The Instigator sat alone, sipping at a glass of Oakvern’s finest aged whiskey. It was, not surprisingly, oaky and tasted like fire, but she savored every drop. She had spent the daylight hours with town elders trying to uncover the root of their suspicious attitude toward a stranger that had been arrested as a spy almost as quickly as he had arrived. She learned nothing.
The bar provided solitude among the masses. She sat, sipped, and soaked in the words of the patrons around here. In a week’s time, they would be living under the rule of a new government. Likely her government. None of them knew that, or just as likely none of them cared. They wanted their whiskey and their stories before heading back to work in the morning. She wondered if any of it had been worthwhile. The revolution, the battles; did any of her efforts matter? She took a longer sip of her drink and coughed.
A guitar was strummed off in one corner of the room and the song of a local legend filled the tavern. She listened to the tale of a miner who used strength and will to clear a caved in shaft and save his crew. She knew stories like this would be few and far between once the king fell. There had not been a single accident since Oakvern turned to the side of the Resistance in the early days of the war. This was in large part due to the resistance’s feeling that no one, from lowly miner to the Revered Regent, should fear for their life while they worked. Perhaps what she was doing did matter after all.
The tavern entrance filled with robed men as the song ended. The crowd hushed and patrons bowed their heads and hid their drinks. The Instigator looked away from the bar to see the source of the sudden silence. She knew the symbols and colors of the robes well.
“Oakvern,” one of the men said in a low booming voice, “be it known that the King stands strong and with the power of our divine, the resistance is soon to crumble; their leaders cast down and their soldiers set to be tried before the Revered Regent.”
The Instigator held back laughter. The men entered the room, taking long, steady steps through the hall.
“It is the Revered Regent that will guide our King to victory and together, they shall lead us in rebuilding once this distracting conflict is ended,” said another of the robed men.
“Trust in the Regent. Trust in the King. Trust in Country and we shall all be stronger for it,” shouted the third robed man.
The Instigator rolled her eyes. In all her adult life she had never rolled her eyes at any one. She set her whiskey down and made note to let her generals know of Oakvern’s particularly potent blend.
“You scoff at the King and Regent, madam?” The first robed man asked. She was sure he was looking the other direction when she reacted so childishly to their words.
“I do,” she said.
The other robed men turned to face her. The tavern’s patrons darted from their seats and lined the walls, ensuring they were not to be part of the fray. The robed men pulled blades from their belts and stared at the Instigator, waiting for her next move.
“You expect the blade to silence any of us who dare speak out against atrocity? You turn to the knife to secure your place as the only voice heard? It will take more than the flick of your wrist to end what I believe,” the Instigator said.
The robed men did not move.
“Your words have fallen on deaf ears, gentlemen. Oakvern is free of the King’s oppression and better for it. No more will they send the Court their coin while their fellows die in unwatched mines. No longer will their community help a widow through her turmoil because the King needed a new jeweled crown. These laborers will keep their coin and their lives now. They have rejected your King already. Do not push so hard as they will reject you as well.”
She reached for her locket and held it tight. “You will sheath your weapons and flee this place. Tell your Regent, your temple’s guiding light, that Oakvern has fallen beyond redemption and efforts need to be made elsewhere; like Riandury.”
The three men lost the color of their cheeks and blinked repeatedly before returning their swords to their belts and exiting the tavern.
The silence of the tavern was crushing.
“Oakvern, I must say, this trip has been exhausting,” she said, hoping the room would speak up.
The barkeep began tapping a mug against the counter. Then the guitarist. Before she knew what was happening, the silence of the room was replaced by dozens of mugs and steins clanking against tables and counters.
“They’ve been coming in here and walking ’round town threatening anyone with resistance ties,” one patron told her as he patted her shoulder, “those poor fools never knew what hit ’em!”
The Instigator stayed a the tavern well into the night, talking and meeting the townsfolk of Oakvern, learning of the power the Regent held over the city. She hoped that her words and her locket would be enough to keep the fear mongering outside the city walls until the King was defeated. That day was coming soon, but for Oakvern it could not be soon enough.
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