It was morning, and the march had begun again. The battle was expected to be relatively short, as it was against a village occupied by Vlasire, or that was what the maps said. What the map didn’t reveal was that the town was, in fact, where Augustine had his weapons and armor crafted, and most of the front line soldiers had heavy, narrow sighted, helms on, preventing them from recognizing the town. However, after the initial assault, a few of the men began noticing the familiarity of the area, and stopped. One of the men then removed his helmet and looked at the bodies at his feet. He collapsed when he saw his nephew on the ground, bleeding to death, the last look on his face one of shock. In the back, Captain Sarman saw the Augustine soldiers begin to halt, and the defending forces stop as well. Confused, he then shouted out to his men “Aim for all men on the field, the Augustine men seem to have turned sides.” The slaughter from the nearby hills made short work of all of the forces below, the guilt wracked soldiers, and shocked defenders were too overwhelmed to fight. The Dutchard archers were able to then occupy the village, not knowing the true effects they had caused that day, spelling their doom. Instead, they took over the nearby inn, celebrating the victory, drinking themselves into a stupor.
Captain Charles Sarman II woke up with a start, pulling his dagger out from underneath his bedroll, holding it up to the throat of the young man with the start of stubble on his face. Strangely, the young man didn’t even flinch, but instead silently handed the captain a scroll, and merely held his finger up to his lips. Silently, the captain left his tent, holding the scroll up to the light of the full moon so he could read it clearly. It was an order pertaining to the battle the next day. It told him to make sure that his men were to stand near the rear, and to try to give reasons to make as many of them archers as possible. The reason was that the Dutchards may be using the Augustine army to ensure an easy takeover after the war against Vlasire. After reading the scroll, Charles handed the scroll back to the silent messenger and nodded to him. It would not do to have any of the Dutchard men learn of the scroll. The messenger then ran into the woods, leaving behind absolutely no evidence that he had been there at all. For a moment, the captain wondered if he had dreamed it all, and that he had simply sleepwalked outside. He simply shook his head to dismiss the thought; he had seen what doubt can do. It can kill, and not only the one who doubts, but also those around him, both beneath him, and above him. Doubt can take down kings as easily as guards.
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.
The baron had had a pleasant morning, seeing as how he had awoken next to his smart and beautiful wife, had a delicious meal of chicken and fruits that would be a holiday feast for a full family in the town he had under his rule. So, imagine how much it spoiled his good mood and cheer of a lovely day that had been started, when a man, who was speaking absolute gibberish, was dragged in to his throne room by his guards, and had revealed to him the treachery that would repay the kindness he had given to the royal family of the Dutchards by way of many soldiers and weapons. “What is this, which is being dragged into my court chambers?” asked the baron. “Sir, it is a foot-soldier of the Dutchards, and he is carrying plans of attack against the Augustine’s after the Vlasire’s have been dealt with.” replied the guard captain who had dragged in the gibbering lunatic. “Any idea why a man like this would be carrying such important plans?” asked the baron, who had been more observant than he had looked, considering how he had looked more like a particularly rotund jester dressed in fancy garbs. “We think that the man had been bitten by a rabid animal whilst in the forest. He may have been a messenger meaning to relay the plans sir.” answered the calculating guard. If the plans were to be believed, then that would mean that King Augustine would have to know that his men were most likely being used as cannon fodder to weaken his forces to make a takeover easier once king Vlasire had been dethroned. “Send our fastest messenger to his highness king Augustine informing him of the plans. Also, send orders to all of our commanders to be wary of the men they are fighting with, this may also be a trick, though it does seem to fit the type of plans that that bastard Dutchard would have for us once we have removed Vlasire.” ordered the baron. “Then it will be done sir.” replied the guard. “One more thing sir, what of the man we bring? He is obviously of no help information-wise except for what he brings on him.” Asked the guard. “Hang him, if he is indeed working for a traitor, he deserves nothing other than an execution, if he is an innocent in a trick, his death will be a mercy instead of having him live as a madman.” answered the baron, who had obviously deserved his seat of power due to his decision making skills and leadership, and not just because he had been born to the right family.
In the morning, the man had woken up, and immediately found it strange that none of the other men had awaken yet, and that it was midday as well. He wrote it off as nothing and drank from the ale he had next to him. It was warm and a little stale, but it seemed to do the job, it made him feel better, lighter. He then walked out of the tent, and was immediately struck with the horrible strange silence around him, not even the chirp of a bird could be heard. The man, deciding that his duty was to wake up his commander, walked over to the large tent with the shield next to the flap, and lifted up the coarse cloth, and saw what had at first looked like nothing out of the ordinary. He then walked up to his commander and noticed the red blood spread out around his neck, staining the ground. The man then started to panic, and rushed from tent to tent, only to find all the men, dead, looking more like they had been sleeping, but now not a single snore would ever be issued from them ever again. It was then that the man had realized that he was all alone, and that he had alone been spared from death. What the man did not realize was that he was slowly becoming less and less coherent in both thought and speech, and that he was carrying what would be a death sentence with him in his pocket, and the nearest civilization was the allies he was apparently going to backstab according to the paper in his pocket. And even if he had the guile and silver tongue necessary to talk himself out of a hanging, it had been dulled and distorted beyond all recognition and help by the a strange drug that he had drunk with the ale he hadn’t even thought twice about.
The group was hidden in the trees, watching the enemy as their men laughed and joked around the fires, drinking ale and some of them sleeping in their tents. They had laughed because of how easy it was for them to take the town, how the people had run from their horses and steel and arrows. What they didn’t pay any attention to was the relatively small number of people who were in the town, and how confused the people in the town were at the sight of the familiar sword and gryphon coat of arms worn by the men terrorizing them. The men didn’t worry about it, as they had been told by an informant that the town was a “soldier’ town, filled with mostly the men they had been fighting for a good month now. Now, the men that they had been fighting were watching them from the trees, wearing dark leather to help them blend in with the trees and the night around them. After the men had all gone to sleep, leaving the camp quiet as death, the men that had hid in the woods, silently watching, as still as the trees themselves, crept into the camp, silent, not a single rustling of a leaf, and ducked into the tents, and silently killed the men, one by one, a swift slice of the throat, while gagging the men. Many of the men had not even woken at the feel of the dirty cloth at their mouths, due to the large amount of ale they had drunk that night. When they got to the last tent, instead of killing the man, they had carefully left detailed battle plans, all aimed at them attacking their allies. Before the men left, silent as ghosts, they had placed a mug of ale, and laced it with a strange dark powder.