The villagers had abandoned the village in the Shukahen desert. Packed their bags, grabbed their children and left in the middle of the night. Tonight was the quietest night Colossus had in a long time. Other nights he would spend in battle, fighting the Windseer soldiers, supporters of Halford Windseer, who claimed the title of the Lord of the Shukahen after the death of his brother. Those were some cruel supporters, as they set out in the desert and plundered towns as a show of power against the Gold Tribe. The villagers were smart to leave this town before the Windseers reached it, and the Gold Tribe were smart to come here to set up a camp, as the would-be attackers would be unprepared to meet able, fighting men in place of frightened folk. Specifically, it was Colossus's idea to set an ambush here.
Colossus was smart. Colossus was also a giant, hence his title. Valerian, as was his birth name, was a Tyrantrum that made the earth quake beneath his feet, and he was known for cruelly ravaging the battlefield with powerful earthquakes that shattered bones. His knack for coming up with war tactics and prowess in battle were two of the many things that granted him the first title of office in the Gold Tribe, the one of the leader's, which he was holding for more than twenty years now. He was old, but not tired, and he refused to step down for any of his comrades. Valerian distanced himself from his brothers and sisters, holding them in contempt, but no one could doubt his effectiveness as a leader. He wasn't fit to be the leader of the Gold Tribe, but he was fit to demolish any enemy of theirs in the battlefield, and that made him a competent and impressive peacekeeper.
Colossus walked slowly across the deserted town. He glanced upwards, where hundreds of stars adorned the night sky, then back on the campfire by the other end of the town, where most of his brothers and sisters had gathered. He didn't enjoy their company much, as he thought the lot of them as self-righteous and entitled braggarts, but there was one exception. A young Floatzel who went by the title "the Exalted", granted to him by the Emperor Dareon himself, with whom he was friends with, although their relationship was more that of a father and son.
"Sir, I'm glad to have caught up to you. The desert is a dangerous place," young Garland told him, joining him to walk together.
"Dangerous for the likes of you," Colossus said gruffly. Garland had almost died in the desert after the Battle of the Sixth Month with the Windseer supporters, a day or two ago; the young Floatzel was a devil, truly, he'd earned that victory by acting as a replacement for Colossus, who was fighting the Windseers on another front. Victorious against his enemies, Garland's group was hit by a sandstorm after the battle. It was a miracle, how in the end they got reunited with Colossus in this village. Actually, that miracle's name was Achilles, Garland's friend, who picked their group up with his personal zeppelin and treated their wounds before bringing them there. "'Ey, gotta admit, you have guts," Colossus said, "well done, lad."
The Floatzel looked at him in surprise, who looked back at him with a toothy smile. Colossus had never complimented anyone before. The Tyrantrum ducked his head under a palm tree as he walked. "Twas an important victory that will let us march to Pyrgos and pluck Hally outta his hole like a Furret in the woods." By Hally, he meant Halford Windseer - who else, but that cowardly man who hid in Pyrgos's fort? He couldn't succeed his brother, oh no. Because his brother had a daughter, the rightful heir to the seat of Pyrgos.
"Of course, sir, it was a victory worth reaching for. Otherwise, I would have retreated."
Colossus laughed loudly, briefly. "You lie poorly, lad. You wouldn've retreated even if you were outnumbered one to twenty. Gallant fools, the lot of ya."
Garland allowed himself a smile. "Perhaps that's true."
"You're lucky. Achilles, that baffoon, risked his life in that sandstorm to find and save your sorry hide."
"That is also true, sir," Garland said, though his voice had grown cold, and his face became a mask. Colossus knew that expression from personal experience. Garland was too proud to accept help from someone like Achilles and held the likes of him in contempt... their friendship was complicated. It wasn't always like that, but in the recent years, bitterness had fallen between them. On one hand, Garland was a renowned hero and honorable defender of peace, while on the other hand, Achilles was one of the leading figures of the most successful, greedy and territorial business on Exathor: Flogistron Co., whose leaders always looked for ways to amass their fortunes and exact exorbitant profit - and they would do that whether through legal means or not. In Colossus's mind, Achilles was a rogue of riches who involved himself in illegal activities to become richer and richer, but there was no evidence to support that, and if there was, Emperor Dareon would grant him a royal pardon for being his best friend! And that was probably why Garland looked down on him.
They reached the campfire, where all their brothers and sisters had gathered. Colossus noticed some other important faces apart from the Gold Tribe were present. The Trade Prince himself had showed up; Kalis, a Seismitoad, wore a vest of gold-cloth, always lavish in his appearance. He was gobbling down on meat sticks; several sticks were thrown beside him, at the foot of his business underling, the one and only Achilles Proudmoore, a Medicham of average height, his eyes pale and blue, and his lips small and not swollen, contrary to the norm of the Medichams. His reserved smile came upon his face once he and Colossus locked eyes. The Tyrantrum didn't return the courtesy of a smile. Instead, his eyes fell on the one besides Achilles, an Espeon.
"Doing well, my lady?" The Tyrantrum asked.
"I... am not," she replied. She had been crying again, her red eyes gave it away.
"No use crying for spilled milk, lass," Colossus said. He exhaled as he sat down near the fire, along with his comrades.
"Or spilled blood, in this case," Achilles observed with that lazy, amused smile plastered on his face. Colossus was pretty sure there wasn't a time when this Medicham didn't find an odd reason to smile, and that made him think that smile wasn't genuine.
Achilles put his hand on the back of the Espeon's head, looking towards Colossus. "It appears Lady Aveline does not like it when the blood of her people is spilled. She wishes she could have a parley with her uncle at Pyrgos... Colossus, do you think that is possible?" It was a rhetorical question. Colossus shook his head, like a monster who wanted to shoo away a bug that bothered him.
"Please!" Lady Aveline exclaimed, "let me talk to him, I know he'll listen, I just know it!" Some of the Gold Tribe shook their heads and murmured disapproval. Colossus glanced at them, registering their reactions, and considering how best to explain the situation to her.
"Lass," he said slowly, "your father's died of old age, an' your uncle lusts after the lord's title. Look at how far he's gotten to claim the Shukahen. Tis a folly what he's done, and you'd best forget about him. There's no salvation for him, no way out, mark ma words. If we die fighting the Windseers, the Emperor won't take it lightly - he'll bring the might of all Exathor upon Pyrgos. Your uncle is some dead man, lady, and we don't talk to dead men."
Achilles cleared his throat. "Colossus put it a bit harshly. You know why you're here, Lady Aveline. Your uncle wishes to secure his seat in Pyrgos, and to do so, he must... eliminate the rightful heir. You."
"Aye," Colossus agreed, "he wants ya dead, but that ain't happening in a million years, not, 'cause we're here. Alrighty lass? Achilles, take her to bed and stay with her. Let us men discuss some tactics!"