Called to a command tent in the early morning hours of a Tuesday morning filled with the sound of chirping crickets and a summer fog, the Instigator dutifully answered her summons.
“Sirs,” she said entering the tent. Generals stood around a table cut from a single plank from a single tree and carved with the symbols of the resistance. They wore grayed mustaches and wrinkle smiles. Each had spent storied careers serving the king’s army, but even those seemingly loyal to the Crown were quick to notice the growing madness at court. Now they served as the council guiding and forming the direction of the military calling itself a revolution.
“Thank you for coming,” General Ludiard said, “please take a seat.”
General Pilat rose motioned for her to take his chair. Pilat had a reputation for being particularly callus to the needs of others, for him to be extended his chair meant one of two things was about to happen; she was being sent on a one way trip, or the war had ended prematurely. She was involved in the planning of most engagements now; she knew the war was far from over.
“What can I do for the cause, this morning, Generals?” She asked.
“As you know, the Council of the Counties is readying for a post-war country,” General Ludiard started. His voice was tired.
“And they are fools to do so. This war is far from done. And if the rumors of Riandury’s incursion are true, we are further away from our goal than before,” the Instigator cried.
“I am well aware of the situation,” Ludiard said in such a way she knew to let him speak. “the Council is drafting a governing document nonetheless. The other generals and I can do little to dissuade them at this point. If Riandury is marching on us, they will be dealt with in order. They, our revered Council, has convinced me that they are acting within the best interests of the country and our soldiers.”
“How could they have done that?” The Instigator asked. Her frustration was growing.
“They told me that of all the people available, the only person they are considering to lead the new country is you,” Ludiard said.
The Instigator’s frustration fell way to confusion.
“I could not have agreed with them more. You reach into the hearts and minds of all of us and bring out our best. You have proven your bravery and leadership time and time again. When this war wraps up and my soldiers go home, I need to know they will be looked after,” Ludiard continued. The other generals spoke their agreement.
“I cannot dare to take on such a role. I was on my way this afternoon to weed out a potential spy at the iron mines in Oakvern. I am a little more than a tool in the arsenal of our cause,” she created an excuse.
“You are so much more than that. You know that,” Ludiard said.
“I have royal propaganda and spies to end. We’ll return to this foolish plan when I come back from Oakvern,” the Instigator said. She rose from her seat, nodded to the generals and left the tent.
The ride to Oakvern was swift. She rode a borrowed steed who hated gravel roads, but rode splendidly on sandy paths. She assumed. There was only gravel between the field tent and Oakvern. The ride was fast, but the horse was loud and the ride bumpy. She pondered stopping to sell the beast, but had little knowledge of the protocol of explaining to a stable master why one horse left and another returned. She thought perhaps the ride was a metaphor for what leading a post war country would be like. Nothing but neighing and bucking from a monster that soon after asks for food.
“Why would they do such a thing to me?” She asked of the horse. The horse stepped sideways, unprompted.
“Stop that, you,” she insisted. The horse paid no attention.
Oakvern was a mining town fenced by towering red pine trunks. Within its hills laid the best iron in the country. It was one of the first towns to break from the Crown. Its miners had a long history of rioting for better conditions, better treatment. Over generations the town had created its own prayers for those heading into the mines, and those that never returned.
The townsfolk had called upon the resistance to take custody over a man they had declared a “spy” for the king. If ever there was a place to avoid being branded a loyalist, Oakvern was it. The Instigator knew if she did not arrive within a few days of receiving notice, the spy would be killed and nothing would be gained. The world was on edge.
“Who goes there?” A gatekeeper shouted as the Instigator approached.
“I was summoned to speak with your captive spy. On behalf of the Council of Counties.”
The gates opened before her words ended. The horse was already walking headfirst into the wooden gate.
She was guided to the prison. Words were thrown at her, empty phrases and platitudes she had grown quite accustomed to over time, she paid no attention until she needed to interact. She feared she already more politician than she thought. They arrived at the prison and she was taken to a guarded cell. Against a brown wall on a wooden stool sat the spy.
“We found a registry of mine managers and a map with the seal of the king on his person when he was taken. He was shady, and unknown, so he was watched. Cannot be too careful in this state of the world,” explained the warden.
“I will need to speak with him alone,” she waved away the guards and stepped into the cell.
The spy did not say a word to the visitor.
“I have been having a day most bizarre,” she said. As she spoke she took hold of her trusted locket. “So I want to have an honest conversation. I need you to trust me. Your truthful response is all that matters. Be honest, be true and the Resistance will be your friend. The king will fall and all of this will be put behind us. Be my friend, and I will be yours.”
As she spoke she saw the spy calm. Her words had taken hold and the man would speak only truth.
“Tell me, accused, are you guilty of the allegations levied against you?” She asked.
“I swear to you and the cause, I am no spy for the king. Or any other king. I am innocent,” the man said.
“In that case we have a much larger problem in the country,” the Instigator let loose her locket and exited the cell. She instructed the warden to set the stranger free to return to wherever he was from. There may not have been a spy in Oakvern, but there was fear. Fear was much more difficult to remove.
Thanks for reading!
Here’s the rest of the story so far:
Here’s the rest of the story: