Amid the Green Corn: Part Five
by V Rose Dahrke
There’s something I should mention here; hell, I should have mentioned it a while back. When I said we didn’t know who the Rilikan were or that there was anyone out that way, I didn’t mean to imply that the name Triumph Justly Warring was at all foreign to us. It wasn’t. It sounds crazy, but honest to god she was more of a legend back then than she is now. I’d bet that most of you only know her as what Fire in the Field described: a sort of boogeyman. Back then, she was real. She wasn’t just the mascot of the Rilikan. She was the scariest damn human for a hundred miles, and she was real.
She was so real you couldn’t even make yourself hate her. You knew how she got started. You knew she was in the right. That’s right, don’t look at me like that. Her name was the best I ever heard, the best any of us ever heard, because it was true. She was triumph, justly warring.
There were groups we had heard of–we thought they were more northward, but we’d heard of them. The Ouasay, the West River villagers, the Walkers, Volupi, Greys…any of you ever heard of those? Of course not; they’re gone now. There used to be probably twenty to double that little pockets of people–clans, villages, families–living up that way between the river and the hill country to the north of it, and they all used to fight like dogs. We stayed out of it. We didn’t have anything they wanted, and we didn’t want anything of theirs. They had better land, sure, but we didn’t have any use for it. We couldn’t grow anything anyway.
They were brutal to one another, though. Brutal like the Rilikan have never been. Brutal like no one who wasn’t provoked to it ever was after they were gone. You could see the fires from here some nights when somebody got fed up and made sure somebody else was never going to hurt them again. It was…there was a time when we weren’t at war, but the rest of our world was, that’s what I’m trying to tell you. We stayed out.
There was one man in the dead center of it, though: Clive Brastas. The man cared so little for what anyone could do to him that he went by his Soulname to his dying day. He was a merchant, and he sold to all sides. Once or twice he came here to sell, but we had just about nothing to trade. He had a farm deep in the hill country that stood alone, and somehow his wife made things grow like they had before the Bond. He sold food, he sold honey, he sold cloth, pottery, tools. His wife could make anything, raise anything, breed anything, find anything, and what things couldn’t be made or grown he bought and sold. He and his wife and their three sons kept to themselves, never made waves, tried to survive, and ended up thriving. No man owned Clive Brastas, and no clan claimed him.
That was an awful lot to be jealous of. It’d be an awful lot now.
No one knows who did it. No one knows if a trade went bad or he tried to get involved in politics or if it was something else. Most people say that whoever it was wasn’t after Clive but his wife; they wanted the goose that laid the golden eggs, you know? Nobody can really say, though. All anyone knows is that the wife went out for water one day and came back to find that what she’d brought wasn’t near enough to put out the house and the fields. Or Clive. Or the youngest son.
The older two sons survived. They were out playing in the fields and when they heard someone in the house doing what was done to Clive they ran. Came back three days later. Think about that, though. That’s three days their mother thought they were dead and burned like her husband and her baby, three days she searched for their bodies and found nothing. Three days she hoped they were still alive, feared someone might have taken them, and knew that even if they came home she couldn’t feed them. So, sometime in those three days Madame Brastas, the most crafty, resourceful, clever woman anyone ever knew, became Triumph Justly Warring.
She would have been a one-woman army if the boys never came home, and when they did she had two more people who were just as angry as she was: Lord in Battle and Hunts By Night. Yeah. Them. They were young then, but a boy of five can pick a pocket and a boy of seven can light a fire. They got by by stealing at first, but people came to her like bees to a flower. She gathered them up, people who were victims like her, desperate people, and by the end of autumn she had a robber band going. By the second autumn she had a force some two, three thousand strong. By the third autumn, we stopped seeing fires and the wars went quiet. We didn’t know why, but at the end of the fourth autumn, when she bet us our tongues we couldn’t guess her name, we looked at the size of her fields and her entourage and realized there were no more wars because Triumph had won them all.
That was who she was and we all knew it. She was some sort of warlord-empress, and Simon was trying to flirt with her from his makeshift gallows. So what does she say to him?
“Alright. If you’re right, they can live. But if you disappoint me, I will make you beg me to do to you what I did to the man who burned my farm.”