Chapter 8 — One Tragedy Leads to Another

“You are a Greenwarden,” Kallen shouted, “not a Rider. These men report to you. You stand in front.”

What? Lewellyn tried to imagine standing in front of these men, as if to mind them until Kallen arrived. The youngest was five years her senior, the smallest a head taller than her. Meden loomed so high he could probably break her back with a stomp like she was a common rat. If she had behaved with such gall, would Zad have pacified him so easily? Would he have wanted to? Kallen still glared at her, and she stood and faced the men. Beneath his feathery headdress, Meden’s eyes once more took their murderous tone.

Kallen seemed oblivious. He berated the riders while Lew tried to disappear into a corner. “Your job is to keep people out of the forest. When they get in the forest, you chase them back out. Do exactly what the Gryphons used to do. Fly in, make noise, scare them away. If they keep coming, then you engage. Fight them, kill them, do whatever you have to. The goal is for them to go away.”

“Yes, High Greenwarden,” the riders agreed.

“The goal is never to capture them and bring them here.”

“No, High Greenwarden.”

“You do not take them prisoner.”

“No, High Greenwarden.”

Meden crossed his muscular beak-decorated arms. “I don’t rightly know how we’re supposed to know all this, High Greenwarden. You never did give us any orders.”

Kallen hissed, “Don’t be an imbecile, Barbarian. Your orders are implicit. Your job is to be like the Gryphons. The Gryphons don’t take prisoners.”

Zad spoke out of the corner of his mouth, glancing at Lew. ”Shall we kill and eat young mamas and their lil’ babies while we’re at it, High Greenwarden?”

Lew’s heart froze in her chest as a titter of uncomfortable laughter washed over the room. Kallen’s face, already distorted in anger, became a mask of rage. He lifted his staff and pounded it into the ground. The resulting shockwave pushed all the seated riders back an inch. Lew lost her balance and had to brace herself against the log wall as Francis went flying off of her shoulder to latch onto it, where he stayed, shivering. Lew knew Kallen had pulled his punch because it was only Meden’s silly headdress that had flown off and hit the wall behind him, not the entire band of twelve riders and their seats. She shuddered to think what would have happened to her less than a pace away.

“Are there any other orders I need to make clear?” Kallen asked his cowering reports. The room was silent. No one met his eye.

If this mollified Kallen, he didn’t show it. “If you understand what’s expected of you, then this meeting is done. Clear out.”

Lew pried Francis’s small, furry body off the wall and turned to leave with the riders, but Kallen grabbed her arm. “You stay.”

Lew restrained herself from wrenching out of Kallen’s grip. She stood until he released her. He glanced out the door and pulled the shutters on the windows. Then he looked under benches and up into the rafters for rats. He turned to Lew and whispered. “We have a problem.”

This was too much. Lew didn’t scream, but she hissed. “I’m doing the best I can. Just leave me be and you’ll see how fast I can get my work done.”

Kallen shook his head. “Lewellyn, everything isn’t always all about you.”

“What are you talking about? Please just let me go. I’ll go study, I’ll be good.”

“Lewellyn, stop. For once, you are not the problem. A stranger has entered Pando, and we need to decide what to do about it.”

“We?”

“As the Greenwardens of Candon it is our responsibility.”

Lew blinked. “Ok, so what are we going to do about it?”

“To protect Pando’s secrets, we have to kill him.”

“Ok.” Lewellyn shrugged. Kallen raised his eyebrows at that, but she didn’t know why. What did this have to do with her?

“The problem is that he is a prisoner, so we would not be killing him on the field of battle, or letting the Gryphons do it, we would be executing him.”

Lew tapped her foot, wishing Kallen would just make his decision instead of giving her a lecture on nothing.

When he saw he would not get more response, Kallen continued, “Long ago, the people of Pando fought among each other, and the book of laws started as a set of rules to limit the damage we did to each other. One of the earliest codes in the book of laws prohibits execution of prisoners.”

Lew didn’t see the problem. She had read the summary of the accords in her history book, so she tried to move the conversation along. “But that only applies to Pandoans, not strangers.”

Kallen’s face softened. “So you are listening. I think we should add the book of laws to your reading list. It’s critical for a Greenwarden to know the rules of war.”

Lew felt sick at the idea of reading another monstrous tome of archaic scribbles and regretted speaking up. Kallen continued, “The book of laws does not distinguish between Pandoan and stranger.”

Lew felt sorry for this old man wedded to old, useless laws that all seemed dedicated to keeping dangerous things alive so they could continue to cause mischief. Father would be able to help, though. “Change the law,” she said with a shrug.

 Kallen’s face dropped, and for an instant, Lew saw a different side of him. Not just anger, but sadness. What could Kallen possibly be sad about? “How one tragedy leads to another,” he mumbled, shaking his head. “I cannot imagine a better solution myself. I had hoped that your young mind might prove more nimble.” 

Lew said nothing. Changing the law was exactly what her nimble young mind had come up with. The history of Pando was littered with corpses, and now Kallen was fretting over some stranger’s? Was this stranger more important than Lewellyn’s mother and the other victims the Gryphons might take at any moment? More important than the lives that the knowledge he had stolen may imperil? Perhaps the old man was going senile.

“Very well, I shall summon the Council of Elders, and we shall…”

Kallen stopped to choose his words carefully. “I shall petition them to add a limited addendum to the ancient laws to cover this unforeseen circumstance.”

“Uh-huh,” Lewellyn agreed. “May I go now?”


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By Sam Munk

Science fiction and Fantasy author with a focus on philosophical inquiry and character-driven drama.

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