Chapter 33: Martin Makes His Move
In the barracks, Howard was giving orders to his subordinates. There were nearly 2,000 soldiers in and around the city, all loyal to Martin. The only obstacle was Durlass’ cavilers and the home guard – patrols of soldiers who acted as police officers. They could be handled easily enough though. The chief element was surprise, and Martin had plenty of that. The chosen starting time was noon – convenient since most of the populace would be inside eating their lunch. The attack would be split up in two. One detachment would overcome the small keep where the guard was stationed while the other detachment would rush the spire.
At 11:57, the doors to the home guard’s keep were opened. It was routine – just another detachment coming in for the end of their shift. Before the entrance could be closed again though, the five guards inexplicably rushed the gatekeeper, killing him before he could react. Immediately after that, two hundred other soldiers seemed to come out of nowhere, rushing though the gate and overtaking the guards stationed there.
At the Spire, Durlass was finishing off an early lunch right at 12:01. Looking out his fifth story window, he looked over the vast city, the farthest send stretching out two miles in the distance. The sky was cloudy again, but the air was warm – much of the snow had been cleared away from the cobblestone streets, spring would come soon with the sowing season, the campaign against the Royals could be finished, and all would be well again. Or not.
At that moment, a detachment of fifty soldiers rushed the wrought iron palace gates. Simultaneously, another group scaled the walls on the other side, overwhelming the few guards stationed there. The battle was over before it began. Outnumbered and caught by surprise, many began to surrender, dropping their weapons and holding up their hands.
Randolph burst in the small three room house where the Rebel Resistance had moved.
In his hurry, he did not even bother to fully finish the man’s full name. From the next room, the rebel mastermind dashed out.
“What is it? What’s going on?”
The former Lieutenant shut the door behind him. “It seems like Martin is at it again. A group of solders has broken into the palace.”
“How many?” Vanderdious bent down and started to rummage through his wooden chest.
“Three hundred -- probably more.”
Putting on a trench coat, Vanderdious looked up at Randolph as he buttoned it up, “Any distinguishing features, or the like?”
“The attackers all had blue scarves around their arms.”
He slipped on two bars on his shoulders. Vanderdious was now a second rate sergeant. “I’ll be back in a bit.”
Vanderdious dashed outside, the door slamming behind him.
“What was that about?” asked Mayriz, brushing off her floury hands on her apron.
“Martin’s up to something, something big.” replied Randolph, “This just might mean the downfall of Durlass.”
Mayriz gasped. “We should contact the Lone Falcon.”
Randolph shrugged. “How? We don’t know exactly where he and Freena are…”
Suddenly Mills, another rebel resistance member, burst in, holding a carrier pigeon in one fist.
“I’ve just gotten a message from the Lone Falcon!”
Mills released the bird and handed a rumpled piece of parchment to Randolph. Randolph read it quickly then tossed it into the fireplace.
“He and the others are in Castleton, guests of Prince Lego. He says to contact him if Durlass or Martin does anything.”
“Then I’ll get that note ready.” rushed Mayriz, and grabbed a pen.
“We should also contact Bersun in Orion...just in case…” said Randolph.
“Aye.” nodded Mills, “I have a feeling the Rebels’ time is fast approaching…”
Durlass sat in his carriage, the countryside flashing by as a team of eight horses sped down the cobblestone road at an astonishing speed. The Marquis was in the worst mood possible. Ousted by a military coup, nothing to back him up, nothing to fall back on, and worst of all, his reputation was as good as gone. Never had he been brought so low. Things were just starting to look up, and now this! He could not be caught though. While making his hasty escape from the besieged spire, he knew that a warrant would be put on his head. He had to go somewhere safe, comfortable, and remote. The Black Falcon Isles were his best bet.
At the palace, Martin cracked his knuckles gleefully – a gesture that hardly befitted a man of over sixty-five. Still he was happy. Six months of waiting, planning, and hiding had tested his patience, but it had all paid off. The overthrow of Durlass came with nearly perfect planning too. Reports seemed favorable – the people knew, respected, and even adored him. Full confidence had been placed in him to lead the Falcon Empire. There was much to do he thought as he occupied Durlass’ former workspace. Much to do indeed.
“It is done.”
Randolph, Mayriz and Mills looked up at Vanderdious, who had just entered. He was not alone. A tall, clean-shaven man wearing rumpled but elegant cloths stood behind the master of masks silently.
“What?” asked Mayriz, for the moment ignoring the stranger.
“Durlass has been ousted. The rumors of Hindrich missing is true. Martin Humboldt is in power. All loyal to Durlass are systematically being rounded up and jailed. In fact, the entire Black Falcon hierarchy has been turned upside down and inside out. There have been ludicrous promotions and the House Of Lords have been disbanded and their members either killed, captured, or sent fleeing.”
Mills suddenly recognized the figure behind Vanderdious.
“That I am.” replied the man.
Drakko the Black Falcon had changed dramatically since his days adventuring with the Misfits. After Shing-Shokon’s airship had crashed deep in Ninjaria and the Misfits had scattered, Drakko had returned to the Black Falcon land in shame. To his surprise, he was not punished, but instead welcomed by Falconis XXVIII, the man who had first sent Drakko, then a knight, out to kill Lord Barbod, king of the Bulls. It seemed word had come to Falconis that Barbod had indeed had been killed, and Falconis XXVIII had mistakenly believed Drakko had fulfilled his quest. Drakko had not bothered to correct the Falcon King, and returned to normal life among the Black Falcons. Soon, however, he began rising in the Black Falcon court, and after six months became a well-respected member of the House Of Lords. However, life in politics had taken it’s toll on Drakko. He was now thinned, and his hair was slightly gray. He still held himself with dignity, though, and he in now way had ‘gone to seed’.
“He had to come.” explained Vanderdious quickly, “Martin’s men were on a rampage! The Spire has been overrun, and soon all of Falconis City will be ruled by Martin Humboldt!”
“Well, I’d better put the kettle on!” smiled Mayriz, and bustled out of the room.
“I am grateful to all of you for having me.” said Drakko quietly, bowing slightly, “I fear I am somewhat of a dangerous guest…”
“Not at all!” smiled Randolph, “Actually I think us hosts are just as volatile.”
“No matter what, if we’re caught, we’ll all be at the gallows together.” muttered Mills darkly.
“Too true.” sighed Drakko, “But let us pray it will not end that way. Tell me, where is the Lone Falcon?”
Mills said, “Oh! I’ve got to add a P.S. to that note!” and did so as Randolph explained the Lone Falcon’s whereabouts. Mayriz soon bustled in and passed around scones, and Mills tied his note to his carrier pigeon and released it out a window.
“There.” sighed Mills as he sat again, “Soon the Lone Falcon and Bersun will know of the situation.”
“And not a moment too soon.” said Drakko, buttering a scone, “We must be ready in a moment to act. Martin’s rule is sudden, and though he may be popular, history tells us from past experiences that a sudden rise to power is usually followed by a just as sudden fall from power.”
The door opened again, and the two brothers Forden and Gaffner rushed inside, tracking slushy snow across the floor. Mayriz tut-tutted and scolded them, “WIPE your feet, lads!” Like small children then did so obediently, then rushed over to the table.
“Vander -- Randolph, you’ve seen what’s happened?”
“Durlass’ has fled the city -- Martin is now -- oh, Lord Drakko??”
Lord Drakko explained his presence and the two brothers drew up more chairs.
“So when to we act?” asked Gaffner eagerly.
“Later than sooner, I think.” said Randolph, “Martin is no fool, very far from it. I think the worst thing we could do now is show ourselves. That would mean destruction. I think we should wait until Martin and his buddies settle down, then either wait for trouble or cause some ourselves.”
“If we are to cause any trouble,” said Vanderdious, “We should pack the hardest punch. That means the Resistance should be in one place. Right now the Lone Falcon and Freena are with Barbod, Dordrot and that ambassador fellow in Castleton, we’re up here, and Bersun, Xonyer and the bulk of the Rebel army is in Orion. Plus there are few spies scattered around everywhere, and our outpost on Peregrine.”
“It’s hard to hide an entire resistance in one city.” cautioned Forden, “but I agree we are way too spread out. The Lone Falcon and everyone else in Castleton should return north, at least.”
“There...is the issue of Barbod.” Mayriz said slowly and carefully, “I respect the man and his cause, to be sure, but he nearly ruined our plans, twice! Barbod’s a brash fool, sometimes, though I’d never dare say that to ‘is face, and that Dordrot would follow ‘im anywhere. I’m not sayin’ that a bad thing!” she added hastily, “If no ‘un was loyal then we’d all be in a pickle, but still...at least that other Bull fella had some sense, Rulph something, but he can’t seem to persuade Barbod to keep hush-hush, if you know what I mean.” she continued, getting more confidant, “What I’m sayin’ is this: if the Lone Falcon comes back here, then Lor’ Barbod will come too, an’ he’ll bluster about and might cause trouble an’ all, and might put the Rebels in jeopardy...that’s all that’s worryin’ me, anyway…”
“You have an excellent point, Mayriz.” nodded Lord Drakko, patting her hand, “but I might have a solution.”
“What might that be, gov’ner?” asked Vanderdious.
Drakko smiled, a faraway look in his eyes. “It has been a year since I’ve seen Barbod, and he’s seen me. I think I might be able to...keep him distracted from doing something rash. We were, and I hope are, friends, unlikely friends at that. Perhaps I could sway him. If not, then I could take him with me somewhere and keep him out of trouble until his time comes. Yes. I think that might work.”
Vanderdious, Randolph and Mills nodded, though Gaffner, Forden and Mayriz still looked a little worried.
“I’d best send him another note.” sighed Mills.
He stood and left to fetch another pigeon. He hadn’t been gone three seconds before he poked his head back in and said, “What about Bersun and his lot in Orion? Should they get up here too?”
Everyone looked at one another and shrugged.
“As I said before,” cautioned Forden, “It’s hard to hide an entire resistance in one city.”
“They don’t need to be in Falconis City.” brainstormed Gaffner, “They just need to be nearby...in Black Falcon territory, at least.”
“What about Shireville?” suggested Randolph.
Vanderdious shook his head. “That’s too small -- it’s almost just village, and too royalist at any rate.”
A grin then formed on Vanderdious’ face. “Hey, I know. Send Bersun to me old birthplace -- Vassalton. It’s less than two leagues from Falconis City, and the perfect hiding place -- it rests on the site of the old Vaeagaear Quarries. Pity it wasn’t on the coast, for Vassalton would be the best tyco smuggling town ever -- an entire city built upon a giant expanse of mazes and caves hewn out of the rock. Just think of what some shady dealer could hide down there! I doubt anyone’s ever even bother mapping the caves.”
“Not a bad idea,” mused Drakko, “In fact, quite a good idea. Vassalton it is, then.”
Mills nodded and left to write the messages.
“Now...we wait.” said Drakko.
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