Becoming the Alpha, Braga explained, was a life's work, and one that most Ga-Vok knew to be beyond them from an early age. But for those strongest members of their clans, those warriors with the guile to outwit their enemies as much as overpower them, and for those who's clan's had the ambition to propel them into the highest competition of all their people it was the ultimate aspiration.
Not for personal glory, Salvia was surprised to hear, but because for the honor of being accepted as worthiest of all the people. An Alpha gave up his name when he ascended to that rank, and even his accomplishments from before he became Alpha were attributed not to him, but to the Ga-Vok people as a whole. In order to rule his people, an Alpha had to give up his very identity. Only the Oracles, guardians of Ga-Vok traditions and an order of magic users as powerful as witches and respected even by immortals for their insight, kept records of an Alpha's true identity, stored along with all the other secret records of their people.
It came as no surprise to them when they came unto the Hall of the Alpha that it was neither grand nor particularly old. In fact, it was barely distinguishable from the other more or less dome shaped buildings that made up the city. Their were no guards at the door, but all the Ga-Vok of the city were armed, and they seemed to communicate with little more than body language. The Alpha had been forewarned of their coming, Prince Curt had seen to that, but Salvia had expected more of a carpet, or even suspicion than they were now receiving.
"Wait here, I will speak with him. The Ga-Vok respect Immortals, and especially accomplished warriors like myself. Do not cause another commotion, understood?"
They all nodded, James grunted an affirmation. A small crowd gathered around them as the doors closed behind Hack. Then a single, fairly tall Ga-Vok stepped out of the crowd and raised his muzzle at them.
"Hail Braga Pageturner, Hail Salvia Spiderskirt, and though I do not know your name young human, I welcome you also to our beautiful planet."
It was, though the buildings were a combination of concrete and gray stone, the streets were soft grass and there were trees towering all about the city. The sun shone uninterrupted by fog or haze, and a cool wind blew from the southeast. It was high summer, but the air was light and Salvia felt much cooler in her newly blue dress than she would have in black.
"Hail friend, We have come seeking your aid in a battle to come."
"Yes, Curt Brightsword of the Nielda contacted me a few weeks past. He told me that Old Cloak is building an army. I have already begun to prepare our fleets and our men. Any foe of True Gravaga is a foe of the Ga-Vok." He looked back over the assembled crowds. "Let it not be said that the Ga-Vok have forgotten those who lent us shelter in the time of Bitter Frost. A warrior repays his debts, and aids his friends without thought of his own gain." The crowd vocally approved, some drawing blades and shaking them at the sky, others howling or chasing their tails in fits of what Salvia could only hope was some form of strange patriotic ecstasy. The tall Ga-Vok turned back to them and said more quietly, "Although, I anticipate we will gain much by our actions, though how much can only be determined by time."
Hack burst through the door, a fury on his brow, as he heard the sounds of the assembly. Then he stopped and saw the tall Ga-Vok and said only, "You are late."
"Nonsense, the Office of the Alpha is wherever his people have need of him. I should have thought as experienced an adventurer as yourself would be sympathetic towards the wandering called for of a Ga-Vok leader."
"Of course, I should know better than to expect otherwise from you. The Alpha is, as always, a servant of his people."
Salvia noticed that both Braga and the Alpha's tails stopped moving, and began to stiffen. James clearly didn't notice, but she could tell that he and much of the crowd were becoming uncomfortable as well.
"I see you have chosen to bring Braga with you, and the Spell-Fan from Gasca, who has spared the Falling-leaves much embarrassment. These two are of my warding; I am sure you will take good care of them both."
"It is in your power to do so, if you send your troops at..."
"Oh get off it." The sheer mundane quality of the phrase through Salvia for a loop. "You will have your army, and a fleet. But know this, your crusade shall not meet with the end you claim to seek. I do not come to aid you, I come to honor the alliances of my ancestors and to honor my own commitments. You, Old Cloak, are but an afterthought in the mind of the Ga-Vok. And so also your schemes. The Oracles have told me of you, and your conspiracy, and I will not see my...my people thrown away to serve a bit part in your games. When we come, Braga will be our contact, and I will lead the battle with my own axe. And when we are done I shall spit on the vacant throne and our debt shall be re-payed. Is that clear, mange-mutt?"
Hack turned silently and headed to the ship. Braga caught Salvia before she began to follow. "The Alpha wants a quick word with you."
"I do actually. I have owed you a personal thanks for some time now. Although it is..not permitted for me to do so."
"I mentioned how I was from the same tribe as the warrior who's murder you investigated? I failed to mention, he was my nephew, the girl you saved, she is my brother's daughter."
"She has begun to dtudy spellcraft with the Oracles today," The Alpha stated quietly. "I just dropped her off in their care. She hopes that someday she can serve the Oracles much as you serve the Witches." He took out a pendant and handed it to her. "She wanted you to have this. It isn't much in the ways of magic, but it will identify you as favored by the Oracles, and by the Alpha. On the behalf of Braga's brother, a thankful father, may it bring you fortitude and insight in all your travels."
The Alpha raised his muzzle in the traditional sign of respect between one Ga-Vok and another, and Braga joined him in it. Salvia bared her own throat in response, then hurried back to the ship.