“You’re a cruel man, magistrate” Dao told Bo as they walked away and towards the command tent to report to General Dao.
“Mercy doesn’t get things done, Dao…” Bo proclaimed. “Look how unmercifully Lord Koen pot-shotted me with his change purse…” he said, pressing his handkerchief against the side Koen hit.
“General Dok showed mercy…” Dao rebutted. “…when he decided to put me under his service instead of killing me.” He looked at his hands.
“That wasn’t mercy…” Bo confessed. “…he kept you around for utility. I’ve seen Albarjan at his worst, and you’re lucky you weren’t there to witness it…”
“Albarjan is General Dok… right?” Dao Rong asked.
“Yes,” Bo told him as they sat at a felled log by the tent, awaiting Dok and Koen to arrive. “…but if you wish he extend his leniency to you here, you call him Dok to his face.”
“that’s his title, right? Dok?” Dao Rong asked. “…sounds significant, what does it mean?” he inquired.
“It means immortal…” Koen chimed in, emerging from behind them as if set to ambush.
“Where’s the general?” Bo asked, unfazed by Koen’s prank- hardened by the countless times he’s pulled this before.
“He’s drilling the men.” He answered. “…he remembers how hard I drilled him when he was but a mere footman and now that he has his own men under his command, he’s dragging him through hot coals the same way I did. The same way his father did.” He reminisced. He turned to Dao Rong, gesturing him to scooch over for more space on the log. “…to us, he and his father are the same person- as with his grandfather, his great-grandfather, all the way back to the first ‘Dok’- all these people are one in the same, they just come back different…” he went on.
“How do you figure that?” Dao Rong inquired.
“The dynasty we serve is new, but our history as a people is a long one…” Bo explained. “According to our ancient Unger faith, the Godking- Unryu- came down to be the first Kha-Llagari king. He gave up his immortality temporarily to rule and guide amidst mortals. During a cataclysmic war that saw the earth open and swallow empires whole, Unryu gave a portion of his immortality to his personal guard and sent them to ride forth and protect his mortal kingdom. Dok, all other Dok’s before him, are said to be descendants of the immortal guard…” Bo narrated.
“And now, Albarajan Dok Altan fulfills his sacred duty:” Koen chimed in once more. “sent away from the capital, he rode forth to the hinterlands- to this dustbin of a village- to do as his immortal guard ancestors did all those many eons ago: protecting Unryu’s mortal realm…”
“Unryu seems like a better deity than Aurora…” a doubting Dao Rong blurted.
“Eughh, I forgot you were a pagan…” Bo skootched aside, away from Dao, feigning bigotry as he always does. “Anyway, any word on the offensive Koenjuhg?”
“Those weaselly marauders remain in their camp, but they won’t be there for long: the poor fools barricaded themselves in front of an impassible mountainside, wherein the only entrance- and therefore exit- is the narrow pass we intend to ambush them in” Koen replied, chewing on a pig knuckle with one hand, while drawing on the ground with another: “the plan now is to thin the herd: lure out as much of the enemy into the narrow pass, slaughter them in ambush, before rushing in with the main militia…” he spoke through a mouthful of pig cartilage. Bo snatched the knuckle from him.
“However fine the quality of tactic may be, marshal…” Bo interjected, taking a bite out of the knuckle he had swiped from him. “...all that will be amount to nothing if we do not have quality warriors- which I doubt this quite little village has plenty of. We need to separate the sheep from the goats…” Bo suggested.
“Sheep from goats? Ah!” Koen recognized the metaphor. “I’ll need about a dozen sheep to lure out the enemy and all of the goats to make up the offensive contingent…” he said. But then it dawned on him as he turned his head to Bo. “How do we find out who is sheep, and who is goat?” Bo looked back at him and tapped the side of his head with the pork knuckle.
They got up and went over to the training grounds. There, farm boys and ranch hands turned conscripts- of sufficient strength and build but of low stamina- panted like hounds. Bo threw a smug glare at Koen before he threw his pork knuckle at the seated men. Around thirteen of them jumped towards the knuckle as it landed on the dirt before them, fighting over it like dogs. The others maintained their discipline.