Part 4.

Vlasire sat in a room at a table, alone, studying a map with small wooden shapes sitting on top of it, when a particularly young guard came in. The guard, looking about eighteen years old, announced “Sire, I bring a scroll sent by a messenger from the castle of Augustine.”. Vlasire, who wore handsome, yet sharp, features and had hair that was slicked back with a widow’s peak, invited the young guard over with a gesture of his hand. The guard immediately came over and handed a scroll with a broken seal to Vlasire wordlessly. “How come the seal is broken? Have you been reading this message?” asked Vlasire calmly with a smile. “Yes sire, I apologize, but curiosity got the better of me.” replied the guard apologetically. “It is all right, I admire curiosity, I don’t suppose you are able to read, are you?” asked Vlasire, while reading the scroll. “Yes sire, I know how to read a little, though not much, I learned from the town scribe when I was little.” responded the guard. “Ah, I see, it is a good thing to want to learn more. You are no doubt curious about why I happen to be interested in King Augustine’s plans.” said Vlasire. “Yes I am sire, in fact, was most curious about why he was suddenly regarding his allies with newfound suspicion.” stated the young guard. “Yes, you wouldn’t know about the attack on his assault unit, nor the plans I had placed on his surviving soldier. Now you no doubt know what chance we would have in this war. With two kingdoms trying to conquer ours, the war is a bit in their favor. I am using opportunities to stack the odds in our favor once again. You see, about a week ago, I had a man assassinate a messenger that was carrying battle plans to King Augustine’s army and deliver a modified set of plans to them, impersonating a messenger of Dutchard. The plans were set to have the army attack a small village that was controlled by King Dutchard. That night, I had every man, save one, murdered in their sleep, the surviving one had plans against King Augustine placed on his person, and had his mind poisoned by a drink.” the king told is young listener. “Why would you go through this trouble? I don’t see what you are doing with these small actions.” the young guard said. “Here, maybe a visual example would help you understand this better.” said the king. He then took wooden models of soldiers and weapons and split them into three groups, with the cannons of two of them facing one group together, and one group slightly larger than the others. “Now, imagine that this group is us…” the king said pointing to the group facing two armies, “now, imagine that this larger group is the Dutchard army, and the other one is the Augustine army. Now, in this manner, we don’t have much of a chance of surviving, but imagine if the smaller of the two armies attacking us turned against the larger one. Then, we have one less army attacking us.” said the king. “Yes sire, but why not have the larger army attack the smaller one?” asked the young guard. “Well, when the two armies are done fighting each other, chances are, the surviving army will continue the fight against us, so we need the two armies to wear each other down as much as possible first. Now, if the larger one attacked first, the fight would be swift, and would leave little damage on itself due to the surprise of the attack, however, if the smaller one attacked first, then the battle would take longer, and would leave a smaller army overall for us to defend against. Also, during that time, we would be able to put together a larger army to better prepare ourselves.” said Vlasire, while moving the figures appropriately. “I see what you are doing now sire, but how do we ensure that the fight between the two armies continue and that they don’t see what is happening?” asked the guard. “Well, I plan on continuing with small assassination plots to keep the fighting going on as long as possible, and I have spies among the king’s advisors, to ensure that I get accurate and timely information regarding the activities of the opposing kingdoms. There is a saying that I once heard, and that is ‘the most dangerous knife is the one unseen.’ It was meant regarding assassins who sneak in to the target’s house under cover of darkness. While I don’t dispute the accuracy of that saying, I do take note that the most unexpected knife isn’t the one held by an assassin, but the one held by a friend. That is how I am doing battle; I turn numbers against each other. If you can do that in battle, then instead of having to fight eighteen men, you only have to fight one, and the survivor is usually too injured to put up a fight when you turn on him.” said the king. “Yes sire, I thank you for the wisdom you have imparted me with today, it will surely prove useful when the day comes when I must battle.” said the young guard appreciatively. “You know, you have shown much intelligence for a common guard.” noted Vlasire. “Yes sire, as you said earlier, I can be very curious, but I don’t have much education sire.” replied the guard. “Education and intelligence are not to be confused. Any man can be educated and still make the mistakes the village idiot makes. Intelligence, however, is the use of that education, and the desire to seek more education. It is intelligent men who command armies instead of taking the orders. Unfortunately, it can be hard to take notice of, as many men who are intelligent are born of common blood and are forced into a life of servitude, instead of where they truly belong. I happen to see that intelligence in you, and so, I want you to take this note to your guard captain, for you are going to be educated by me, and you will become one of my advisors. I will also give you pay in order to help you aid your family. Is that understood? The man I need to help me is a man willing to question my decisions and provide his own viewpoint into such matters. One last thing I need from you before you leave this room though is the knowledge of your name, after all, I can’t very well call my new student and advisor ‘guard’ all his life, now can I?” stated Vlasire. “Yes sire! My name is Christopher, and I thank you a thousand thanks for this opportunity!” said the astonished young guard. He then took the note and headed off to his guard captain having to restrain himself from cheering as loudly as he could.