Battles of a Different Kind.
Previous Story- https://forums.candarion.com/topic/403/shifting-perspectives
If he was sure of anything, it was that everyone and everything had something to teach you. Tioteche sighed as the mantra of his father came unbidden to his thoughts once again, then frowned when he realized he couldn't deny the truth to the words. He leaned against a roped balcony railing, hundreds of feet up, watching the Victory Procession of Xaliti far below; He was at the top-most layer of the Council House, atop the great mound. Through the archway behind him Sipowae and Kaiao carried on a hushed conversation in a lounge. Why was it hushed? There was no one here but the three of them, so clearly it was meant to be him that was excluded. He wondered idly if he should be worried but decided he didn't care. Neither of them would move against him, not with how much the lower castes loved him. "Mochmaker Reborn", they called him. It was a foolish claim as Mochmaker would never be reborn, he had been allowed to leave this prison long ago. Still, though, he would take any political weapon gifted to him.
"Has all your cheering driven your voice away, Sipowae?" Tioteche asked as he strode through the archway and took a seat near the other two High Chiefs at a large round table.
"Douse it. I won't be harried by anyone but my betters." Said Sipowae.
"You have no betters. Even Kaiao and I are only your equals." Said Tioteche
"Exactly." The brute said through broken teeth. Sipowae was volatile, and Tioteche knew when to press and when to retreat. The seasoned Warrior may be a veteran of many battles, but here in this room Tioteche fought on a warfront Sipowae couldn't quite grasp. Yet.
Tioteche ran his hand across the top of the table, relief carved to mimic the ocean waves. The silence stretched on in the room, making Tio blatantly aware that the previous hushed conversation was indeed regarding him. He flicked his eyes from Sipowae to Kaiao. Tioteche could never help but smile when he saw her. This time he could see her smile was forced, her eyes betrayed her.
The silence was shattered by a roar from the parade down below, the Brymoch captive had probably been dismembered in some way. Contrary to the enjoyment of the lower castes below, Sipowae glared at the open archway. "Speaking of," started Tio, seizing the moment of Sipowae's unbalanced emotions. "We should discuss who we should send to deal with this 'Brymoch' and their Twi'la'moch cohorts."
"I'll decide." Sipowae grunted.
"No. This concerns each of us - Blood, Rain, and War." Tioteche said, leaning forward and resting his elbows on the table before continuing. "Xaliti should go. She has proven herself reliable and effective, especially against these enemies." Said Tioteche, knowing that Sipowae would never stand for the warrior to go campaigning again for more renown. He glanced at Kaiao, trying to gauge what she thought, but she wouldn't meet his eyes.
"She will not. Xaliti needs time in the Mec to recuperate and rest. Another will go." Sipowae said. His words were honeyed, but his tone was flint, barely containing the vehemence he held towards the woman. Tioteche smiled behind clasped hands.
Xaliti cleared her throat, speaking for the first time since Tioteche had entered. Her voice was hoarse, it always was now since her nights were filled with ranting visions. "Fishwater. She's the best we have, and-" she raised her sunken eyes to meet Tio's gaze. "By far the most expendable."
Tioteche's smile faded slowly as he locked eyes with Kaiao. She had decided on Xaliti a little too easily. Suddenly the puzzle of the hushed conversation and Kaiao's recent coldness towards him fell into place. "A vote then." He said, eyes not leaving Kaiao even when her's turned to Sipowae.
The Warchief stood up, straight backed and broad shouldered. "Sipowae votes for Sipowae."
The Rainchief stood, resting her hands on the table. "Kaiao votes for Xaliti." She forced out in her gravelly voice, causing Sipowae to let loose an exacerbated sigh, figuring himself outvoted.
The Bloodchief stood, gaze shifting to meet Sipowae's. "Tioteche votes for Sipowae."
The room fell silent once again. Kaiao's mouth fell open in shock. Tioteche smiled as Sipowae's expression shifted from triumphant excitement to pensive consternation. He knew, they all knew, that he had been outmaneuvered here. He just couldn't quite grasp how.
Perfect. Thought Tio.