Year 3630, the Fifth Age, the eighty-seventh day of Spring
“Legin, are you listening to me?”
Legin looked up from the wooden table to Vythe who looked irritated.
“Yes, of course I was,” Legin was quick to say.
“No you were not, you were playing with that thing in your hands,” Vythe sighed and shook his head.
“I was listening,” Legin replied and looked back to the table and to the object he was fingering and spinning on the table top.
“Then what did I say?”
“You said: ‘Legin are you listening to me,’” smiled Legin and looked back to Vythe, but he saw no amusement on his friend’s handsome features.
“So you were not listening, were you?” Vythe said angrily.
“No, sorry,” Legin replied sheepishly, “Could you say it again, please?”
Vythe rubbed a hand across his face and sighed, “What is that you are playing with anyway? Some kind of acorn?”
Legin looked back to the object in his fingers. It was about the size of an egg and similar shape as well. It was of a dark wood and had rough grooves running length-ways between the smooth ends.
“I think so,” Legin shrugged, “I found it when I was a kid and it’s been a sort of lucky charm for me ever since.”
As he finished Legin spun the seed on the table causing it to stand up on one of its smooth ends and spin for a few seconds before toppling over and bouncing around.
“Come on Vythe, tell me the plan again,” Legin implored as he put his lucky charm into a small pouch on his belt.
“Very well,” Vythe agreed as he stretched back in his chair.
They were sitting in an outside dining area along the boardwalk that ran along the south side of the South Lake. It was early morning and the gentle waters of the man-made lake were filled with white sails as the prisoners of the South Quarter fished.
Although this was a prison there was still a sense of authority and even pleasantness about the four quarters that made up the compound. The Commander of the penitentiary, Razaless, ran the place like a business and each quarter had to reach a monthly quota else lose some of the niceties that made living here bearable. If it were not for the high prison walls and the guards watching your every move the place would be a regular township, perhaps filled with nastier individuals then other places, but it operated just the same.
“My plan is this,” Vythe began as he lent forward over the table, “For your idea to create one Faction Leader for the whole compound we need to eliminate the others, correct?”
Legin nodded, even though it was not a question.
“If we want Aurora in the West Quarter to become that singular Leader we will need her to instigate the fighting,” Vythe continued, “However, she cannot become the sole leader in one swoop. We will need to make it that there are two main Factions in the compound first. This being Aurora and, in my opinion, Saiross.”
“It is not a matter of choice, rather a result of eliminating the two weakest Faction Leaders,” Vythe replied and took a drink from the cup in front of him.
“I wouldn’t call Argyle weak,” Legin was quick to say, “He runs a tight ship over there in the East Quarter and any who step out of line he punishes. Plus he is an aggressive psychopath.”
“But do you not see? That is his weakness,” Vythe smiled deviously, “For a long time now he has been determined to take out Saiross here in the south. But Saiross is a smart one and knows this, so he constantly keeps his followers ready for an attack from the east. Saiross knows he doesn’t need to keep an eye on Aurora, for she is too smart, nor on Zairole because he is too timid. Argyle is becoming frustrated and will lunge at any opportunity to attack the South Quarter. So we give him this opportunity.”
Legin lent back in his chair and stroked his hairless chin thoughtfully, “What do you mean?”
“It will all start with Zairole and Aurora,” Vythe said after he took another drink, “I will convince Zairole that Argyle means to attack him, thus turning his attention towards the east and opening the door for Aurora to attack.”
“But then what is to stop someone making a move to occupy the West Quarter when she is attacking?” Legin asked and cocked his head to the side.
“That will be your job, Legin,” Vythe said with a smile, “Argyle doesn’t care for the west, so it will only be Saiross who may consider it. You need him to do so.”
Legin screwed up his face in confusion, “I don’t understand how that will help?”
“It will be a bluff of course,” Vythe was quick to say as he lowered his voice. “Such an opportunity Argyle will not pass up and if Saiross really did attack the west you can be sure Argyle will send all his men here to the South Quarter.”
“What is the bluff then?”
“Saiross will be waiting for Argyle,” Vythe smiled confidently and leaned back in his chair.
Legin was perplexed and scratched the back of his head.
“Have a look around here, what do you see?” Vythe asked Legin.
Legin obliged and gazed around the area. Across from where they were on the other side of the lake more houses could be seen and further beyond that the fruit and vegetable covered hill of the North Quarter. To the west the river gushed into the compound from under the prison walls as it snaked through South Quarter, under a bridge and into the lake before heading off to the east under another bridge and back under the prison walls. Many times Legin had thought about trying to escape that way but he knew that there was a magickal barricade under that wall which was purposely conjured to allow water to flow through but not people.
“I see the South Quarter,” Legin shrugged as he looked back to Vythe, “The prison, I don’t know.”
Vythe sighed, “Where is the Faction building, the seat of power here in the south, situated?”
“This side of the river,” Legin replied, not seeing the significance.
Vythe nodded and smiled as the sudden realisation came to Legin.
“The bridges create a natural bottleneck,” Legin exclaimed with a smile as he understood what Vythe had been hinting at. “When Saiross makes the bluff and Argyle attacks, he will be decimated by an ambush at either of these bridges.”
“Exactly,” Vythe nodded, a wide smile on his face.
Legin laughed and jumped to his feet, “Well let’s get to it. You go talk to Zairole and Aurora, will I talk to Saiross.”
“Alright,” Vythe said happily as he also stood up to go, but not before placing several copper coins upon the table for the owner of the cafe.
“I am worried that one of us may have to talk to Argyle as well,” Vythe remarked as they began their way along the boardwalk.
“That’ll be you,” Legin was quick to say, “He hates me.”
“He hates everyone,” Vythe replied and Legin laughed.
It was still early morning but Inüer was warm and glistened like diamonds off the lake as the two of them walked along.
“Hey check that out,” Legin suddenly exclaimed and pointed to the sky to the southwest.
In the nearly clear skies there was a jet of fire scorching through the heavens, evaporating clouds in its wake. The fiery missile seemed to aiming at something as Legin could see it adjust course several times. Suddenly the missile exploded causing something to fall towards the ground leaving behind a black and smoky tail.
“That missile looked to come from the direction of the Gaianaus Regional Command,” Legin said still squinting into the distance.
“Probably shooting at a dragon,” Vythe quipped as he continued to walk.
“Don’t be silly Vythe,” Legin replied and Vythe let out a small laugh, “I wonder what it was shooting at.”
“Come on Legin, stay focused on what we need to do,” Vythe replied seriously.
“Right,” nodded Legin, “I’ll go talk to Saiross now. Meet you at the spot in a couple of hours?”
“I will see you there,” Vythe smiled back as the two of them came up the stairs from the boardwalk and into a small cobblestone plaza where the bridge arched off to the northern bank.
Legin waved farewell before skipping off to the south through the narrow streets as he whistled a tune.
* * *
Several hours later Legin was waiting for Vythe on the Northern Hill. The designated meeting spot was a secluded area of the second highest tier of the hill, around to the eastern side of the plateau among a group of trees and large boulders.
Vythe was quite late, but that did not bother Legin and he passed the time practicing his martial arts. As quick as lightning Legin’s fist snapped forward and into the flat face of one of the large boulders. So precise was his blow that millimeters from impact his arms stopped and snapped back close to his body. The first straight right punch was followed by a low left, then high left, low right, right hook. Legin slipped back half a step and launched a quick side kick at the rock before darting back in again.
He was imagining he was in a real fight, blocking unseen attacks, feinting strikes to open his opponents defense before seizing the opportunity and finishing his enemy with a flurry of lightning fast blows.
Legin quickly skipped back from the rock face and spun away, picking up a wooden staff in the process. Staff in hand he went about fighting half a dozen unseen enemies, sending the staff into a dazzling series of attacks. Low then high he twisted and turned before darting away with flips and no-handed cartwheels. As Legin went into another cartwheel he planted the butt of the staff firmly on the ground and pushed himself into the air to balance one handed atop the vertical staff. Carefully Legin balanced atop the staff, his breathing steady and his focus fixed, and for many second he stayed like that.
Suddenly the sound of cracking wood was heard and the staff broke apart, sending Legin to ground. Luckily he managed to tuck in his head before he hit the grass and take all the impact between his shoulder blades. But as agilely as you like Legin rolled to his feet as if nothing had happened.
The sounds of Pip laughing in the tree broke the silence and made Legin turn and glare at his friend.
“Quiet Pip,” Legin snapped, “I don’t see you doing it.”
“Wouldn’t bother trying,” Pip replied, still laughing.
“Where have you been anyway?” Legin asked curiously, “You missed the meeting.”
“I told you I had some things to do,” Pip shrugged as he bit into a big red apple.
“Yeah, what things?”
“You remember that whore, Lilly, over in the West Quarter brothel that Aurora runs?” Pip began and Legin nodded. “Before we escaped I told her I would never see her again and if I could get a discount.”
“Did she?” Legin asked, raising his eyebrow.
“Yeah, but that’s not the point,” Pip dismissed the question, “I went to see her again, thinking maybe she would be happy to see I was back and offer another discount.”
“She tried to kill me,” Pip replied and Legin laughed, “Said I was a liar and that she would slit my throat as well as other un-pleasantries.”
“That’ll teach you,” Legin continued to laugh.
“But I didn’t even lie,” Pip shook his head and continued to eat his apple.
Legin chuckled to himself and shook his head at his friend, but the sound of footsteps caught his ears before he could say anything more and he turned to see Vythe walk into the dell.
“I know I am late and I apologise,” Vythe said before Legin could greet him.
“But you will not believe what happened,” Vythe said, a mysterious smile coming to his face.
“You stopped to see the new prisoner being thrown in,” Legin shrugged.
“I saw it from here through my spyglass,” Legin said in answer to Vythe questioning look.
“Wait, you watched me drag that unconscious prisoner through the dirt and to Mercile’s house, and did not think to come and aid me?” Vythe look incredulously at Legin.
“You needed the exercise,” Legin smiled, “Besides I couldn’t work out why you were doing it.”
“You saw what he did to Haster, right?” Vythe asked seriously.
“Boy did I,” Legin exclaimed as he hoped upon one of the boulder in front of Vythe and squatted there. “Bam, crunch, bam, slice. No more Haster.”
Legin mimicked the moves in the air as he spoke, “That silver haired fellow has some decent moves. And that sword of his was pretty impressive.”
“Not to mention heavy,” Vythe replied.
“You stole it?”
Vythe snickered, “You saw what he did to Haster. I mean, Haster is thug, but he was only teasing the Lieutenant. He always does it to the new inmates, and would have returned the sword in the end.”
“So that was the Lieutenant,” Legin nodded, “Saiross mentioned something about him just before I left. Something about him killing Commander Razaless?”
“It is true,” Vythe nodded, “Apparently the Fog gushed out his head and broke Razaless’s mind in an interrogation room. But focus on what I am trying to tell you Legin, and stop playing with that bug please.”
Legin quickly looked up from the bug that had crawled onto his toe covered leather sandals, which made Pip snicker.
“Shut up, Pip,” Legin snapped as he glared over to where his friend was still lounging in the tree branches.
“Legin,” Vythe said exasperatedly, and drawing Legin’s eyes to his. “This Lieutenant killed Haster for merely holding his sword.”
“Wait, so why did you steal it then?” Legin asked with concern.
“Exactly,” Vythe smiled deviously, “This Lieutenant person will rip apart this prison to get it back.”
“You haven’t brought the sword here have you?” Legin interrupted and looked behind Vythe.
“I sold it to Zairole,” Vythe waved away the question, “But think, Legin, what will happen when this Lieutenant begins terrorising the compound to get his sword back?”
“The guards will intervene I guess,” Legin shrugged.
“Exactly” nodded Vythe, “With full riot gear, if we are lucky.”
Legin’s face brightened and he began to nod his head, “I see where you are going with this. They come in, we single some out, take their gear and walk out the front doors of the prison.”
“If all goes well,” Vythe nodded triumphantly.
“But how do you even know this Lieutenant guy will even cause that much chaos?” Legin slowly shook his head.
“Because I will push him in the right direction,” Vythe smiled, “And even if he does get his sword back before the guards intervene. I will bet that Argyle will want that Lieutenant’s sword for his own as some kind of status symbol, you know what the man is like. Legin, can you imagine the chaos that will result from me simply taking the Lieutenant’s sword and selling it to Zairole?”
A smile came to Legin’s young face and he nodded his head. But that smile suddenly vanished as he realised something.
“But this means all my work on Saiross and the bluff with Argyle was pointless,” Legin said and sighed, “Never mind, I guess this is a better plan.”
Legin rocked backwards on his rock and nearly fell over. But before he started to fall Legin sprung into a back flip and landed on his feet.
“Hey Vythe,” Legin said suddenly, “What do we do about Fairris though? No doubt she will track us down again once we escape.”
“Hopefully she will be one of the ones we single out to take the riot gear once it all begins,” Vythe smiled darkly.
“What? You would. . .”
“Of course I would not kill her,” Vythe was quick to cut in, “But we may have to break a leg so she is incapacitated whilst we flee through the mountains. The prison medical staff will have her fixed up soon enough, but I hope the head start we will get from the confusion of the rioting will be enough.”
“Think positive Vythe,” Legin smiled, “It will be.”
Vythe smiled and nodded, “I should get back to Mercile and this Lieutenant person. But you stay close by and I will let you know when it will be ready to proceed with our plans.”
“All good,” Legin smiled, “I’ll keep an eye on you.”
As he spoke Legin pulled out his small spyglass from one of his belted pouched and flipped in the air.
“Right,” Vythe smiled, “I best be off. I think I shall take the short cut, I have already lost a good deal of time dragging that heavy sword up to Zairole’s abode.”
With a wave Vythe moved past Legin and to the cliff that over looked the dusty area where the entrance to the barracks was located. Vythe moved into a jog and hopped from edge of the cliff and along hundreds of cleverly cut foot holds into the cliff face which led to the ground many metres below.
Legin let out a deep breath and sat down cross-legged at the edge of the cliff. Extending his spyglass Legin could see Vythe clearly as the man made his way through the tin houses in the area.
“Reckon’ the plan will work?” Pip asked seriously as he sat down next to Legin.
“Who can say,” Legin shrugged as he lowered his spy glass. “I don’t like the sound of this Lieutenant guy though. He sounds angry.”
Snapping his telescope shut Legin jumped to his feet and moved away from the cliffs edge. Stretching his hands above his head he let out a long yawn and rubbed a hand across his face. Hopping up onto one of the large rocks Legin jumped into the closest apple tree and clambered about the branches until he found a comfortable spot where he lounged back and grabbed one of the ripe apples.
“Look what we have here,” Pip remarked with a laugh, “A monkey in a tree.”
“Shut up Pip,” Legin snapped back, though he was not angry.
“Aren’t you going to shadow Vythe?” Pip asked as he sat down with his back against one of the boulders.
Legin took a big bite of his apple and thought for a few seconds before shaking his head.
“He’ll be fine,” replied Legin, “He’ll let me know when things are starting to move along, and even if he doesn’t I’m sure I’ll notice when everyone starts attacking this Lieutenant guy. I think I’ll get some sleep actually.”
Legin tossed his apple core to the ground before making himself more comfortable along a thick branch, his tail coiling around it to make sure he did not fall out.
Pip let out a small laugh, “Whatever, I’m going to head off and do some things.”
“Don’t flirt with any more whores, Pip,” Legin quipped, his eyes closed, “It’s bad for your health, especially when they try to kill you.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Pip dismissed him, “I’ll chat to you later.”
“Bye,” Legin mumbled as he was already starting to fall asleep.