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Titus shouted, grabbing Gaius by the front of his tunic and throwing him to the ground. Gaius, seeing the opportunity, scrambled to his feet and headed for the door quickly, but was leapt upon by those nearest to it and forced 231 THE REPUBLIC – CONFLICT to the floor. The yelling continued unabated for almost ten minutes and no-one had any idea what to do. No action was taken of any positive kind. Nobody even thought to barricade the doors to the Oratory. It wasn’t until the sound of hooves could be heard that the room grew silent. Those who lay on the floor, holding down Gaius, paused in their struggling, as did Gaius himself. Everyone simply stood still and listened. It was a tableau wholesale tiffany jewelry of horror, as the Orators realised what was to come. The hooves grew louder and still no-one moved. Not even the Neutrals, who stood at the open doors, had the sense to run. Everybody was transfixed by the monotonous sound of a Cavalry Group galloping up the main street of Vissimo. A sound that had not been heard in a hundred years. It grew even louder, until it appeared to fill the chamber, growing nearer and nearer, and now the voices of men calling out in triumph as they approached the Oratory. Then, when it seemed they would gallop into the Inner Chamber itself, the hooves stopped. There was a pregnant pause, as the whole of the I man jewelry nner Chamber held its breath collectively. Then Marcus Sabinus came into view, marching at the head of one hundred fully armed Personal Guards, striding across the foyer like a conquering hero. He entered the Oratory and surveyed the room. The Personal Guards entered behind him, taking up locations at all of the exits and several watching each group of Orators who stood so still they appeared to be statues. Marcus looked around the Inner Chamber, until his eyes fell upon the confused mess of men who pinned Gaius to the floor. ‘Release him,’ he commanded, and the Personal Guards moved forward. There was little point resisting the Tiffany and co command and those who had restrained Gaius stood up and moved away of their own accord. Marcus cleared his throat, still looking around the Inner Chamber with hawk-like eyes. ‘I am Marcus Sabinus, General of the Northern Army,’ he said. Nobody in the room spoke. Titus felt rooted to the spot. He detested the arrogance of the man in front of him but it was as if he had been willed into submission by the mere sight of him. He briefly wondered if this was cowardice or prudence. 232 THE REPUBLIC – CONFLICT ‘You, the Oratory of the great Republic of Azal, have broken the Confirmation of Beliefs which all citizens of Azal hold dear. It is because of this that I have felt compelled to take action and remove the corruption. For too long you have enjoyed the privileges not afforded to your own citizens and it has corrupted you utterly. This can happen no longer. It was through your lack of management that the Demirati invasion, which was only halted by the skill and bravery of my deceased father, General Flavius Sabinus, was allowed to advance as far as it did.’ Still no-one spoke, and the only noise other than the so tiffany jewellery uk store ft clanking of armour, was the sound of Marcus’ voice. It was oddly hypnotic. Titus found himself hanging on every word. Pleased that nobody had yet opposed him, Marcus continued the speech that he had obviously planned for so very long. ‘Your failure to take the threat seriously meant that the North was inadequately defended whilst the city of Vissimo was treated to glorious public works and games which drained the vaults and starved the provinces. This in itself is unsatisfactory, but it is not reason for me to take the drastic action I have taken today. It is the desecration of the Confirmation of Beliefs that concerns me. The Beliefs are fundamental to the order of the Republic and nobody, not you, or I, has the right to break them,’ Marcus said. Titus suddenly felt rage surge through him. ‘You have marched upon your own Capital. You have broken the most fundamental of Beliefs,’ he refuted angrily. Marcus turned his head so slowly, and with such precision, to look at Titus, that the Ora tiffany earrings uk tor felt himself shrivelling under the gaze. His surge of anger had lasted but a moment and now he was left with nothing but fear. ‘I am upholding the Beliefs in a way that you have all refused to,’ Marcus said, his voice deadly calm. Titus could not look away from his gaze, and did not even notice the two Personal Guards who now stood on either side of him, their weapons drawn. ‘What I am proposing is for the good of Azal. A military presence. To advise the Oratory in their decisions. The war has been won, but 233 THE REPUBLIC – CONFLICT the Demirati will return and with greater numbers. We must be ready next time,’ Marcus said, his voice still dangerously calm. ‘You intend to keep the Oratory?’ came an outraged cry from the opposite side of the Chamber, and all eyes fell to Gaius, who realised too late what he had said. Marcus shook his head at Nico and turned to Gaius. ‘Orator, hold your tongue. The Oratory is an integral part of our Republic. It cannot simply be removed. That would be a dictatorship and the Republic is something I hold dear.’ Gaius’ face was red with rage now and he took a step forwards. ‘You said you would…’ he began, but with a single gesture from Marcus, Gaius found a sword at his throat. ‘Hold your tongue, Orator, if you w tiffany jewelry ish to keep it,’ Marcus said softly. He turned back upon Titus, whose anger was again ignited at the knowledge that he had been right about Gaius all along. Now he could think of nothing but Marcus, who looked at him like a predator stalking his prey. ‘Have you anything more to say, Titus Cassio?’ he asked, surprising Titus that he had been recognised. Titus, despite knowing that any response would be unwise, was unable to keep silent. His absolute fury at all that had happened seemed to be pushing at his mind, forci Tiffany jewelry uk ng out words that he knew would have no effect. Forcing out words that he knew might get him killed. ‘What you have done, you have done for yourself and no-one else, despite anything you say,’ he said softly. Marcus’ features grew angry for the first time since he had entered the Chamber, and for a brief second Titus thought that he would give the order to his Personal Guards to slay him where he stood, but just as suddenly he face fell back into the artificial calm that was as impenetrable as a fortress. ‘You will learn your place in time. I am here to teach you,’ Marcus said, turning from the Orator. Titus could not help but breathe a sigh of relief. Marcus then called upon one of his Personal Guards who stood near the door. 234 tiffany london THE REPUBLIC – CONFLICT Titus was surprised that he had not noticed him earlier. He was immensely tall, but it was his hair that made him stand out, as it was an almost pure white, despite the fact that he appeared quite young. ‘Tell the army to occupy the city. All local military strongholds are to be taken. The Orators are to remain in here under guard until I return,’ he said, and after that Titus could hear no more as both the tall Guard and Marcus left the Inner Chamber. The remaining Guards locked the doors and forced those that were standing to sit in their places at the benches. A silence filled the room as the Orators sat, pondering their fate, and the fate of the Republic. Titus sat also, his heart beating fast as he contemplated what he had done, and staring at the drawn swords of the emotionless Personal Guards. 235 XX Ardo had spent over a week riding. By the end of the eighth day he was within sight of Vissimo and Carnack was growing weary from jewelry shop the long journey. Ardo had considered trading the beast for a fresh horse along the way but it somehow seemed that if he had done so he would have dishonoured Carna’s memory in some way. He was not so sure now that working the poor creature to death was in any way better. He had made relatively poor time for a man on horseback. He had removed his purple cloak, and travelled dressed only as a simple soldier, of no rank. This was on Peri’s suggestion, and Ardo thought it a wise one. Travelling alone was something that very much suited Ardo’s temperament. He had always been a philosophical ty jewellery store pe, and the trip had given him ample time for such things. He reflected on the manner in which he had left the Northern Army. A minimum of fuss was how he had intended to do it, and from his perspective that was indeed what he had done, slipping away in the early hours of the morning and speaking only to the Millennium and Century Guards to formally hand control of the force to Perico Johan. That in itself had been a point of contention. The fact that Ardo was leaving at all was another. The Guards all knew of the Oratorial Imperative and were also aware of the possible consequences of Ardo returning without 236 THE REPUBLIC – CONFLICT links london uk permission. Technically it was true; command could be relinquished to the next h claddagh ring ighest in rank provided there was sufficient reason. With the Oratory themselves breaking the Confirmation of Beliefs, no-one was sure any more what constituted sufficient reason. Many of the Millennium Guards had contested Ardo’s decision, claiming that he had no right to give command of the army to Peri, as it was widely known that the two men were close friends. Ardo had argued, with relative success, that Peri was the 1st Millennium Guard and therefore would logically hold the post if he were killed in battle, and so the same should apply in the current context. Not all were convinced. It was a problem of command, and one that Ardo had expected. Friendships amongst those of different ranks were frowned upon but were of course unavoidable. As the Personal Guard, there had been no conflict for Ardo to have friendships with Millennium Guards as they were all of equivalent rank, but once the Generalship had been thrust upon him he had been placed in a difficult position, and one with no easy solution. In the end, after over an hour of discussion and argument however, Ardo had managed to extract an oath of loyalty from each of the Guards, h discounted tiffany jewelry owever reluctantly it left the lips of some of them. After that the journey had been uneventful. Ardo passed through towns virtually unnoticed, and if he was, he was heralded as a hero of the Northern War and in two instances taken in for the night by grateful citizens who simply thought him a regular soldier returning home. Ardo had dutifully played the part, telling stories of the battle and attempting to appear joyous that the war was over, but he could not overcome that same feeling of discomfort he had felt whilst having dinner at Mayor Poe’s. He had no conception of what he would do once he arrived at Vissimo. He

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