The Commander

   in his own words.

"It's not about winning or losing, it's about removing the obstacle and moving onto the next objective. What the obstacle is, whoever it may be, is irrelevant. The same applies to whatever needs to be done to remove the obstacle. If it requires a death, then however regretful that may be, death will be the solution I apply. I'm Commander Vartii, by the way. I command the garrison here at Setergard, a former religious centre at the gateway to the Vale of Olrad. Ah, you're wondering about what possible lessons life has taught me to make me so cold. You'll understand that I don't see this as a problem, others may see it that way, but in my position it's an advantage. My authority here at Setergard is absolute. It was granted to me by the Saratarian order in the name of our god Saranythia. I was chosen for the role because of the very qualities I've just described. I like to believe that I'm fair minded but firm. I certainly don't have a problem with discipline which I take as confirmation that my approach to command works.  A command that I've held for over eighty years, far longer than any other commander before me, and I might add, more successful. As a result, the townsfolk in Olrad refer to the warriors here as The Varton. But, I digress.

Life's lessons. Well I suppose my journey to the position of commander started early. I must have been around eight years old when I learned that life really isn't fair, and that the only person who was going look after my interests, was me. As you can see, I'm strong but physically quite small and slight, not really warrior material. When I was a child my stature was a major disadvantage, especially given the rough games we played. It's around that age that we learn to block our thoughts to others. You can't win any game if your opponents all know what your next move is. Of course at eight years old the older kids can easily bypass your attempts to block them. Things improve with time, but in these matters, practice does not always make perfect. Now I know what you're thinking, the ever popular life lesson of older boys picking on me because they could, and that did happen, but there were only five of them, and they didn't necessarily single me out, they were quite liberal with their attentions. No, the event that set me on the path to commander centred on a songbird.

In the town of Olrad where I grew up, life centred on the worship of Saranythia, and the word of the Red Friars of the Saratarian order was law. Now, long story short, my father had promised to buy me a caged songbird from the market and I'd gone into the house of worship to give thanks to Saranythia. While I was in there I overheard two Friars talking. They mentioned the name Amantarra and I thought it would be a good name for the bird I'd been promised. As I was leaving, one of the Friars asked what I'd been giving thanks for, so I told him and mentioned the name I'd chosen. Now I'd seen anger before, but this was different. His voice was controlled, and physically he didn't touch me, but his thoughts hit me and knocked me off my feet. He told me that Amantarra was a sacred name known only to the Saratarian order and I should forget I'd heard it. Of course my father refused to buy the bird for me as a punishment for angering the Friar, but that unfair decision wasn't what changed me. The powerful thoughts the Friar assailed me with caused me to instinctively throw up mental defences that normally take decades to learn. That wasn't all, I struck out at the Friar with my mind in an attempt to stop the onslaught that threatened to overwhelm me. At that age my attack should have been ineffectual against a trained Friar, but it wasn't, it worked and I managed to deflect his anger onto my father. The result of that, was no songbird.

It took me years to work out how I'd done it. All members of the Saratarian order, like the warriors I command, carry a blue orb in their abdomens. The orb links us to the power of Saranythia and confirms our commitment to her. As I'd thrown up my defences I sensed the power of the Friar's orb, and through it I could sense the Friar. Instinctively, and it was pure instinct, what I'd done was to use the link and the orb's power to deflect the Friar's attention onto my father. It was the discovery of that ability changed me, because after, I found I could influence anyone. As a result, I never lost another game, or fight, and the three bullies who survived my revenge learnt to avoid me and the fear I could inject into their thoughts. To this day I regret the two deaths, they were after all only a couple of years older than me, still children, but I suppose some people just can't cope with being shown their own nightmares."

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© 2019 by Richard J Galloway.