Thursday, January 31, 2008

Novel - Day 41 - 536 / 44,700

Sam and Ted squeezed there way through the small, un-boarded window in the back of the house. About eighteen other men and boys joined them.

“Come along, come along, follow Sam and be quiet.” Ted whispered.

Sam led the men into an alleyway and waited quietly.

The villagers from Capital City made their way through the woods and quietly camped out near the groups of soldiers. The larger groups of villagers were near the entrances to the town with the largest being near the main road. When everyone appeared to be ready, the young man gave out a howl, like a wolf.

At hearing the howl, Sam motioned to one of the boys in his group. The boy made his way behind the houses and up the alley between the houses. Laughing and yelling, the boy ran out of the alley and past the guard.

“Betcha can’t catch me, you goon.” the boy yelled, knocking off the guards hat as he ran by.

“Hey! Get back here. You ain’t supposed to be out, I’ll lock ya up!” the guard yelled, pulling his sword and chasing after the boy down the alley.

The last words of the guard were caught in his throat as he made it half way down the alley. He was faced with about twenty men who were now surrounding him and brandishing everything from sticks and stones to coat racks and pans which were obviously from the house they were supposed to be locked up in.

The guard stood there panic stricken. “Please don’t kill me!” he said as he dropped to his knees. A few minutes later, the guard was stripped and bound. One of the townsmen put on the guard’s clothes and walked to the front of the house and assumed his post. The townsman stood there at his ‘post’ for awhile, relieved that nobody approached him or questioned him. He heard a faint tap on the door, he turned and opened the door and walked in. He waited a second or two then stepped out and called to the guards who were watching the other buildings.

“Hey come here, check this out!” the townsman called, motioning for the two guards to come over.

As the guards opened the door, the townsman stepped behind them and gave them a slight push while the men inside grabbed their arms and pulled them inside. They shut the door and quickly subdued the guards, stripping and binding them. Within a couple of minutes, three ‘guards’ were standing at their posts in front of the building. A howl came from somewhere behind the building, the guards took no notice.

On opposite sides of the town, the villagers flung a stone towards the soldiers who were watching the minor roads out of town. One of the guards stepped into the woods to investigate. As soon as he was out of sight of the other soldiers, he stepped in a snare and was hoisted in the air. The soldier on the other side of town was immediately surrounded and tackled by villagers. When they didn’t come out, other soldiers went in the woods looking for them. It wasn’t long before all of the soldiers had been captured.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Novel - Day 40 - 503 / 44,164

The young man who had escaped the town dressed as an Envahir soldier, hid in the woods until he was sure the Envahir had all left the town. Then he waited. He began to get discouraged and he started to feel as though he had risked his life for nothing when he saw groups of people coming down the road. He noticed that it wasn’t soldiers but villagers from Capital City. Many who had looks of worry on their faces and appeared to have nothing more than what they had on.

“Stop, stop!” The young man yelled.

“Out of our way, boy.” One older man ordered.

The young man stood his ground, “No!”

Capital City has just been invaded by The Envahir. We need to get to the town to find shelter until we can make it back home.”

“The only shelter you will find there is in an Envahir prison.” the young man said.

The older man stopped and stared at him, “What are you talking about?”

“The Envahir came through here before they marched on Capital City. They took over our town and turned it into a prison. The only entrance into or out of Capital City is by the road you are on. You are walking right into their prison and when you arrive they will escort you to one of the overcrowded buildings which used to be someone’s home.”

“What do you suggest we do? Sit right down here in the middle of the road and sit for them to come back and carry us away?” the older man asked.

“No, what we are going to do is exactly what I was asked to do. I was sent here to warn you about the prison and ask for your help in freeing those who are still in there. There is a limited amount of guards in the city. We believe they can easily be overwhelmed.

The townspeople will put pressure on them from the inside and we will do the same from out here. Everyone coming from Capital City will surround the town the best we can and we will draw the guards away from their posts and weaken their defenses. They will be doing the same from the inside and when we are able; we will overpower them and take back the town.” the young man explained.

“What’s in it for us?” several people asked.

“Well let’s see, you get to stay out of prison for starters. You have a comfortable and safe place to stay until you can make it back home.”

“What happens if Capital City falls and The Envahir take it over and then come back here?” someone asked.

“Then we can either stand and fight and hope they are wounded enough we could defeat them. Or we at least have the option to escape from them and flee elsewhere.”

It didn’t take much convincing before the people from Capital City agreed to help. The people were quietly put in place and given their orders.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Novel - Day 39 - 1,043 / 43,661

Kiri made her way through the city gates and was crushed by the sights and sounds around her. What was once a beautiful city had quickly become a field of battle. Kiri stopped dead and stared at the activity happening all around her.

“Keep moving!” Creance yelled, “If you stop, you become a target.”

“Where do you begin?” Kiri asked

Creance motioned to the members of The Network, ordering them into different areas.

“That choice is usually decided for you, by someone attacking. That is where you start. By protecting yourself. Then you divide and conquer.” Creance said, “Follow me.”

Creance turned left and started running down a side street, motioning for others to follow.

Kiri followed Creance with others of The Network behind them, staying to side streets and alleyways, the group made their way through the town. A stray Envahir soldier turned the corner and saw the group running towards him. With a look of shock, he turned and ran. He misjudged, reached a dead end, turned and tried to back track but the group was too close, he ran and attacked the group of The Network. With one swift move, Creance swung his sword and the lone soldier collapsed to the ground as the group ran past.

Everywhere Kiri looked, there were small groups of people fighting.

“Why so many small fights, I thought there would just be one big fight?” Kiri asked as they stopped for a moment.

“If we can block off different streets to separate the Envahir, then we will be able to stop them from overtaking the city and we can defeat them much easier.” Creance said, “We need to get across here and over to the main street. We must keep The Envahir from reaching the government building.”

Creance began to climb the makeshift barricade that had cut off the street. Kiri followed and as she climbed over the top and dropped to the ground, a sword landed inches away from her head. She saw the red of an Envahir soldier’s uniform and lunged forward, sliding her sword into his gut.

Kiri gave a quick glance around which showed her that Creance was already quite involved in a fight with another soldier but, holding his own quite well. She saw a soldier charge towards her as other members of The Network came over the wall. She blocked the soldier’s sword and moved to position herself to attack. She continued to fight the soldier and was maintaining her own but wasn’t getting the upper hand. She was beginning to tire and even wondered if she could last when the soldier stumbled on a body. Kiri saw her opportunity and took it, the soldier crumpled to the ground. All of the fights she had blurred into one. Some of the fights, she killed her opponent almost immediately, others she struggled with. One wounded Envahir soldier stumbled towards her, struggling to keep his balance. As he reached Kiri, he teetered forward, throwing himself off balance even more; Kiri stepped to the side, kicked him in the rear and sent him stumbling into the wall of a building with a sickening thud.

As The Network began to clear this small section of street, the remaining Envahir soldiers took the opportunity to run away into other areas to give themselves the chance to regroup. Some of the soldiers fell as they tried to scramble over the walls.

As the last of the soldiers either dropped or disappeared over the wall, Kiri stopped to catch her breath. She looked around and noticed that several of The Network had fallen but, many more Envahir had. She saw Creance bleeding from a cut on his arm.

“My arm looks like your leg.” Creance said, pointing ot Kiri’s leg.

Kiri looked down and noticed that her leg was indeed bleeding. She tore a piece of clothing from a body that lay on the ground and tied it around her leg.

“It’s a shame that so many must die because I led them into battle.” Kiri said.

“Now is not the time for pity and that is not how you should look at it. You must see it as; they gave their life to fight for good and to save us from the likes of Voler.” Creance said, “How many more will die if we do not stop him?”

Once they regrouped and had repaired any minor injuries, Creance led them again through some side streets and onto a street which appeared to have a few homes. The end of the street had earlier been blocked off but the blockade was pushed aside. On this street, there were three members of The Network who were simply trying to stay alive, they were grossly outnumbered.

“ATTACK!” Creance yelled.

Creance, Kiri and the others came through the alleyway just as it looked as though the three men were about to lose the fight. The three men collapsed in a safe corner of the alleyway to catch their breath and quickly repair any wounds they had. The members of The Network began to drive back The Envahir soldiers. Just as it appeared that they may defeat these Envahir, others came to join in the fight. The Network was pushed back in the surge of Envahir which came through the broken blockade. The Envahir looked as though they may have the upper hand until they began to get pummeled with rocks and dishes and chairs from above. Kiri looked up and saw the villagers throwing anything they had at The Envahir. Shouts of cheers went up from The Network as the soldiers began to weaken under the onslaught of the villagers.

Kiri was fighting with one of The Envahir soldier’s. The soldier was distracted and she ran him through with her sword; when from the rooftop, a very large armoire came crashing down upon a number of The Envahir.

“Take that. That was me missus dresser, I never liked the thing anyway.” yelled a voice from above.

Kiri thought she heard a woman’s voice scream out, “What the hell you do that for?”

They quickly overpowered the group of Envahir, with the help of the villagers. Creance led the members of his group through a couple of side streets.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Novel - Day 37 - 3,773 / 42,618

“Sergeant Gamin!” Voler ordered, “You will be in charge of the town while we march on Capital City. Your orders are to use your men to secure this town and prepare it for use as a prison. There will be people who escape Capital City or those who we capture as prisoners. They will arrive here and you will take them in and house them as prisoners. As you will for any who are currently here. Is this understood?”

“Yes sir” Sergeant Gamin said, looking rather disappointed.

“Is there a problem Sergeant?” Voler said, seeing his disappointment.

“No sir, it’s just that I was hoping to be included in the group that marched on Capital City. I wanted to be involved in the battle.” Gamin said.

“I’m sorry to disappoint you, Sergeant, so I’ll give you a choice. You can either stay here and run the prison or you can become one of its prisoners. You don’t get the choice or a say in what you want to do. Is that understood? And Gamin, if you fail, you WILL become a resident here yourself. That is, if I let you live.” Voler said.

“Yes sir.” Gamin said as he turned and left.

Sergeant Gamin stepped outside, he jogged across the street with a limp; seeing three of his men and called them together.

“Organize the townspeople immediately, I want you to take the men and make sure every window in town is boarded up. Move all of the townspeople into three of the larger buildings. The people are only allowed to take what clothes they have on and a pillow and a blanket for sleeping, nothing else. If anyone refuses, lock them up in the jail, without their pillow and blanket. When you have completed that, you are each to stand guard at each of the buildings. No one is allowed to leave without permission. When they ask, give nobody permission.” Gamin ordered. The men ran off to see to their duties.

Sergeant Gamin made his way to the end of the road where the entrance of the town was. Here two guards stood watch, only allowing those to pass who they deemed fit.

“Secure this entrance.” Sergeant Gamin ordered, “From here on out, no one enters or leaves via this road. I want anything that you are able to retrieve to block this exit. Use whatever you have available to do the job. Make sure that no one is able to get through, whether they are on foot or horse. You will then guard this post to make sure of that.”

“Yes sir.” the guards said.

“Rest assured, if anyone does get through, you will pay for it.”

Sergeant Gamin made his rounds to each of the entrances to the town; he ordered the same thing, except for the road which led towards Capital City.

When Sergeant Gamin approached the guards at this entrance, he called them over, “I want you to leave this entrance open. The Envahir will be leaving by this exit and they will be sending back prisoners for us. This exit is to remain open at all times, unless ordered to do so otherwise. I want you to find what you need to secure this exit as quickly as possible in the case of an emergency. You will leave the equipment to the side and will only secure the exit on my order or that of a superior officer. I don’t care what you use to secure the exit whether it is wagons or trees or whatever, just make sure you can secure it quickly.

Only members of The Envahir are allowed to leave through this exit. Any civilians who come through here are to be considered prisoners. They are to be stripped of any belongings and taken immediately to designated buildings.

The men of the town were finished boarding up windows. They were ushered, under guard back to the three buildings.

“What’s going on here? I want to know.” One of the men asked. Others joined in demanding to know what was happening and why.

“Shut up!” one of the guards yelled at the man who asked the question, whacking him in the back with a club. The man collapsed to the ground.

“Hey! What the hell are you doing?” the other men yelled and started towards the guard.

The other guards watching everything unfold, pulled their swords.

“Stop!” one of the guards ordered.

Unarmed, the men stopped short and dropped to help the injured man up.

“You didn’t need to hurt him; he was only wanted to know what is happening as do we all.” One of the men said.

“Careful or you’ll be next.” The soldier replied.

The men helped him up and they were ushered towards the three buildings.

“It’s like a prison around here.” one of the men said.

“Prison … prison …prison” The word began to spread like wildfire through the townspeople. It took only a few seconds until the townspeople were yelling and screaming, “Let us out … This is our town; we shouldn’t be put in prison in our own town. Let us go.” the townspeople yelled. The guards pushed the people back. One unlucky soldier had his arm grabbed by the townspeople and he was the unwilling participant of a game of tug of war.

“Let me go. Ow, let go.” The soldier screamed. This went on for a few seconds with the poor soldier continuing to scream to be let go, until one of the soldiers pulled his sword and put it to the throat of one of the townspeople.

“Stop or he dies.” the soldier with the sword threatened.

The other townspeople saw this and began to quiet down and let go of the soldier’s arm. Realizing that without weapons, they were outmatched, the townspeople quit putting up a fight. The soldiers were able to push the townspeople back far enough to shut the door and barricade it. The guards then stood watch over the buildings.

Inside the buildings, the townspeople struggled to see with limited light. Everyone was talking, trying to understand why they were put in here. Everyone was trying to find their spot in the crowded rooms.

“They can’t leave us in here forever; they have to let us out at some point.” One of the townspeople was saying. Others were agreeing with him.

Someone else spoke up, “What makes you think they will let us out? Look around, we’re in a prison and there is no way out. I would guess if they tire of us, what would stop them from killing us?”

This caused an argument to break out.

“EVERYONE SHUT UP!” Sam yelled above the crowd, standing on a chair he had been using to sit on. “Yes, we are prisoners, in our own town. But if we work together, we may be able to take back our town. I have a plan.”

The next morning, all of The Envahir, except for Sergeant Gamin’s squad, left the town for Capital City.

“Lieutenant Epier.” Voler called.

“Yes sir?” Epier asked, moving to the front of the line.

“I want to pick up some speed. Have the men march double time. I want to arrive at Capital City and be in position by nightfall. We begin the attack at daybreak.”

“Yes sir, Captain Voler.” Epier said.

Epier issued the command and the soldiers marched double time towards Capital City.

After they had been traveling for sometime, Epier approached Voler.

“Sir the men need a rest, they have been keeping up this pace since we left. If we take a rest and then continued on at a normal pace, we will still make our positions by nightfall. The men will be no good to us if they are worn out or injured before we arrive.” Epier suggested.

Voler looked as though he was going to cut Epier open with his sword. He paused and looked at Epier, “Very well, you are right, give the order, we’ll take a break and then we’ll continue on at normal march.”

Epier ordered the army to stop and take a break. He heard many sighs of relief; he too breathed an inward sigh of relief, keeping his comment to himself. After a short period, Epier called for other officers, “We divide up here. Squad one, you will skirt the city and move to the north entrance. Squad two, you will place your men at the East entrance. And squad three will continue on with us towards the southern entrance. Remember, you will keep your men out of site until daybreak. On my signal, after daybreak, you will secure the entrance to Capital City. You are to let no one enter or leave unless by my order.

On my second signal, you are to open the gate and your men are to take the city. Remember to leave enough guards to secure the gate. If there are any changes, I will inform you directly or send a runner. Once the battle begins and your men have entered the gates, they are to do what they can to take the city and force a surrender.

Any questions? Seeing none, take your squads and move out.”

“Squad one, move out!”

“Squad two, form up on me and move out.”

Each of the squads arrived at Capital City before nightfall and made camp, keeping out of sight. At daybreak Voler, Lexa and a young man entered Capital City and made their way through the city towards the government building. Voler looked through the city, observing the layout and formulizing plans.

As they entered the government building, Voler didn’t stop at the secretary’s desk.

“Where are the council members?” Voler asked as he walked down the hallway.

“Wait, wait, you can’t go in there.” the secretary called, running after him.

Voler reached the first room and opened the door to the small office. The small man behind the desk was startled as he opened the door.

“I presume you are one of the council members?” Voler asked.

“I’m sorry sir, I couldn’t stop him.” the secretary said.

The council member waved a hand at her. “Yes, yes I am but what is the meaning of this?” he asked. “If you wish to meet with me, you must make an appointment.”

“Sir, I do not have the time nor the patience for meetings and appointments.” Voler said, “I have come here for a purpose and I would encourage your help. There are any things which I know about you and your city and how it is run. Things which you would not want your public to know. Now, we can make this very simple or it can become very difficult. You can work with me and do what I ask or you can choose to go against me. If you go against me, I can guarantee that your life, family and career would be over. Yes, you may still be alive but, you will wish you were dead; when you come to me and beg for relief, you will find that there is none.”

The councilman studied Voler for a short period, “How do I know what you are saying is the truth? How do I know it’s not some kind of joke?”

Voler motioned to the young man who came with them. The young man stepped forward and gave Voler a parchment. Voler opened the parchment and showed it to the councilman. The councilman’s jaw fell open and his face turned white.

“How, how could you know this? How could anyone know this? It’s not possible. that’s just not possible.” the councilman said.

“Now, I assume you will work with me and do what I ask?” Voler asked.

“No, no I can’t. I just can’t.” the councilman said, “I’ll buy this information from you. I’ll make it worth your while. You don’t have to do anything, just forget.”

“You don’t seem to understand sir,” Voler said, “This is not negotiable. Besides it is not your money I want. It is something else.”

The councilman got up from his seat and started towards the door. Lexa blocked the door, pulled her sword and pointed it at his throat.

“You would do well to sit and finish listening.” Lexa said.

The councilman slowly moved back to his seat.

“You must forgive her, she is a bit protective.” Voler said, “As I was saying, your choice is to join us or we will begin destroying your life, career and everything you care about. We will begin by sharing this information with your wife and then your city. You won’t be able to leave the town alive.

If you join with us and do what I ask, this information stays nicely packed away and nobody will ever find out.

Now how does that fit you for negotiations?”

The councilman paused for a bit and pulled at his hair. He stood up and paced behind his desk, not moving too far away for fear of Lexa’s sword.

“Very well, I will do what you ask. I can’t have this information out there and I can’t afford to lose my family. What is it that you want me to do?” the councilman asked.

“It is quite simple, an easy task for you. You are to lower the flag of Capital City and raise a flag of surrender. In one hour, you will lower that flag and raise the flag of The Envahir. You will then turn over complete control of the city to me.” Voler said.

“I .. I can’t do that.”

Voler motioned for the young man, “Find his wife and show this to her and then make the announcement across the city.”

“No wait, don’t do that!” the councilman said.

The boy started out the door.

“OK, OK I’ll do what you ask, I’ll hand control of the city over to you.” the councilman said.

Satisfied, Voler stood and left the room.

As Voler was walking towards the south gate, he glanced back and saw the flag for Capital City lower, in its place was raised a white flag of surrender. Voler smiled.

Voler motioned for the young man, “Inform Lieutenant Epier that he is to have his squads in place and the entrances to the city sealed off in one hour. Have him send in a small entourage of men from each entrance to join me as I take control of Capital City.” The young man saluted and ran off.

Kiri was watching as the flag of Capital City was lowered and a white flag of surrender was raised in its place.

“It has begun!” Creance announced.

Creance signaled for the Network to move into position near Capital City. From their position in the woods, Kiri could see The Envahir.

“Why don’t we just take them here, before they make it into Capital City?” Kiri whispered.

“Creance explained, “Out here, they would be able to surround and defeat us. They would have the upper hand, and they are only limited by the distance they can send their men. Once we have them within the city, we can separate and weaken them. We can block their defenses. We would be able to contain them and deal with The Envahir in smaller fights rather than one large battle.

We have the upper hand within the city and besides, they are not expecting an ambush once inside the city.”

“What if we can’t contain them or defeat them?” Kiri asked.

“Then there will be nothing left of Capital City to be saved nor will there be any need.” Creance said.

“I don’t know if I can do this. I don’t know if I can lead the Network and as my first act, I am leading them into battle. How do I know this is the right thing?” Kiri questioned.

“Well, it’s a little late for these kinds of questions now. But I will tell you a secret about having the right decisions when you are a leader. You don’t know, you never know if the decisions you make are the correct ones. But you have to make them and you make the decisions that are best for all and that will accomplish that which you are trying to achieve.

You are young in your leadership and your training has just begun, but already, I see the traits of your father in you. He was a very good leader but if what I have seen is any indication, you will become a Great leader.

You did not choose this battle. This battle was developing long before you accepted your position. Even if you had declined the position and chose to go on your own way, this battle would still have taken place. The only difference is now that The Network has its leader, they have hope. With the work you have already done, it has helped The Network, your Network in its battle against The Envahir.”

It wasn’t long after The Envahir began to leave to march on Capital City that Sam and Ted started to put their plan into action. They were able to steal peeks out the windows between boards. They noticed that there was only one guard watching the building they were in. They rummaged around in the closets and were able to find enough clothes that resembled something like an Envahir soldier’s outfit. They asked for someone to try to get outside of the town. A boy stepped forward who wasn’t much more than a teen.

“What we need you to do once you’re outside of the town is to keep anyone from entering. Meet them further up the road and stop them. Once you have enough, we want you to surround the town or at least find someway to weaken the guards and put pressure on them. We will be doing the same from here and if all works well, we will be able to get our town back.” Sam said, “And whatever you do, don’t get caught.”

They went to the back window and as quietly as possible, removed the boards. They lifted the boy through the window. He hid behind the house until he saw a couple of soldiers running by and he joined in behind them. His heart was racing and he thought that the decorations which were so hastily sewn on would fall off at any moment. He ran behind the other soldiers, past the guards and out the town gate. Once he was out of site of the gate, he slipped into the woods and hid until The Envahir were gone.

Many of the people of Capital City had begun their day and looked up at the government building and noticed that the flag had been removed and a white flag replaced it. Rumors abounded as to why a white flag was flying above the government building. It wasn’t long before one story began to prevail about The Envahir taking control of the city. The rumors turned to facts as the news spread and people were ordered to remain indoors and secure their households.

It was an hour after Voler had his meeting with the council leader. Voler, Lexa and a small group of soldiers from each of the entrances entered the City. The soldiers gathered behind Voler and they walked down the main street towards the government building. Voler stopped and watched with pride as the white flag lowered, as if on cue.

Voler watched as he saw rise up the flagpole, not the red flag of he Envahir but instead the blue flag of The Network. Anger shot through Voler.

“Someone will die for this joke.” Voler said marching towards the government building.

All of a sudden, the road in front of him was cut off. He spun and looked behind him as the exit that direction was also cut off.

“Ambush!” Voler yelled.

A volley of arrows whizzed past them from the rooftops. The soldiers instinctively raised their shields and backed against the buildings to find protection.

“Return fire.” Voler ordered the soldiers who were carrying bows. He motioned for some of the soldiers to get to the rooftops. Voler yelled out to have Epier send in more troops, the noise of the city and the walls drowned out Voler’s cry for help.

The arrows from above had stopped and it wasn’t long before Voler and Lexa were engaged in a sword fight.

It appeared to the small number of The Network who was there, that they were beginning to overpower the small band of soldiers. Then they saw The Envahir’s leader pull out a small horn and blow a signal. At this point, the men watched as a wave of the Envahir’s soldiers came rushing through the city entrances. The soldiers came so fast that The Network’s men almost didn’t have time to raise the blockades which separated the soldiers, breaking them into small groups.

Kiri watched and listened as The Envahir entered the city and the sounds of battle broke out. She was ready to follow them in.

“Wait. Wait for it.” Creance said, “If we go to early, we will just be stopped at the doors.”

“Why don’t we just kill the ones at the doors and force our way in?” Kiri asked.

“That will bring the fight outside. We will not be able to get the help inside which we need. If we bring the fight outside, we have the same problem we would have had we attacked earlier. Be patient and let Epier do his job. You must have faith in your people and in the plan.” Creance said.

It was at about this time that Epier rode his horse up to his men at the gate.

“Get in there, they need your help.” Epier said to his men.

“But sir, the gate.” One of the men objected.

“Look at them son, they need your help, they’re losing in there. Captain Voler is in there. Do you want to be the one to tell him he was wounded and had a difficult time in the battle because you had to watch the gate?”

“No sir.”

“Besides, who is going to leave? Everyone is too busy fighting. Now get in there. That’s an order.”

The soldiers saluted and ran into the battle, leaving the gates wide open.

“That’s it. Give the signal.” Crenace said as a horn sounded behind them.

Kiri began to run alongside Creance, leading The Network into battle with The Envahir. Creance slowed near Epier.

“Close the gates behind us.” Creance yelled and rushed through the gates towards the battle.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Novel - Day 36 - 4,072 / 38,845

Kiri was finishing breakfast, wondering how the day would be spent and was cleaning up when Creance approached her small tent.

“Did you sleep well?” Creance asked.

“Yes, fine.” Kiri replied

Creance tottered back and forth from foot to foot, obviously uneasy. Kiri had never seen him like this.

“We will camp here until the battle begins.” Creance said trying to fill the uncomfortable silence.

Slightly annoyed Kiri asked, “Creance, what is it? What is on your mind? You obviously have something you wish to share.”

A little relieved that he could speak openly, Creance said, “I had told you the story of how your father had come to lead the Network and how Voler became who he is. You had asked how your father died, at the time I told you that I could not say; it was not my story to tell but someone else’s.”

“Yes, I remember.” Kiri said.

Creance was hesitant, “Well, that person is here and is willing to tell you the story; and answer a lot of other questions you may have and will develop from talking to them.”

“What? Who is it? Where are they? I have so many questions and I want to know.” Kiri said.

“I felt today may be a good day because we don’t expect to do much until at least tomorrow at the earliest. This will give you time to clear your head and make sense of what you hear.” Creance said.

“Why would I need to make sense of it and clear my head? I only want to know how he died and what he was like.” Kiri asked.

“There is more to it than just simply telling you a story. I would give you the warning, to not let it cloud your judgment or decisions.” Creance warned.

Kiri shook her head.

“The person who will explain everything and then some is here and has requested your presence to explain everything to you. I have agreed to it but, the final decision is up to you, I will take you to her if you wish.” Creance said.

“YES, yes!” Kiri said, standing up.

“Kiri, the person you are going to see is … your mother.”

Kiri collapsed back onto her makeshift seat. “What?”

She tried to force a laugh, thinking it was a joke, “My mother’s dead, she died when I was a baby.”

“That was a decision that The Network had made early on and they felt it was best to let you believe that. But she is very much alive and well and would like to speak with you to explain that and more.” Creance said.

Kiri was silent for a while; trying to digest the information she was just given. She quietly knew somewhere within her that this was true and that it wouldn’t be the only time today that she will have to accept new truths about her life.

Kiri stood up, “Let’s go.”

Without a word, Creance put his arm around her and led her away from the tent area to a little clearing near some trees. Sitting on a large rock was Marcia, who stood and smiled as they approached.

“Kiri, this is your mother, Marcia.” neither said anything “If you will excuse me.” Creance said as he left.

They stood staring at one another, not sure of where to begin. It was a few seconds later when Marcia motioned to the rock. “Please sit.”

Kiri moved and sat on the rock, not taking her eyes off of her mother. Kiri noticed how beautiful she was and her smile.

“It has been a long time since I have been able to see you.” Marcia said. “I would visit as often as I could, just to be able to see you. As you got older, it became more difficult to see you without you asking questions or giving you away.”

Kiri rubbed the side of her head as she started to feel a headache beginning. “I’m still trying to make sense of the fact that I have a mother who is not dead. How do I know that this isn’t some kind of sick trick?”

“I assure that it is not a trick; we would have no reason to trick you. I understand that you have a lot of questions and many more developing each second. I will do my best to answer whatever I can.” Marcia said. “I just don’t know where to begin.”

“You said that you would visit, how did you do that and when?” Kiri asked.

“When you were a baby, I would sneak into town and come to the bar. I would spend the evening. Your father knew I was coming and he would fight to keep you awake, so that I could be able to put you to sleep. I would pick you up and a few minutes later, you would fall asleep in my arms. After carrying you for a bit, I would put you in your crib and just watch you sleep. Then your father would tell me all about you and everything that had been happening. I would spend most of the night, enjoying spending time with him too. Then I would leave before daybreak.

As you started to get older, you would ask too many questions about who I was so I had to change my visits. I would come to the bar late at night, acting as if I was a patron. He would often close the bar and I would sit there and watch you, sometimes trying to talk to you as you played until you fell asleep.

After your father died, I would come less frequently. I knew you were protected, by Creance mostly but, there were others too. It was hard for me to visit, remembering him. It also made it hard because you didn’t know who I was. We felt that it was best you continued to live they way you were.” Marcia paused with tears in her eyes.

“Why did you leave us?” Kiri asked.

Kiri saw the look of hurt in Marcia’s eyes.

“I didn’t leave you. I never wanted to leave you, either of you. We separated.” Marcia said.

“Why did you separate? Did you fall out of love?” Kiri asked.

“No, just the opposite, we loved each other very much, almost too much. Which is why we made the decisions that we made. We separated to protect you, our family and The Network.

It wasn’t long after Voler ambushed your dad and Creance, nearly killing you. I understand Creance told you that story?”

Kiri shook her head.

Marcia continued, “We realized that as a family and for The Network; that Voler wouldn’t stop. We knew that he would try again to kidnap you. He wanted to bring The Network down and wouldn’t stop till he did. We knew that if the three of us tried to disappear together, it would only be a matter of time before he discovered where we were at. When that happened, he would try to kill us and kidnap you, if he couldn’t do that, then he would kill you.

Together, your father and I decided to separate and stage his death. We had already begun to spread the rumor that you had died. We decided that I would stay behind and give the appearance of a grieving mother and wife. Your father would take you and go into hiding. We chose that your father would take you into hiding so that he could continue to teach you. We also set it up to give the appearance that the Network collapsed because of the loss of its leader and future leader. The committee liked the plan and agreed, accepting that your training would continue while in hiding and when your father felt that you were both ready, the two of you and The Network would come out of hiding and defeat The Envahir.

It was a good plan and would’ve worked well, until your father died. Your training had stopped at that point and the committee felt it may be risky to bring you back and train you until you were ready. We were on the verge of doing just that when Voler began to invade.”

Kiri hesitated before asking, “How did my father die?”

Marcia began to cry.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to…” Kiri said.

“No, no it’s fine.” Marcia said, wiping away tears. “It’s just still so hard to think about. This is one story that I never wanted to share but one which I knew that I would one day have to, at least to you. Give me time and I will tell you all that you wish to hear.”

Kiri sat patiently while her mother composed herself.

“Voler never really believed that your father was dead.” Marcia began, “It never seemed like he questioned your death.”

Kiri laughed, “Until last night.”

Marcia looked at her questioningly, “Somehow Voler knew that your father wasn’t dead but, he couldn’t prove it or find him. He knew that if he was alive, he couldn’t stay away from me for long. So he had scouts watching over me.

Miller Johnson is a good man and one we could trust.”

Kiri shook her head.

“Your father left you with Miller Johnson, to watch over you while he came to visit me one day. Voler’s scouts discovered your father while he and Creance were on their way to visit. He ambushed them as the left.

They were outnumbered but, killed a few of them. Voler wanted to kill your father himself. Your father had put up a good fight and Voler was baldy wounded but he had the upper hand after a long grueling fight. Your father was too weak to protect himself, Voler swung and split him open; your father fell to the ground.

Creance signaled for help which arrived before Voler could strike the final blow. The reinforcements drove Voler and his men away. Your father knew he was dying, he grabbed his sword, pressed into Creance’s hands and said, ‘You know what to do’ then he made Creance renew his oath to be your protector.

We carried him back to where I was staying, he died shortly afterwards. Fearing that you were next and loyal to your father and the oath he made to him, Creance immediately took off to find you even though he was badly wounded. Miller Johnson was shocked with fright when Creance came bursting through the back door of the bar, covered in blood.

After Miller Johnson was able to calm him down, they realized that there had been no attack upon you. Creance told him the story, at least most of it while Miller Johnson nursed him back to health. Those two and a few others took care of you and watched over you until you were old enough to do so for yourself.”

Marcia sobbed.

“I am thankful they took such good care of you. After that period, I saw you less and less. The committee felt it would be best.”

“Why did you always have to follow what the committee wanted? Why couldn’t we have just disappeared as a family? Then my father wouldn’t be dead and I would have had a mother and a father. What is so special about this sword? From what you say, it is like the sword is more important than the person using it.” Kiri said.

“Yes, I can see how it may appear like that but; there are a lot of things that you don’t yet understand that come with your position and that sword.” Marcia said pointing at the sword. “The sword is important but not more so than the person possessing it. The sword was originally you great-great grandfather’s. It was a gift from a person who’s like he had saved. It is said that the sword gives balance to the person’s life, to that which they lead and to the country. If at either time the person’s life is disrupted or the sword falls into the wrong hands, that balance is distorted and evil can triumph. We’ve maintained the balance by keeping you alive.

We have always done what is best for The Network and what the committee decides because of that balance. The committee ruled The Network until you were of age to take the position for yourself. If we did not do what was best for the Network, the balance would be thrown off, evil would prevail and The Network would crumble. Your father did not understand this when he rebelled and set out on his own to create his own little army. At that time, The Network suffered until he made his decision to come back and rule The Network.

Had we left as a family, it is true that we could’ve still maintained the balance and controlled The Network. However, Voler would have eventually found us and killed each one of us. That would not have taken him very long to do. Then The Network would’ve been without their leaders and the sword would have fallen into the wrong hands. The balance would have been in Voler’s favor and The Network would have crumbled. So we decided to sacrifice our love and our family for the sake of The Network and the country.”

Kiri sat quietly, digesting the information and trying to process it.

“I understand that there is a lot to accept. But I also wanted you to be aware of something else; you are the first female leader of The Network and the first woman to possess the sword of balance. Which is one of the reasons your father and I took such great care to protect you. It is also why The Network has looked out for you. But, it is also why Voler is so adamant about controlling or killing you.

The theory is that since you are the first woman to possess the sword, it changes the balance and makes it stronger, more complete. It also gives you more power and whatever you control becomes stronger.”

“I don’t understand, why does that change the balance?” Kiri asked

“Since the sword has only been used by males, some believe that is the way it should be; that if it is changed, it could have a disastrous impact on the balance. Personally, I think they are just afraid a woman would show them how to do things in a better way. Others believe that having a woman in power strengthens the balance by giving the power it has been missing for all of these years.” Marcia said.

“What do you believe?” Kiri asked.

“Of course, I believe that it is the woman’s destiny to control the balance but, it is my daughter we are talking about.” Marcia said.

Kiri realized that she had said, ‘my daughter’ and for the first time, really understood that this was her mother she was talking to.

Mayor Smithson walked through the gates of Capital City and looked around with the wide eyed enthusiasm of a child. It had been a long time since he was here and trips to Capital City were always a treat. He always made sure to bring home special gifts for the family when he came hear on business. Yet, he knew this time it would be different, there would be no perusing the local shops and enjoying the special breweries and eateries of the town. He knew he was on business of a different type and if everything went well, he may be able save his family and his town and come back another time. If things did not go well, there would not be another time.

“Remember, you are to search out who the local leaders and who the prominent people in town are. You speak with them and discover their weaknesses as quickly as possible and then we report back to Captain Voler as soon as possible.” Epier said.

They walked through town; Mayor Smithson noticed that the housing was set a few blocks off of the main street. He saw many small shops on both sides of the street, some of which appeared to be new and others that he had been in before. A little further down the main street were eateries and pubs. Mayor Smithson chose a pub he remembered from a previous trip and went in.

“We’re not here to party” Epier reminded the mayor.

“I’m having a drink. Unless you know a better place to find out the information we need, then you can do my job.” The Mayor replied.

Epier didn’t object when the mayor opened the door and walked in. Mayor Smithson ordered two beers.

“Pay the man.” the mayor told Epier.

Epier looked at Mayor Smithson and was about to object.

“Your boss is fitting the bill; you can put it on your expense report.” the mayor said.

Epier just shook his head, didn’t argue and tossed a few coins in the direction of the bartender.

“Excuse me,” Mayor Smithson said to the bartender, “My partner here and I are new to town and we were thinking of establishing a new business here. We were wondering who ran the largest of businesses here in Capital City. You see, we want to find out who we are up against.”

“Well, I ain’t sure but, I’d have to say Markson is the guy’s name, he runs the warehouses at the other end of town. From what I’ve seen, they have the biggest business in town. Either everything goes in and out of those warehouses or he has his hands in your business somehow. I’m kind of lucky that he hasn’t got to me, yet. I guess there isn’t much profit in pourin’ beers for folks.” the bartender said.

“No I suppose there isn’t, I hope it stays that way for you. Thanks for the info.” the mayor said as he finished his beer and set the mug down.

“Good luck to you,” the bartender said as the Mayor and Epier left the bar.

“Now wasn’t that informative and the beer tasted good.” the mayor said to Epier, not expecting a response.

The mayor and Epier continued down the main street until they came to a large cross road. On the corner of the cross road stood a large building with a statue of a large man with a sword and a shield. They recognized the statue as that of the government building. They entered and found a secretary sitting at a small desk near the entryway.

“Excuse me, I am Mayor Smithson I am only in town for the day and I would like to speak with the City Council members on urgent government business.” the mayor said.

The secretary looked at the Mayor and Epier for a moment and said, “If you will excuse me, I will see if any of the council members are available.” the secretary left and walked down the hall.

Realizing this is why he came here and that everything he was asked to do depended on his conversations with these people. The mayor worried about how he was going to speak openly with them and pass along the information he needed to while Epier remained so close. He decided that he would have to play it by ear and see if he could create some type of distraction to be able to get some time alone with the council members. the mayor realized that he may need to use them to explain the situation to the other council members; he feared that while a distraction may work once, that was all it would work.

The secretary came back a few minutes later and didn’t quite reach her desk when she called to the mayor, “The senior council member will see you now, if you will follow me.” She turned and proceeded to walk down the hall without waiting for an acknowledgement from the mayor.

They entered a small room with a window view of the intersection of the cross road and the main street. Within the small room were a few chairs in front of a large desk and sitting behind the desk was a small, balding man who stood as they entered.

“Mayor Smithson, it’s a pleasure. Please be seated”, the senior council member said, motioning towards the chairs, “To what do I owe this pleasure?”

“Well, um, I” Mayor Smithson began.

“Ah, I beg your pardon but I must excuse myself.” Epier said.

Mayor Smithson stared at him in disbelief as Epier left the room. Relieved, the mayor couldn’t have hoped for any better luck.

As Epier left, the council member continued, “So how may I help you?”

“Listen, I don’t have much time and I can’t speak freely around him. As I said, I am the mayor. The Envahir have taken over my town, they are marching on Capital City within a couple of days. You must prepare as quickly as possible. However you must do so quietly and without being noticed. There are spies about and if they discover that Capital City is aware of the Envahir’s pending attack, the plans will change and there will be an all out war.

I was sent here to gather information upon those people who control the city, information which can be used against you. I will feed false information to those have sent me. When a Captain Voler comes and tries to manipulate you using this information, it is imperative that you and any others act as if he has control over you with this information.”

“How do I know that what you are telling me is the truth?” the council member asked.

“I suppose you really don’t. The best you could do is sit back, wait and watch as your City is obliterated by The Envahir. Or you could take action, be prepared and at the worst look like a fool; if the information I am telling you isn’t true. But do you really think someone would try telling you a story such as this if it wasn’t true?” the mayor said.

Mayor Smithson stood and left the room. He saw Epier at the end of the hall talking with the secretary. Epier did not say anything as the mayor walked by. Epier and Mayor Smithson left Capital City immediately.

By the time the Mayor and Epier had exited the city gates, the senior council member had called together the other members of the council and explained the situation. They decided that it was better to be prepared; if nothing actually happened and they discovered later that it was a hoax; they decided to call it a readiness test. If the residents started to ask questions, they would just explain that they didn’t want the exercise to frighten the public. When they were done, they figured that they would come out looking good no matter the outcome.

The council members began to quietly deploy the militia across town in hidden locations. They were given orders to remain there and out of sight until a signal was given, at which time they would come out and cut off access to their part of town. If all worked well, when the militia would fill the streets and cut off access, the city would be divided, hopefully weakening any attacking force within the city limits.

The council members also made sure the financial portion of town was secure and the armory was given extra guards, some of which were hidden. They also looked at the exits, having the guards add to the strength of the doors in the hopes that it will keep others from entering the city.

By the time Kiri joined the others of the Network’s committee at the pre-planned meeting place, the size of the committee had grown as had the members of the Network. An entire squad of The Network was ordered inside Capital City, to fight from within once the Envahir enters the City. The squad entered the city in small groups from each of the exits. They quickly found rooms for rent and went into hiding. Others found hiding places in alleyways or near the warehouses. Some even found places on the rooftops throughout the town. The other squads of The Network surrounded Capital City, placing themselves near the entrances of the City.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Novel - Day 35 - 1,823 / 34,773

Kiri struggled to wake up Creance. He finally woke up. Groggy, he tried to understand what Kiri was saying.

“They know who I am and they have to know where we are. If they don’t, it wont be hard for them to figure out. We’ve go to do something and do it quickly.” Kiri said.

Kiri started to gather her belongings.

“I got help from the mayor and a couple of guys who I figured I could trust. I am trying to get these people to weaken Voler’s defenses from the inside; once the Envahir marches on Capital City they will take back the town. Anything we could do to improve our chances may help.

I hope that Epier catches onto what I asked the mayor to do and gives him some room to work. Otherwise, the mayor may fear that Epier will report back to Voler and be afraid to say anything or follow through with what I have asked him to do. Because I did not tell him that Epier could be trusted.” Kiri said.

“What are you having the Mayor do?” Creance asked as he climbed out of his bed.

“I wanted him to speak with the leaders in Capital City, explain what is happening, get them to prepare for the Envahir’s attack.” Kiri said.

Creance slowly got dresses as he listened to Kiri’s explanation of the night’s events.

“After that, I eventually ended up at Voler’s, trying to get what information I could. I was surprised and I fought with Lexa.” Kiri explained.

“That was the girl who was with you when you first arrived here?” Creance asked.

“Yes, I found out what had happened to her since she was taken from my bar before it burned. She told me about how Voler tortured her and she finally gave in and joined him. When I tried to leave, she stopped me and we fought. It was only by her being distracted that I could get the best of her.” Kiri said.

Creance’s face went white. Half dressed, he ran towards the door and outside. Unsure of what was happening, Kiri followed.

Creance looked around and yelled, “EVERYONE UP, WE MOVE IMMEDIATELY!”

Kiri saw lights come on and flaps open to hundreds of small tents which lined the field. Creance ran back inside as Kiri stood staring at the tents, until she realized that these were members of the Network and they must’ve arrived during the night while she was in the town.

Kiri realized that Creance had gone back inside. Kiri stepped into what looked like a war zone. Creance was running back and forth grabbing belongings and stashing them into bags. Blesser was trying to help but unsure of what to do.

“What’s happening?” Kiri asked.

“Voler and the Envahir know where we are. If your friend puts it together, they will change their plans and start over here before marching to Capital City. They could easily figure out where you are, Voler knows that I am with the Network; by now, with that sword, they know you are leading the Network. They may very well set out to wipe out The Network as their main priority.

The people who are in the tents you saw outside are a good portion of the members of The Network. They have been arriving throughout the evening. The plan was that we would gather here and then move on to protect Capital City. Now we have to move sooner, though we still have others arriving. Although, if we can arrive there before The Envahir; we may be able to place a number of our people on the inside.” Creance said.

Creance stepped outside, called for someone and a young man ran up to him. Creance spoke with the young man for a short time. The young man ran to his tent, grabbed a couple of things and ran off through the woods.

Creance came back in, “I just sent a runner to warn the rest of The Network that we had to move and have them meet us at Capital City.”

Creance threw some of the bags at Kiri and Blesser, “Follow me.”

They dragged the bags outside and a few hundred yards from the hut near a tree, Creance began to uncover a hatch. He took the bags and shoved them into the hiding spot. When Kiri looked at him, questioningly he said, “If they come, they’ll take everything and burn the hut. I’m trying to save everything I can. Remember, this is all I have.”

When they returned to the hut there were others there. Sallan was there with another man and two women. As they entered, Creance greeted them. He began to speak with them and then stopped abruptly.

“Kiri, would you join us please? This concerns you.” Creance asked.

Understanding that he would be intruding, Blesser excused himself and stepped outside. As Kiri approached the group, they bowed their heads and gave a small salute.

“Kiri these are some of the members of The Network’s committee or representatives of members. Sallan, you are familiar with.” Creance said.

“I was pleased to here how well your sword play went. I would like to hear more when the time allows.” Sallan said.

“This is Elaine, William and …” Creance paused, “and Marcia.”

Kiri shook hands with Elaine, William and Marcia. Marcia took Kiri’s hand in both of hers and said, “I have waited a long time for this.” Kiri smiled.

“There will be three groups.” Creance said, “Divide the people up in the best way you see fit. Elaine you will lead one group and William the other. The third group will be led by me, Marcia and Kiri. We will each leave via a different direction. We will position our groups in the areas we have selected. The six of us and any others of the committee will meet near the southwest of Capital City in two days to finalize any plans. The others who will be arriving later have been given these orders. If there are any changes, a runner will be sent. Are there any questions?”

Creance looked around at the small group. “We leave immediately.”

The group broke up and Elaine and William left, Blesser came back in, feeling that he was no longer intruding.

“I know that you haven’t had much time to rest but, we must leave now.” Creance said to Kiri, “ I promise that you will have time to rest soon enough.”

Creance handed Kiri and Blesser some clothes and a few other belongings. “Here, you will need these.” He also handed them a couple of traveling packs that were filled and had a small tent tied to them. They left the hut and Creance stopped and looked back into the hut, he shut the door, turned and started walking. With his sword strapped to his side and his traveling pack on his back he started towards the woods.

“Gather up! We move.” Creance called.

Quickly, about 20 people all with packs lined up near Creance and the others. Creance walked towards a path in the woods while Kiri and the others followed.

Kiri took some time to get adjusted to walking with the traveling pack strapped to her back. The walking was slow, especially in the dark. The trail was hard to follow. The only advantage they had was that there was a moon this evening. The moon allowed them to see the path or at least the person in front of them. Everyone had the responsibility to make sure they kept close to the person in front of them and keep the person behind them equally close.

They walked most of the night, only stopping a few times near a creek for water. They walked until the moon began to set and they were losing light. Everyone found a place to lie down and sleep. They did not spend the time setting up tents; they only covered up and went to sleep. A few guards were set to keep watch. Kiri found a fairly comfortable spot to lie down and as she began to drift off to sleep, she heard Creance and Marcia having a heated discussion.

The sun was already up when Kiri was shaken awake. Kiri sat up and looked around. She saw the woods surrounding them and saw others waking up and gathering their belongings.

“Here eat this.” Blesser said, handing her a piece of fruit, “I don’t imagine we will get much to eat while we are traveling but, from what Creance said, we should be at our destination this evening if we make good time.”

Kiri thankfully took the piece of fruit and enjoyed the meager breakfast. It wasn’t long before she had her pack back on and they were making their way through the woods. The woods began to open up and the path widened so that they could at least walk side by side at times.

“What were you and Marcia discussing last night?” Kiri asked Creance.

Creance looked at Kiri, appeared like he was going to say something and then said, “Now is not the time.” and walked away to avoid any more questions.

It was late morning when they stumbled upon two of The Envahir’s soldiers. The soldiers grabbed their swords and started towards Creance and Kiri. Kiri and the others dropped their packs and pulled their swords. When the soldiers realized they were grossly outnumbered, they turned and began to run away. Creance stepped forward and swung at one of the men, cutting open his side. As he spun around to see where the attack came from, Crenace swung from the other direction and took off the man’s head. The other soldier ran off into the woods, Kiri ran after him with Blesser on her heels. A few minutes later, they came back dragging an obviously dead soldier.

Creance called two men over and ordered them to search the area to see if these men were alone or if there are others. The men came back after a short while, reporting that these soldiers appeared to be a scouting party.

“By the time they are discovered to be missing, we will be far away from here. Remove their clothing and dispose of them.” Creance ordered.

They were moving again but, this time; it felt like Creance was trying to move them faster.

It wasn’t until much later in the day, near evening that Creance looked around the field they were in and announced that they would stay there. Everyone was busy erecting their tents and starting cooking fires. Kiri began to understand that not only were they hungry and tired; they were also trying to get everything set up before it was too dark. Kiri set up her tent and began to cook a meal.

The nest morning when Kiri woke, it felt much more like a normal morning.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Novel - Day 34 - 2,533 / 32,950

Kiri slid back into the dark and made her way across town. She had one more stop to make before returning home. She made her way to the one house in town where she knew she wouldn’t have any trouble entering. There was no activity near the house, so she slipped in through the unlocked door. The interior of the house was dark and quiet. Kiri moved slowly and tried to avoid the windows. She searched the house.

Kiri found a room that appeared to be Voler’s office. She was searching the desktop and the drawers for anything that may be of use to her, when she heard the door open and the light from a lantern blinded her. She could see a figure standing in the doorway, with a sword in one hand. The figure raised the lantern and Kiri could see the face.

“Lexa!” Kiri exclaimed, starting towards her.

Kiri stopped as Lexa raised the point of the sword towards her.

“What do you think you are doing?” Lexa asked.

“Lexa, it’s me, Kiri. What’s happened to you?” Kiri asked.

Lexa set the lantern on a stand and moved closer to Kiri. She just stared at Kiri, watching her. Kiri stopped looking through the desk and waited, unsure of what Lexa might do.

“I should’ve known it was you.” Lexa said. “I never did see any evidence that you had died in the fire. I should’ve known you were the one causing all of these annoying little problems.”

“At least I’ve been doing something. I tried looking for you. What did they do to you?” Kiri asked.

“You don’t really believe that I just showed up on your doorstep and decided to become your friend do you? I was ordered to go there. Voler sent me. He wanted me to get close to you so we could use your establishment as a headquarters and because a lot of information is passed in a place like your. You understand, the more people drink, the more they talk.

I overheard you talking with the mayor one day about needing help and I thought I found my opportunity. So I showed up and let you believe that I was sent by the mayor. My job was easy, get to know you and convince you to open the rooms for rent. Then when the time was right, I was to convince you to allow The Envahir use your place as their headquarters. If you had, things would’ve been much different for this town. Later I was also to try and convince you to join us.”

“So you’ve always been one of them?” Kiri asked.

“Yes but things changed, I started to like you and I thought I had found a way out.” Lexa said.

“A way out of what?” Kiri asked.

“Out of The Envahir and away from Voler. You see, he had me in his grasp. He had me under his control and I was scrambling for a way to get out. I thought if I could get far enough away from him, I’d be able to escape. But, then I realized that I couldn’t do it alone. I decided to try and get your help but I couldn’t give you any information. I was taking a chance, if you were connected with Voler, I would be found out and he would have me punished or killed. So I tried to convince you to do the things I needed help with and I attempted to do so without giving you any information. I was so close but, you needed to get back to your bar and that was when Voler and his group walked in.

He figured out soon enough what I was up too. Even that night, I was trying to defy him and he knew it. The last thing I remember is the fight at your bar and the next thing I new, I woke up in a jail cell with an enormous headache.

I was left there for sometime, practically outside. They didn’t give me much to eat and drink. Voler eventually came to see me. I begged him to let me go, he actually enjoyed the fact that I was begging, he laughed. He was angry about my decisions and what I was trying to do. He had me tortured.”

Kiri stared at her, not knowing what to say.

“He wanted to teach me a lesson and punish me. He has always wanted to keep me close at hand and to do whatever he asks. To make sure I always listened to him and did what he asked, he carried out most of the torture himself. I believe that he really enjoyed it. He would leave me chained up in a dark cold room where I couldn’t see or hear anything for what felt like days, they were long and slow, I lost track of time. He barely allowed me any food or water. He would only unchain me to whip me; I would look forward to those moments, just to know I was still alive for, in the dark I would beg to just die. I eventually broke. I gave in and agreed to his demands.” Lexa explained.

“Lexa, we can leave now! Come with me, he won’t be able to find you. You will be protected. You can be free of him forever.” Kiri said.

“I can’t do that. I can’t even think about it; I could never endure that torture again. I am committed to him. I can’t leave him.” Lexa said.

“If you won’t come with me then I will have to leave without you.” Kiri said.

“I can’t let you do that.” Lexa said, pointing the sword at Kiri.

“What are you talking about; I have to get out of here before he finds me.”

“Like I said, I can’t let you do that. If he discovers that you were here and he realizes that I let you leave, he would kill me. Besides, as I told you, I am committed to him. He would want you taken alive, knowing that you are the one who has been causing all of the problems in town. However, if I have to kill you to hand you over to him, so be it.” Lexa said as she raised her sword.

Kiri quickly reached for her sword and blocked as Lexa swung at her.

“What the hell!” Kiri thought.

Lexa began to advance on Kiri and drive her backwards until she began to remember the training Sallan had given her. Just as Lexa began to think she would be able to take Kiri with ease, Kiri started to fight back, defending herself. They were pretty evenly matched. Kiri looked for a way to gain the upper hand when she thought that she could use some of Leste’s training. Kiri started to move in ways which would throw Lexa off, causing her to take a double take and actually have to start looking for where Kiri was. Kiri realized that this very well could be a long fight.

“You’ve learned to fight well, in such a short period of time.” Lexa said.

They parried back and forth for a while until they heard someone coming through the front door.

“In here!” Lexa yelled.

Kiri took advantage of the distraction and kicked Lexa backwards, grabbing ahold of the large bookcase; she pulled it over on top of Lexa, knocking her unconscious. Kiri headed for the window when she looked up and saw Voler standing in the doorway.

“YOU!” Voler shouted.

Kiri froze.

Voler glanced at the lifeless body of Lexa. “So you’re the one causing issues in the town. I guess you’ve learned how to put up a good fight. It would have been much simpler had you just joined us. You would have still been able to have your bar and could’ve run it without incident and we wouldn’t have had such disruption within the town.”

Voler moved. Kiri braced for attack. Voler used his foot to pick a stool up off of the floor and sat on it, not taking his eyes off of Kiri.

Kiri said, “Your girlfriend lies on the floor unconscious and you want to make a deal?”

“Ppfft”, Voler said waving his hand towards Lexa, “I tire of her. But you show interest. Join with me and I will order that your inn is rebuilt by the morning if that is what you wish.”

“I’d never join with you or The Envahir. I’d rather die first.” Kiri said. Voler looked at her with the expression that it could be arranged.

“But I’d take you with me, or at least give you a matching scar on your other cheek.” Kiri said, pointing her sword at him. The metal of the sword glinted in the firelight.

Voler stared at the sword with a look of fear and shock.

“That, that sword where did you get it?” Voler asked.

Kiri stood upright and said with pride, “From my father! Who, if you remember, was the one who gave you the scar on your cheek.”

Voler’s look of shock turned into one of disbelief. “It can’t be! You died, you fell.”

“I hear that’s the story they had you believe.” Kiri said, “But the truth stands before you.”

“I assume that if you carry the sword that means you are the leader, like your father?” Voler asked.

Kiri did not answer.

“I know more about you than you realize Voler. I know the truth about you and how you came to your position with The Envahir.” Kiri said.

“LIES! All lies.” Voler said. “You think you know what happened but your stories have been poisoned over the years and the truth has been distorted. I can tell you the truth, the real story which your father was ashamed or feared to tell you.”

Voler paused for a bit, watching Kiri who didn’t move.

“This, all of this was your father’s idea.” Voler gestured around him. “This army of soldiers, The Envahir, everything was his idea. Your father was a bit older than the rest of us, we looked up to him. He wanted to create his own little dictatorship. He forced a few of us to join him; he wanted this little militia of his own that he threatened to kill us if we didn’t join with him. He started to recruit others to join and soon, it began to take on a life of its own, and he wouldn’t have to threaten them to belong, they wanted to be a part of it because everyone else was.

You look a little surprised by the truth.” Voler said seeing Kiri’s reaction.

“It’s just I never heard this version of the story, continue.” Kiri said encouraging Voler to finish his story, hoping to find information she could use.

“He wanted to build his own army and then take over The Network and turn it into a killing machine. But his greed and anger turned our own people against him and his ideas. They started to leave and it was best because if they had stayed, they would have most likely killed him.

I tried to reason with him, let him know that we could use our skills in a better way. He threatened me that if I ever said anything against him again, he would personally kill me and that I should never leave or he would hunt me down. I realized that I was trapped, feeling alone and threatened, I begged our friend, Epier to stay. Reluctantly he did.

By the time most of our group had left, he was already trying to work his way into The Envahir. To impress them, your father had already made plans to wipe out a shipping company and steal their boats. I tried to explain that we couldn’t accomplish it without having more manpower. He became very angry and violent. He forced us to carry out our attack just as he had planned.

The plan started to work well and we began to take the crew captive, we had them bound and had planned to release them safely. Then, your father just went crazy; he started swinging his sword, that sword, killing all of the crew, even though they were bound and not a threat. Your father had got a taste of blood and wanted more!

I tried to stop him and begged him to turn back to shore. I couldn’t let him kill more and do more damage; I started to turn the boat around and we started to fight, which is how I got this scar. When I started to win and it showed that he would either be killed or captured, he grabbed the weakling, Creance and jumped overboard.

During the fight, the tiller was damaged, having no way to steer the ship, we ran aground, shipwrecked and injured. It wasn’t long after that The Envahir found us and nursed us back to health. The stories we began to hear that your father had spread about us, made me realize that we could never go home. The Envahir took us in and gave us a home.”

Kiri just looked at him for a while, and then shook her head. “That’s a good story; forgive me if I don’t hold much faith in it. I just have a hard time believing it. For you see, I knew who my father was. While he may have had a sense of adventure, he was definitely not the person you described.”

“Of course you wouldn’t believe the truth once you have finally heard it. But that is your decision to make, just as your father had made his.” Voler said.

Seeing an opportunity, Kiri said, “Thanks for the story now I must leave.” as she backed towards the window.

“You will not get a step away from the house before all of my guards are upon you.” Voler said confidently.

“That is true but, you underestimate me and that I am my father’s daughter. This is for my father.” Kiri said as she sliced her sword across Volers’ left cheek sending blood spraying.

Voler screamed in pain, grabbing at his face. Kiri kicked him in the chest sending him falling backwards onto the toppled bookcase. Kiri started out the door and stopped. With the tip of her sword she knocked the lantern from the stand sending it crashing to the floor spraying oil and flames across the room. Kiri ran from the building and without worrying who saw her, she was sprinting across town, heading for the woods.

As she was near the other side of the town, a Sergeant Gamin stepped into view. Before he could yell for her to stop, Kiri had launched herself at her, kicking him straight in the stomach. Kiri rolled on the ground, quickly scrambled up and continued running. A quick glanced showed her that the soldier was still lying on the ground curled up in pain. Kiri was able to escape the town as the soldiers began rushing towards Voler’s house. She didn’t stop running until she was at the hut. She woke Creance immediately.