Chaos! The horns bellowed loud and deep, and ten-thousand voices rang clear and true. Roth heard their thoughts, felt the sting of fear in their hearts, but Tellim Keep raised a hardy people. She made sure of that.
Chitra was responsible for leading the men and women deemed fit for duty, writ to die by their Chieftain's side in glorious battle. Roth, as his consort, was responsible for preparing them for battle.
Unlike her sisters, it was well that Roth had the ability to listen to and impose her will over human-like minds. Many villagers ran with panic in their eyes, fears folded about their hearts, and she felt responsible for them.
Roth looked at the stranger. To the villagers, he was to blame. They marked him with spite and vile contempt, as though he were nothing more than rancid, stinking bile.
Roth had been like her sisters once, slowly losing her sanity as she grew filled with malice. She remembered the escape from the cloning facility, the endless maze of white hallways, the wash of bright fluorescent lights, and the killing fields, where she sung her suicide symphony to the hearts of those who sought to capture her.
Upon hearing her voice in their minds, seeing cruel lips in the dark mouthing bloody fates of death and fates worse than death, many slammed to a halt and seized their ears in mental anguish.
Soldiers marched to her song of death, their faces haggard, as comrade raised gun to comrade. It was upon these killing fields, when she suddenly realized the reason for her existence.
Violence is the weak's imitation of power.
The soldiers could not overcome her, for she had the ability to change their minds and hearts. True power lays in changing the beliefs of others. For what reason will an enemy seek to destroy you when you make him a true friend? Even here, killing this stranger would not solve the impending perils of the plague.
Roth also knew he was a dangerous man. He was no doubt versed with strange magicks unknown to her, with his crystalline black sword and the golden artifact floating about him, but he had no intent to kill.
The guards did not motion to seize him without order from the Chieftain, but she sensed their suffocating hatred. The guards saw him hung by his entrails, his corpse paraded through the city.
"Let him live," she told them. "He is not of the plague."
There were hesitant murmurs among the guards, discontent certainly, but no one voiced for the stranger's death. "What if the plague took his mind?" One voiced, "what if it infected him to lead the rest here?"
"He is clearly not a half-naked alien killing machine," Roth told them. "And his mind is pure as his intent to help us all against the plague. I have seen such for myself."
The Chieftain gave a dismissive wave of his hand, ordering the guards to withdraw. They left the stranger alone to join their fellow warriors, their spears low but not quite pointed elsewhere.
The guards left, and soon only the three of them remained by the gate. The Chieftain held the stranger in a scornful gaze, then turned to his wife. "Something doesn't feel right. I don't trust him."
"I do," she told him. "He holds magicks within his sword and shield. Look beyond his age. He knows how to lead armies, like you. He will be more useful alive in the coming struggle. Please, give him a chance."
"I will speak with him," he said. "You may go and help the others."
Roth left her husband's side and made for the second tier. She focused on preparing the village and the warriors for battle. Although she could not silence her people's fears, she could guide their thoughts.
Upon the second and third tier she saw those deemed unfit for duty—the elderly and boys and girls who could not claim more than fourteen summers—leave stables and corn fields for the armories.
Modern equipment was scarce and always difficult to maintain and replace, but the people of Tellim Keep made the best of what they had. As a result, the armory carried guns as well as crude swords and spears.
Roth helped them work tirelessly through the night. They packed, inspected, and issued equipment for the warriors. Each warrior ate breakfast with family and kin before reporting to the first tier.
Pale dawn broke over Tellim Keep, a drowned light strying to shine through the endless corpselike smog that drifted over the savannah. Three units, numbering a thousand warriors each, marched out from the gates.