From one side to another
More than 70 men were sheltered in an underground cellar whose construction dates back to the times when the city was still independent, when the construction was used as a refuge against disasters and a hiding place in times of war. Most of them were dressed in dirty and ragged capes like mine, while eagerly watching Laru, one of the most respected leaders of the resistance.
Those of us gathered here represent more than half of the resistance assets. Although it's not that we are such a small group, we are more than 100 in total, and if we consider the citizens who support us, in addition to the supporters we have outside the city, probably anyone would have trouble counting all the resistance members. Even so, those of us who coordinate the missions and plans in general are gathered here (this without counting those who are still in their missions). Everything to listen to the plan to execute the most important mission in the history of the resistance.
"In two days the great sale of slaves will take place. Everyone expects us to make our move then. In the end, the nickname 'Heroes of slaves' some have given us will serve our purposes".
Confidence in his words was transmitted through his voice. It was obvious that everything he was going to say was based on more than just a guess.
"Most of the guards will be stationed in the commercial plaza that day, leaving the streets virtually unattended. Probably the only ones who will get in our way will be the spies the government put in to track down the soldiers".
"Won't they be a problem?" said someone in the crowd whom I couldn't see. This place is quite narrow, so we are quite crowded and it's difficult to distinguish someone.
"Not at all. They are men who keep track of Iren's soldiers, they are specialized in keeping hidden, they shouldn't be very strong when it comes to fighting head on. They won't be able to alert about us on time either, we've chosen the group farther from the square".
So this is it. The small group of soldiers from Iren who had come to the city to conduct a search were separated into smaller groups (in order to cover more ground faster), they only meet at the end of the day to report. The fact is that those groups are made up of just 6 men.
"We have put most of the innocent people living in the area in question under alert. Of course, they are people who will not betray us, so we don't have to worry about leaking the plan. Some of them have even offered to help us in our mission".
For a moment everyone was silent. I could clearly hear a few swallowing, while everyone began to understand that this was real.
"For the plan to succeed, we must kill the soldiers in the streets, so the fault will fall on the incompetent rulers. Of course we will limit the risks, previously one of ours will put poison in their drinks, so they shouldn't fight at ease or escape with life. Have faith, brothers, when the time comes, we will surround them".
I was able to feel the nerves of the crowd. Even knowing that everything was fixed, it wasn't easy to ask someone who usually does undercover missions to fight against Iren's soldiers.
"Do not fear. There are only half a dozen men and we will be more than fifty. Also, remember that we talk about regular soldiers, even if they are from Iren, they have no chance. We will finish them, and when the rest of the soldiers know about it, Iren's wrath will fall on the rulers of Garush".
"Why are you so sure that will happen?"
"There is a precedent".
Quick and without hesitation, the answer was direct, without giving time to raise the doubts of those who listened.
"15 years ago, Kashmir was a city like this, governed by corrupt people, who abused their power and trampled on the citizens. At that time some soldiers from Iren were passing by on the way to another site, two of them separated and they died during a revolt. They were reportedly betrayed, denying them an honorable death. By the end of the season, the heads of all the leaders of Kashmir had been separated from their bodies, even of those who had fled knowing what awaited them ".
There were different reactions, some doubted what they heard, others looked scared to think about the fate of those who challenge Iren. Others seemed to agree with what they heard, perhaps already knowing the story.
"After what happened, Jagheb sent people from the metropolis to rule. Today Kashmir is a thriving city and citizens live happily".
This time everyone's reaction was one, amazement and expectation. There's no doubt that they hope the same will happen here.
"To this day, we have resisted as much as we could, rescued how many were within our reach. But in two days, we will finally change things!"
Enthusiasm could be felt in the environment, although I couldn't help feeling oblivious to the feeling. No matter how much I thought about it, I couldn't imagine it was a good idea to involve Iren in this ... or in anything.
"Ah ... I'm sorry, but I would like to say something".
The moment I raised my hand for Laru to see me, the people around me put as much distance as they could, clearing the field of vision. That was awkward.
"Ruthen. Speak, after all, you are fundamental to the mission, your opinion is very important".
Ah ... yes, "fundamental to the mission." The person in charge of poisoning the soldiers is supposed to be me, since I am very good at slipping away without being seen ... The more reason to feel bad about all this.
"Do you really think it's a good idea to involve Iren? I can't stop thinking that it would be best to avoid it at all costs".
I could feel everyone's eyes on me. I guess some saw me as a coward. "Despite everything Laru said, I still think we should avoid Iren, because I fear them." That is what everyone should be thinking. All except Molak, I know that you understand what I am talking about.
"Ruthen, I appreciate your words of concern. However, we must face reality".
Suddenly, Laru's confident voice had turned cold and serious. The words that now came out of his mouth carried the weight of the past.
"We can't win. We are little more than a bunch of thieves in the eyes of the city lord. The truth is that there are groups of bandits that cause them more problems than us. We are weak".
It's true. Contrary to what those who call us << Heroes >> think, we are only a group of people who do what they can when the opportunity arises. Even on the last mission I was. If the traffickers hadn't decided to camp by the forest and let their guard down, we probably would not have acted and freed the slaves.
Before this rebel alliance, there was another group that tried to oppose the government and the traffickers. It was a much more idealistic group, they tried to save everyone and because of that they were shot down. Most were captured and executed, others managed to flee and gave up. Some members of the current resistance are survivors of that group, Laru is one of them. It is thanks to that experience that they shared with us that we have survived without being caught so far. By accepting our weakness.
"Normally, there would be no way for us to overthrow the masters of the city. But Iren ... No one in the east of the continent dares to challenge them. They are strong. If we manage to provoke them to attack the government, there's no doubt that Garush's lords would meet their end".
"That's just why we should think better about the consequences of acting against them".
"Do you think there will be another opportunity like this? Do you think that if we don't act now, we can get the people of Garush to live free and happy like in Kashmir?"
"I'm sorry, but I must ask ... What happened to the responsible' of Kashmir revolt?"
My words caused stupor in those present. I could feel as if the temperature in the cellar dropped several degrees and the air became cold. Because Laru's response was ...
"Obviously they were executed".
Just as when he said with confidence that it was possible to obtain results because it had happened in Kashmir, Laru didn't blink when responding. No one dared to say anything. I already knew it, there was no way they had been saved.
"The plan depends on no soldier left alive, so that when the lords of Garush blame us, their words are in doubt, believe them or not. If they don't believe them, they will be eliminated, and if they believe them, they will still be punished for incompetence in Iren's eye'. But if we let one escape to report that we were responsible, there is no doubt that we would be condemned".
Laru's cold words placated the spirit of those who heard him. Doubts had already buried their hopes very deep.
"Tell me, how is this different from any of our other missions? Failure means death. The difference in this case is that success is equivalent to achieving our goals in one fell swoop. Brothers ... ISN'T THE RISK WORTH IT!? "
There was a loud shout "OOOHHHHHH!!!". Despite the fear, everyone's spirit were ignited again with the fire of hope. No matter how much he wanted to pretend it wasn't like that, Laru had an undeniable charisma.
However, it's not just the consequences of failing that concern me. I don't doubt that if we accomplish the mission it will be the end of the lords of Garush ... But will that be the only consequence?
Ah ... In the end the mission will continue as planned. I couldn't continue last night after seeing everyone's enthusiasm.
"It's good to worry about certain things, but don't let it affect you too much".
"I'm sorry you have to worry so much about me ... And I'm sorry to have you accompany me to look for Albert".
"You should stop apologizing for everything. I don't do this because I feel some obligation, but because I want to do it".
No matter how many missions we do together, I can't help seeing Molak more as a father than as an equal. And it's not just because of his age. He has a protective personality, always trying to take care of others. I'm sure the younger knights who were with him respected him a lot and even though he doesn't talk about it, I'm sure he thinks all the time if they're okay.
"I wonder if the little one will be safe and sound. How is the damsel doing?"
"... Worsening. Last night after the assembly I went to see her and gave her my third potion, thanks to that she improved a little and could sleep, but this morning her sleeping face was not of peace, but of suffering. If I hadn't given her the potions maybe she would be... "
When I was about to say what I was most afraid of, Molak hit me on the back to get me out of my depression.
"Then you did well to give her the potions, if she improves, it will be thanks to you".
Regardless of the situation, Molak will always find a way to lift your spirits, even for just a moment.
"By the way, where do you think the little one is?"
"He probably went to the trading plaza or he might try to sneak into the most affluent area of the city".
After we left the forest, we gathered the freed slaves and offered them different escape routes, in the end most of them decided to stay together and go to Kashmir. However, Selia collapsed and wasn't in a position to travel, so despite the risk, I decided to bring her here.
Based on the fact that she was healthy both before being captured and at the time of release, we believe that most likely she contracted a disease in the forest or was poisoned. Even so, we have no idea if it was an insect, a plant, a snake or a small monster that decided to disappear when it saw our group.
The medic of the resistance is more of the type that helps with open wounds, bruises or prevents infections, he isn't capable to discern the source of the evil that affects her.
In any case, we don't have the necessary drugs to treat it. The only ones who own them in the city are pharmacists from the affluent area of the city and some merchants. So if Albert went somewhere, it has to be there.
It's a pity, but for someone who has lived his life in a town full of friendly people who take care of each other, the idea that people aren't going to give their help simply to save another is alien. For him, the mercenaries and slave traders must be an exceptional case. Unfortunately that's not the case.
"Hey, isn't that the little one?"
To our surprise, Albert was heading towards us accompanied by a man in an outfit like I had never seen before. It made the garments of all the merchants and lords of Garush that I know pale.
Although if about exceeding everything I know it is, the girl who came by his side was by far the greatest beauty I had ever seen. No doubt Selia is an adorable girl, but the attractiveness of this woman is something different from everything I've seen, she doesn't even look human, it's more like a work of art.
"He has seen us, they come here. What do we do? Those who accompany him are strangers and right now we must avoid exposing our plans and location more than ever".
"Judging by Albert's appearance, I would say he has been fed, even given a bath. He also looks more positive than ever before. Call it a hunch, but I think those people want to help him".
"Let's decide after talking with them you think".
"I'm sorry if I put you in a difficult position".
"I already told you that you don't have to apologize ... Well, it's not like you're going to stop".
Finally, Albert and his companions stand in front of us. That boy ... And the man in the fancy clothes aren't just any man. My instincts shout at me loudly that they are anything but ordinary.
"Greetings. You must be the ones who have been taking care of Albert and his sister. In addition to having rescued several of Galatea's people. We cannot thank you enough for that. I understand that Selia isn't in good condition and I know that it is a little intrusive of me, but I want you to let me see her".
"Are you a medic or maybe a healer?"
"Not precisely, but I would like the opportunity to try to help her".
"Please Ruthen, my sister, she ..." His eyes began to get wet. With a face like that, it is impossible for me to refuse.
"I understand. I'll take them with her. If there's a chance he can save her, I won't let it pass".
"However, because I don't know them, I will have to blindfold them all the way there. I'm really sorry. But I have to".
"I offer no opposition".
"Thank you for understanding. Oh yes, I am Ruthen, and the great man next to me is Molak".
"You can call me Argent".