Paragon Of Destruction 328 Imperial Politics
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Captain Kaleesh glanced at the approaching soldiers, a frown on his face. "Keep going," he said after a moment. "And whatever happens, remain calm."
Arran felt anything but calm, but he did as the captain said, continuing onward at a steady pace. Whatever was about to happen, rashness could only make matters worse.
As the group of soldiers came closer, he realized they hadn't been the only ones who noticed what was happening. A group of soldiers had broken off from Lord Kadun's forces as well, and they were now rus.h.i.+ng over, too.
Yet Lord Rannoc's forces were the first to arrive, and at their head was a tall woman. She had dark hair and cruel eyes, and from her belt hung a starmetal sword.
"Halt!" she commanded as she approached Captain Kaleesh. "What is the meaning of this? Where are you taking these men?"
"We accepted a contract with Lord Kadun," the captain replied. He spoke in a calm voice, and although he made no attempt to further provoke the woman, there was no fear to be seen in his eyes.Find authorized novels in Webnovel，faster updates, better experience，Please click for visiting.
The woman looked at him with a mixture of fury and astonishment. "All of you?"
From the look she gave the mercenaries, it was obvious that she recognized them as Body Refiners. And equally obvious was that the mere thought of relinquis.h.i.+ng hundreds of Body Refiners to Lord Kadun nearly drove her mad with rage.
"Is that a problem?" Captain Kaleesh asked. He spoke in a friendly tone as he faced the woman, his expression relaxed despite her anger.
It was the wrong question. In an instant, the woman moved forward, her fist ramming into the captain's stomach. And as he went sprawling to the ground, her hand shot to the starmetal sword at her side.
Yet before she could draw the weapon, an outraged voice sounded.
"Jala! What do you think you're doing!?"
Lord Kadun's steward had arrived just in time, with nearly fifty soldiers behind him. And from the look in their eyes, all of them were ready for battle.
The woman calmed down at once, the rage disappearing from her face in an instant. "Payam," she said in a contemptuous tone. "You thought you could steal these men for your master? Right from under my nose?"
The steward faced her with a determined expression that nevertheless held a hint of worry. "Where they go is no business of yours," he said. "They accepted my master's offer, as is their right."
"And you think I would just let that happen?"
Though the woman spoke in an icy voice, Arran did not fail to notice that her hand was still on the hilt of her sword. And behind her, her soldiers seemed ready for battle as well, with more than a few even looking eager for it.
For several moments, the two groups faced each other silently, with the tension in the air around them so thick Arran thought a battle could erupt at any moment.
But then, another group arrived — a hundred camp guards, led by the guardswoman who'd welcomed Arran to the camp.
"Stand down, both of you!" the guardswoman called out, though there was more than a trace of worry in her voice. As she approached, she shot an exasperated look at Captain Kaleesh, who was only just getting back to his feet.
Arran knew the captain had allowed himself to be knocked down, however. When they sparred, he had attacked the man far more forcefully, and with far less to show for it. But it seemed the captain preferred to hide his strength, at least for the time being.
Lord Rannoc's steward — if that was what she was — gave the guardswoman a scornful look. "Kadun's lackey claimed all these Body Refiners for himself. Why did you allow this?"
The guardswoman hesitated in answering, reluctance clear in her eyes. "It's not my decision to make," she said. "I cannot control the outsiders' choices."
"Nonsense!" the hard-faced woman replied. "They're mere outsiders! And you'd risk creating a rift in the Imperium over their choices?"
Yet as the guardswoman sought the words to reply, more groups arrived, their curiosity drawn by the open confrontation. There were three separate groups from the crafters' guilds, and another from the priests. And although they kept a distance of several dozen paces, they looked on with great interest.
Lord Rannoc's delegate looked at the newly arrived groups, and as she did, a small smile formed on her face.
"Everyone!" she called out. "Kadun's servant has tried to swindle us all, claiming the Body Refiners for himself before any of us had a chance to even look at them. I propose a compromise — we divide them equally." She cast a look at the guardswoman. "Surely the Imperium would benefit from keeping the peace?"
Relief flashed across the guardswoman's face. "Such a compromise seems fair," she said. "Especially if it prevents needless conflict."
As Arran looked at the groups of newcomers, he could see a spark of greed in their eyes. Clearly, they welcomed the idea of recruiting a few dozen Body Refiners as well.
But at that moment, Captain Kaleesh spoke up. Turning his eyes to the group of priests that was standing a few dozen paces away, he called out, "Most revered teachers, may I call upon you for your wisdom?"
A ripple of confusion went through the crowd around him. Yet after a moment, one of the priests stepped forward — a heavy-set man in immaculate white robes, with a face that showed just a trace of satisfaction for being called upon.
"Certainly, my child," he said. "What is it you wish to know?"
"As refugees to the Imperium, come to seek the favor of the G.o.ds," the captain said, his voice suddenly filled with reverence, "is it not our right to choose our own path? To choose how we wish to earn our status as citizens of the Imperium?"
The priest remained silent for a moment. Then, a flicker of amus.e.m.e.nt in his eyes, he said, "Indeed it is so. All those who come to us in good faith are free to choose their own path — so long as they wish to earn the G.o.ds' favor."
Captain Kaleesh gave the man a polite bow. "Then my men and I choose to accept Lord Kadun's offer."
"No!" The woman representing Lord Rannoc faced the priest with red-faced outrage. "This is unacceptable!"
The priest returned her gaze, some mockery in his expression. "Do you wish to oppose the church, my child?"
"I…" The woman looked as if she was about to speak, but then, her expression pained, she shook her head. "Of course not," she said, her voice trembling with the effort of restraining her fury. "But should they not each choose for themselves? Surely one man cannot speak for all of them."
Captain Kaleesh smiled. Then, he suddenly turned toward the mercenaries, and in a loud voice, called out, "Wolfsblood Company! All those who wish to remain with me say 'aye'!"
"Aye!" The answer was instant, two hundred mouths speaking as one.
The captain turned back to Lord Rannoc's delegate, and said, "It seems my people agree with my decision."
The woman looked at him with impotent fury, her brow furrowed as she tried to find another objection. But before she could, the priest spoke up.
"The matter is settled, then." The priest gave the woman a mocking smile, then continued, "These Body Refiners have chosen to accept Lord Kadun's offer. Whether they have chosen correctly, only the G.o.ds know."
Without waiting for a response, he turned around and began to head back to the priests' camp, with the others in his group following behind him.
The groups from the crafters' guilds looked displeased with the situation, but within moments, they departed as well.
That left only the guards, the two groups of soldiers, and the mercenaries. And with a pained face, the guardswoman said, "The matter has been decided." She looked at Lord Rannoc's representative, then said, "Please, do not blame us for this matter."
The hard-faced woman looked at her with an expression that made it clear the plea would go unheard. But then, the woman glanced at Captain Kaleesh and Lord Kadun's steward, and in a low voice, she said, "You will pay for this."
Lord Kadun's steward did not respond. Instead, he silently watched as the woman and her soldiers retreated to their camp. Only when he was confident they would not return did he turn to Captain Kaleesh.
"There will be trouble," he said.
"Perhaps," the captain replied. "So we should not linger here. I a.s.sume your troops are ready to depart?"
The steward nodded. "We'll make our final preparations right away."
Finally, the captain turned to the guardswoman. "I thank you for your a.s.sistance," he said, giving her a friendly smile.
She responded with a cold stare. "Just get out of here."
The captain gave her a small nod, and moments later, the group of mercenaries was heading toward Lord Kadun's forces once more.
"Remember this," the captain said to his commanders. "The Imperium bows to its lords, but in these lands, the church bows to no one."
Lasha cast a look at Lord Rannoc's forces in the distance. "When that b.i.t.c.h hit you, I d.a.m.n near put my sword through her throat."
The captain shrugged. "You may get the chance for that yet," he responded. "And perhaps sooner than you think."
Paragon Of Destruction 328 Imperial Politics
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Paragon Of Destruction 328 Imperial Politics summary
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