Snow had come to the city. Cobblestone streets and slates roofs were covered in a thin layer of ice created from the day’s slight melt. No sane man or women would venture out at night in fear of the blistering cold that took hold after the sun ventured elsewhere. The Instigator braved it though. She had to. There was a corrupted monarchy to topple.
She was not alone on the streets this evening. A crowd of close to one hundred souls journeyed with her and chanted in defiance. The stood in front of an old armory built atop a Roman aquifer that had sat below the city for a millennium. Fusiliers stood guard, still and emotionless in their ranks wearing the blue and lavender coats that had come to symbolize all that was wrong with their king. They looked untouched by the cold but on close examination one could just see rifles shaking in the arms of the shivering defenders.
The regiment’s captain paced impatiently in front of his troops, scowling at the crowd but refusing to engage.
“This throne is built on the dirt of a thousand graves. Let the bloodshed brought upon the commoner end now. Dismantle this armory and sends its stock back to the King’s palace where it can rust at his feet,” the Instigator cried out. She held her fists high in the air and strained her voice to be heard in the thin, cold air.
The crowd roared after every statement. The Instigator was not addressing those that stood before her feet though. She was standing on a platform made of apple carts and chicken coops taken from a nearby market. She was addressing the soldiers that stood between her and the armory. She wanted only the voice of the common people be heard, not for the king’s field soldiers to be roiled into any dire predicament.
She knew that blood had already been spilled in the fledgling resistance against the Crown. Lumberjacks in Tirr, miners in Oakvern; most all labor strikes organized by the Resistance had been stopped by the power of the bullet. She had no intention of drawing the fire of the scared young men and women in uniform. The laborers of the hills and quarries had struck first. The Instigator knew she could use her words to keep the evening settled. The first goal was to always draw more followers to the cause.
“This King has made it known that those who oppose the Crown and its unjust mandates will be silenced. Well I stand here this evening louder than ever before,” she called out.
The crowd roared once more.
“The citizens of this empire will not be threatened by guns and bullets. We will not be weakened by sabre rattling. We will not tolerate this armory in the middle of this city any longer,” she shouted.
The captain of the armory guard stopped in his tracks. He looked upon the faces of the crowd, saw their snarling lips and gnashing teeth. He saw the rags they were forced to wear; covered in soot and dust from the factories that dotted the skyline of the city. He looked upon the people and turned to face his men.
The Instigator could not hear the words spoken to the soldiers, but she knew they must have been just as powerful as her own. The regiment turned right and right again and entered the armory in an apparent retreat.
The crowd cheered, their voices echoed through the whole of the city and they felt a great victory had been won.
“Brothers and sisters, you have claimed these streets this night!” The Instigator started. “It is your voice that will divert rivers and crumble mountains. You have won this evening, shout your accomplishment to the heavens and let us…” The Instigator was cut off by a whirring sound coming from the heart of the armory.
The armory, built of red brick and gray mortar with a roof of slate and wood, made an ear crushing sound that caused the crowd to fall to their feet in an effort to end the pain in their heads. A deep rumble shook the city and gas lanterns roared to life, lighting the city to help citizens see the cause of such a tremendous annoyance.
The Instigator had always been resilient and regained her composure after a quick lapse. She rose to her feet and stared at the armory. The building appeared to be moving. The roof had parted and rising every so slowly from the core of the armory was a tower of wrapped copper and bronze capped with a sphere of unknown origin.
The Instigator fretted and found herself for the first time in memory at a loss for words. She had seen a tower such as this long ago in a land to the south. With that tower, when the whirring and thumping sounds ceased, nightmares were unleashed.
“Comrades and allies,” she frantically screamed, “seek shelter, remove yourselves from these streets. Depart my friends! Flee!”
Her words came a beat too late.
The tower glowed white hot. Those members of the crowd that were still on the street felt the hairs of their arms and of the back of their necks raise and draw themselves toward the tower. The sphere atop of the tower began to spin.
The Instigator did not see where the first bolt of electricity landed. She heard the screams and the cries of pain. She saw the resulting fire. She saw an empty boot fly by her head.
“Flee!” She shouted once more.
The crowd scattered in all directions, heading into homes not their own and finding alley ways they had never seen before. The tower continued to rain bolts on the street. More screams, more bloodshed.
The Instigator ran as long as she could before her breath could no longer keep up with her. She stopped at a garden erected in the memory of the late Queen Evelyn. The garden had a statue to honor the just and wise queen who was still, some thirty years after her death, was mourned by the empire. The Instigator put her back against a granite wall and tried to slow her breathing.
The King’s agents had drawn first this night. She knew not if any of her allies would be mourned with the rising sun, but she knew that the meaning of the resistance had suddenly and irrevocably changed. There were plans in place for the armory already, but now those plans would need alterations.
The Instigator collected herself, rubbed her locket for a reminder of why she was fighting and stepped into the night. There was still a corrupted monarchy to topple and the Crown had just doubled her resolve.