Her locket in hand, she stood before her troops and hoped the words would find her. The day had been long. Their toil had to be commended and sacrifice acknowledged. They had marched from far to come to the defense of Tirr. Skirmishes with sentries and scouting parties had been beaten back for miles, but the time of shoot and run battle had ended. The Resistance fighters, however few in number, would face down the King’s army in due time. The weight of that thought was inescapable.
The night had come in come in swiftly. Starlight lit the city. The king’s troops that had been stationed within Tirr had evacuated, cutting the lines to the gas lamps on their retreat. Buildings were set aflame, livestock let loose and food stores plundered. The retreating soldiers knew that what lied ahead was sure to be a long and brutal siege of the walled city. They did their duty in trying to shorten that effort.
She led a few hundred men and women from the port city of Echar, some fifty miles west from where they stood now. The volunteers had heard of the terrible weapon hidden away in the armory. They heard of the mechanical soldier defeated by a rogue Musketeer. They heard whispers of a scholar working within the upper echelons of the wealthy and cultured to bring down the highest class. They heard of these actions taken by the Resistance and mustered in fields, rallied in taverns to come to the defense of a city far from their homes.
The Instigator rode on horseback from the fish markets by the piers to the granaries outside of Echar, calling for all those dedicated to the cause of securing their freedoms from a lunatic royal to join the resistance. She spoke in whispers from atop her steed, knowing full well that any vocal support of the resistance would bring much undesired attention from the King’s agents working in Echar. She rode all morning calling for the brave to meet her on the granite bridge that had stood since the reign of a now forgotten queen.
Men and women, some armed and others not, answered her call to action and meet her at the bridge. Her eyes welled with tears at each new face that came over the tiny hill. She knew her words could mold the minds of those unwilling to hear her, but there was no magic needed to bring together the band that gathered at the river’s edge.
She stood now behind the rot iron gate of Tirr. The volunteers had marched for so long, and worked tirelessly upon arrival to evacuate the few citizens that remained in the city, that she feared they were tired long before the fight had even come.
They need words she thought. She was no general. She was not even sure if she had a rank, but when she received instruction to raise an army and save Tirr she moved faster than she thought possible. She knew the Resistance had been recruiting troops and building a force that could face down the King’s Army, but they were half way across the continent and no land-ship in existence was fast enough to move an entire army in a night.
She was the closest thing the volunteers had to a leader. When she arrived in Tirr she met the rumored Musketeer, a metal man of surprisingly few words; he was no leader. She spoke briefly with an alchemist that had set a trap for the incoming army, but he kept saying things about how pretty the fire was and how he was pretty sure beets were the best of all root vegetables. Putting that man in front of an army, no matter his position within the ranks of the Resistance leadership, was not on the plan.
She stood at the gate and the words found her.
“You have presented your best selves this day. You, the volunteers of Echar, the people of Tirr, those who did not think twice when asked to protect an ancient city from a new evil, have proven to be the best this country has to offer. When faced with madness, you have said through your actions that we can be a little mad too,” she started. She let loose her locket and walked through the crowd.
“This night we will take a hammer to our chains and show the king that we will no longer work to serve his machine. We will show him that the machine pulses with blood, and it does not bleed Blue and Lavender,” she said. She hoped the line would land a bit better, but the crowd did start murmuring along.
“We have within us this night the hope of a nation. And with that hope, we have already won. Now there’s just the mild inconvenience of King’s agents coming toward us. We have walls to help with that,” she said. The crowd gave a polite laugh.
“I ask of you only your lives. Take to the ramparts, follow my words and do as the Musketeer does. We shall not fall this night,” she finished.
The volunteers grabbed their rifles and took their positions.
Crickets chirped, horses whinnied from time to time and a light breeze whispered over the wall. It was a night that had happened a thousand times over. She stepped to the upper wall, where hundred of rifles pointed south and waited. The tension in the ranks was palpable and she loathed requesting this of any one. The Resistance to this point had always been about subterfuge and gathering enough followers to be loud enough to demand change. A new world was never to be built by rifle barrels. She should have known the crazed king would never have allowed a peaceful resolution to the people’s complaints.
She saw the Musketeer perk up and face south. He must have heard something. She saw him grab a rifle and an axe and make way for the iron gate.
“Steady yourselves,” she instructed the small band around her at the southwest parapet. “I need a runner to instruct the central wall to ready flares. We want to see the enemy when the time comes.”
She had given her first order of the battle. As the command finished the path to the south lit in a blaze. The Alchemist’s trap had worked. Orange plumes flowed toward the sky, balls of fire shot even higher. The sound of cracking trees reminded the Instigator of breaking her arm when she was seven and she cringed. The shouts and screams of the King’s army worsened the matter. Commanders’ voices boomed through the valley like path, telling the troops to run. Explosions continued for over a minute.
“Flares! Keep them going. As soon as a flare hits the ground, fire another one. I want the sun to rise twice this day!” The Instigator commanded, rising from her seat.
The runner made way to the center of the wall. Flares were in the sky before the Instigator sat back down.
What was once an army of nearly one thousand strong had been crippled. The Instigator saw perhaps a quarter of the original army’s soldiers emerge from the path. Those that left the path way were coming strong.
“Runner,” the Instigator said just as the runner returned from his last message, “send word down the line to hold fire until the Blue Jackets are by the moat. Wait for the moat. Then unleash everything.”
The runner nodded and made way down the line.
The remaining enemy regrouped outside the flames, dodging falling flares as the spent candles fell back to earth. The Instigator watched, for the second time of the night at a loss for words, as four hundred blue coated soldiers took formation and marched for the iron gate.
The soldiers in the field lobbed grenades at the iron gate, hoping to knock it down. They quickly hoped for something else as the gate fell open and the Musketeer led a hundred volunteers over the moat.
“Nevermind the moat order,” the Instigator said begrudged. She leaned out the parapet, despite her better judgement, and gave the order to open fire.
What sounded like a thousand quick pops filled the air. Gray smoke rose to the sky.
300 hundred of the King’s Army remained.
“Keep it going!” the Instigator commanded again.
A thousand more pops and the King’s army retreated to the woods, the Musketeer and his troops in pursuit.
“Hold!” the Instigator called.
Her heart raced as flares filled the sky to show a field empty of enemy soldiers.
Tirr had survived the night. The Resistance had claimed a stronghold.
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