(Disclaimer: These scenes are not fully edited. They may make reference to events that no longer happened. These are for your viewing pleasure. Though most all happened in the background of the actual book.Such ‘real’ scenes will be noted as such.)
“We need him here and we need him now!” snapped Lieut. Rackrith, “This can’t keep going on like this. The snow is melting we need all hands on deck.”
Arylana was sitting with the other commanders and officers as they made plans for their evacuation out of the valley.
“I’m sure he had a good reason for leaving.” Mercutio insisted. “But we didn’t come here to discuss that, we are here to discuss how we are going to get out of this valley alive. We’re all but surrounded. There is only one way out and they’re watching it, with all the eyes they can. We either need to find some magic solution or another way out. We need a plan. I called you all here to ask for ideas, not to listen to you all point the finger of blame at everyone else for not having a plan.”
All of the officers went quiet at the rebuke. “Now you are my most trusted officers, that is why you are here.” Mercutio said, “I want to know what you think we should do, to get our men out alive. All of the preparation and rebuilding we have managed to do will be for naught if we can’t get them out. We’ll be worse off for all of it. We need plan. Now please, I respect you all and don’t blame anyone for not having a plan. If anyone should take blame, it’s me for not calling this meeting sooner. Now please, set that aside and let us talk about what we should do, not what should have been done. For the past doesn’t matter now, only what to do next.”
No one spoke.
“May I propose an idea?” Margorim said.
“I’m all ears.” Mercutio said. “Is there a way we could trick the army into thinking we’re going out one way and then really be going the other way. As soon as we make an appearance I’m sure the whole army will converge on the spot we’re “leaving” from. That will leave our real exit wide open.”
“I like it.” Cmdr. Drake said at once.
“Only how do we do that?” Mercutio asked. “We’d have to send some men that way, enough to make it look like the main army. That would be a suicide mission. We’d have to send half of our army there. We’d lose too many men.”
“Is there perhaps a way to lure the army to a different location another way?” Arylana asked. “A well planned attack by a small band, or perhaps we could manage to assassinate just the right officer to draw all the men together.”
“We don’t even know which officers are there.” said Cmdr. Luke. “We don’t even know how many men there are all together. We only know what our small patrols can tell us. That is where they are and that they’re larger than us. If we can get out of this valley, we can at least have the advantage of our main forces being hidden. We have very little going for us, unless we can get out of this valley alive.”
“Do we perhaps have a weapon that could make a big enough bang to draw their attention?” he asked Cmdr. Aidan ,who would know if they had something to that effect.
The commander shook his head, “The biggest bang we have is a land mine and we only have maybe ten of them left. We’d have to manage to sneak a squadron out. There is no way we could manage to place all of them in time and also be sure all of them would go off at once. That is the only way we’d cause a large enough commotion to trick the whole army into one spot.”
They all went quiet again. Lieut. Rackrith spoke, “Could we go over the mountains?”
“No,” Margorim said, “the road is too hard, many of the women and children would never make it, most of all in the cold of winter.”
“Better a few women and children than the whole army.” Lieut. Rackrith said. “What other choice do we have?”
“We can’t doom them to death because we are too lazy to think of another way out.” Cdr. Aidan said. “We are doing this to protect those who cannot protect themselves.”
“We also have to think of those yet to live, commander.” Lieut. Rackrith countered. “If a few lives today will free those of the women and children who will yet live, than I think it’s a fair exchange.”
Arylana looked from the arguing officers to Mercutio, who looked unsure of what to do. He had put a hand to his face and was gazing at some distant point clearly thinking hard. Arylana watched him carefully, trying to read his thoughts. Roxorim was looking at the officers while Margorim was looking at the map with a slightly desperate look on his face.
Cmdr. Aidan shook his head. “How can we justify allowing those few to die, when the whole point of fighting Heklis is to stop the death and suffering?”
Cmdr. Sebastian joined in. “If we’re willing to die, why do you think these women and children aren’t as willing to die for the cause?”
“So we’ll let a few of the weak ones fall to save the strong?” Cdr. Markos snapped.
“Better the majority strong than the few weak.” Cdr. Sebastian rebuffed.
Cdr. Jamison jumped in. “You’re all nuts.” He said, “We came into this knowing we’d have to sacrifice lives, but we decided it would be those who were willing. How do we know these women and children are prepared to do that?”
“That’s the price they pay for joining us.” Lieut. Rackrith said.
“Most of them had no choice, their husbands, brothers and fathers joined us. If they hadn’t they’d be left at the mercy of the king’s men.” Lieut. Norbert said, “They have no other choice.”
“Then why give them a choice in this?” Lieut. Rackrith asked.
“Men, men that is enough.” Capt. Drake tried to cool them, but the officers only became more heated.
“We have no other choice. If we are to save our army, some must die!”
“And who are you to decide who should die?” Cdr. Sebastian stood up glaring at Cdr. Aidan.
“We are the officers, that is our place to decide.”
“I said that is enough!” Capt. Drake tried again, but to no avail.
“It is not our decision to make!” Margorim’s voice boomed over everyone else’s. They all went quiet. “It is the General who will decide.” Margorim said, “And not that of his officers.”
Roxorim glanced at Arylana then quickly looked away. Arylana was still watching Mercutio. He looked deeply troubled and still didn’t look at anyone.
“Sir,” Capt. Drake said softly.
At last Mercutio looked up. “You’re all right.” He said, “It is our duty to decide who must sacrifice and also our job to protect those who need our protection. We are to defend the weak and we also are to use our best judgment to decide what sacrifices will bring the best outcome. The question here isn’t which is right; the question is how to balance those two duties with each other.”
No one spoke. Arylana was too busy admiring what Mercutio had said to really be thinking of a solution. He’d put the real issue right out into the open, as if it were as plain as the nose on his face. He hadn’t tried to soften the blow, he hadn’t lied to make it so it wouldn’t offend anyone, he just said it. It was exactly what needed to be done. Who could have found a better man to lead this army?
“Then what do you want us to do?” demanded Lieut. Rackrith, “you are our general, then command us.”
Mercutio didn’t speak. He was clearly still thinking. “Are we sure there is no way to get through another way.”
“Not that I see here sir.” Capt. Drake said.
“Did you Capt. Custod?” he inquired of Margorim.
“No,” he sighed. “But I only have a map to guide me. I don’t know these mountains.”
“Does anyone really know these mountains well?” Mercutio asked.
“Not to my knowledge sir no.” Margorim said.
“But is there a chance there is a large enough cave, in the mountains, that would lead us to the other side?” Roxorim asked.
“That’s exactly what I’m wondering.” Mercutio said.
“How could we know?” Lieut. Rackrith scoffed.
“We could send out scouts.” Cdr. Jamison said at once. “I could send out a whole squadron, each squad to a different place. It wouldn’t take them long. They could easily tell us if there is a way.”
“How long would it take them?” Mercutio asked.
“Three weeks at the most sir.” Cdr. Jamison said.
“Let us pray we have that much time.” Mercutio said. “We’ll look for a cave.”
“And if there isn’t one?” Lieut. Rackrith asked.
Mercutio sighed, “Then we will use any other option open to us.” He said, standing up. All of the officers followed suit. “Cdr. Jamison, send those squads out at once.”
“Aye sir,” Cdr. Jamison said at once and left the tent without another word.
Mercutio turned to the three Custods. “I’d like a word with the three of you.” He said, “The rest of you are dismissed.”
The officers all bowed and one by one left the room. Mercutio waited until everyone was gone before he sat down again with a sigh. Arylana and Roxorim moved closer and also sat down. Margorim returned to his own sit.
“What do you think?” he asked. “Lieut. Rackrith isn’t wrong, we need a plan. What do you think we should do? You are the only ones who didn’t speak in the arguments. What do you think?” he looked at Roxorim.
“Sir, with all respect we have no right to take a path that would lead to the death of those we are to protect.” Roxorim said, “We have no right to force them to die.”
“Then what do you propose we do?” Mercutio asked.
“We have to find a way to get out, without risking the lives of those who can’t fight.” Roxorim said, “It is better to sacrifice those who have sworn to give their lives than those who have made no such agreement.”
Mercutio turned to Margorim. “And you?” he asked, “What do you think Margorim?”
“I think we have to do what we can.” Margorim said, “I’m afraid without a cave, going over the mountains is our only other option. If there were any other way I’d say take it, but it is our only choice. As much as I object to taking a path we know will lead to death, we can only do what we have the power to do.”
Mercutio nodded and looked at Arylana. “What do you think?” he asked.
“Sir, I don’t know what I think.” Arylana said, “I think they’re all right. Yet, I don’t feel good taking a path we know will kill some of our people, nor do I know any other way. I’m afraid my mind is as split as yours ,my lord. I agree with Roxorim and yet I agree with my father. I agree with Cdr. Aidan and also with Cdr. Jamison. I’m as torn as I could be.”
Mercutio looked slightly disappointed. He looked down. “I’m afraid my feelings are the same as yours.” He said looking at the floor. “I don’t know how we can choose for someone else, nor do I see any other choice.”
“General,” Margorim said, “With all due respect you have no right to be split on any issue. You are our leader and you need to lead us where we must go. You can’t sit on the fence.”
Mercutio smiled weakly. “You think I’m not aware of that Margorim?” he asked. “This is why I must seek all the advise I can find. It is up to me to find the right path and lead that way. Yet on this issue, I believe I have far too many strong opinions and good communicators to pull me one way or another.”
“Then you must take the only path open to you.” Margorim said, “When you only see one way ahead, how can you led any other way?”
“Because as a leader, I walk the road first.” Mercutio said, “I must be sure there are no other paths. I must check each and every inch of the road to be sure there is only one way. This has always been the struggle of every leader from the dawn of time, one of the many anyway.”
Mercutio sighed. “Thank you,” he said at last, “you may go.”
Margorim and Roxorim left almost at once. With a quick bow to the general, they left.
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