The War with the Mein

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Book: The War with the Mein Read Online Free PDF
Author: David Anthony Durham
winding staircase that led to it; shove her inside; lock the door; and leave it to the rats, insects, and worms to clean her bones undisturbed.
    Dealing with the moral ramifications of what he had just begun would not be nearly as easy.

C HAPTER
F OUR
    L ike all of the children of the noble houses, Aliver Akaran had been raised in opulence. He always woke to find his slippers resting in place on the floor beside him and flower petals in the basin of scented water he washed his face in. From the moment he took solid food, each meal he had eaten had been prepared to the highest standards, with the best ingredients, with the effect on the palate considered down to the last detail. He had never walked into a cold room on a winter’s day, never drawn his own bath or wet his hands washing clothes. He never even witnessed the washing of plates soiled by a meal. If asked, he would have had to create from fancy the process by which items were cleaned, mended, replaced. He had lived at the center of a massive delusion. It was a most pleasant one in which the world functioned largely for his gratification. At sixteen years of age, however, none of this stopped him from viewing the world through disgruntled eyes.
    Leaving his private quarters a week after the seashore ride with his father and siblings, the prince grabbed up his leather training slippers and flung his fencing vest over his shoulder. In the corridor outside his room he strode between guards that stood like statues at either side of his door, and then he passed down a row of actual mannequins that lined one wall. These life-sized figures were carved of pinewood down to the minutest human detail, sanded to textures as smooth as skin and evocative of flesh over bone. They had been positioned in differing stances and wore military garb from the various nations: a Talayan runner, the wood stained to near-black to mimic his skin color, an iron spear poised in the fingers of his right hand; a Senivalian infantryman in scale armor, curving long sword at his belt; a horseman of the Mein with his characteristic thick breastplate, draped in hides that hung around him in tattered bands; a Vumu warrior adorned in eagle feathers; and Acacians in their various tidy uniforms, bare armed, with loose, flowing trousers under fine chain mail.
    Aliver’s rooms had more objects of warfare than the king cared for. He had once pointed out that Acacia had overseen a largely peaceful empire for generations. But on this matter the prince did not mind his father’s disapproval. His daily interactions with his peers were a more challenging jostle than his relationship with his father. Leodan no longer elbowed through life among a throng of young men. Aliver, on the other hand, had yet to come through his manhood trials. As he saw it, all of the higher pursuits his father enjoyed had been made possible by the bravery of men and women willing to bear arms. It had been their earlier military prowess that allowed their ancestors to take the feuding, disparate elements of the Known World and unify them into a partnership of nations that benefited them all. How but through force could this have been achieved? How but through the threat of force could it be maintained?
    In angry moments Aliver imagined his father trying to hold forth to that earlier rabble, to explain to them the virtues of peace and friendship. They would have laughed him away from the campfire. They would have kicked him into the cold, spat, and called him a coward. And then they would have commenced the snarling battle that decided things in this world. Sometimes during these imaginings Aliver came to his father’s rescue, sword in hand; other times he simply watched. It was not that he failed to love his father. He cared for him dearly. He hated that he thought such things. They came to him unbidden, no easier to submerge than the unexplained pangs of carnal desire that had plagued him the last couple of years. But this was also
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