Voices in the Dark - 2
By the light of a flickering fire in one of the few windowless rooms in Kaiaomoch, Sipowae sat staring down his gathered Crop Leaders. None of them spoke, they all bore the scars he'd given them over the years until they finally learned the unique form of respect this War Chief wanted. Sipowae stood and strode in front of the War Council to toss another log onto the fire and beat back the chill that had descended in the last few weeks. He stood there with hands clasped behind his back, staring into the growing flames and trying to ignore the obvious absence of Tehl. "Hiawaeti. What word from the fronts?"
"The fronts? Yes, my Chief. The Ghostwood Cadre reports that the siege is still maintained with no change." Said Hiawaeti in his usual quavering voice that dislodged hot wires of rage in Sipowae.
"The Brymoch still sends their ships in and out of the Moch?"
"Yes, My Chief. As I said, there are no changes."
That elicited a grunt from Sipowae, a verbal cue all the gathered Warriors understood by now - Sipowae was unhappy, but it was time to move on. "In the East, the hesitant federation of Mountain Tribes and their… claimed allies of the Quatch still hold fast in their strongholds. We hope that they're not provisioned enough to live through the winter."
The War Chief didn't respond. They all knew how he felt about hoping for an enemy to make a mistake. He found himself once again wishing Tehl was here to report what her scouts knew of the situation there. "Anything else?" He asked without turning away from the fire.
"Yes, My Chief. It would seem that in the last hundred tides we've had several Pathfinders in the west go missing without cause. Tehl said she was investigating but hasn't commented further. At least not to me." He said. Sipowae let loose a low growl and turned slowly around. "Thuhoche." He said, pulling the nearest Crop Leader to his feet. "Go find our lost Tehl. Bring her here." Thuhoche opened his mouth as if to speak but elected to simply nod instead before leaving the room. Sipowae walked back to his high backed chair and sunk into it, eyeing each of his gathered council carefully. "What do we know about the Assassin?" He asked the room.
One Warrior shifted uneasily on his stool as he cleared his throat. "He is -was- a Chiefling. Of the Sikiwataw Tribe." This sent a stir through the room. Even Sipowae was surprised - the Sikiwataw were an old and respected tribe even back in Saskitchemoch. "The Chiefling was noted by piers to be an excellent bowman."
"Apparently not so great with the Crossbow." Interjected Sipowae. The Warriors chuckled uneasily at his presumed jest, but Sipowae only glared them back to silence. It hadn't been a joke. "Yes, well…" The Warrior continued. "It reflects poorly on us that we neglected to keep watch on a heavily armed Chiefling during a-"
At that moment Thuhoche came crashing through the arched doorway and landed in a heap on the ground. He tried to rise but was smashed back into the stone floor by Tehl as she strode into the room. She eyed the gathered council until her gaze found Sipowae's. "I found your lost Dog." She said without emotion. "Wandering the halls at his master's beck and call."
The Warrior Council were frozen in place, looks of barely contained terror laid bare on their faces as they looked from Tehl to Sipowae. Tehl's gaze never left the War Chief's, but she did allow Thuhoche to rise and limp back to his seat. Sipowae regarded her like a bird watches a worm wriggling in it's nest. "Leave us." Ordered Sipowae, causing the War Council to leap to their feet and shuffle out of the room.
Even from his sitting position Sipowae was able to look down at Tehl, an effect he amplified by sitting up straight in his wide chair. He gestured to a stool nearby. "Sit, Pathfinder."
Tehl didnt move or blink, she just stood there in the flickering fire at an angle that sent oddly angled shadows from her multitudes of scars cascading across her face. Sipowae was reminded that this woman was dangerous - a Veteran, albeit an unhinged one. "Tehl." Began Sipowae, his tone riddled with irritation. "Your behavior upon returning to the Moch is becoming increasingly unpredictable. Im hearing from all the Elders that you shirk responsibility and traditions at every opportunity." He eyed her indignant pose carefully. "I should send you back to The Ghostwood."
He smiled when he saw Tehl's resolve fracture at that. She looked away and took a seat at the stool. "I won't go to the Front. Not yet." She said with far less conviction than she tried. Sipowae openly laughed at her. "You will go where you are told. At my beck and call!" He roared, standing up and glaring down at the Warrior from his towering height. "When you wanted to spend ten tides skinning the Ghostwalker Chief alive - I stopped the War Party. When those Twilamoch refugees went missing - I turned a blind eye. And when you begged me spare the life of Huini after the overwhelming vote to kill him - I indulged you… Do you know why?" He asked, his final statement curling into a question. Tehl picked idly at stone table beside her but didn't say anything. "Because you are useful to me, Tehl. But you are swiftly becoming more trouble than you're worth."
"My apologies." She said without emotion. A blanket of silence engulfed the room, one only broken by the crackle of the cedar fire. Sipowae leaned against the stone table beside Tehl and let loose a slow sigh. "Do you have anything to do with the Assassin's failure?" He said, keeping his voice low despite them being alone in the room. "Yes." Tehl said through a half smile. "I gave him the misfiring crossbow." She said, glancing up at Sipowae. "Its not time to kill Tioteche. Not yet."
The Warchief stood over, boiling with rage so strong it seemed to give off heat. "That is not for you to decide - we act as we planned, remember? This is no time for your disobedience!"
Tehl shot to her feet at that, fiery eyes still locked with Sipowae's. "Of course I remember, Its my fucking plan!" She roared, jabbing a finger into his chest. "You couldn't scheme further than getting to stuff your fat cock into his Sleepless Whore!" She laughed, seeming to look down on Sipowae despite his far greater height. "And now that you have her, you think you can just kill Tioteche and usurp his power? Thats not how any of this works you dumb pile of-" Tehl was cut off by Sipowae's fist crashing into her mouth. She went reeling, falling backward onto the table as the immense Warchief struck her again and again like an avalanche of flesh. She tried to scoot back across the stone table, but Sipowae dragged her back. Blood poured from her nose and eyes as his hands found her throat, strangling away any cry for help she may have voiced. The room was eerily silent aside from the crackle of fire and Sipowae's excited breathing.
Sipowae felt that familiar feeling of detachment fall over him. He could feel her neck convulsing desperately beneath his iron-grip. He watched her bloodstained mouth gape open and shut like so many catfish he'd done this to so many times before. She tried to reach his face but her arms were too short, instead she clawed and grasped at his unyielding arms. Sipowae reared up and slammed her head down into the stone table until her strength finally slipped away. "You are always what I made you to be." He whispered, leaning forward and putting all his weight on her neck as the life faded from the single eye that hadn't swollen shut.
"Warchief?" He heard distantly, as if drifting into his mind from some dream memory.
Sipowae snapped his head towards the archway entrance. There stood a hesitant attendant, his gaze unable to look away from Tehl. "The.. uh… Excuse me, My Chief - The Rainchief Kaiao requests your immediate presence in her chambers." He stuttered out before taking a step back out of the room. "Should I tell her you're indisposed?"
The Warchief reluctantly relaxed his grip on Tehl's throat. The woman immediately gasped for air and coughed a torrent of blood all over her purple face. He let her go, watching her limp body slip from the table and crash into the floor. "No. I'll leave now. Run ahead and inform her cadre that I'll be arriving soon." He said. The attendant nodded and darted out of the doorway. "Clean yourself up Tehl." He laughed, stepping over her fetal-curled body on his way to the door. "You are very lucky that Sleepless Whores so crave my company."