“WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?”
Kayelar sat in his chair, arms and legs firmly crossed in a vague attempt to protect himself and not look scared at the same time. The High General had been throwing things across the room for about twenty minutes now and he didn’t seem willing to stop quite yet.
This room was supposed to be Kayelar’s campaigning office. Luckily it wasn’t decorated yet and was full of plastic, stacking stools, but many of them were lying in tatters on the floor. One lucky chair was somehow embedded in the wall.
“WHY DOES THIS HAVE TO HAPPEN?”
For a moment, Kayelar thought he had an opening to speak, but another stool flying past his head convinced him to wait just a bit longer. Any moment now, he’d at least stop shouting maybe.
“HE IS SUPPOSED TO BE DEAD!”
Finally, Photeianos took a stool and sat on it rather than throwing it. This was Kayelar’s chance.
“Um, ser, how is Elkay Theanon alive?”
“I…” Photeianos was very hesitant to answer, but Kayelar needed to know, so he asked again.
Photeianos sighed. “He was brain-dead. Not physically dead. The medics called it too soon. I… hoped he could be saved, but everyone saw him die, everyone saw it. So I spoke to General Kaldoran, who suggested that maybe his body could be preserved so he could be revived in the future. That’s what I did. Then one day, he was… gone…”
After his explanation, Photeianos sighed again, but this sigh was much heavier and louder. He glanced at Kayelar, who didn’t seem convinced.
“I don’t believe you.”
The High General stood up, feeling both insulted and angered by Kayelar’s words.
“I offer you this chance and the first thing you do is say you do not believe me?”
Kayelar cowered slightly in his chair, but realised what he was doing. He stood up, taking Photeianos’s ‘bait’. The story was ludicrous, if he didn’t believe it, then most Rethans would probably see through him too, even if Photeianos was known to be incredibly skilled in bluffing.
“Brain-dead beings don’t just disappear,” Kayel tutted. “You must be insane to think that I’d believe that. Something must have happened. If you don’t tell me now, then someone will ask you or I and we’ll look bad as we try and get our stories to match! Whatever happened, it could cost you this election!”
Photeianos paused. “You… think I could lose?”
Kayelar blinked. “Uh, yes.”
“Ser, General Elkay was your most popular Vice General in… I don’t know. As long as I’ve been alive. And I’m 102 years old. Possibly longer. General Elkay has a lot going for him, including covering your backside whenever you were ill or out of action.”
“I have won every election I have run in since the year 907.”
Kayelar returned to his chair, still tutting. “That’s because you’ve not had any competition. General Elkay is competent enough to be able to run Rethan society and has already proved himself capable. You stayed in power because you coasted off your win against the Vohra, General Elkay last year talked down invading Thanatians, his victories are… fresher than yours.”
Photeianos decided to return to his chair as well, but not after kicking several other chairs across the room. “I am superior to General Elkay in every way.”
“If that is true, why did you lie to me just now?”
Kayelar noticed that Photeianos had shuddered slightly. Was that a hint of fear?
“Fine. What I said about the brain damage was true. Little Elkay was damaged. He was pronounced dead. So I kept his body in my private quarters, with the hopes to eventually revive him. He woke up. I don’t know how. He thought I wanted to kill him or keep him imprisoned. I used my words badly. I threatened him. He was ill, he needed help. Everyone thought he was dead… Including me… I had to pin him down, scared he would hurt himself. He left. I told him to leave and settle down somewhere. Away from here. I told him to leave politics, retire and never come back.”
The High General fell silent. Kayelar tried to digest what he had just heard, but found himself struggling.
“So… General Elkay was still alive?”
“And you kept his body in your house?”
“And when he woke up, you tried to talk him into staying hidden?”
“And he retaliated?”
“So you told him to leave and never come back?”
“Hm…” Gears were turning in Kayelar’s head, trying to make what he’d just heard sound more reasonable. With the right wording, it could be done. But Kayelar didn’t have the former Vice General’s side of the story. Part of him feared that Photeianos was hiding something else.
“You do not sound very certain.”
Kayelar tutted some more. “I’m not. What you just told me… It doesn’t sound too awful if we phrase it right. This will hound us for this whole election though.”
“That is what I feared,” Photeianos closed his eyes, sighing loudly. “I have done other, worse things in the past though. Most of which are at the very least on record.”
“That is true…” Kayelar shrugged. “Let’s hope that the public can forgive you one more time. Otherwise we’ll have a real fight on our hands…”