Profile on the Commander
In all of the centuries since the bombs fell, those that were able to live on the ground struggled for survival, warring with the harsh environment, the brutal mutated creatures, and the monstrous men in the mountain, but no other enemies were as vicious as each other. As the clans evolved over the generations, tribal wars were a constant threat and wars were frequent and repetitious. Those on the ground seemed to be doomed to the endless cycle of violence, but all of that changed when Narin, Queen of the Azgeda, assassinated Heda Ryne, the Commander of the Trikru, seven years before the Skaikru ’s Ark rained down from the sky.
When Ryne’s spirit chose the new Commander, none would have predicted the girl he chose would have survived past her first year. Not only did she survive, but she led the Trikru to victory after victory against the other clans, uniting each clan under her command. After years of bloody battles and cunning negotiations, she even brought the mighty Azgeda to their knees swearing fealty to her rule. To some, she was a visionary. To others, a tyrant. Regardless, her ruthless tactics in both war and diplomacy brought in an era of unprecedented peace and cooperation between the coalition of clans she united under her rule.
Instead of fighting each other, she forged her Alliance of the 12 Clans into a thousands strong force with a common focus—destroy the Maunon —the Men in the Mountains. For 2 years the Alliance fought against the Maunon.. Fought, but could not break the mountain.
Then came the people from the sky. Their numbers were small at first. Less than 100, and children seemingly without purpose or ability to fend for themselves. However, no sooner had the invaders fallen from the sky than they began to cause problems. Small skirmishes at first: the scavenging of supply caches, the blindly wandering into Maunon territory invoking the fury of the mountain and leading to a ripa attack on a nearby village, and eventually the capture and torture of another village’s scout.
After that, the skirmishes increased in frequency and intensity. When the Skaikru destroyed half a village with flames from the sky and attacked one of her generals, killing almost 3 score of the warriors in the area, the Commander decided the children from the sky needed to be eradicated. At the request of aid from one of the clan leaders, she sent 300 of her strongest warriors to destroy the 73 children, the 73 goufa that had invaded her lands.
The destruction of the Skaikru children should have been an easy victory. Though their ways and weapons mimicked those of the Maunon in many ways, the Skaikru had no mountain to hide in, no poison fog to keep her army at bay, and only children wielding their weapons. Instead, she lost all 300 of her warriors, including the clan leader and two generals, and watched from her capitol as the night erupted in flames when more and more Skaikru rained down from the sky. Having already underestimated their battle skills once, and wary of the increasing number of this new threat, when so few had brutally slaughtered 300 of her finest, the Commander considered how to deal with these people from the Sky.
After a Skaikru warrior massacred 18 unarmed men, women, and children in one of the Trikru villages, the Commander could no longer allow their trespasses to go unanswered. Just as she readied her army to erase this threat to her people once and for all, her men captured two of the Skaikru generals. Disguised as a crippled servant girl, the Commander observed the generals as they held a test of wills against each other.
One sought the preservation of their people through forging a peace with her people. The other saw her kind as savages and did not want to put down the sword. The first general spoke of his people’s desire for peace much like Luna of the Floudongeda advocated for her people to join the Alliance without bloodshed. The second general reminded her of Narin, Queen of the Azgeda, who bowed her knee only after her armies were decimated and she, herself, was held at the end of the Commander’s sword. She learned much from listening to the generals argue. Unlike her people, they seemed to have no capacity to hold their own secrets.
She learned that the name of the Skaikruheda that the generals took orders from was Abi. She learned that this Abi the generals answered to was not the one her men called Skaiprisa, the one that burned 300 of her warriors in a ring of fire. The Skaiprisa that defeated her finest men with her army of yongons was a girl only slightly younger than herself, a warrior who had since vanished along with the rest of the Skaikru children her army had failed to destroy. She also learned that the Skaikru yongons had tried to retreat before her army attacked. Had they been allowed to leave instead of forced to fight, hundreds of her people would still be alive. The innocents in TonDC would still be alive. When she had learned enough of her new enemies, she made her decision.
She brought the might of 5000 warriors to surround the Skaikru village, demanding their immediate surrender and exodus from Alliance lands. She expected that the Skaikruheda would withdraw her people immediately. They were outnumbered more than 5 to 1 and had no hope of surviving should her army attack, even with their guns and bombs. She did not expect them to send to send a girl to her camp to seek an audience. She did not expect the girl to be the vanished Skaiprisa.
She did not expect the Skaiprisa to boldly request to join her Alliance, nor could she envision any reason for her to accept such an offer. But then, she did not expect the Skaiprisa to hold the power to turn ripas from murderous monsters back into men or bring the dead back to life. Had she not witnessed such wonders with her own eyes, she would thought such things impossible. But witness them she did, as did she form the alliance.
The Commander did not think she could find more to be impressed by from the Skaiprisa, but the girl showed a strength in spirit that she had not seen in any others…ever. In the days and weeks after their Alliance was forged, she watched the girl bring her lover’s fight to an end by her own hands, pay honor to Trikru culture and traditions, overthrow the Skaiheda to take command of the Skaikru generals, order her generals and warriors with tactical savvy that belied her age, stand her ground against the Alliance clan leaders in the war council, fight a Pauna at her side and keep them both alive, sacrifice hundreds to a Maunon attack in order to win the war, and gun down a Maunon warrior without hesitation. Impression turned into admiration which in turn became affection.
The Commander had not allowed herself to feel such things for another since the Azgedakwin kidnapped, tortured, and beheaded her woman during the last of the clan unification wars more than two years before. But whether she allowed it or not, the Skaiprisa invoked feelings in her that even her woman had not. When she could no longer resist her desires, she gave in to her weakness for the girl. While the Skaiprisa returned her affections, the middle of a war was not the time or place to truly explore such things, no matter how much they might wish to do so.
When the Skaiprisa’s battle plans finally fell into place, she and the Commander led the Kongeda-de — the Alliance of the 13 Clans — against the Maunon. The plans were not without complications, and despite the advantage of their numbers, the Maunon were killing 6-7 warriors for every soldier they managed to strike down. When she was forced to break from their combined armies to personally lead a gonakru in order to defeat a contingency of Maunon gunners blocking their way into the mountain, the Commander lost half of the warriors in her gonakru before they were in striking distance. Another quarter were lost bringing the gunner’s fights to an end. Covered in grime and gore, the Commander readied her blade to end the last of the Maunon, when he issued her an offer from the commander of the mountain.
The Maunon held 678 of her people and 44 of the Skaikru. If they continued their assault, the Maunon would begin executing the 678 prisoners of the Kongeda-de inside, likely killing all of them before her army could storm into the mountain. If she withdrew all of her army—every single gona—back beyond the borders of the mountain’s reach, all 678 of her people would be released to her immediately, the ripas would no longer attack her villages, no more of her people would ever be taken again, and the Maunon would offer them an armistice, so long as none of her people ever crossed the borders of the mountain again. All she had to do was break her alliance with the Skaiprisa and abandon the Skaikru to their fate.
Lexa, Gonawon kom Trikru, Heda bilaik tein Tuagedakru , Lexa who brought Azgedakwin Narin to her knees, Lexa who commanded the respect of tens of thousands, Lexa who had forged peace among her people through war, and who was poised to finally tear the mountain open found herself momentarily torn between her feelings for the Skaiprisa, her desire to honor her word, and her duty to save the lives of her people.
If she abandoned the 44 Skaikru inside the mountain to their fate, if she broke her word of honor and ordered her army to stand down and retreat, if she betrayed the trust of the girl her heart desired, she could regain hundreds of her lost people and possibly never lose another one to the mountain again.
If she held fast to her word, pressed the assault and stormed the mountain with the Skaiprisa at her side, she would likely lose most, if not every one of the hundreds of her people inside and possibly hundreds of other warriors as they fought battles of attrition level by level to storm the mountain. While their plan had brought them closer to defeating the Maunon than they had been in almost 300 years, there was no guarantee that their victory would be absolute. If she sacrificed hundreds of her people to press the attack, there was no way to know for sure that they would actually end the Maunon threat, but she could be certain that her loses would be extreme.
Though her internal struggle seemed to last a lifetime, only a moment passed before she agreed to the Maunonheda’s offer on one final condition—that the Maunon would not harm the Skaiprisa when her army withdrew. If the remnants of her gonakru disagreed with her decision, they knew better than to let it show. With each step down the ridge towards the mountain’s great door where she had left the rest of her forces and the Skaiprisa, she could feel her heart crack. Each crack, she willed herself to fill with stone. Even with stone shell, she could not believe the pain she felt as the Skaiprisa realized that she had been betrayed. The look of horror and shock she saw on the girl’s face as she understood that the Commander had saved the imprisoned clanspeople by sacrificing her people to torture and death at the hands of the Maunon was too much to bare, and she was forced to turn away or lose her strength of will.
As the last of her lost people stumbled from the mountain to join their brethren outside, some of them for the first time in years, Lexa ordered the retreat, turned her back on the Skaiprisa, and marched with her people back down the mountain. Only once she reached the safety of the treeline did she hesitate long enough to take a final glance back. There in the moonlight she saw the Skaiprisa standing alone—her own warriors retreating in the opposite direction after the Trikru armies abandoned them, as they were now overwhelmingly outnumbered by the Maunon without reinforcements—staring in shock at the giant door that she now had no hope of opening.
Initially most of her people hailed the Commander as a hero when she returned those thought lost to the Maunon back to their villages and loved ones. She rescued 678 people and only lost a little over 100 doing so. Those who felt she should have stayed to fight, that she had dishonored herself and her people by breaking her word and abandoning their allies knew better than to voice their opinions. The Commander was almost back to her capitol of Polis before word reached her that the mountain had, indeed, fallen.
The story of how the Skaiprisa single-handedly destroyed the enemy that had preyed upon them for almost 300 years, the enemy that their Heda had retreated from, the enemy that seemed invincible, spread like a plague. The Commander could feel the alliance she had fought so hard for beginning to slip from her fingers like a glass and shatter against the stone of her decision, her betrayal. She had backed the wrong victor.
The image of the girl standing beaten, alone, abandoned, betrayed, and yet defiant in the moonlight shaking her head would stay with the Commander for many months afterward. She had not expected people to fall from the sky. She had not expected to care for one of them. She had not expected to betray them. But above all, she had not expected the girl she left beaten, alone, abandoned, and betrayed standing in the moonlight shaking her head to enter Maun-de after her forces withdrew and slaughter every last Maunon man, woman, and child inside that mountain. Then that same girl disappeared without a trace.
As subtlely as possible, Lexa had sent some of her best scouts in search of the Skaiprisa to no avail. The best of their reports said that after massacring the Maunon, the girl brought all of her people who were still left alive inside the mountain back to the Skaistegeda, then walked away alone into the trees and had inexplicably vanished without a trace.
In the months after the mountain fell, the peace she had sacrificed so much of herself for strained to the point of breaking. The Azgeda, Sanraungeda, and Sikru had begun to maneuver. Other clans were rumored to be thinking of severing their fealty as well. Her spies and scouts brought word of plots and schemes—plots and schemes that would draw her once more into war to oppose if they came to fruition.
Weakness in a Commander was unforgivable. Whether she regretted her decision—would have taken it back, made a different choice, kept her word—she would never say. Nor could she and expect to hold her position. If she felt guilt over her betrayal, if she felt anything at all, she did not show it. She did not have the luxury of dwelling on what could have been. Whatever could have been was long dead now.
Stedaunon don gon we; kikon ste enti. The dead are gone, the living are hungry. She resolved herself to prepare for war. When those who plotted against her showed their heads, she would be ready. If she had to hang their heads from the walls of Polis to keep the Alliance of the Clans from breaking…
…so be it…