He took stock of the benefits. A land now combined his tribe had virtually grown as the sea. His people loved him, looked up to him as leader and protector against Natas’ coming army. The men of Nusalle were just like the pack he left behind, merely far more numerous. Although he tried to make time for individuals in the throng, his heart bypassed thousands of strangers, ever fixated on two things. Memories of the times he hunted and played with Kerm and Natha flitted through his mind, and Andessa. She played the largest part in his loyalties. His marriage to the girl from the Dog tribe tipped the scales in favour of a life with the manpack.
In the cool of the evening, he stared from his balcony. Only a few wispy clouds interfered with his virtually uninterrupted view of the star spattered sky. Torches illuminated the work still going on in the construction of the northern wall. His war staff recommended they built that wall last, as if and when Natas marched, it would come from the south.
Beyond the gardens of the courtyard, he could clearly make out the silhouette of a Guardsman marching back and forth along the crenelated wall. Even in the dark, one could easily make out one of his elite by the outline of the horned helmet and the long hafted double-edged axe.
The wall of his palace partially blocked his view of the southern boundary. Every now and then, another Guardsman marched into view along the wall and would march back again out of his sight.
Further on, he could make out the spine of a long shingled roof, the start of the city buildings of business on the other side of Caliet’s main market place. A smiled curled his lips as he watched a possum run along its ridge. Andessa’s scent filled his senses, broadening his expression. Her steps sounded short and light. She meant to surprise him. He waited, breathing in her perfume as she halted behind him and gently slipped her hands about him.
“There is no need to watch them husband,” Andessa said softly. “Tarb Kija is on duty tonight.”
No man took his duty more seriously than Kija. Although only the second lowest rank in his army, he could see the man rising rapidly through the ranks. Rings of his hauberk were ever greased, his horned helmet gleaming. Not only did he set a higher level for fitness and efficiency than the other Guardsmen, he insisted his subordinates maintained the same standard.
Tonunda grunted approvingly. He is a good pack leader.
He sensed Andessa understood his meaning. She did on most matters as if they shared the same beating heart. Unlike Zarnog, he couldn’t communicate with her in the linkage of minds. Nearly every gesture and expression, she seemed to interpret with almost unerring accuracy.
Tonunda stared after the possum. Andessa pressed her head against the side of his to watch its route.
“You feel stifled; do you?”