Lord Telinstrom rarely had time for idleness. In fact, he detested it. If he had no task with which to occupy his time and energies, then something had been neglected. However, when such times did present themselves, he preferred to move, to act, rather than rest.
The city walls were generally not thought of as interesting places to be. Scattered guards paced the walls, archers stood in position in watch towers, messengers hurried along in their business. It was the same almost every day, no matter when the lord general went to perform an inspection. As it should be.
The celebrations of peace had been enjoyable enough, even for Telinstrom. The citizenry of Alden, united in common cause, had been a sight never to forget. The lord general had proposed a military parade to go along with the celebrations, but this, of course, had been denied by the council. A show of force was not in keeping with the ideals of peace, they said.
Telinstrom had groaned within himself to maintain composure. As if these fools knew anything of peace, or the cost to maintain it.
As he carefully made his way up the steps in the dawning light to the tops of the walls, soldiers snapped to attention, saluting him. He returned to salute, but his pace never wavered. Time was his to use, not theirs. As he passed them, each soldier returned to their task diligently. As it should be.
Telinstrom sighed. The section of wall he visited was the very one he wanted to expand. While the ancient stone and steel were just as durable today as they had been when new, the needs of the city were different. The markets had expanded beyond the central courtyards into the nearby avenues, driving traffic into more remote portions of the city. The southeastern walls hindered the movement of the citizenry, as well as the soldiery. If they were attacked, hundreds of the city’s residents could be caught between the two armies in this place, so close to the gates as it was. Even if they were not attacked, the flow of traffic was not ideal. Change was required in order to grow the city, for the benefit of all.
Not that Brayand could see this. Not that Brayand truly cared about the people in such a way. To Lord Hathen, the common citizens held nothing of note. The people of Alden were merely resources, moving goods from one place to another. What did it matter if some died that could have been saved? What mattered their lives?
Of course, he had not always been this way. Telinstrom knew that much of this influence had come from Liatur, the puppet of the Empire. How dare they think to rule Alden in this manner? How dare they ignore the will of true heirs to the throne of humanity?
Telinstrom knew better. Alden was special, beyond the measure of all other cities or peoples. The people of Alden could weather all storms, confront all foes, and overcome all that sought their demise. A strong leader, with a strong mind to guide them, and the people of Alden could rise above even the Empire. That was how the high kings of old brought the people of Juralen into submission, by reason and by force.
The lord general scowled, shaking his head in dismay. A nearby soldier, who had been saluting, was confused by the gesture, and stutteringly apologized for his mistake. What mistake? Telinstrom sighed, “It is I that should apologize, soldier. My thoughts have gotten the best of me.”
Clearly relieved, the soldier nodded. “Understood, lord general.” He didn’t understand, of course, but that was not Telinstrom’s matter. The soldier saluted again, then returned to his duties.
Telinstrom tried to relax his muscles, ease his tension, but they would not fade. He felt trapped, he finally admitted to himself. Trapped by Lord Hathen’s continued lack of interest in the people of Alden. Trapped by the Empire and its claws. Trapped by the council. On every side, obstacles rose, objecting to his efforts to raise Alden to a new glory.
And yet, this was the way things had been for some time. Brayand’s father had been no different, he reminded himself. Proud, unable to listen, unable to see beyond what was before him plainly. Telinstrom had only been a young man in those days, but even then, he had seen the older Hathen for what he truly was: a self-interested dictator, bent on his own desires over the well-being of the city he governed.
The sun continued on its path to the west, casting its warm glow over the city’s inhabitants. Telinstrom felt himself fill with energy, as if the sunlight gave him strength. Perhaps it did. No matter the challenges, no matter the difficulties, he would overcome them. Even if the entire council stood against him, or the kingdoms of the Juriels, or the gods themselves, he would ensure that Alden was strong, and safe. He could do no less.