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.”
“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
“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
“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
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
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