Friends Like These - 1
The throng of people below teemed with excitement. Packed shoulder to shoulder in the grand plaza far below, Tioteche could still hear their undulating screams of exultation. The press of bodies retreated in several spots to give room to ecstatic hoop-dancers, gyrating uncontrollably in their looping twirls. The Bloodchief smiled down at them, raising a hand that drew an erupting cacophony that reverberated out of the carefully planned acoustics of the plaza.
The people passed their burdens, like heavy stones, from one person to the next. Up and up the Mound of leadership until they eventually reached Tioteche - stacking these stones higher and higher in a never ending spire. His Moch was built upon these stones, problems solved and stacked. But they on the ground could never see what he saw at the top. How it teetered dangerously, buffeted by the winds of change and uncertainty. Tioteche straddled this spire like a horseman on a stallion that could never be broken. None below him could see how close the spire was to crashing down. Just one mistake and it would fall.
But they loved him for it. Even now they chanted the title they had given him. He lingered on the balcony, allowing the chant to become a crescendo. Let all in the Grand Mound hear what his people had to say. Let them never forget that they had named him Moch Maker reborn.
They were his weapon.
Let Sipowae have his blades.
Kaiao her schemes.
Tioteche had always had the people.
And far too often now, they were also his shield...
Behind him, someone cleared their throat. "Bloodchief?"
Tioteche snapped out of his reverie, turning away from the balcony and the chanting crowds below. There in the archway leaned his new aide. A young boy previously of the Warrior Caste. Born into the ways of the Twae'koa Arts. He had suffered an injury in the Twilamoch War and had his leg amputated at the knee, though that didn't stop him from wearing a gold ring through his septum and a flamboyant Warhawk braided with colored feathers. His father had always supported Tioteche, even during the times of the Exodus, so the Bloodchief had elevated the boy to Chief Caste as a favor - saving him from a life of Casteless begging in the streets.
Tioteche strode through the archway motioning for the boy to follow, consciously slowing his pace so he could keep up with his crutch. Hall-Hopper, the Chieflings called him. "What is it, Huini?" Asked Tioteche.
"You are almost a Tide late to the Council meeting, the Warchief has grown particularly agitated." He said.
Tioteche nodded. "Good. An angered Sipowae is far easier to herd in the direction I like."
Tioteche had seen Sipowae's procession emerge from the Southern Ghostwood and enter the city. Dragging captives through the streets as weary Warriors waved to the crowds, all too eager to visit their families now that they were fresh from the Warfront. Tio had quickly sent word to the Chiefs that Warchief Sipowae had requested a private audience in the amphitheater and to not convene there for a half-tide. This denied Sipowae the grand entrance he no doubt had planned, and secured Tioteche another foothold above him in the Poltical War that was Kaiaomoch's government.
"Thats not what I said, Bloodchief. Warchief Sipowae isn't angered, he's been soothed to mere agitation by the words of Rainchief Kaiao." Said Huini.
Tioteche slowed to almost a stop. He hadn't anticipated that. "And the Chief Council?"
Huini cleared his throat again nervously. "Dismissed by Rainchief Kaiao. To be recalled when you decided to arrive. - Her words! Not mine." He said quickly.
Tioteche continued down the hall, thinking through the possibilities as he waited at the bottom of a flight of stairs for Huini to catch up. Kaiao and his relationship had been tense throughout the winter, yes. But he'd assumed - hoped - that things would get better now that Xaliti had been sent north on a diplomatic exploration campaign. Kaiao and Sipowae getting along as of late was an irritable imbalance to Tioteche's power within the Triumvirate that he didnt need at this time. Not with how many delicate plans Tio was currently laying as it was. Something would have to be done. Soon.
He reached the ground floor of the Grand Mound's longhouse and took a seat at a nearby bench carved to resemble a river cat. The crowds outside had either died down or dispersed, their chants barely audible even though he was far closer to their source. Huini resolutely made his way down the stairs with practiced precision. This is why the Warrior would never be replaced as his aide if Tio could help it. Huini never rushed, never took a shortcut that may have an outcome not intended. He couldn't, it wasn't what the Warrior Philosophers of Twae'koa did. And, Tioteche was sure, a missing leg would do little to stop this young man's lethality. In this, he was a bodyguard cleverly disguised as an attendant.
The pair set off across a cavernous chamber, a silence between them as servants bowed or knelt at Tioteche's passing. Those too old to kneel touched two fingers to their throats in the Ganche sign of respect. Huini cleared his throat, breaking the silence. "I've been thinking."
"Id be worried if you weren't." Tioteche said, eyeing him sidelong with a smirk. If Huini registered the remark, he didnt show it.
"Is it wise? To purposefully push the Warchief is a dangerous and volatile maneuver." Said Huini as they reached the towering beaded archway that led outside to the amphitheater.
"I'm far too young to be wise." Tioteche said in a low voice. "Were that I was, this would all be alot easier."
Huini eyed him quizzically. "What would?"
Tioteche answered by throwing aside the beads covering the archway, letting the afternoon sun shine brilliantly into the longhouse. There, down a long series of steps and seated on a raised stage in the center of the amphitheater sat the lithe form of Kaiao flanked by the hulking silhouette of Sipowae. Alone.