Razor Mountain — Chapter 19.2

Razor Mountain is a serial novel, with new parts published every week or two. For more info, visit the Razor Mountain landing page.

Strong Shield paced around the room, his hand first trailing across the maps on the table, then the carvings on one of the pillars. He was clearly agitated.

God-Speaker organized his thoughts before speaking.

“I always listen to your council, but it is council only. I will not act on advice that I know to be wrong. I gave you your name because I know you want to protect our people. You are a great warrior. What you propose will not protect them. You must look beyond one fight, beyond one enemy.”

“That is what I am doing.”

“You have never seen an empire,” God-Speaker said.

“You have?”

“The gods of the mountain show me many things. The idea of empire is new to us, but it is not new to them. Those we subjugate will hate us, and they will do anything in their power to destroy us.”

“What do you propose then? Let them attack us? That is not looking beyond the fight at hand.”

“No,” God-Speaker said. “You said yourself, we are strong and we have what we need. When we trade with outsiders, it is often better for them than for us. For many years we wanted to bring people in, to grow. Now, we are a city.”

God-Speaker gestured to the room. The cleverly slanted windows high above let in the afternoon light while keeping out the weather. Strips of golden light shone across the room, revealing sparkling motes of dust.

“Let us hollow out the mountain. We will continue to live here, but let nobody in. When we go out, we will go out in secret. Let the stories of a city in the mountains become legends. Leave a few burned remnants scattered across the valleys below. Let those put the lie to these stories that bring enemies here in search of treasure. We will make our doors and windows so cleverly that they will never suspect we look down on them from above. They will go home and tell the story of the legendary city which turned out to be nothing but spirits and burned rocks.”

As God-Speaker spoke, Strong Shield’s eyes narrowed.

“You would have us hide away from these weaklings who have no hope of defeating us? You would have us be remembered as a tribe that was utterly destroyed?”

“What do the stories of other tribes matter to you? We will be safe in the mountain. We will have what we need, and we will keep our knowledge and our wealth to ourselves.”

Strong Shield shook his head.

“You are pitiful.”

“Do you truly want to fight so badly?” God-Speaker said. “Can’t you see that it is better to not fight at all?”

“No,” Strong Shield said. “I want us to be led by someone who isn’t afraid of the outside world.”

The conversation had taken a turn God-Speaker had not expected. He realized now that the voices in the mountain were agitated. Their susurration was like a wind blowing in the depths. They saw the signs. They knew what could happen.

The sound was only audible to God-Speaker. There might be one or two others on the mountain who would feel a faint uneasiness. Strong Shield would think that God-Speaker’s sudden change in expression was a response to his words.

“You are like my brother,” God-Speaker said. “You know I want what’s best for our people.”

“Of course,” Strong Shield said. “But you can still be wrong. You are not a strong leader.”

God-Speaker clenched his jaw.

“I came to the mountain alone. I was here before you were born. I gathered the people to me. Everything we have built is because of me.”

“So you say.”

“Only I hear the voices of the gods.”

“Given enough time, perhaps another can learn to hear them.”

Strong Shield reached behind the pillar and pulled out his fine spear, tipped with a sharp barb of whale bone.

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