Hello everyone! Today I present to you the tenth chapter of the Insurgents, where Josech and his new friend Kohath discover the difference after the new Regent.
If you’re new:
As we left, there was not much more to be said. All the mysteries seemed solved. We knew that our old Regent was dead, that our city’s worst enemies had escaped, and that our new Regent was prepared to make everything right again. Only question was, could he?
“You know,” said Baruch, “we really should go to bed and get some sleep. You never know when those Insurgents will attack again.”
Maher nodded. “You’re right,” he said. “All we can do is prepare for a new attack.”
“Wouldn’t it make it much easier if we knew exactly when and where these Insurgents were going to attack?” Ariel asked.
“Yeah,” said Baruch. “Right now they could come from the west and attack us, or they could circumnavigate the city and come around from the east, or they could dig a tunnel underneath the city… and come up in the Regent’s palace and try to kill Meshech!” His eyes widened. “Someone’s got to warn him!
“They can’t do it,” said Maher confidently.
“Baruch, what are our streets paved with?”
“Yeah. And what is underneath our streets? Have you ever tried digging underneath them?”
“Sure!”said Baruch. “Lots of times. Underneath our streets is, uh, more rock?”
“Exactly.” Maher replied. “Even a huge army of Insurgents working day and night for twelve years could never dig under our city. Not happening.”
“Then,” said Baruch, getting a little more panicked. “Then they could build a bridge from their HQ to our city! Or a slide! Or they could catch a bunch of eagles, hold on to their legs, and fly in!”
We all stared at Baruch incredulously.
“What?” He asked. “We’ve got to consider every possibility! Not doing that before got the Regent killed. And now look at the new mess we’re in.”
“The first step,” Maher said, “is to control who comes in to the city. If the regent, Meshech, never goes out, and the VIPOR and their minions never come in, then he is practically safe.”
“If we only knew how many were left…” Ariel wondered. “So many died, and many more have joined your side. What did you call it? The IGSIPOR?”
“Yup,” said Baruch. “Josech, you are unusually quiet. Are you okay?”
“I’m always quiet,” I answered. “That way, I can learn a lot of new information and don’t have to break my cover. I mean, the reason the bad guys knew I wasn’t Shaul ben Jair was because they recognized my voice.”
“And your eyes,” reminded Maher.
“Got it,” said Baruch. “I’ll add that to my list of tips for Infiltrators on spying. Tip number 3672: Don’t talk. If you can’t help it, disguise your voice. And thanks to Maher, tip number 3674: close your eyes when you’re spying so that they can’t recognize you.”
“What is tip number 3673?” Maher asked. “And how exactly are you supposed to spy with your eyes closed?”
“Those are both really good questions,” said Baruch, “but I am afraid that I do not know the answers.”
We reached Baruch’s house then, and Maher went in with Baruch to find Maher’s old pocket knife, which he had lost at Baruch’s house when he was ten, and which Baruch had just found in his sock drawer. I didn’t ask how it got there.
Ariel sat down on the steps in front of Baruch’s house. After all I had given up to save her life, my failure, and what I felt sure would be the consequences, it was so wonderful to find her alive.
“Why are you so quiet?” Ariel asked. “You are usually quiet, but never this quiet unless you’re planning something. What is it?”
I sat down beside her on the steps. “I don’t know yet,” I answered. “I feel that as matters stand, we are still unsafe.”
Ariel laughed, but it was the low laugh of uncertainty and feigned indifference. “Our third cousin has returned and become our Regent,” she said. “People are ready to fight for him! The Infiltrators are increasing, while the Insurgents are decreasing. What is there to fear?”
I didn’t answer.
“Josech,” she repeated, more nervously, “what else is there to fear?”
“I don’t know yet,” I answered.
“I don’t know yet,” I answered. “But someone has to find out.”
“Josech… don’t… you’re the most wounded and the most vulnerable of all the Infiltrators! There’s no way you should do this!”
“Right,” said Maher, coming out with his pocket knife, “everything Ariel is telling you is true. If any of our old Insurgent friends were in charge of giving you a title, they would call you the VIGSIPOR!”
“Which stands for?”
“The Vulnerablest Infiltrating Guy Stopping the Insurgents Plotting to Overthrow the Regent! Don’t even think about it.”
“Right. So what am I supposed to be doing in the meantime? I mean, what are you going to be doing?”
“I don’t know… did you hear Meshech say that I was the new colonel of #13? He died in the battle, and that was my old regiment, so… yeah, I’m going to be doing that.”
“Fine. Then tomorrow, I will ask Meshech if I can go spy on the Insurgents.”
“And he’ll say no.” Ariel replied.
“Don’t worry,” said Maher. “By tomorrow, Josech will have forgotten all about it.”
We went home then, Maher and Ariel definitely convinced that I was crazy and really wrong. It was okay, though. They had known that all my life. Sure, they thought I was more crazy now. But someone had to go find out their plans. Baruch was doing just fine as the colonel of the second regiment and I had no other responsibilities. What did I have to lose?
When we got home, we went to bed. It had been a long day, a day full of sorrow and loss, of pain and recovery, of new hope and new dreams. Tomorrow was sure to hold those same things again, and also something more.
Maher was wrong. In the morning, when I woke up, I had not forgotten my purpose of the night before. Someone had to figure out what was going on, and I was pretty sure it had to be me. I had to tell Meshech my plan.
“And why do you think this would be a good idea?” he asked. He was sitting in his father’s throne, and while it seemed strange to see someone other than Ebiasaph there, somehow he seemed like he belonged there. Behind him, the larger throne that would some day belong to the prince waited–waited for a prince that perhaps might never come.
Today the world seemed dark and dismal, but I knew that was only because I was bored. If I only had something to do, a mission to set out on, a war to wage and win, then of course the world would look brighter. And more dangerous.
But obviously, Meshech wasn’t going to buy the idea.
“Well, it would be great if we could somehow figure out a way for us to find out the Insurgents’ plans before they happen. And I think we need a spy to do that.”
“I don’t know any spies,” said Meshech. “Actually, the only spy I know is me. Do you know any more?”
“I don’t think you’re up to going out there and trying to figure out their plans. In the time I’ve known you, you’ve been burned with hot silver, had your arm cut open, been whipped to death, been stabbed and poisoned, gotten taken to the Insurgents’ jail, and been wounded by a VIPOR’s sword. What makes you think you’re qualified? We can’t take any more risks.”
“Well…” I said, “I know the Insurgents’ prison better than just about anybody in the city.”
“And that’s because basically everyone else who’s been in the Insurgents’ prison is still in there.”
“Well, yeah.” I said. “See, this is why it’s a good idea–I escaped!”
He looked at me sternly.
“With your help.” I added.
“Exactly. I appreciate your enthusiasm and your vision, Josech, but this is just not a good idea.”
“So? What am I supposed to do?”
“You could…do jigsaw puzzles? Play jumprope? Build a new aqueduct down the center of the city?”
“And where would I get the water from?”
“You could construct a bridge from here to the far side of the marshes.”
“That is way too far!”
“You could invent a machine that finds out all the Insurgents’ plans before they happen?”
I stared at him. “I’m not an inventor, your Regency. I’m a spy. And that’s why I’m suggesting that I am the one to go find out the Insurgents’ plans before they happen.”
“I’m still not convinced.”
I shrugged. “What else is there for me to tell you? Should I tell you that I’m going to die if I don’t have something to do? That every day that we are left without notice of the Insurgents’ plans is one day closer to complete and utter destruction of our city? Should I tell you that I’m afraid that if we don’t discover their dastardly designs, they’re going to figure out ours? Or should I tell you that there are thousands of prisoners in the dungeons of the Insurgents who may die in the subterranean darkness if we do nothing? Should I tell you that I’m bored and I know that both of my siblings think that I’m wrong, but I’ve got to do something or I’ll sit around here doing nothing and then I will make you bored and we’ll all be bored together and our suspicions will be lulled and our guard will be let down, then like a thief in the night the Insurgents will come and kill us all, and then what will be left of our fair city but a pile of ashes in the middle of the night while the moon burns bright overhead and the stars twinkle silently their message of farewell?” I took a deep breath at the end of this sentence, which I had spoken in just one breath. Try it; it’s hard.
The Regent Meshech stared at me.
“Fine, then. Do you want me to tell you that if we had only known the Insurgents’ plans before they happened while they were still in jail, then your father would still be alive today?”
This seemed to actually get his attention. I don’t know why all the stories about the devastation of our city didn’t disturb him, but the mere mention of his paternal ancestor could make him actually consider the eternal destiny of our lands–and my proposition.
Just then, Kohath came in the room.
“Hey, Meshech,” he said. “What’s up?”
Meshech didn’t answer. He was contemplating my orations and didn’t hear Kohath’s.
“So, um, I was thinking,” said Kohath, talking to me and Meshech, but mostly to me because Meshech wasn’t listening. “So, um, we’re basically sitting around here like a target for the Insurgents to attack, and all we can do is move the target once they’ve hit. So I don’t think that’s the best deal, because then we can’t really do anything to stop it because you can’t move a target.”
“I don’t get your metaphor.” I answered.
“Fine. I’m suggesting that you and I go out there and find us some Insurgents. Whaddya think, Meshech?”
Meshech nodded slowly. “So while one of you has a 1 out of 1 chance of getting caught, two of you would have a two out of two chance of getting caught.”
“I don’t think so,” said Kohath.”If Josech could get caught in seven hours, and I could get caught in five, how long would it take us to get caught together?”
“Twelve hours?” Meshech guessed.
“Right!” said Kohath, completely ignoring all the laws of algebra. “So if we go out together and only stay there for ten hours, that brings us exactly back home safer than if we’d never left it.”
“I see your point,” said Meshech.
While Kohath’s logic was totally wrong and obviously confused, I did have to admit that he was convincing Meshech just as much as I had.
“Okay,” said Meshech. “I’ll let you two go, but only on certain conditions.”
“How many?” asked Kohath.
“Don’t ask!” I hissed. “Just let him make them and we can be gone!”
He shook his head. “I know what I’m doing.” he whispered back.
“Thirteen.” said Meshech.
“Awwwww….” said Kohath whiningly. He was starting to remind me of Vexatiousest. “Can’t you make it just three?”
“Okay,” said Meshech, and I was surprised at his compliance. “First condition: you must wear your shoes and socks at all times, you must not allow anyone to discover that you were sent from the palace, you must carry weapons that are not easily distinguishable as belonging to a guard of the Regent, you must also not allow these weapons to be easily recognizable as belonging to Insurgents, lest the guards at the gate view these weapons of destruction and smite you, you may not get a haircut on the way, and you may not tie your shoes in a double knot.”
“Okay…” I said. “I’m not sure about the weapons, but I’m pretty sure that I can do the rest of those things.”
“Hey…” said Kohath. “You tricked us! You just fit six things into your first condition!”
“I’m not done yet,” said Meshech with a twinkle in his eye, and I knew that he had not been moved from his planned course by all Kohath’s wranglings. “Second condition: do not lick your fingers, do not talk to strangers, don’t talk to anyone you know, don’t kiss a bullfrog, don’t bury a chipmunk, and never look a snake in the eyes.”
“I don’t get it,” I said. “How can I neither talk to strangers nor to anyone I know? And why would I ever kiss a bullfrog?”
“Come on!” said Kohath. “That was six more conditions. Make the last one really short.”
“Fine,” said Meshech. “Stay alive.”
We stared at him in shock. How could he even tell us to do something that hard? We couldn’t promise anything.
But Kohath merely nodded and dragged me with him out the door. “We’ll be back eventually.” he yelled back.
“I know all your tricks,” Meshech reminded Kohath. “Don’t even think that your math tricks have confused me. I know that together you could get caught in three hours, but we have to risk it. Josech is right–our city is in danger, and it’s up to you two to save it! Are you ready?”
“Yup!” said Kohath. “See you later!”
Seconds later, we found ourselves standing just inside the gate.
“So, you ready for this?” Kohath asked.
“Yeah. You know, I never got to ask you…”
“Yes?” Kohath asked.
“Okay, what’s your favorite color?”
“I don’t know yet,” said Kohath. “It used to be green, but I don’t know anymore.”
“Yeah?” I answered. “Yeah, me neither.”
“You ready for this?” Kohath asked again.
“Yup!” I said, and we headed out the gates. Meshech had given strict orders that no one was to interfere with our passage in and out of the city–especially not nosy guards at the gate.
“Wait!” Teman yelled. “I forgot to ask you some questions!”
But we were out in the wide world outside the city by then, standing on a hill from which we could see the Insurgents’ headquarters, and where, we supposed, they could also see us.
“So…” said Kohath as we stood on top of the hill. “What’s the plan?”
I stared at him. “You came this far with me as a spy on the Insurgents, and you don’t have a plan?”
Kohath shrugged. “Well…you were once the colonel of regiment #2, an advisor to the regent, and you have spied on both sides…I guess I thought you’d have a plan. You do, right?”
“Right,” I said, trying to think of something on the spot. “So, we’ve got to sneak up on them, hear their plans, and then tell Meshech.”
“Okay…That’s what I was thinking too. Did you have anything more definite on your mind? Like how are we going to sneak up on them? We do have guards at those gates.”
I nodded and looked down at the ground. Suddenly, all my great plans seemed shattered. Escaping from a prison when no one is there and breaking in when everyone’s home are two very different things.
Kohath sat down on a rock and put his head between his hands. “So… any ideas? You are the most qualified one of us, you know.”
“About that…” I said. “What were you like before you were an Insurgent?”
“Well, I was about six feet tall, had brown hair and green eyes… Guess I haven’t changed that much.”
“No. I was asking what your life was like.”
“Oh, that. Well, my father was a spice merchant and my mother’s father was a donkey merchant. so I kind of got trained up as a spiced donkey merchant.”
“They sell spiced donkeys?”
“Not anymore,” he answered regretfully. “After I got turned into an Insurgent, my grand idea of uniting both sides of my family in merchandise was left to die in the dust. Actually, my family lives in Gibeon, so if we get done early at the VIPOR’s HQ, then we could go visit them.”
I stared at him. Why had I ever said I’d come spying with this guy? He was worse than Baruch!
“So, you got any ideas?” he asked.
“Yeah…” I said. “I got one. It’s not a very good idea, but it’s an idea. The only one I’ve got. Let’s go right up to the gates like we belong there, and show them our armbands, and they might let us in.”
Kohath exhaled. “It’s risky.”
“Yeah, I know. But I think it’s the only thing we can do right now.”
He nodded. “You’re the leader, Josech. I’m following you.”
It all worked almost exactly as I had planned, until it didn’t.
In plain sight, we strode up to those gates. We prepared to tell them that we were snakes like them, and we had our sleeves pulled up past our elbows.
But things never go as planned. Of all the guards who could have been there, the two that were there were Zephaniah and Lotan, the guards who had been there when I left. Now I just hoped they didn’t recognize either of us.
“State your name, length of Insurgency, and city of origin.” Lotan said.
“I am Kohath ben Rechab, I’ve been an Insurgent for a long time, and I’m from Gibeon.”
“One sec.” said Zeph. He flipped through his list of Insurgents. “No, don’t see a Kohath. Any other former names or aliases?”
“Yes.” said Kohath. “How about the name V–”
I stepped on his toe as hard as I could. Tell the Insurgents your former names, and you basically tell them your history–and that you don’t belong here anymore! I glared at Kohath.
He stared back. Then it was like a sunrise in his brain. “Ohhhh… “ he said, rather obviously loudly. “Yeah! Of course! I forgot. Forgive me, Jos–”
I stepped on his toe again. The other one this time, just for good measure.
Kohath just got really quiet and motioned for me to speak.
I decided to do the only thing I could think of. Putting on a really fake Gibeonite accent, I said to them, “Send us to your leaders at once, or we will report you for delays and for placing obstacles in our path.”
Zephaniah and Lotan both looked very scared. Kohath looked very confused.
Then Zephaniah and Lotan opened the gates and directed us towards the VIPOR’s HQ.
“What next?” Kohath asked in a very loud whisper.
“Next,” I whispered back, “we find the VIPOR.”
“Great,” said Kohath. “How? They know me on sight! They’ll kill me without compunction! They–they–they’re VIPORS, after all! They think I’m a traitor to all they once believed in!”
“Okay, so aren’t you?”
“Yeah. I still don’t want them to kill me. Are you sure this is a great idea?”
I didn’t answer. I had an idea. I beckoned to Kohath, and we went over to a dark corner on the far side of the building.
“What’s up?” Kohath asked.
“So, you know how on the one side of their audience chamber is the prison? We could try to get through there…”
“Won’t work.” said Kohath. “The door from the prison to the lair of the snakes only opens by that knife trick, and that opens the door all the way.”
“Okay then. Next plan: the other side of the building.”
“What?!” Kohath almost yelled. “That place is where the furnace is. If they’re planning to initiate anyone new into their gang, that furnace will be hotter than the midday sun in the middle of the summer in the hottest year on record. There’s no way that we would survive that!”
“Calm down,” I whispered. “If they aren’t adding a new member, then how hot will the furnace be?”
“About as hot as the sun in the summer in an averagely hot year.”
“Can we stay away from that furnace, but still get in there far enough to hear their plans?”
Kohath inhaled slowly. “Possibly,” he said, “but there’s a lot of conditions. For example… actually, never mind. We’ve only get one chance and only ever will have. We might as well take the risk. It’s all the hope we’ve got.”
Thus, Kohath snuck around the edge of the building like the average Insurgent, and led the way to a door in the side.
“So, this is the door where they bring in firewood,” Kohath whispered.
I nodded. “How do we get in?”
“Um… well, it has a lock on the inside, and I’m pretty sure that’s the only way it opens. This was the first condition I was telling you about.”
“Oh. So do you have any ideas on how to get in?”
He nodded. “One.”
“Uh, break the door down.”
It seemed drastic. But he was right, it was the only way in.
“Can you do that quietly?” I asked, afraid to hear the answer.
He nodded, and without another word, he executed a series of moves that looked like a combination between chopping down a tree without an axe and having a pillow fight without the pillow.
It worked. The door was down in seconds, and there was barely a sound. When I walked through and saw the place where the door had been, it looked like the door hinges had been completely torn out of the wood. There was a reason this guy had been the Violentest Insurgent Plotting to Overthrow the Regent. I wondered if he had obtained that reputation through his adventures or if it was through some special Insurgent training that I had apparently missed.
“Coming?” Kohath asked.
I followed him through the dark passage until he abruptly stopped. The only light was that from the doorway we had passed through, and I could barely see Kohath’s hand in front of my face.
“So,” he whispered, “We are in a subterranean passage on the other side of the VIPOR’s audience chamber. We have got to get through this door right here. Do you see it?”
“No,” I whispered back, “I can’t see anything.”
“Okay,” he said, “so I think there’s a lock on this side of the door and on the other one. If we can pick either one, then we can get through. Which do you think is better, this one or the other one?”
“How would we get to the lock on the other side of the door?”
“I don’t know. That’s your job to figure out. By the way, do you know how to pick locks?”
“Uh, no? Do you?”
Kohath sighed. “Why did you ever volunteer to come on this trip if you’re going to make me do all the work?”
I shrugged. “I would probably have chosen a less violent way to enter!”
“You were the one who came up with this plan in the first place!”
“I’m sorry! Maybe it was because I thought it would work!” Our words echoed around the small chamber, growing louder and louder in a cacophony of sound.
If they couldn’t hear us before, they could now.
“Don’t ever think of anything this risky again!” Kohath yelled.
“Look,” I whispered. “I really am sorry I got you into this mess in the first place. It is my fault and I should have come up with a better plan to start with. I often fail to do that, and it often causes drastic results. Right now we are in the middle of the VIPOR’s headquarters, and I do not doubt that they will kill us on sight. So I suggest that we wait not for them to find us and instead try to find them. I don’t know how to pick a lock, and I believe I am correct in believing that you do not either?”
He nodded. He was still mad at me.
“So… I suggest the next step would be, instead of picking the lock, to get it entirely out of the wall.”
“How?” He asked incredulously.
“Um…with a sword?” I drew my sword and began to hack into the wall about the place I thought the latch for the door would reach.
“That’s crazy!” Kohath yelled in a whisper. “Swords were never meant to cut through wood! And there’s no way they can!”
I moved my sword, and he could clearly see the hole I had made in the wood–not enough to get the latch out of the wall, but enough that he knew it was going to work.
I kept cutting. It was like slicing through a pineapple with a table knife. It was possible, but it was extremely difficult.
“So…” Kohath said, curiously, “how did you know that a sword would cut through wood?”
“Um…. let me just say that this isn’t the first of the VIPOR’s HQ that I have broken into. Remember back in Iyr?”
“You did that with a sword, too? You’re crazy!”
I nodded. “I’ve often been told that. Okay, I’ve got a hole. I think we can do this.”
“On three,” said Kohath. “One, two, three.” He yanked the door open and we were greeted by a burst of hot air. Kohath had been right; this was as hot as any summer day ever.
“Does this mean the furnace is on or off?” I asked.
“Uh….on. I think. It’s hot, huh?”
I nodded. “What’s the plan?” I asked.
He beckoned and I followed to the right, where we carefully edged around the furnace and all its appurtenances.
“This,” he said, in more of a mouthing the words than a whisper, “is the entrance to their hall. If they decide at any time to come in here, we have got to get back to the door we just came through–and we have got to do it fast. OK?”
I nodded. The reflection of the flames cast a weird red glow on his face. The heat was almost stifling.
“Hear that?” Kohath asked. He had his ear pressed against the door and was listening intently to something.
I pressed my ear to the door. “No?” I answered. “What am I listening for?”
“Oh, well. What you are supposed to hear is footsteps and what those indicate is that some people are about to enter the audience chamber. The VIPOR (or what is left of them) is already in there.”
“How do you know?” I asked.
“Uh, I recognize their breathing.”
I stared at him. This guy was more talented than I thought.
“I’ve been with them for a while,” he said. “You kind of get used to things like that. Okay, they’re about to talk.”
When Villainousest spoke, even I could hear him.
“Greetings,” he said. “I cannot but doubt that you are an emissary of the ones whose coming has been foretold to us.” The other guy must have bowed or nodded or something, because Villainousest just kept talking. “As we are here, engaged to deliberate with you on these endeavors which we are to join in together against our common age-old foe, I believe that it is the hour now to create our plans.”
In a really thick accent, the other guy answered. He could have said almost anything, and I wouldn’t have understood, but I think he said he was honored by their attention and humbled by their undying devotion. Kohath was always sure that he had said that he didn’t like the color green and wanted this conversation over with. Now who, honestly, do you think was right?
“Perhaps.” said Vehementest. “Perhaps.it.is.time.that.we.discuss.the.finalization.of.our.plans.and.finally.destroy.that.traitorous.regent.and.all.his.friends.”
The foreign guy answered that he had no idea, but they were probably right. From the screeching that followed, Kohath surmised that the Insurgents and their new friend were sitting down at the table. “Our chairs were always squeaky,” he said.
“Let us consider…” said Villainousest. “While we have been depleted in number by our recent….shall we say, escapade, in the city, so have they. We have lost some men, but they have lost many more. That is why, in this time of need, we have come to you and to your leader.”
The man bowed, said he was deeply honored, and regretted their losses. “Some of your own people, too, I think?” he said. “I had heard there were seven who led the Insurgents.”
“They were not worthy of the name….” Venomousest hissed. Oh, how I wanted to never meet that guy again. “They are dead to us now. One of them rules as a Regent in that city, and the other is his loyal and useless minion.”
Kohath clenched his fists. “I’ll show him useless,” he muttered.
“How many men can you give us?” Vengefullest asked. “We must strike them, for they have struck us.”
The foreign man laughed, quietly and wickedly. “You are eager to end this, no? You have asked for our aid in attacking your enemies, but you have not yet told us what is in this for us. We help you and kill your foes, but are we left with nothing to show?”
“Ummm…” said Vexatiousest, and his hesitation was almost as annoying as his speech would have been. “We’ll say to you, ‘well done, good and faithful foreign emissaries.’”
The man must have looked his annoyance.
“We have much silver,” said Venomousest smoothly. “And with some of it, your king will mayhap be rewarded.”
He laughed scoffingly. “Silver? We aid you to gain a kingdom, and you pay us in silver? You must think that we are nothing but Regent’s guards!”
Kohath moved to go, but I stopped him. “We’ve got to know who these are,” I said. “And we’ve got to know how many we have to face.”
“Who were you five intending to place on the throne of the city and of all their domains, once you have succeeded in capturing it?”
“Well,” said Villainousest smoothly, “we have essentially succeeded in capturing all the so-called Regent’s Domains, and these lands lie entirely in our power. That city remains as a last signal of their power and is by no means impenetrable.”
The foreigner laughed, and his laughs sounded just as ugly as the VIPOR’s could be. “Perhaps you are not answering the question I have put to you,” he said, “I asked who would rule. May I remind you that you are relying on our aid?”
“We had not yet decided on a path of action,” Venomousest hissed.
“Exactly,” said Villainousest, “but we had temporarily suggested an oligarchy.”
“Oligarchies are wonderful,” Vengefullest added. “We rule them, and they cannot rule us back.”
“This oligarchy would give the five of you unlimited power in all the regions south of our emir’s lands. Do you honestly think that we would give you that power?” He laughed for a long time. “No,” he said, “when we together–but mostly with the power of our nation–have conquered the Regent and his guards, the emir will decide who will be in charge. You will agree to this, or we will leave you as you are–or perhaps even fight on the side of your enemies.”
There was silence for a long moment, and I hoped the Insurgents would not agree to this emissary’s plans. Then we might have a new ally and at least would have no new enemies.
“Fine.” said Vehementest. “You.leave.us.no.choice. We.will.allow.your.emir.to.aid.us.in.the.selection.of.a.ruler.of.the.domains.if.you.aid.us.in.the.resurrection.of.our.hopes.”
“Excellent. Then I believe that I can feel safe in offering you ten thousand chosen men. Will that be sufficient?”
“Uh…I believe so,” Vexatiousest said. “Though eleven thousand would be safer. When may we expect them?”
“We can have them here in a week,” the emissary said, and for the first time I realized that these men weren’t just planning to beat us in another battle. They were planning to utterly and entirely annihilate us forever!
“Then we will attack their city. They will be caught like mice in a cage, and we will then have the power we need to destroy them. We will insurge forever!”
“Hey,” Kohath whispered. “That was my line.”
“There is one more thing,” Villainousest said, and I knew that this had to be vital to our plans.
Kohath pulled my sleeve. “Let’s get out of here!” he said. “We’ve got to tell Meshech!”
“Wait,” I whispered back. “We’ve got to know the last thing they’re going to do!”
“You already know,” he said. “Remember the…” With his hands, he demonstrated something which looked like drinking from a cup, hissing like a snake, and then dying.
“I don’t remember!” I said. “Remind me again?”
“You know, the…” he made the same motions, with extra contortions that looked like he was in lots of pain.
Just then, we heard a collision that sounded like a knife hitting wood, and the door we were hiding behind began to open.
“Let’s get out of here!” Kohath yelled, and he led the way out the door we had entered through. We stopped running outside the building in the shadow of the wall, where we could be seen by no one.
“See?” said Kohath. “That’s why we were so hot.” I nodded slowly, but I still didn’t understand.
Just then, we heard a scream from inside the building, followed by a thud. I finally realized what was happening.
“Ohhhh….” I said. “Whenever they say they have one more thing they’re going to do, it means they’re going to put a snake band on their new friend?”
Kohath nodded. “Yup,” he said. “I wish we could find a way to get those off, you know? Any way, how are we supposed to get out of here?”
I pointed to the wall, which was about twenty-nine yards away. “Climb that.”
“Okay,” Kohath said. He sheathed his sword and prepared to run.
“Be careful,” I said, sheathing my own sword. “If the Insurgents catch us before we get there…” I didn’t finish my sentence. But Kohath didn’t care. He was already half way across the open space to the wall. What was I supposed to do but follow him?
We reached the three-quarters point, and we heard a loud and angry yell. We didn’t have to look–they’d seen us, and they were not happy that we were there.
“So…” said Kohath. “Did you ever wonder what it was like to be a prisoner to the Insurgents? Cause I’m afraid we’re about to find out!”
“No!” I yelled. “We can’t let them catch us! We are going to get this information to Meshech! And besides, did you forget? I’ve already been a prisoner! I don’t want to do it again!”
We reached the wall and began to climb. The iron fencing was similar here to the gate I had climbed once before, only this was not quite as tall. There were advantages and disadvantages to this.
The advantage was that we didn’t have so far to climb. The disadvantage was that the Insurgents were closer to us and could reach us.
We reached the top and were waiting there just above their heads.
“What are we waiting for?” Kohath asked.
“I’m not sure,” I panted. “I’m trying to come up with a good idea to get away from these guys.”
“Yeah. You know what would be really good right now?”
“What?” I asked, wondering if this could actually be our breakthrough.
“A slide. Then we could just sit down and slide over their heads outside the gates and obtain our safety and freedom.”
I stared at him. “We need an actual plan! Can’t you think of anything? Pretty soon some of these Insurgents are going to think of–”
“Of what?” Kohath asked. I purposefully hadn’t finished my sentence so that the Insurgents themselves could not think of it. “Oh…” said Kohath. “You mean of climbing up here after us? Too late!”
It was true. Three of the nastiest and boldest Insurgents had begun their ascent of the wall. I wondered why they were still Insurgents when we had won the battle and they could have left those hordes and come to the Regent. I wondered if they would every discover the true peace or if they really believed that the Regent should be overthrown. More than that, I also wondered why I was engaging in philosophical and sociological inquiry when I was about to be killed.
“Take three steps downward,” I said to Kohath. “Then jump!”
We both jumped. Kohath fell, hard. I landed on my feet and was ready to keep going.
“Wait,” said Kohath, breathlessly. “Maybe you should go on without me.”
“Go on without you?” I asked incredulously. “There’s no way I’m going to do that!”
“You’ve got to!” said Kohath. “Someone has to tell Meshech!”
“And it’s going to be you and me!” I insisted. “Come on, Kohath. We’ve made it so far! Don’t give up now!”
He stared at me. It was then that I saw the gash in his side. Blood was pouring out and spilling out all over the ground. I had only known Kohath a few days, but I felt like he had already become a brother to me.
“Go,” he said hoarsely. I knew I had to stop that bleeding. I tore off my shirt sleeves, his shirt sleeves, and the bottom six inches of my pant leg, and tried to wrap it around him.
“Go,” he said again. “He’s got to know.”
“I’m not leaving you,” I said. “You may be wounded–you may be in trouble–does that mean I should abandon you? I’ve failed before! I failed my neighbor! I failed the Regent! They are both dead now! But I am not going to let the Insurgents kill their erstwhile leader. I’m not going to leave you to die here in the swamps of treason. We are in this together, Kohath. You and me and Meshech and the Guards and the IGSIPOR and all the residents of Iyr. We are in this together, and not one of us can ever go back.”
“They’re going to come out and get you,” Kohath gasped. “Don’t let them…” He fell back onto the marshy ground.
“Kohath!” I almost screamed.
I felt his pulse. It was very faint. Then I heard the shout of a hundred Insurgents. They had opened the gates and had just sighted Kohath and me.
If there was ever a time we needed a prince to come, it was now.
THE END. (of this chapter)
Thanks for reading!