Castle Roland

Sword of Kings: Forged Out of Necessity

by Bill W


Chapter 17

Posted: 21 Jan 16

Sword of Kings: Forged Out of Necessity

by Bill W
Copyright © 2014 by billwstories


Beraut sat silently in his room, while diligently going over his journal in preparation for the Second Council of War. He had been carefully recording his notes about the lesser meetings he'd been holding with the various factions and races living within Tarolia. He did this so he would not forget any of the contributions they were offering to make. Now, he was mentally preparing himself for the all-important gathering that would be held later that evening by going over these written reminders.

Attentively, he perused the pledges he had solicited up to this point and carefully memorized the number of troops, support staff and types of supplies each group had offered. In addition to this, he also went over the strategies the various participants had agreed to support, as well as their suggestions concerning troop alignments. There were only a few hours left for the wizard to complete his preparations before this final meeting would be held, so he had little time to waste. It would be during this gathering when they would collectively finalize the plans to defeat Madumda's army and end his bid to become ruler of this fair land.

The wizard had been continually preparing for this moment, since the morning the others had set out for Thorold. Although he had other matters to occupy his mind before they left, a new set of obligations began shortly after they departed. Once the caravan of men passed through the main gate of Leander and they started out on their mission, the wizard had a new concern.

As soon as they moved away from the castle, Beraut shielded himself beneath an invisibility spell and ascended the multitude of stairs leading up to the top of the battlement. From that lofty perch, high above the castle's barbican, the wizard used his eagle-like vision to follow their progress. He watched every second of their travels, as they made their way to the ferry and were transported across the Silver River. He even followed their progress a little while longer, as they plodded westward and moved toward the southern reaches of the Amber Mountains.

Beraut only descended from this vantage point briefly and just long enough to bid farewell to the dwarf contingent, as they set out to join up with the others. Once the dwarfs passed through the castle's main gate, the wizard repeated his previous effort and remounted the stairs, as he made his way back to the same pinnacle he had used earlier. Using his extraordinary eyesight, he followed the progress of both groups, as they journeyed to their prearranged rendezvous location at the base of the Amber Mountains. Throughout the day, he monitored their headway and only discontinued his efforts when darkness prevented him from doing more.

That evening, Beraut's real work began. It was then that he held his first meeting in the Hall of Private Audiences, which was located on the ground floor of the same building in which he and the others were being housed. This meeting was with the dwarf and elfin leaders and would allow the wizard an opportunity to solicit their assistance in the war effort. Beraut had momentarily hesitated about having these two groups meet at the same time, but concluded that allowing them to compete with each other would be the best way to ensure their maximum support.

Even though the leaders of these races got along rather well with each other, some of the other representatives still harbored lingering racial distrust and doubted the intentions of the other group. It was due to these suspicions that the wizard seated the two delegations on opposite sides of the room, to minimize the tension. However, this gathering went smoothly – even better than the wizard had hoped. The dwarfs and elves were more than generous with their donations of personnel and supplies to the cause, which pleased Beraut enormously.

The dwarf king, Brolin, started things off by promising to provide three legions of warriors, who were among the best in the kingdom. These troopers excelled in the art of hand-to-hand combat, were adept with battleaxes, flails and short swords and were excellent marksmen with a crossbow. In addition to those skills, they were also renowned for their ability as trackers and scouts, especially in limited light. Their night vision, which had been made keen by many years of living underground, was second to none.

These hearty fellows were capable of making long, sustained marches that made troop movements more expeditious. It was due to these assets that the dwarfs were capable of covering more ground over the same period of time than any of the other fighting forces in the kingdom. The wizard was already pleased with this pledge, but there was more.

In addition to their fine troops, the dwarfs also offered a vast assortment of support personnel to the war effort. First, they would provide engineers and miners, who could plan and build defensive positions that were nearly impenetrable. These abilities would come in handy if the Tarolian Army eventually needed to take refuge and reorganize. Not only that, but these same dwarf professionals were also capable of planning the strategies needed to breach the defensive positions established by their enemies – positions designed to last indefinitely. These skills would be useful if Madumda tried to withdraw to Treblanc and seal himself inside, while he waited for reinforcements or devised a new strategy. If that were to happen, then the dwarf engineers would become a major factor in this conflict.

The dwarf king also offered the skills of his blacksmiths, who could produce or fix anything made of metal. These artisans could design a variety of wares, from deadly weapons on down to the smallest bolts. This would include such other items as horseshoes, the large metal coverings used to protect siege engines and the iron gears used to raise and lower the great gates of a fortress.

Finally, the dwarfs offered the services of their armorers, who were proficient at making some of the finest and most durable protective devices known to exist. Although the dwarfish armor was a bit heavier and slightly more cumbersome than the elfin variety, it was still highly sought after by the other races. It was also easier to procure than the chainmail made by their elfin counterparts and, therefore, in greater use.

Indeed, the dwarfs had donated much to this cause, but the elves were not about to be outdone. King Dylan, on behalf of the wood elves of Wildoness, agreed to provide one legion and two additional regiments of his forces to defend the kingdom. The two regiments would be comprised of foot soldiers, all of whom were expert with bow and arrow, as well as with the short sword. These fighters relied heavily upon both their keen senses and lightning reflexes when engaged in close combat.

The remainder of their forces, an entire legion, would be made up of members of the renowned elfin cavalry. In recent years, these troops spent most of their time patrolling the expansive borders of Wildoness, but they were also extremely skilled fighters. The cavalry depended on the mobility and speed of their smaller mounts to outmaneuver the larger, stronger horses used by the other races. These soldiers carried a light, sturdy lance and a short sword, but they were also quite adept at using their bows from horseback.

In addition to their fighting skills, elfin soldiers also made excellent scouts and sentries, since they were blessed with extraordinarily keen vision, astute hearing and a remarkable ability to detect even the faintest odors. The combination of these senses often allowed them to discover trespassers very quickly, even before the intruder was aware the elves were in the vicinity. These assets, when combined with the elfin gifts of stealth and concealment, made them unequalled as trackers or in carrying out reconnaissance missions.

Besides these military contributions, the elves also agreed to provide their armorers, whose reputation was well known. They also offered their fletchers, who designed and constructed perfectly balanced arrows and quarrels. On top of this, they'd provide the services of the elfin woodsmen, whose knowledge of the various trees and their uses were unsurpassed in the entire kingdom. These woodsmen also possessed a plethora of information concerning edible plants, as well as a vast array of knowledge about the selection and use of various herbs for medicinal purposes.

After King Dylan made his offerings known, Rombaire, Balaster of Eurielle, delineated his contributions on behalf of the river elves. He generously offered a legion of marching soldiers and a regiment of his elite guards. These forces would be added to those of his cousins, the wood elves, and would be placed under the same chain of command, for now.

In addition to these fighting forces, Rombaire also volunteered his merchant fleet's ships and crews, to transport troops and cargo as needed. The river elves were noted sailors and the advantage of being able to move certain items by water would add an element of speed, as well as safety, to such deliveries. This would be a valuable asset indeed and each of these groups left the meeting satisfied that they, as well as the other groups, were doing everything they could to support the kingdom.

With this first conclave now behind him, Beraut prepared for the second of his planning sessions, which would be held the following morning. At this gathering, he would confer with the leaders of the northern city-states. As it turned out, the wizard was required to use a great deal of statesmanship, just to keep peace between the various factions and prevent the meeting from disintegrating prematurely. Being as independent as they were, there was a great deal of infighting and bickering amongst the various representatives, even before the wizard sought to get things started.

Once those petty hostilities were under control, Eryk, the Thane of Akikta was the first to make his offer. "My people will donate our ships for transport and what food and other goods we can spare, along with two regiments of troops, if my northern neighbors will make a pledge of equal worth."

"Who are you to be telling us what we should do?" Myladen, Thane of Nardin, shot back. "Due to your trading abilities, you have far greater resources than the rest of us and we would be hard pressed to match your offer."

"Aye, and Mitiku hath less than either of thee," Aylwin, the Mitikuan thane announced.

"You both have sufficient resources to match our offer and I won't produce my pledge unless I'm convinced you will do the same," Eryk countered. This caused the three thanes to eye each other suspiciously, until Beraut broke the stand off.

"Let's start slowly," the wizard began, in an attempt to soothe the ruffled feathers. "Would each of you be able to offer at least two regiments of soldiers?"

After some discussion with their military leaders, who were seated beside them, each of the thanes finally agreed to provide that number of troops.

"Fine!" Beraut acknowledged, inwardly pleased with this small concession. "Now, Myladen, would you be willing to donate some of the metal made from the ore you mine in the Dragon's Head Mountains? We could then allow the other races to use it to produce weapons."

Once again, the Nardinian agreed, although not with a great deal of enthusiasm.

"And you, Aylwin," Beraut pressed. "Would your community be willing to donate food and possibly the use of some of your artisans, such as your armorers and blacksmiths?"

The other thanes eyed the Mitikuan with great distrust, as they waited for him to reply.

"Aye, that couldst be arranged," he concurred, "although I doubt it wouldst do thee much good. Our armorers are only familiar with the weapons and protective devices used by our troops. They whilst be of little use in dealing with weaponry or armor used by the other cities or races."

"Although I don't doubt they might have some difficulty dealing with the dwarfish or elfin items," Beraut agreed, "I think they would be able to manage with the devices worn by the other northern city-states and the rest of Tarolia."

"Untrue," Aylwin challenged, visibly flustered by the wizard's aggressiveness. "Our weapons are unique and each of us doth wear different forms of protection."

"Agreed, but they are similar enough that your tradesmen should be able to adjust," Beraut assured him. "Therefore, will you pledge their services?"

The wizard now stared at the Mitikuan leader, while awaiting his response. The other two thanes were intently doing the same.

"If that be what thou wishes," Aylwin conceded, gaining a nod of approval from his counterparts.

"Excellent!" Beraut acknowledged. "Next, will both of you," he added, while looking at both the Nardinian and Mitikuan leaders, "agree to supply wagons and the personnel needed to deliver these and other items. If you agree, this will offset the Akiktites seafaring duties?"

The two leaders eyed each other suspiciously, before glaring at their Akiktite counterpart. After a few uneasy moments, they turned back to answer the wizard.

"That wouldst be agreeable," Aylwin responded, followed by the Nardinian's reply.

"And we would find it acceptable as well," Myladen pensively acknowledged.

Beraut was pleased to see these leaders beginning to let go of some of their petty suspicions and quickly ironed out the details of their offers. The Nardinians promised a full regiment each of foot and horse soldiers, while the Mitikuans volunteered two regiments of men-at-arms and the Akiktites offered two mixed regiments of ground and mounted troops.

However, this negotiation was far from over. It was now time to delve into organizational strategies. When Beraut made a suggestion that all of these warriors should be combined as one fighting force, with a single chain of command, he faced their most strenuous and vocal objections.

"Impossible," screamed Loki, the Akiktite military leader. "We are far too different, both in tactics and weapons to be combined into a single army."

"Tis true," Nasrollah, the Mitikuan general agreed. "The very basis of our training and military philosophy doth vary drastically from that of our neighbors. It wouldst be impossible for us to become a single fighting unit."

Beraut listened patiently, before turning toward Hevel, the Nardinian general.

"And what is your impression concerning this?" the wizard pressed.

"I must agree with my esteemed counterparts," he confirmed. "I do not see any way our forces could possibly be joined together. As the others have suggested, our skills and tactics vary greatly, but the way we are structured differs drastically as well. I see no possible way we can unite for this venture. If you force us to combine as one army, you will jeopardize our effectiveness in battle. That means our troops would not perform at their best, which we could ill afford."

The wizard was absolutely brilliant as he neutralized their opposition to his plan. He skillfully produced counterarguments for each of their objections and pointed out the similarities in their tactics.

"I respectfully ask you to listen to what I have to say next and think about it carefully before you respond. Will you agree to do that much for me?" he began, and each of the thanes and their military leaders reluctantly nodded his consent.

"First of all, I understand there are differences in your equipment and battle strategies, but I don't see these as being insurmountable as the rest of you do," he stated. Almost immediately the various individuals began to object to the wizard's observation, but Beraut held up his hand and silenced them. "Please wait and listen to everything I have to say first."

Reluctantly, they did as he requested and paid close attention to what he said next.

"Each of your troops carry some sort of a sword, be it a falchion or broadsword. Is that not true?" Beraut continued, and they each grudgingly acknowledged the point.

"And all of your warriors also carries some sort of long-handled weapon, as well, whether it is a lance, poleax or pike. Correct?" he continued.

"Yes, but their uses are so varied," General Hevel protested. "You can't possibly consider them as being the same."

The other military men quickly chimed in their agreement with the Nardinian's comment, which mildly frustrated the wizard.

"We'll leave this for now and come back to it a little later," Beraut conceded. He then quickly reorganized his thoughts, as he sought to find a way to resolve this problem.

"Isn't it true that all of your soldiers also carry a bow?" he asked, in an attempt to reach consensus again. Once more the northerners reluctantly conceded this point, which made the wizard smile.

"Would you also agree that your troops wear some form of mail covering, either banded, plate or scale mail?" he continued. Again, they each nodded in response or uttered some brief positive reply.

"Fine. Now, let's go back to your long-handled weapons," the wizard continued. "Although some of these have the potential to be thrown, would you all agree that their primary use is for thrusting and attacking head on?"

After a few moments of debate, the various leaders grudgingly conceded this point.

"Then consider this," Beraut went on. "I've studied each of the various tactical practices your armies utilize and have assessed their underlying concepts. I have also determined that each of your philosophies is geared around a similar premise. They are all designed for warriors protected by mail coats and using a sword, bow and some sort of thrusting weapon. If we take out the few strategies that call for throwing the thrusting weapon, I believe there is enough common ground on which we could form a single, eclectic stratagem."

Immediately, the protests began anew and lasted for many minutes. However, the wizard kept hammering away at the various groups until he got them to start making even more concessions. After a great deal of discussion, much of it heated and on the verge of breaking out into small skirmishes, the leaders finally agreed upon a synthesized battle tactic. They also accepted a single, pyramidal organizational structure.

This arrangement placed the Mitikuan General, Nasrollah, as the Supreme Commander of this army. The Nardinian General, Hevel, and the Akiktite General, Loki, were named his immediate subordinates and primary advisors. From that point on, there was a crisscrossed chain of command, which linked the lesser officers and fighting troops. When all was said and done, it was agreed that this was a suitable compromise and a masterful stroke of diplomacy by the aged wizard.

That meeting had been so exhausting and demanding that Beraut nearly had to cancel his noon gathering with the leaders of the lesser cities of central Tarolia. However, no matter how fatigued he was from the previous session and despite his lack of preparation, Beraut managed to hold the meeting anyway. During this session, he met with the representatives of the coastal cities of Tiago and Reza and the river cities of Udele and Veleda. These communities were not as populated nor as powerful as Leander or Cassander, but neither were they as fiercely independent as the northern city-states. They were, however, deemed vital cogs in the war effort the wizard was fighting so hard to organize.

Even though each of these four cities was hard pressed to raise even a regiment of warriors for the effort, they willingly offered their total allegiance and support in standing against the Dark Lord. In the end, Tiago and Udele managed to offer a regiment and a half to the cause, while Veleda and Reza were only able to add a regiment each. The unit composition from each of these communities varied, but overall their forces were comprised of approximately half ground troops and half cavalry. As Beraut mentally added these contributions to those he had previously solicited from the other races, he began to wonder if it would be enough to stop the scourge that threatened them.

After that caucus ended, the wizard went back to his chamber and let his thoughts drift to Kieren and the other companions. Beraut was greatly concerned about their safety and wondered how much progress they had made during their journey toward Thorold. He immediately considered using his magic to observe them, while at the same time understanding he would have to be extremely cautious if he did so.

Beraut also knew he wouldn't be able to use as much of his supernatural power as he would have liked to perform this task, since it might alert Madumda about what he was up to. With that in mind, the wizard proceeded very carefully with his efforts. However, this cautious approach also hindered Beraut's ability to get a clear perception of what was taking place. He was able to determine the two groups had already joined forces, but was disappointed that it was about all he was able to discover.

Somewhat frustrated by his ineffectiveness, Beraut went about performing a few other tasks, until he began to ready himself for his next meeting. Just before he was to set out for this session, the wizard decided to make one final attempt to see how Kieren was doing. This time, the vague image he conjured up only served to alarm him and make his skin crawl.

Although it was only a hazy impression of what was happening, due to the fading light, Beraut was able to make out something monstrous looming up in the area where Kieren and the others were supposed to be. Although he couldn't make out the forms of any of the group near this enigma, it still troubled him greatly. Frantically, he tried to clear up the image, but was still unable to discern if this was a direct threat to their safety. As much as he wanted to find out more, he didn't dare attempt to sharpen the picture further, for fear of alerting the Dark Lord about what he was up to. He would just have to trust the skills of the warriors to protect everyone if there were problems.

This also made Beraut consider the possibility that there might be some foreboding significance to this vision. Even though he had not been able to conclude it was definitely a threat to their safety, could it possibly mean they had actually encountered a dangerous adversary? It was a very real possibility, but he could not be certain. Regardless of how concerned he was about the meaning of what he saw, the wizard found he now had to pay attention to other matters and was unable to dwell upon these thoughts for any length of time.

When he glanced out of the window in his room, Beraut observed the sun had slipped below the horizon and realized he had to get moving. There was another engagement planned shortly and he needed to prepare for it. Reluctantly, he put his concerns for the others aside, but made a mental note to try to learn more about their condition later.

Hurriedly, the wizard left his quarters and made his way to the last of the meetings with the splintered Tarolian groups. This dinner gathering was probably the most important of these sessions, because it involved the two major cities, Leander and Cassander, as well as the representatives from Tunstan. This would be the last of the individual caucuses the wizard would sponsor, and except for the tactical sessions, which was the final prelude to the joint Council of War.

It was during this meeting that Nathar, Steward of Leander, pledged two full regiments of infantry and another regiment of cavalry to the effort. He also promised a vast assortment of supplies and whatever support-staff the city and surrounding areas could provide. This included the services of numerous cooks, tailors, cobblers, leathersmiths, blacksmiths and healers, who would perform the duties necessary to support such an important campaign.

When the steward completed his offer, it was time for the Magistrate of Cassander to enumerate his city's contributions to the cause. To begin with, Magistrate Tristan swore the loyalty of two regiments of men-at-arms and one regiment of cavalry in defense of the country he loved so dearly. He also offered the services of various support personnel and a variety of supplies, adding his belief that 'Cassander would sacrifice much to defend the kingdom.' Beraut was still happily noting these pledges in his journal, when the next leader rose to speak. Phelan, Magistrate of Tunstan, was the last to make his offer of support to this joint effort.

"On behalf of my people, I pledge a regiment of foot soldiers to the battle," he began. Then, he stopped momentarily after making this announcement, as his chest puffed out with apparent pride. Finally, he continued.

"As most of you already know, Tunstan is of great strategic importance, due to its close proximity to Treblanc. This allows us to offer something far more valuable than any of the tangible donations the others have supplied. We are able to offer the cause strategic intelligence. I will personally supervise the collection and processing of the information concerning the Dark Lord's activities. This should more than make up for our lack of support with material goods and personnel."

At this point, Phelan paused for a minute, to let the others assimilate the meaning of his offer. He wanted to make sure everyone understood that even though his community didn't have a great deal to give in the way of men and supplies, the information they could provide about the enemy would more than make up for their lack of tangible assets. Once the others had grasped his innuendo, the Magistrate of Tunstan gave a smug, self-satisfied look, before he began to explain how this information would be gathered.

In great detail, he advised those in attendance about the various networks that had already been established to glean this information. He also made certain to emphasize the amount of effort and stealth it took to keep this intelligence up to date. Once this had been accomplished, he disseminated the data that had already been collected and was currently in his possession.

"According to our most recent reports," he informed them, "Madumda's forces consist of about ten full legions of troops in total. This includes five legions of gnomes, three of Merropites and two legions of mercenaries. The mercenaries are being used in many roles and currently a large number of them are being employed as spies, guards, escorts and assassins. A few of Madumda's troops are being housed at Treblanc, but the majority are bivouacked in an area near the mouth of the Devil's Horseshoe or around Hell's Gate." Those in the room looked impressed with this information, which gave the magistrate's ego an even bigger boost.

While Phelan had been speaking, the wizard was busy taking notes and adding up the figures the magistrate provided. He quickly finished these calculations and began to study them. Beraut was immensely relieved to discover the strength of the two armies were about the same, although it did appear that the Tarolian forces might have a slight edge in numbers. If this was accurate, it was an advantage the wily wizard dearly wished to cling to. Realizing the Tunstanese Magistrate was sharing even more information, Beraut refocused his attention upon what the man was currently saying.

"The weather in the area around Tunstan and Treblanc has been a bit unseasonable," Phelan continued. "There has been a considerable amount of precipitation falling across the upper plains and extending into the Citadel Mountains. This includes the Devil's Horseshoe as well and it has been like this for quite some time. In the upper reaches of the mountains the inclement weather has been coming down in the form of snow. That should not affect us in any way, unless it were also to happen on the lower slopes. Those studying this situation suggest there is no end in sight to this unfortunate circumstance, so I think it would be best if we are prepared to deal with it."

Beraut agreed, wholeheartedly, with the magistrate's comment and made a special note concerning this information in his journal. The wizard also tried to assess how the weather might affect the strategies he was considering using. He quickly realized this would drastically alter what he could do with the cavalry, since the soggy terrain and unsure footing would significantly reduce their maneuverability and effectiveness. Reluctantly, he accepted the notion that it would seriously limit their ability to make swift strikes and equally rapid retreats, which was something he had hoped to use to his advantage.

This led him to conclude that Madumda's army would be affected to a much lesser extent, since they had been reported to have fewer mounted troops. The greater disadvantage would fall upon the allies and remove a vital weapon from the wizard's arsenal. Beraut's only hope was that the rainfall would cease in advance of the battle and the surrounding area would dry out before the fighting began. Otherwise, the allies would have to lure Madumda's forces away from his stronghold and attempt to move the battle to drier ground farther south.

Regardless of the possible negative consequences this situation might bring about, the wizard was grateful for the insights that came with it. Although the weather report was quite foreboding, Beraut was sure this knowledge would give him a chance to adjust the battle plan or devise a backup strategy in time to defeat their opponent. The wizard also agreed the intelligence reports he had just been given were among the most vital assets he received thus far and could prove to be a key factor, if victory was to be achieved.

In spite of the drawbacks posed by the inclement weather, Beraut's spirits were lifted when he realized he had also gained another advantage. This was because he concluded he now had more information about Madumda's forces than his wayward brother had about the allied situation. The wizard silently prayed there had been no errors in the gathering, calculating or reporting either army's strengths. Such a mistake could easily translate into disastrous results for the allied cause.

Now that the last of these support conferences was concluded, Beraut turned his attention to the tactical sessions, which would fill the next couple of days. These meetings were planned with the collective military leaders of Tarolia, who would eventually be asked to direct this campaign. The wizard wanted them to be part of formulating the basic strategies they would follow once the battle started, because he knew this would be the best way to maximize their effectiveness. Beraut also understood that by involving them in the planning, it would help to ensure their acceptance of this amalgam of battle strategies and gain their cooperation in carrying it out. Otherwise, all of his other efforts would be for naught.

Before he went to bed that evening, Beraut decided he would attempt to check in on Kieren again. It took him a while to establish contact and he was immediately bothered by what he saw. The image he got was far from clear, but it did appear that the companions were together. What troubled him was the fact that everyone he could see seemed to be morose and extremely upset about something. The faint glow of moonlight allowed him to get a glimpse of a couple of their faces and the wizard didn't like what he read in their expressions. Besides that, Beraut was unable to account for each of the members of the party, which only caused him more alarm.

Although he tried not to jump to conclusions and panic, he wasn't exactly sure what any of this meant, especially when he added it to his earlier disturbing vision. The implication was terribly disconcerting and weighed heavily on his mind throughout the rest of the night.

Morning seemed to come too soon for Beraut and he felt far from rested when he arose. No matter how he felt personally, he knew there was a great deal of work that still needed to be accomplished, so he set about doing what he needed to get done. The strategy sessions he held that day did not produce a tactical plan that everyone would agree to, but the effort did make the day pass by quickly. Although the meetings were not totally effective, they did elicit a modicum of progress. Beraut felt he might have accomplished more, had he been better rested, but the information he gained would definitely help him with the remaining meetings.

Although he was still concerned about Kieren's safety, as well as the welfare of those with him, Beraut understood he had to put his own well-being first. Following that line of reasoning, the wizard did not bother to try to check in on the travelers that evening, for fear it would only cause him another sleepless night. Instead, he went to bed early, and the next morning he awoke refreshed and ready to face the challenges that awaited him.

The sessions he held the second day were just as long and taxing as the previous day. Once again, the various factions were unable to reach a consensus on a strategy, even though Beraut prodded each group into making a few more, minor concessions. The wizard felt they were on the verge of a solution now and closer than they had ever been before. He also understood there was still more to be accomplished before this would finally happen. Even though he was upset that this was going to interfere with his schedule and time was running short, Beraut was forced to allow the tactical meetings to spill over into a third day.

That night, the wizard spent his free time pouring over his notes, trying to find a way to ease everyone's concerns. He had to come up with a strategy that would be effective, yet acceptable to everyone involved. He stayed up very late working on this and his body was beyond the point of exhaustion when he finally fell asleep. He wasn't sure how long he had been slumbering when he bolted upright in his bed, awakened by something totally unexpected. He had just sensed the use of magic and was fairly positive it hadn't come from Treblanc.

After focusing his undivided attention to locate the source of the outburst, Beraut concluded the magic had to have been released by Kieren's medallion. This made him wonder what could have happened to make his ward use it, especially at this particular moment. Kieren knew its activation might also alert Madumda to his existence and current location, so he knew he wouldn't have used it needlessly. Hopefully, the discharge wasn't powerful enough to have reached Treblanc, but whatever had provoked its use greatly concerned Beraut.

The wizard tried his best to focus on what was happening at Kieren's location, but it was very dark and all he could make out was a small shaft of light splitting the blackness. Beraut wasn't sure what the source of this illumination was or why he could see only that one detail and nothing else, but he didn't have long to consider the options. At that moment, he was startled by a loud knock on the chamber door.

The wizard quickly got out of bed and opened the portal, only to discover the servant who came by each morning to rouse him. Beraut was mildly confused, since he wasn't aware it was so late already. The attendant quickly informed him that everything was ready for his first meeting to begin in an hour, but he still had time to get ready and enjoy a decent breakfast first. Although Beraut wanted to concentrate on Kieren's situation further, he understood he had to deal with the business at hand. For that reason, he hesitantly let his attention shift away from the travelers and went to clean up and get dressed. As he ate his morning meal, Beraut was busily trying to put the finishing touches on an idea he hoped would finally gain the acceptance of all the delegates.

During this final strategy session, Beraut performed at his diplomatic best, even though it was obvious to those who knew him well that something was amiss. Whenever there was a slight lull in the proceedings, King Dylan and Balaster Rombaire would compare their observations and make conjectures about what might be bothering their aged friend. They knew they would eventually have to try to find out what was troubling him, but agreed they would wait for a more appropriate time before confronting the wizard.

Throughout the remainder of the morning and afternoon, the wizard subtly guided the various factions toward a final tactical solution. At times it was obvious that his other concerns nearly made him lose patience with the bickering delegates, but he managed to control his temper long enough to continue the negotiations. If he had verbally assaulted any of them for their actions, it most certainly would have undermined his chances of being successful, so he used every ounce of self-restraint he possessed to keep that from happening.

The old arbitrator skillfully maintained his composure and used every trick at his disposal in a last-ditch effort to end this dreadful deadlock. As evening drew near, the different parties began to reluctantly yield to Beraut's superior arguments and statesmanship until they eventually agreed on a formal battle plan. Seeing the tactical sessions were at long last concluded, the wizard had only one more meeting to prepare for – the Second Council of War.

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