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Following the death of Tekowariaura, the Prime Minister did not have much time to act. It would only be a matter of days before the Kingdom would begin to attack. So he made his way to a settlement at the border, at the westernmost point, to make preparations.

By now it was deep into the dusk of the last age, not long before the Great War began.

The following is taken from historical records.

Episode Five: Running near the Precipice

Lidh lay still as her father held his hand over her chest, looking for the infection. It was late, he was tired, but he knew how quickly these things could attack, and he was afraid for her. Lidh was also afraid. She was six and one half, and she might not have long left.

She heard something, clop-clop, clop-clop, in the distance, and tried to lift her head, but her father gently held it down. 'Keep still, Lidh,' he said.

'I can hear horses, Father,' she said.

Her father's head lifted, and he looked out into the village square. There were two dozen Paladins on horses, led by a Paladin wearing an oddly bulky backpack. There was a sword handle sticking out of it. This Paladin got off his horse and, with two others, helped another Paladin take a passenger from his horse. The passenger was a Marshal, and the men carried this man to Lidh's house.

There was a knock at the door and Father left the room. 'Stay there, Lidh,' he said. Lidh heard the front door open.

'Greetings, Doctor,' said a voice. 'I am the Prime Minister. One of my men is hurt and I hoped you could look at 'im.'

'My name is Medofesipanu, and I'm retired, sir,' said Father. 'My daughter's ill, I have to look after her full-time.'

'How old is she?'

'Almost seven, sir. She needs plenty of rest, and I'm finding it hard to get her to sleep as it is.'

'Then I'll try to help you. Let me look after her, I'll get her to sleep. Then you can look after my man.'

Father sighed. 'What's the injury, sir?'

'I don't pretend to understand it, Doctor, it's not my thing. His name is Rekowarilara. He had a brother, a Paladin; they both claimed to see things in dreams, things which happened.

'Two nights ago his brother saved my life, but he was wounded. Tek told me the following day, as he was dying, that he'd had a dream, told 'im I was in danger. He found it hard to say more, but Rekowar said he'd seen it too. I wanted to ask more, but that's when Tek died.'

'The brothers were joined, one died, and the other is linked to death,' interrupted Father. 'I see. I see. Well. I have some skill, but not much, and that limits my options, sir. I may be able to sever the link, but it's like cutting a diseased hand off. He won't be able to see as much as he did, and it'll itch for a long time. He'll still feel like he's connected.'

'It'll have to do. Do yer best, Medofes,' said the Prime Minister, his voice getting slightly louder as he approached the bedroom door. 'And I'll do mine.'

A friendly old face appeared at the doorway. The man wearing it was tall, almost as tall as the door, and his grey eyes twinkled. He was almost bald, and he had round cheeks. He was wearing a red cloak and blackened armour, and he had strong boots. He took his backpack off and sat beside the bed.

'What's yer name, littl'un?' he asked.

'Lidhatikamed,' Lidh replied. 'What's yours?'

The man laughed, then leaned in and spoke softly. 'I'm not supposed to tell people. I'm supposed to be important, and they're supposed to call me 'sir', and 'Teacher'. It wouldn't be fair to tell you, and not tell them. What would they say when they found out?'

'I won't tell,' promised Lidh.

'No,' the man said, smiling. Lidh saw the smile was a little more forced. 'No, I don't think yer will. Well, all right. My name is Galomanisula. Yer can call me Galoman if yer like. Sssh, don't tell anyone. You promised.'

'I won't tell anyone, sir', she said.

'Good girl,' Galoman said. He took a tin of rice pudding and a tin opener and spoon out of his pack and opened the tin. 'I've been ridin' for hours, I'm famished,' he said. 'Do yer mind if I eat this?'

Lidh shook her head carefully, and Galoman started to eat. 'Are you really the Prime Minister?'

'So suspicious! Perhaps we have a little spy here, trying to find out all about me?' She giggled, then moved her hands up to her chest when it hurt. 'Calm down, littl'un,' said Galoman. 'I'll try not to make yer laugh so much. Yes, I'm really the Prime Minister. Look at this.'

Galoman put the tin aside and opened the backpack. The sword handle was still there, but the rest of the sword was buried in a large rock.

'This is the Sword in the Stone, and only the Prime Minister has that. Can yer pull it out?'

'I can't sit up, Galoman,' said Lidh. 'It hurts.'

'Then I'll move it a bit closer,' he said. He leaned back, took hold of the rock and angled the sword handle towards her hand. It did not seem like it was taking him a lot of effort. 'Try now.'

She pulled, but it did not move. 'Stuck,' she said.

'It won't move for me either. It'll only come out for the one who'll save the Aisorbmii. But to be honest, I'm glad. Yer see, it'll only come out in the most dangerous time when it is most needed. So if the Sword doesn't come out, it must be safe. That tells me there's still hope for peace yet.'

'Why do you carry the sword around with you?'

'So the Kingdom won't find it. They're looking for it, yer know. Ever since the last war.' Galoman sat up, his shoulders slumped and he sighed heavily. He picked up his tin and spoon again and began to eat slowly, thoughtfully. 'It was a long time ago, Lidh. Thirty years or more. Long before yer were born.

'I don't think it'll make a very good bedtime story, but it's all I can think about right now. There was a time, Lidh, when the Aisorbmii and the Kingdom fought relentlessly. Two entire cultures bred to fight each other. We would raise hundreds of men and train them into Marshals and Rangers and Paladins and send them into battle, and they would train their nobles and send them against us. We attack and they stand by their fortresses. They attack and we run to our factories and defend. We try to enlighten them into eating the holy puddin' nicely chilled, and they try to corrupt us into burning it like incense and devouring it aflame.

'But so long as both of us stayed in balance neither would win, war would continue. But nothing lasts forever. One side had to give eventually. And sadly, it was ours.'

'You're using big words, Galoman, sir,' Lidh said.

Galoman finished the tin and put it aside. 'I'm very sorry, Lidh. Well, we had a lot of bad luck. Just a few too many fights lost at the same time. Men started to be afraid, they thought the Kingdom had finally become too strong. And they started to run away more quickly.

'They ran for a long time, littl'un. But at Rene Ponit, they stopped running, because that's where the Sword was. It was a very bad time, so the Aisorbmian generals told all the men to try and pull it out. They knew that whoever pulled the Sword out would be able to turn the battle, start beating the Kingdom back. And all the Aisorbmii stepped
forward to try an' pull it out. But yer know what?' Galoman asked, leaning forward. Lidh shook her head, and tried to keep her eyes open. It was a long story and although she liked Galoman she didn't know if she liked the story.

'Well, all the Aisorbmii wanted to make sure the Sword was pulled out, so they could win. And the Kingdom didn't want 'em to pull it out, so they attacked to try and stop them. And all the Aisorbmii were fighting the Kingdom nobles, fighting very hard so all their friends could get a chance to pull it out.

'Lots of people died, but the Sword didn't come out of the Stone. Then at last the King said he didn't want to lose any more men. He said he wanted to go home and ignore all of us instead. He didn't have enough men with him to keep all the land he'd been taking, so they went all the way back home, and they started to rebuild. And we started to rebuild. We brought the Sword with us to all the places we'd lost, and the Kingdom just backed away. We just didn't have the people to keep fighting, so we stopped. The Long Fight was over, and the Years of Peace began.'

'Galoman,' Lidh said softly, 'I heard one of the boys say there would be more fighting soon. The Kingdom attacked one of our factories.'

'This peace hasn't been easy, Lidh. Some families still wanted to fight, and sometimes they did, but it never lasted long. Not enough wanted to do it at once, and none of 'em really did any damage when they tried so the rest of them didn't see the point. But now... now someone did it. Someone destroyed Anilomes. And all the Kingdom wants to fight, and all the Paladins want to fight back. We're all runnin' round near the precipice again.

'I want peace, Lidh. I want all the families to grow up, and 'ave children, and watch them grow up. And I think that's what the King wants too. So I sent a Ranger to him yesterday. 'Opefully we can talk before someone pushes us all over the edge, back into that abyss.'

Galoman looked back down at Lidh, who had pulled the blankets up to her face. 'I'm sorry, littl'un. Not a good story for bedtime, I think.'

Lidh looked into the twinkling old eyes. 'I liked it, Galoman. They all stopped fighting.'

'Yes, we did. But we haven't all lived happily ever after yet. And I hope we've got a long time before we ride into sunsets or whatnot.' He stood. 'You're a good listener, Lidh. I like you. Wish more of the Ministry was like you.'

'I like you too, Galoman. I'll try to sleep now,' she said.

'Good girl, Lidh,' he said, and he picked up the Sword in the Stone, and started to

carry it into the next room.

Suddenly there was a great whoosh, and the rafters and thatch started to rustle and creak, and then there was a great roar and the roof tore itself off the walls, and the walls started to fall, and Lidh screamed. She could see the stars, and the walls were ruined so she could see out and everyone could see in. Father came running into the room. 'Calm yourself, Lidh, it's all right, it's all right, calm down.'

'The eagles are descending!' screamed the man on Father's table.

'Quiet, Rekowar,' Galoman said. His arms were moving, and the Paladins were quickly moving to where he pointed. Then they saw a few lone figures running towards them from the grassland to the west, and some of the Paladins ran at them, and the others told their horses to run at them.

Lidh felt the wind move strongly and the Paladins and the horses were pushed aside quickly, all except Galoman who kept one hand on the Sword handle. There were two of them running towards him, one wearily waving his arms to push people aside, one with a sword in his hand. They looked very dangerous, but Galoman just lifted the Sword in the
Stone, and swung it like a club.

There was a crack, and both fell to the ground, and Lidh's chest really started to hurt. The Paladins got to their feet and started to look at the bodies, but they weren't moving. Galoman walked back towards the house.

'The eagles have landed,' he told Rekowar. Then he saw Lidh and ran to her, as Father held her hand and begged her to calm down. He was crying. 'Breathe, Lidh, breathe!' Galoman said.

The stars were pretty, she thought.

The second attack by nobles from the Kingdom had three casualties: The two nobles themselves, and Lidh, who finally died of heart infection. The Prime Minister was not happy about the attack, but the Paladins were pleased and all the Aisorbmii who heard of the attack were lifted by the victory.

And the King, when he heard, wasn't pleased either. But that is another episode, and we will learn more of this when we review the record of when the Ranger arrived in the Palace.

It's a long and twisted story, but with further research, we will find the answers.

The Next to the Custard


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