Ensure that the Rebellion in Lusaine Succeeds
Prion Tempa Lutze watched the battle below from the safety of his balcony. The rebels had already taken most of the capital, Mesul, leaving only the fortified palace at its heart remaining.
Hundreds had died, and thousands more had been injured and imprisoned.
But everything ended tonight.
Before Priarch rose on the new day, Lusaine would be under new management.
The only remaining hindrance was the King. He had barricaded himself into the Grand Hall along with the last of his Royal Guard. They numbered barely twenty men, worn and wearied.
Only the King, dressed in robes of blue and gold, stood tall. Even backed into a corner, he had not lost his calm demeanour.
However, that stoic demeanour of his had been, for many, the sign of an uncaring monarch. His inability to connect with his people, despite working for their sakes day and night, had allowed another to steal their hearts.
Commander Asher, a former general in the army and the king’s military advisor, had risen to the top by dint of ruthless decisions and skilful manipulation. He was not a good man, but he was a man who could light a fire in others. His passionate words, chosen with great care and foresight, had turned a few discontented soldiers into a mighty rebel force. They had grown in leaps and bounds, donating pillaged resources to the poorest of the poor in exchange for their support. Commander Asher, himself of noble stock, had ensnared the higher classes with promises of power and riches.
With supporters in every social strata, and a not insignificant amount of baseless slander of the king, the rebels had captured village after village. Soon, they had transformed into an efficient and merciless army, claiming large swathes of Lusaine for themselves. With every victory, hope for peace became an even more distant dream.
Enter Prion Tempa Lutze.
He had arrived shortly after receiving his Holy Order, at a time when the rebels and the royal army had become locked into a stalemate. The capital, situated high above the lowlands on a massive plateau, was all but impenetrable. Its walls were thick and well-guarded, and its stores were filled with stockpiled grain and salted meat.
It would not fall easily.
At least, it shouldn’t have.
Tempa had met King Relix at a time when the latter was desperate for any kind of aid. A Prion, renowned across the Flamelands as being well versed in conflict mediation, was seen as a blessing from Lusa and Eta. He had been welcomed with open arms, and had been given a room befitting a visiting monarch.
A few days after coming to terms with the situation, Tempa had departed for the rebel base in the town of Saeta. There, he had met Commander Asher, and had explained –in a manner of speaking- his true purpose. Together, they had formulated plans and executed raids against the royal army. With Tempa inside the capital and holding the King’s trust, it was easy to learn the details of troop movements and the location of important strongholds.
Less than three weeks later, Mesul was ready to fall.
The sounds of battle, born aloft on gusts of ash filled air, echoed throughout the cavernous Grand Hall.
“Worry not, your majesty!” one of the guards said, “This palace was built to be impregnable! Those filthy rebels will not be able to enter, no matter how many men they bring!”
The guard was mostly right.
The palace was all but impregnable.
However, when Mesul had been built, it had required a great deal of stone and lumber. Most of the materials had been brought in from quarries and lumber camps throughout Lusaine, but there had been one quarry in the city. It had sat atop the plateau itself, and had been an excellent source of marble. When it had come time to build the palace, the builders had merely sealed off the quarry with a number of felled tree trunks lashed together.
Not many people in the royal court knew, however, of the secret tunnel leading from the quarry to the city below. It had once been used to move excess stone blocks out of the city without adding to the already immense traffic.
But the royal guard had foreseen that such a tunnel, used by the wrong people, could be a point of entry to the palace, and had constructed a series of gates and traps which only they knew how to operate.
Thankfully, the royal guard had two weaknesses: they liked to drink fine Vurian wine, and they did not see Prions as a threat. It had taken ten days to learn all the ins and outs of the secret tunnel, and another three to pass along the information Commander Asher.
A sudden pounding on the thick doors to the Hall announced the arrival of the rebels. Immediately, every face was drawn tight. The Royal Guard, already wearing looks of defeat, drew up against their king, weapons drawn.
“Lay down your arms, my loyal friends,” King Relix said, placing his hands on the backs on his men, “There is only one more life to be lost this night.”
Begrudgingly they did so.
A moment later, the heavyset doors ceased rattling.
“Prion Lutze, if you would?” the king asked, gesturing towards the doors.
Taking a deep breath, Tempa approached the foreboding entryway. With effort, he managed to remove the oversized bolt holding the doors in place, allowing the rebels to enter.
“Please, let these men pass by unharmed,” King Relix asked, as he raised his arms.
Commander Asher, clad in bloodstained armour, nodded once.
The rebels immediately came forward and relieved the guards of their weapons and armour, before escorting them outside, leaving only the King, the Prion and the Usurper.
“Andros,” said the rebel leader.
“Thaddeon,” replied the King.
“It’s been… a while.”
“You know what has to happen next, don’t you?” Commander Asher intoned, moving towards the king.
His sword was already drawn.
Sighing, King Relix replied, “I do. I only wish that you hadn’t killed so many good men and women to get to me.”
“You made yourself hard to get to. I did what was necessary.”
“Ah, yes. Always a man of necessity, were you not? I wonder, will you turn this kingdom over to the people after this is done, as I know you have promised? Or will you take the throne for yourself, as I know you desire.”
Commander Asher shook his head as he stepped closer, “No more kings. No more thrones. No more… this…” he said, gesturing to the Grand Hall.
“Just because you claim to have abolished the monarchy, does not mean that you are not ruling with absolute power. If you truly wish for change, then turn this country over to its people. Let them elect a ruler from amongst themselves, and let him or her be subject to finite terms of rule.”
“The people don’t know what they want. If I gave them power, they would destroy themselves. No, better to be ruled by someone with vision and certainty.”
“Someone like you.”
“I am the best man to lead Lusaine. The fact that I am standing here proves that.”
“I wonder…” the King said, glancing in Tempa’s direction.
Did he know? Did he suspect?
“Enough. I have a kingdom to run, and I cannot spend all night arguing with a man who lost everything.”
Commander Asher stood but a single pace away from the King.
“I see. Well, I wouldn’t want to hold you up,” King Relix said with a resigned look.
Tempa wanted to move. He wanted to intervene. He wanted to be anywhere but there.
But this was his Holy Order.
Ensure that the rebellion succeeds, Prophet Imran had told him.
And he would, even as it tore apart his very soul.
“King Relix, for your crimes against your people, I sentence you to death! Do you have any last words?” Commander Asher roared, as he raised his sword.
“Treat the people as best as you can, forgive their failings, and one day, die with a smile on your face,” King Relix said, looking more regal than he had in weeks.
And then, he smiled.
A moment later, Commander Asher’s sword fell, and the king was no more.
“Prion,” Commander Asher said, a short while later.
The Grand Hall had fallen silent.
“Yes, Commander Asher?” Tempa asked, wondering if he would be the next one to fall to that blade.
It would be what he deserved, after all.
“I will give you one hour to leave the city. No Prion will ever set foot in Lusaine again, under penalty of death. No one shall speak of this… Priarch, under penalty of pain. No words will be spoken about what happened here, under penalty of war. Do you understand?”
“I am only letting you live because I cannot afford a war with Vuria at the moment, and your death might give them a reason to start one. I will not thank you for helping me, or for betraying Andros. He was… a good man… and he deserved better than you.”
Tempa said nothing.
“No get out of my sight, and never return.”
Tempa nodded once more, before turning around and running away as fast as his feet would carry him. He did not stop to retrieve his belongings from his ornate room. He did not stop to bid anyone farewell.
He simply ran.
Away from the Grand Hall.
Away from the dead king.
Away from his crushing guilt.
He had done a great evil, he knew.
It might have been in service of his God, but that did not cleanse his soul or ease his conscience. He knew, with absolute certainty, that he would be thinking about what he had just witnessed for the rest of his life.
And he deserved that.
Perhaps, one day, he would have the opportunity to earn his redemption.
But for now, he ran.
As he passed through the burning city gates, a cry rose up inside of him. A phrase he had once eagerly looked forward to speaking.
But now, it was an acknowledgement of guilt. When it left his lips, it did not make him happier. It did not assuage his torment. It did not ease his troubled mind.
But regardless, the words needed to be said. For that was what he had been taught.
And so, with a pained howl, he said, “MY GUIDANCE HAS ENDED!”
Even with that said, he did not stop. For what was following him would never tire…
Read Be Good to find out if Prion Lutze ever earned his redemption!