Never Heroes: Origins
All Hell Shall Stir

"Are the rumors true? That you're the one who killed Azariah?"

Inzak stopped when he heard an unfamiliar voice speak to him. Glancing over his shoulder, he found himself staring at a foreign woman, her body covered in a dark wool coat and her brown hair covered by a tall feathered cap. The three sashes she wore indicated her rank; the firearm that was slung around her shoulder was telling of her origin.

He smiled at her, "And is it true that I should be thanking you for saving Martello, Commander Tinpa?"

Commander Tinpa of the Mugeni Mounted Army returned his smile. Her forces had arrived during Azariah's assault on Martello to help reinforce the surprised Martello Civil Guard. The ambush was devastating on their meek and thin forces, and they would have been wiped out completely had Tinpa and her men not shown up when they did.

Despite the clear fact Tinpa deserved the credit, she refused to take it. "Nonsense. Captain Lendti held out long enough for word to reach us. She deserves the honor," she said. Captain Lendti had been able to defend the city against thousands of Azariah's troops with only a few hundred of her Imperial Police, but no matter the greatness of a commander, numbers that overwhelming were rarely defeated.

The two acquaintances walked down the hallways of the Council of Nations' building. This was the auxiliary meeting place for the delegates of the Council of Nations. The main location was in Sutchen, but given the situation between them and Parviz, it seemed unwise to hold any gatherings there. Thus, all delegates had been rerouted to Ziarsach, the second most senior nation in the treaty.

"And who should I blame for the murder of the seven Parviz delegates?" Inzak asked. Tinpa didn't answer. Inzak didn't care to see what expression she held. It was unlawful to murder delegates, so he had to inquire. He knew the truth would never be told. "Can I at least put you down in the history texts as the one who had their heads sent back to Parviz, still dripping blood?"

"If it pleases you, Minister Inzak," was all Tinpa had to say on the matter.

They parted after that. Arriving at their destination, they had no reason to continue to feign interest in each other's nonsense. The chamber held over sixty seats, all facing a large podium. Above the podium, decorating the large wall, were the crests of every nation in the council, none larger than the curled snake that represented Ziarsach.

Many delegates had already arrived and appeared to be waiting on Inzak and the other stragglers. He took his respective seat with his fellow Sutchenese. Typically, he would be surrounded by other Ministers. Today, it was Ambassadors and aides. Sutchen was in too much turmoil over the invasion to be sending out all their government for a meeting.

When the meeting started, it was actually the Sutchen that were called upon to speak first. Since Inzak was the highest ranking, tradition would have had him be the one to talk. However, Inzak's post was Sutchen itself; the delegates in Ziarsach had their own unique ranking system which he abided to. Besides, it was a bit of a relief to be a spectator again.

The man chosen to speak – the Ambassador to Ziarsach – stood and read from a piece of paper. "On the eighth day of Kalizen, nearest sun's peak, Crown Prince Azariah of Parviz led a charge of over two thousand Parviz soldiers against the Sutchen capital of Martello. Captain Lendti of the First Martello Civil Guard, Sutchen's Imperial Police, fought valiantly for three days until aid from Commander Tinpa of the Mugeni Mounted Army arrived. During the battle, Captain Lendti received extensive injuries. Despite this, she ordered medical aid be given to others first. I report to this council that Captain Lendti has passed from her injuries, and submit a formal request from Sutchen that she be honored in the Hall of Heroes for eternity. And we would like to extend our gratitude to Commander Tinpa and the Mugeni people. We are forever in your debt."

Hmm, that isn't good. The Martello Civil Guard will fall apart without her. And with it, Sutchen's defense. It's a tactical victory for Parviz. Those bastards, Inzak thought to himself bitterly. He didn't know Lendti on a personal level. That being said, everyone knew she was fair, reasonable, and efficient at her job. Even if Parviz didn't attack again for ten years, the hole created from her absence would still be festering. Rebuilding the city meant nothing if the right leaders weren't in place.

Tad, Consul of Ziarsach and man presiding over the meeting, broke Inzak from his thoughts when he addressed the Sutchen Ambassador. "The Hall of Heroes is sacred ground. Why should Captain Lendti be enshrined there?"

The question wasn't rude. It was part of the process. Each nation represented had to agree with the nominee and each had to give their assessment on the overall character and accomplishments of said person. Thankfully, no one from Parviz was present to stall things. So Inzak got to sit back and listen as stories and appraisals were shared about Lendti. It didn't take long before it became clear the selection was unanimous, even if it was just based on her actions in the battle at Martello alone.

There were three hundred sixty-two people interred at the Hall of Heroes from the nations represented by the Council of Nation treaty, which was first drafted some five thousand years ago. By the end of the discussion, Lendti was the three hundredth sixty-third person to have that honor. That made her the ninety-seventh Sutchenese, the most of any nation.

While those around Inzak silently celebrated when all nations agreed, he continued to stew over the loss. Certain people were worth more alive, regardless of the lasting impact of their legacy.

Sutchen's time to have the floor had passed. They refused to request anymore assistance for the destruction of Martello, even though they could have probably used it. Inzak had to wonder how much of that was pride and how much of it was a political move. The discussions the other delegates had before he arrived must have been very interesting.

Promellian was the next nation to speak. Inzak was surprised they had sent any delegates at all. The situation in their nation was well-known. That being said, while Sutchen wasn't afraid to seek help when they needed it, Promellian wouldn't be so bold. Most nations probably didn't see a need to inquire; Promellian never lost a battle.

Secretary Guinnae of Promellian stood and said with a booming voice befitting a career politician, "As you are aware, Parviz has forces inside Promellian's hub city of Bruia. General Qusay is reported to be the commander. I have been told their forces should be repelled by end of day. Promellian seeks the Council's permission in officially invading Parviz, as the invasion against our people is a clear act of war."

"Did General Timaeus not invade Parviz first? Could we not look at that as the real act of war?" a member of another nation challenged.

Inzak nodded but said nothing. He absolutely despised King Parviz for what he had done to his family. Personally, he wanted Parviz's entire kingdom to burn. However, he was in the position he was in because he had proven that his mind was set on only one thing, and that was the law. From a legal standpoint, it wouldn't be hard for Parviz to argue he was simply hitting back in defense.

"I admit that General Timaeus acted out of line, but one has to remember that this was after a Nuntius was murdered on Parviz soil," Guinnae argued.

"Is it not true that the perpetrators of that attack were not from Parviz? Do we invade Promellian if a foreigner commits a crime on your soil?" another person chimed.

Inzak scowled as he couldn't find an argument against that. He wondered if Guinnae had anticipated so much hesitation from the Council. Certainly Parviz must have. Everything that the King had done was turning out to be more calculated then it appeared on the surface. Parviz seemed to have a way out on every sin he had committed. They had underestimated him.

If Guinnae was frustrated, it didn't show. Calmly he argued, "We must look at the sum of all recent incidents. While it is true that each individual incident has a law or treaty preventing retaliation, I believe any logical person could look at the totality of them to see that King Parviz himself is the root of the violence."

Inzak – the strongest proponent of law in that room, hailing from a nation that had built its empire on rule of law – said, "Ladies and gentlemen of this council, it is time that we ignore what posterity may think of us should we violate laws or treaties. If we fail to act against Parviz, he will continue to incite violence. There will be no posterity to judge us if we allow this to go on. Our survival must come first."

"You think a small nation like Parviz could do that kind of damage?" a woman from Dydrecki asked.

"Hasn't it already? I speak as a Sutchenese, thus I admit my viewpoint may be skewed. The damage done to my nation alone is devastating. Our capital is in ruin. A strong leader was killed in that attack. One of our most revered men, Minister Bruxton, was assassinated. Mugeni lost Caoni. Promellian is under attack now. How much more will we allow, while Parviz shields himself with legalities and technicalities?"

Murmurs amongst those in the chamber floated about. There seemed to be a general agreement to what Inzak had said. Perhaps hearing it from someone such as him helped make their decision a little bit easier.

"If the Council will allow, I will lead an invasion force."

All eyes turned to Tinpa. Wounds from her battle in Martello still marred her skin. Bruises and cuts from Parviz's men stood as a reminder to what they were facing. If her toned sounded determined, it was clear why. She already had a personal investment in the matter. Between the loss of General Caoni and the battle in Martello, she had enough of Parviz. It was time to end it.

Tad asked, "Do you intend to invade Parviz as a member of this Council or as a Commander of Mugeni?"

"Is the Council too afraid to act, even now?" Tinpa asked, an edge to her voice.

Silence answered her. It wasn't as though they couldn't crush Parviz. If all nations gathered there sent in even a fraction of their troops, they could overrun the small kingdom and decimate it within days. Instead, those nations that had yet to have pain inflicted on them by Parviz felt no desire to attack. Even Sutchen was hesitating. They had no army to send in. Inzak could advocate for battle all he wanted; without an army to send in, he was simply a barking a dog with no bite. This had been the issue the entire time. If he had his way, Parviz would have already been removed from power.

Hushed words were being shared between delegates of each nation. Most of those gathered didn't have the power to make such decisions. They would have to decide if it was worth presenting to their government first. If it was, then they would have to get approval. It might be weeks or months before a decision was made.

"Promellian is already at war with Parviz. We would be honored to assist Commander Tinpa," Guinnae said. Those that were from Promellian made noises of approval. Clearly, they had already made their minds up.

Ziarsach had the majority of their decision-makers present. Tad simply turned and whispered to his peers. After a minute of exchanges, Tad turned back to the Council and announced, "Ziarsach will aid Tinpa and Promellian. Ten thousand troops to Promellian to drive out the invaders. Two thousand to Parviz for the invasion."

Only two thousand? Do they not understand that Parviz's people will fight until the death? Those two-thousand soldiers are going to be slaughtered, Inzak thought to himself. While it was true that the army of Parviz was small in comparison to other nations, their population was not insignificant.

"Should we reach out to Kriouta and see if they would like to give aid?" someone asked.

"Commander Arpana would certainly be willing to aid us," another said.

Inzak felt his ears twitch every time someone said "us" or "we." It was clear that the Council had collectively begun to see Parviz as an enemy to their wellbeing. It was bittersweet. If they had acted accordingly in the beginning, so many things would be different. Promellian never would have been invaded, Sutchen never would have felt war, and his family would still be alive.

It had taken every ounce of his self-control to not waltz back into Parviz and end the miserable existence of the people himself. Even his display of power against Parviz inside his palace had been somewhat restrained. Sometimes he regretted that his personality prevented him from being revengeful. Murdering Azariah was the only bit of relief he would grant himself. All other actions must make sense. Logic and reason had to rule the day, even above law and treaties.

As the conversations around him continued, he thought about how odd it had been that Parviz was the leader to cause so many headaches for others. When he had ascended to the throne most were pleased. Not only was it simply a better choice than Azariah, he was known to be kind, levelheaded, knowledgeable, and fair. Whenever Parviz was present for diplomatic issues he was the one many deferred to. How did he end up stirring up so much violence?

Inzak figured it must have been frustration, ignorance, or outside influence. Parviz's people were running out of resources quickly and their population was still booming. Certainly watching his people starve and being unable to find an easy fix was irritating to the once-kind King. No matter what strategies he used, he made no impact on his populace's suffering. He wasn't creative enough to problem solve such a disaster.

Then there were the many advisors that spoke in his ear. Most of those in his court had served at least Parviz's father, if not even his grandfather. Those advisors' families had been put into those roles generations ago, and the post was simply handed down generation to generation without regard to skills or intelligence. His court was full of pampered, privileged, ignorant brats – with a few exceptions.

Lastly, their government had two branches – the throne and the Church. It was made abundantly clear during his time as Ambassador that the Church did not care for Parviz's family. Whatever reason for that, Inzak did not know. What he did know was that Parviz took the Church's word as gospel. If their "seers" saw a vision of war and told him to act on it, he would without hesitation. The Church would never be so foolish as to commit something such as regicide, so had they been manipulating him to force his hand? Push him until he broke, until his decisions were simply idiotic, and he failed on his own accord?

There was doubt in Inzak's heart over that theory. What would the Church gain from such a disaster? What purpose would it serve? To rid the nation of the throne, and leave only them in charge of the land and its people? Such a move for a shift in power was dangerous. The Church may be destroyed as well. Of course, he couldn't claim that the leaders of the Church were exactly wise. After all, they had given position and power to a man such as Kaveh. How smart could they really be?

None of that mattered. So why was he wasting so much energy trying to understand it? He needed to remind himself that not every living creature had the same thought process as him. People did things that were illogical to him but made perfect sense inside their own head.

What did matter, however, was preservation of himself and others against acts that he perceived as evil. Assassinations and acts of war were classified as "evil" to Inzak, regardless of the reasoning behind them. The individual behind actions that were "evil" thus had to be evil themselves. If Parviz was going to be a menace to peaceful societies then he needed to be removed.

It was unfortunate, however, that innocent people had to become casualties. Inzak thought about Kaveh and the female child that Kaveh had sworn himself to; he wondered if Kaveh would become one of the victims of war, or perhaps the girl he was desperate to protect. What of Kaveh's comrades, or the other children such as the one they called Grand Master, that cared so much about the fate of Yachin's boy?

The thought that Parviz felt it acceptable to put such people in harm's way disgusted Inzak. It further cemented the idea in his mind that the King was mad and had to be eliminated. The sooner, the better.

"Then it is settled. A multi-nation force, sanctioned by this Council, shall invade Parviz with the intent of removing the King from the throne. We will leave battle preparations up to Commander Tinpa of Mugeni," Tad announced.

Muted applause came from the gathered delegates. Inzak had no heart to join in on their celebration. He couldn't shake the feeling that the damage had already been done. What Parviz did couldn't be reversed. Societies were changing. People were forced to change as well. It would probably be felt for thousands of years.