Creance and Kiri snapped around and looked towards the cot.
“What?” they both said together.
“I said, that won’t help.” the wounded man on the cot said, “Not that it won’t help but rather, that you won’t have enough time.”
“What do you mean?” Creance questioned.
The wounded man tried his best to sit up, Kiri helped and he had to sit for a second and catch his breath.
“Well first off, I really doubt that Voler would come after me, or even send any of his men. I’m a nobody to him. The only reason he would come after me is out of anger and pride. But he is too preoccupied to worry about trivial things like that.
Could I get something to drink and eat? It’s been a while.”
Kiri ran off to get him a cup of tea and some soup and bread.
“Thank you…for everything. The name’s Jon Blesser, by the way.” he said as Kiri brought him the food and drink. He paused to eat and drink for a bit, enjoying every bite but trying to get it in as fast as he could as if his body was craving it. Once he had finished the first bit of food, he continued.
“As I was saying, Voler won’t come after me, so you’re safe. Besides, he has too many other things to worry about, especially now that this young lady here has caused such problems within the town and also within Voler’s own ranks. But that’s only the half of it; if you were to get your people together and create a new plan of attack, I assume it would take longer than a week to organize it. By that time, it would be too late and your plan wouldn’t be set in place and the Envahir would definitely have the upper hand.”
“How do you know so much about the Envahir and what they are going to do? And how do you know anything about my people?” Creance asked.
“Well first,” Blesser continued, “a lot of what I know about your people are just assumptions which I am making from what I happened to overhear; and also from who I believe you may be.”
“And who do you believe we are?” Creance asked.
“I believe, or at least it is my hope that you are a part of The Network. I have always hoped that the stories of The Network were true but I didn’t really put much faith into them until more recently. Are you The Network?”
Creance remained silent for a little while, trying to figure out the best way to answer the question and whether he should or not; also deciding if Blesser could be trusted. His silence gave Blesser his answer. Creance realized this and answered, “Yes, we are a small part of the Network.”
Blesser knew better than to ask more questions about the Network, he understood that they wouldn’t get answered and it would also make him look too inquisitive.
Blesser continued, “The reason I’ve started to believe the stories of the Network more recently and how I know so much about the Envahir is sort of one in the same. When soldiers are on watch together, they like to talk and complain; they share a lot of information about things they shouldn’t. So, what’s a guy to do when he’s just hanging around but listen?”
Kiri brought Blesser more food and drink, which he enjoyed but ate at a slower pace this time.
“The Envair is fortifying Voler’s ranks, our town is going to become a gathering place for soldiers before they march on
“What is going to become of our town?” Kiri asked.
“They will use it to hold prisoners, if needed and to slow or block any assistance which may try to come through there to help
Blesser turned to Creance, “I understand that I didn’t come to you in the best of circumstances and I know that I can’t go back to the town; otherwise I would be questioned and they would kill me once they found out all the information they could about who helped me and where I was. I also understand your hesitation to trust me and I respect that but, I ask that you allow me the opportunity to repay the two of you for rescuing me and your hospitality. I do not expect you to trust me with sensitive information I only ask that you use me and my skills as you see fit and allow me to build my trust with you. If, in time, that trust grows and you allow me to be a part of the Network, then so be it.”
Creance pondered what he said for a few seconds “Very well, you may stay and we will make use of your services. We can always use someone in a fight. However, be aware that if we suspect that you are not working for our interests and we find you to be a traitor, none of us will hesitate to kill you on the spot.”
Blesser shook his head in agreement and understanding.
“I overheard one of the guards mention something which I wondered if there was any truth to.” Blesser said. “The guard said that the Network has no real leader. Is this true?”
“There is a hint of truth to that. But do not be fooled, the Network is strong and well guided.” Creance said.
Blesser smiled, “Good.” As he lay back down on the cot and drifted off to sleep. Creance walked to the fireplace wrapped something in towel and walked towards the door. He stopped at the door and motioned for Kiri to follow.
Kiri stepped outside with Creance.
“What do you think about the things he was saying?” she asked.
“He had some very helpful information and the news that he shared has caused our timetables to be moved up. If we had not come across this information, we may very well have been caught off guard. This information must be passed along immediately.”
Creance called Leste over and spoke with her, giving her the information. A few minutes later, Leste grabbed her belongings and ran off.
“She will pass the information to the appropriate people so we can be prepared.” Creance said.
“Is it true that the Network doesn’t have a leader?” Kiri asked.
Creance explained, “It is true that at the moment, the Network does not have a single person leading them. The Network is currently controlled or led by a committee; their job is to keep the Network organized and running, making needed decisions and overseeing its operations until the true leader can be trained to take their rightful place. While the committee maintains the control needed to keep the Network running, there are many problems. Most notably, there is much indecision within the committee. Because of these problems, there has been much call for the rightful leader to take their place.”
“So there is only one rightful leader of the Network?” Kiri asked.
“And how is the leader chosen?”
“It is not so much as being chosen as it is a birthright.” Creance explained.
“What birthright? So you’re trying to tell me that the Network is run by some king? What if that king wanted to make it a dictatorship and take over their own countries? What makes him and the Network any better than the Envahir?” Kiri asked.
“While that is essentially possible, it is highly unlikely. The committee looks out for that type of action and would not allow it. Once the leader has decided to take command of the Network, the committee’s role changes; it is no longer one that makes decisions but rather advisory and approval of the leader’s actions. They are able to overrule the leader if they feel their decision is not in the best interest of the Network. You must realize that the Network acts as a protector for the country.
It is unlikely that the leader would do something such as what you are imagining because they are groomed for the position from a very early age. This is usually done through stories which teach the values of the Network and its leader. As the future leader grows older, they are often taken under the wing of the current leader and shown what the job entails; giving them the experience they need to do the job. Although this is not the case with the one who’s duty it is to become the leader.
The future leader is also usually given a protector, if you will someone who watches over them and guides them as needed.”
“But what is the birthright? What shows that this person is the leader of the Network?” Kiri asked.
Creance stopped walking. It was a second or two before Kiri realized this and she had to turn and walk back to him. Creance was standing there with his head bowed looking at the package in his hands. Creance slowly unwrapped the package. Kiri gasped as she saw the gleam of silver in the daylight, she recognized it at once.
“That … that’s the sword from the fireplace!” Kiri exclaimed.
“Yes, yes it is.” Creance said.
“If that sword signifies the birthright to the leader, then what are you doing with it? Are you the leader?” she asked.
Creance laughed, “No, no my dear child, I am not the leader of the Network. I am merely the protector.”
“You? You’re the protector? Then, who …” Kiri’s voice trailed off.
“It is your birthright to become the leader of the Network.” Creance said kneeling in front of Kiri, extending the sword.
“What!? No, I’m not a leader, I am only a barmaid.” Kiri said.
Kiri turned and started to walk away, overwhelmed with all of this new information.
“Kiri stop. You are so much more than that. Look at how far you have come in such a short period of time.” Creance said.
“I can’t even lift a sword and you’ll probably want me to fight with it.”
“You will not have that problem with this sword and we will have Sallan teach you how to use your sword.” Creance said.
Kiri paced back and forth, her mind teetering between wanting to scream and run away and staying to hear more.
Kiri turned to Creance, “Why me?”
“It is your birthright. Your father was the leader of the Network. He was grooming you to become the next leader of the Network which is why he taught you the stories he did. I suspect, if it were not for his untimely death, you would’ve been trained by now and had already become the leader.” Creance said.
“Then what would’ve happened to him?” she asked.
“He would’ve taken his place on the committee to act as council as is the custom.
“So there is a vacancy on the committee then?”
“No, there is another.” Creance said.
“Are you on the committee?”
“No I am not. Some on the committee are by appointment, other are by election.” he said.
“How did you become my protector then?” she asked.
“That is a long and involved story which includes your father.” Creance said.
“If it is a story about you and my father, I would like to hear of it.” she said.
Creance sat on a log near the stream; he wrapped the sword in the towel and laid it at his feet. He paused for a bit, remembering, “It is actually two stories but they are somewhat interconnected. I met your father many years ago, long before he ever came to this town, before you were even born.”