• “Many a warlord engages a spiritualist to influence the outcome of a war he is involved in. A priest may consecrate a campaign, and may even join the soldiers on the battlefield in a total effort to shore up their fighting spirit; a spell-caster is hired to curse the wretched enemy. But as the war drags on and divine intervention proves hopelessly distant, an Abettor is sought.

    A self-appointed admiral, the Abettor is versed in the art of modern warfare, developments in armaments, the strengths and weaknesses of warring parties in his domain, and, above all, is the deciding factor in the most prickly situations. Driven by his passion for a fair fight more than any personal reward or gratification, a good Abettor thinks nothing of abetting both belligerents in a given engagement.

    A celebrated Abettor came to the rescue of Count Ashenafi. A slight man with wooden dentures, the war broker had spent many of his ninety-three years crisscrossing territories, often with little regard for political borders, in search of a war to sponsor. He was a living archive: at his fingertips were all the battles that had been fought in his vast domain for the past six centuries and the strategies and tactics that had endured through generations. He was well acquainted with the armaments and able-bodied men within reach of not just princes and kings but also the lesser war-makers—feudal lords.

    A quick study of human nature, the Abettor realized that men may endure without bread and water but not without war, and so he made it his calling to afford them a fair and refreshing combat. He spent his days and nights sniffing for gunpowder, carrying on his back his worldly possessions of an old rifle, the Holy Scriptures, an extra copy of the Book of Hymns, and a small sacrifice for the road. He slept while walking. Having adjusted his needs to the ever-shifting clime, he could go without food or water for up to six months. Only in times of abundant harvest did he answer the call of nature.

    Though many brave men had sought him out in times of pressing need, the war patriarch had failed to earn their affection. A few of the people he had so diligently served had conspired to put him out of service in the most hideous ways. In an ordinary year, he could expect to be stabbed to death twice. Once, an army of retreating archers shot him with ninety-five arrows. On three different occasions, he was carved into palm-sized pieces and his remains served to hawks and storks; he was also known to have been buried alive. But, each time, the old man resurfaced in some remote corner of the kingdom in one piece, invigorated by his ordeal, ready to influence the outcome of another raging war.”

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