and glory against all other academies.

27  But if we will refrain from breaking in pieces such young and tender boys, then shall our ranks increase in the years ahead; and in our struggle for the Emperor’s notice, shall A’Kontay prove greater than all other academies; being able to field against our opponents, the strength of greater numbers.

28  For it is war and battle that prove the greatest test of all, being superior than such separate and individual cruelties as we would now cast upon this youth.

29  Causing by the mere touching of him that we should take upon ourselves his weakness and frailty; to be diminished and lessened in ourselves of such strength and courage as we have forged over many years of study and effort.”

30  Such did the son of Areta speak; and looking at the whole company, he did cast an amusing eye upon that large and brutish bully which he had struck down to the very floor; and he spoke, saying:

31  “Look now my brave and fearsome fellows, and gaze you straightly upon me; for I was once as this boy now, being filled with fear and trembling; yet did others much stronger than me, beat me fiercely without relent, being hopeful in themselves that I might break and yield before them.

32  But for all their many efforts, I neither broke nor cried surcease, but bore in my person all things well; drawing into me such strength and power as they did pour upon me through all their many cruelties.

33  Thus did I take from even all my tormentors, a portion of their strength and courage, becoming in my manhood both strong and resilient, being in myself most hard and fearless concerning all issues of war and death.”

34  And the son of Areta, pointing to that bully which all others feared, spoke again, saying: “Know then my brave and brutish fellow, that such power and speed which even I did use against you, to strike you down upon the floor;

35  Even this same speed and power did you, yourself, give to me when I was younger still, when you did beat and flail upon me with all your might; driving into my bones and sinews a portion of all your strength and power.

36  This then did I turn against you to bring you down, using with full intent the sum of such powers and strengths as even all my tormentors did cast away upon me.

37  While that very weakness which caused you to fall upon the floor unconscious, even this did I give to even every one of you in fair exchange, for all your many beatings.

38  Come, brave fellows, and be not angry against me; for I am for you and not against you; for even now am I made your peer and equal, and will even now stand beside you in all things; for the words I speak are true, even as you yourselves know full well.

39  Shall we now, in this present moment, give up more of our strength and power, to cast it away on so puny a boy as this? Shall we seek weakness or power, strength or softness?

40  Tell me and hold not back; for whatever you shall speak, even I shall likewise do; for even I will stand beside you; being in every part of me, your brave and faithful ally in all things together.

41  Yet ponder for yourselves and consider deeply the cunning behind all my words; for I would have us strengthen this boy against the day of testing, when we must compete against all other academies for the Emperor’s Standard.

42  In that day shall this youth be rightly tested, being made to endure the rigors and shocks of that constant battle, being made to prove himself our equal midst blood and fire and steel.

43  Let us refrain our hands from torment, but let us speak unto this boy, and all his peers also, with strong words of encouragement, being dressed with good but harmless humor; teaching to him the ways of strength and power; forging through words and deeds alike, the ways of some noble warrior.

44  By this means shall many of these which are young and fragile endure the duties and hardships of our academy; to move in greater numbers into the ranks of the senior classes.

45  For there is trial and pain enough for such young and tender boys in the learning of war and death together; having to rule over them those harsh and cruel instructors which still but test even us most continually.

46  Let us dress ourselves as men of cunning and calm perception, and not be just as brave but foolish lads; being pushed and prodded through cruel and subtle deceit, by those which rule over us.

47  For there is worked upon us a greater deception than even you are made aware; being hidden beneath the commands of all centurions and instructors alike; being unseen by coarse and common men, but which even now shall we reveal.

48  Consider then, my brave and noble fellows, how that there is sown between us and our instructors the seeds of enmity and contempt; for we are the sons of proud and noble men, while our instructors are drawn from the ranks of the secondary classes;

49  Having proven themselves through some great but terrible valor upon the fields of war as being worthy of their present posting; being given as a fair but just compensation, the duty of instructing that far more nobler class which shall one day rule over them.

50  Why then would you suppose that such instructors would give us such little boys to torment, while they, themselves, should restrain their hands from striking?

51  For what purpose or design would our instructors encourage us in the beating of such small but tender lads, while they, themselves, should prove aloof and self-contained?

52  By such coy and subtle means would all who teach us take revenge against our proud but noble fathers, to make as weak and shallow such rank and position as we would take to ourselves in the years ahead, causing that they should wag their heads against us, being filled themselves with some inward contempt.

53  Let us now be wise and fully knowing; and by such decisions as we shall make today, circumvent the whole of their design; to prove ourselves in this present moment as worthy of such glory as we would seize for ourselves in the years to come.

54  And if it so be that such young and tender boys must needs be proven, then let them grow to stand beside us in the days of competition;

55  That in the fierceness of our struggle to gain the Emperor’s Standard, might even our enemies strike hard against them; to give to such lads a fullness of their strength and power, while these boys, in fair exchange, will give such weaknesses as might remain in them.

56  Then shall we in that desperate moment, when we are strong and fully knowing, subdue all those which come against us, and by our fury take for ourselves the Emperor’s notice, being favored and honored above all the rest.

57  Come now my brave and noble fellows and tell me plainly: How shall we decide?” Such were the words which the son of Areta spoke; and there fell a great hush upon all which heard.

58  But out of the silence did there begin a murmuring, and from out of the murmuring did there arise a mighty and tumultuous shout which became like thunder, deep and rumbling; for all which heard did believe even all the words which they had heard.

59  And the whole company did roar with their voices, and stomp with their feet the sum of their approval; and there stepped out to quiet them, the senior-most cadet; and raising his hands he commanded sharply, and all within the barracks fell deathly quiet.

60  And looking upon his peers, he turned to gaze upon the son of Areta; and he spoke, saying: “We agree! From this day forth shall you not stand beside us, but we shall stand with you till someone greater comes.”

61  And the son of Areta smiled, and with a voice made deeply knowing, he spoke, saying: “Till someone stronger comes.”

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