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Wed Jun 29, 2011 11:25 am

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Dynes walked through the candlelit tunnels of his underground Empire. It was a pitiful community of Rebels, forced to flee and hide like rats in the sewer. His jaw clenched with anger as he remembered a time when he had been a respected Lord in the court of Felecia. He had been a trusted servant of King Mattius but so much more than that – he had regarded him as an ally and a friend.

His anger intensified with aching sadness as he pictured his castle burning to the ground, his beautiful wife and infant son trapped in the flames. It had happened more than a decade ago now, but he could still hear their cries in his dreams.
It was Mattius that was responsible for their deaths; although it was only Dynes he had been meaning to murder. The King had become corrupted by power, and sought to kill all who threatened him. After signing a treaty with the neighbouring Empire of Sicilias he deemed his own Lords to be… disposable. Dynes was one of the few ‘lucky’ survivors.
Dynes smiled humourlessly as he entered the Great Cave; which was a huge open room at the centre of his underground village. He would have his revenge soon enough. The Rebels were growing as Mattius became ever more cruel and power-hungry and the people were becoming restless under his reign. All that was needed was a slight kick start – and Dynes was more than happy to provide it.

He returned from his thoughts and concealed his emotions. After years of experience it was becoming easier and easier to bottle the pain away, but he knew that one day he would have to unleash it all. It was his hope to have Mattius at the receiving end when he did.

“Ah, Dynes, we have been waiting for you,” greeted Marx, leader of the Eastern Rebel group. The old man stood to grasp Dynes’ hand.
“Thank you leaders, for meeting with me tonight,” said Dynes, turning to face the men sat around the huge marble table in the Great Cave. He approached his place at the head of the table, but did not sit.

“It is with great respect that I call you here, for you are my allies and my brothers in battle,” he said, looking at each face with fondness. Without these great men he would be consumed in anger and grief, and would probably be dead by now. “I look upon you all with pride, as I have watched you grow into the leaders you were born to be. I have seen you take command of the Rebels we have here and shape them into warriors worthy of any battle.”

“But perhaps one battle in particular?” interrupted Thale with a booming laugh. The group of Rebels he was in charge of came from settlements outside of Mattius’ Empire, but had still suffered at his hands. Dynes looked at him with amusement; he was always so ready for a fight.

“Eager Thale is right, gentlemen,” he said joining in with Thale’s laughter for a second before returning to his composure. “But perhaps we should not take this into account so light-heartedly. Lives will be lost after all, there is no denying that.”

The group quietened at his sombre words, until Marx spoke up. He was the oldest of the group, but still a force to be reckoned with. His sharp mind and seemingly-endless wisdom often made up for his withering strength.

“Lives will be lost, Dynes, you are correct. But lives will be also be changed by our actions too – something that carries more might than any sword yielded by Mattius. Once the people see that there is another way, our efforts will be reinforced by the thousands. They only need a leader, Dynes, and I speak for us all when I say that you are the one to be that leader.”

The other men cheered in agreement and Dynes was choked with emotion again. His heart felt heavy as he realised how many people relied and looked up to him, but he also felt empowered as he realised how close he was to fulfilling that craving desire of revenge.

“Leaders!” shouted Dynes, trying to calm the excitement. “Leaders, please – we cannot be arrogant in our planning. We are speaking as if we have already overthrown Mattius and are ruling Felecia. We need patience and meticulous planning to pull this off.”

“What you need is something Mattius doesn’t have,” said a deep voice from the other end of the table. Dynes turned, like all the other men, to see who had spoken. He saw the hooded figure and knew at once that it was Arasei, dark and mysterious leader of the Outcasts.

The Outcasts were the people who had been thrown out of the city and labelled as traitors by the King. Any communication with them was forbidden, and they were not entitled to any kind of legal rights. Anyone seen to be helping these people would become outcast themselves, as would anyone who was deemed to be a ‘traitor’ themselves - which was why there had been no public uprising despite the King’s unjust ruling.

Dynes himself felt pity for these ‘Outcasts’, as many had simply been brave villagers not afraid to stand up for themselves, but he still wasn’t entirely comfortable around Arasei their leader. He had such an unexplainable presence about him that made the hairs on Dynes neck stand up. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust him… it’s just he didn’t know him. Arasei was always hidden under the shadow of his cloak and tended to observe rather than speak. When he did say something though, like now, his words were always cryptic.

“What do you mean?” boomed Thale, never anything but blunt. The men waited expectantly as the candlelight flashed on Arasei’s teeth; he was smiling underneath that hood.

“You surprise me, Dynes,” Arasei said softly into the silence. “Surely you don’t expect us to go blundering onto the battlefield blindfolded?” Thale pounded the table with his fist and began to protest angrily.
“How dare you insult his fine-”

“No, no,” interrupted Dynes, silencing Thale with a wave of his hand. He surveyed Arasei with calm interest. “I am interested in your opinion Arasei; your view is just as valid as anyone else’s. Enlighten us.”

“Spoken like a true leader,” complimented Marx from beside Dynes. Dynes smiled gratefully but didn’t speak – he was waiting for an answer.

“Have none of you even considered anything besides this monumental ‘Uprising’ you are planning?” started Arasei, ignoring Thale’s reaction. “Have you even considered what may be happening behind the castle walls? The King is not a fool – a poor leader, yes – but not a fool. He will be expecting an obvious attack, and will have an army ready to act at the nod of his head.”

“But we have the element of surprise,” said Thale quickly, awarding cheers from some of the other men. Arasei shook his head slowly, a wry chuckle escaping his lips.

“Surprise? How do you intend to conceal a surge of five hundred armour-clad warriors – even if they travel to Felecia by night, on a journey that will take them at least three days?” he reasoned, “The King will have spies, people watching for any movements like ours - and so there will be a grand army to greet our entry to the city. Oh, the King may be surprised to see how determined and efficiently trained our soldiers are, but he will see us as a mild irritation – a loss of royal soldiers he could do without. I am sure that we would put up a worthy fight; just as I am sure he would underestimate us, but in the end he would have the numbers and the resources. We would lie dead on the battlefield and he would simply consider a chore to be done – an unwanted problem exterminated; like pest control. His reign would continue to thrive as the people are left with such a sharp reminder of what happens to you if you rebel.”

The room was silent as the men took in the dark picture of the future Arasei had created. The jubilance that once rang in the air was gone, and all the men became deflated with hopelessness.

“If your intention is to condemn our rebellion, or convince us of another way then you should leave Arasei. We are built on the foundation hope; I do not need to be told of the risks, we all know what we are getting into– but we have no choice but to accept our fate as long as we agree that Mattius’ reign has to be stopped,” said Dynes a little less calmly. Although he saw the truth in Arasei’s words he saw no good come from them. It was only disheartening.

“Have faith, Leaders,” said Arasei, just as softly as before. His gravelly voice carried a great deal of wisdom in it, “I do not say these things to condemn you. I say these things with the same goal as you in mind – Mattius’ downfall.”
The atmosphere lightened and the hope returned to each man’s face as Arasei continued to explain.
“I am only illuminating the fact that we cannot rely simply on brute strength… or surprise for that matter.” Thale bristled but kept quiet. “Knowledge is the key to every situation, and I do not intend to enter into any kind of battle without it. Tell me, Dynes, do you have any idea what the King is doing now?”

Dynes clenched his fist under the table as he chased away the murderous thoughts entering his head. He could not keep the haunting image of the flames out of his mind. The smell of burning flesh filling his nostrils…

He jumped when he felt a strong hand on his arm. He saw that Marx was looking at him with sorrow in his eyes, and the others were surveying him expectantly. Dynes jerked himself back to reality and answered Arasei.

“No. I do not,” he said stonily, “I can’t say that I’m on speaking terms with him.”

“Well then, perhaps a good place to start would be to put certain measures in place that made sure you knew exactly what was happening at the other end. And don’t just mean keeping tabs on the King’s daily routine. I’m talking about knowing every little detail – who he is talking to and why, exactly what financial state he is in – especially concerning the army funding, how his treaty with the Sicilies is keeping up… the kind of information that can become extremely useful to the right people.”

“Like a spy?” asked another leader, Melvio, from halfway down the table.
“To attempt to penetrate the King’s inner circle would be suicide,” Dynes said bluntly, trying to keep all emotion from his voice. “Not to mention pointless - there is not a single man on that ludicrous ‘committee’ that he trusts. They are pawns in his game.”

“But you agree that it would be invaluable to have access to such knowledge?” pressed Arasei.
“Of course. But such a connection is simply not possible. I would not place such a death sentence on any of my men. Just imagine the consequences if they were found.”

Thale looked ready to volunteer himself but Marx cut him off impatiently. “Do you really think you would not be recognised, Thale.”
“Well… maybe not me then – but one of my men. Any one of them would be honoured to be of such useful service,” said Thale persistently.

“One of your men is no use to me dead, Thale,” sighed Dynes, “Arasei is right, Mattius is no fool. He would sniff any soldier out in two minutes; I cannot sentence someone to death like that.”
“I agree,” said Arasei. “But I was not implying that a soldier should penetrate Felecia’s walls.”

The men looked at him expectantly as he raised one arm and beckoned to someone behind him. There was a sharp intake of breath as a figure silently emerged from the darkness.



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