~ Chapter IV ~

The wrangling was done. The word spread swiftly that there would be a grand assembly. The largest courtyard filled, for no one wished to miss this meeting. This was where they would shape their future.

All who were not standing guard were there. They stood in silence, gazing up at the raised stone in the centre, as Faltip, the young charismatic warrior who had led them in battle, climbed it and faced the waiting crowd.

The whole circular courtyard was packed shoulder to shoulder, from the foot of the stone to the walls of the bluff that rose high above them. The bridges and doorways that opened onto the courtyard were filled as well. The people had gathered in groups, as the more powerful of each profession were joined by those they had led.

Faltip stood for a moment looking out at the crowds, pride on his face, before he addressed them. His first words brought cheers. They would be keeping the city. They no longer fit in with the people that were now being called their cousins. He waited for the cheers to subside before he spoke again. The stratified caste structure that had marked their people was the first thing stripped away. All would be equal, he proclaimed. No more would caste determine who could speak to whom; no more would caste determine who could do a task, or take up a trade.

There were murmurs, but this had been anticipated. For were they all not touched by the hand of Marr? Were they all not Chosen? Surely, they were all equal. This shift in perceptions had been begun before they had ever left the cavern-city of Guk.

The castes were reformed as those who followed each of the life-paths – warrior, priest, shaman, Sword, and wizard – were asked to choose one among them to lead them. Most choices were clear. “We will have Grubbus!” the Shinta cried, nearly in one voice, and the older Sword nodded gravely as he accepted. “Gloorg is our choice,” the priests spoke. “The first of the Korta! The Master of the New Kor!” Gloorg blinked, then looked down humbly, and bowed before their acclaim. “M’jou leads us,” the Jinta declared. “She will be our Master.” The pale blue froglok started, and stared at the others around her, who cheered her. She lowered her eyes, but said nothing.

The Yunta were in deep discussion, and the object of their attention shook his head in denial. “We will have Perrit!” they proclaimed, but the older shaman stood up, still shaking his head. “No. I will not. There is another call for me. I am not to be your Master. Choose another.” He turned towards the one who stood on the stone.

“You are not done yet. There are at least two castes that must yet be.” His wise eyes held those of the warrior, and Faltip nodded slowly.

“You are correct. And we, too, know that you are called. You will not wear the title of Yun Master. You are the first of the Talta. And you alone will choose who will join you on that path.” The new Yun fell silent, as they absorbed this.

Perrit nodded. “I will. I have had a dream of where our young will be born. It will not be finished this year, but by next year, we will have a good start on it. For now, I will choose a few to come with me, to help me prepare. There less than a moon before the time of mating is on us.” He climbed the stone beside the leaders, and pointed, calling out names. Slowly, they moved to gather below him. “You are the new Tal. And it will be you who shape the lives of our children.” He nodded to the leaders behind him, and climbed down again, to join the ones he had chosen.

“Who will lead you, Yunta? Who will be the new Yun Master?” The discussion had begun again, and Faltip waited patiently. At last the shamans reached a decision, and stepped apart. “We will have Arglug. Arglug will lead us.” The young shaman started, and stared at the others, who nodded at him. “He has wisdom beyond his years.” Arglug bowed slowly, still stunned, but accepting of the choice of his peers.

“What of you, Darta?” Faltip asked the warriors. “Who leads you?”

“You do!” the echoing cry returned. “Faltip leads us!”

Faltip shook his head. “I, too, have another calling. As do several others here. We must maintain a standing army. We must keep vigilant, for the trolls will return, and we must be ready to defend what we have taken.” He looked out at the suddenly silent crowd. “You all are the army of Gukta. New Guk. So we have named this place, so will it remain… so long as you stand strong. This Outpost of Marr will not fall again into darkness!” Murmurs arose, and Faltip looked over the crowd. He smiled at what he saw. “To this end, we will create another of the castes that must be. We will be the Gaz, taken from the leaders of the army of our cousins. As the Gaz led there, so will we lead here. And I will lead the Gaz here… with the aid of Giidib, who will be my co-leader. We will also need some others.” Like Perrit, he pointed out at the crowd, and called names. “Glooso. Lonnip. Foppis. Nosigg.” One by one, they came to join him, as he scanned the crowd for the final face he sought. “And Grägok.”

Grägok straightened, and stepped forward proudly to join them. He was pleased, and yet, some part of him was disappointed. He had hoped that he might be chosen to lead the new Dar. He had been of the Dar, in old Guk. His old caste. He shook his head. At least he was still a part of the army. He didn’t know what he would do with himself if he ceased to be a soldier. It was all he had known. He was much older than the others, though, and suspected that his duties would become mostly administrative, as well as advisory.

He would certainly be busy, though, as they tallied their stores and worked out strategies to defend what they had conquered. His own eyes swept over the crowd, and he nodded as he found the figure of Guib, the strategist whose plans had shaped their attack. Guib would be busy, as well, he predicted.

Perhaps when these first weeks were over, when they had begun to settle, he could think of other things. Involuntarily, his eyes sought the Jinta. The wizards were in the midst of another discussion, and he picked out the graceful form of M’jou. Almost, he took a step towards her, but caught himself in time.

Not now. When they were done, there would be time to talk. Time to see if she felt as he did. He turned resolutely back to watch the Darta, as they proclaimed Griblok as their leader. Grägok nodded. Griblok was strong, and would make a good Master. And Griblok was much younger than he was, and would be able to hold his position for a great deal longer, before needing to retire. That would be good for the warriors. They needed consistency.

M’jou looked up as she heard Grägok’s name called out, watching the warrior square his shoulders, and step forward. His expression was one of pride that he was so called, and she smiled to see him happy.

The smile faded, as she thought about her own position. She had no real aptitude for leadership, and worried about what would come. She looked around at the faces of her peers, and sighed to herself.

She would do the job for now. She did have a good organisational ability, and she could bring that to bear until they were set up, and another wizard could step in to replace her. If she were lucky, she could get away with only a few months in the position. She looked around at the others, and nodded to herself. Sergug was every bit as powerful as she was, and far more able at leading. He was very young, though. It would be a trick to make the others see him as a leader. She would have to think on it. Perhaps a gradual shift towards him would work.

With only half an ear, she listened to the discussion that was beginning around her, for the others of her new caste – was it truly a caste, or were they calling it that for convenience? – were already thinking on to the sharing of magicks. She shushed them, for Faltip had begun to speak again.

She nodded as the crowd grew silent at his next words, then cheered. For the others, all those who did not fall into one of the specific professions or other, were proclaimed as one people, one caste. And no caste, no matter its profession, would be higher than another. All were equal, truly. A council would be set up, with each the leader of each caste – each profession – being a part. All would have their say, and the council would rule the new city. With that proclamation, the assembly was done, and the people – the Zok – began to talk amongst themselves as to how to select a body that would represent them.

M’jou was not interested in those discussions, save as an intellectual exercise. The council, however, would fit well within her plans. She turned, and spoke to the wizards gathered around her, exercising her new authority, and proclaimed Sergug her proxy to the council. She would have enough to do for the next while.

Murmurs of agreement followed this decision, and Sergug bowed low before her. She nodded to him, and turned again to look towards the raised stone platform, but the Gaz that had stood at its foot had disappeared.

M’jou turned to scan the crowd, and felt a pang of disappointment. She had hoped to be able to speak to Grägok. She stifled the loneliness that swept through her again. It was already becoming all too familiar.

She scanned the crowd again and sighed. With Grägok being one of the few who were of the new-made Gaz, the general would no doubt be as busy – or more – as he had been when preparing for the battle. Even if she managed to catch his attention, he would likely have little time to socialise.

She turned back to the wizards – now beginning to argue – and squelched them. With a firm voice, she herded them off to a convenient empty building, to hold their meeting there.

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