Alexander sat in his office, tapping his fingers on his desk. He should feel happy. His men had found the spy. The boy was stupid enough to stay out in the open. Although the orchard trees were a good idea – at that time of the year their leaves were so thick that it was difficult to see anything in the trees. One of his men had the good sense to look up, and they found him. Alexander had seen the reports. The spy was a small man with a broken arm. They had no other information. Alexander wanted to question the boy, but Thesle would not allow it. Thesle just wanted the boy dead.
Another thing that angered him. He was in charge of the army. He was protecting them from Pons. Thesle was just sitting in his ornate palace pretending like he cared about what was happening below him. Why had his men taken the boy to Thesle? Why hadn’t they brought the boy to him immediately? Clearly his soldiers were not as intelligent as he had thought. Sure, Thesle was in the position of power in the city, but he controlled nothing except the money. Which meant he controlled everything. Thesle wanted stained glass for his great hall. What did it matter if houses couldn’t be built in Sulci without that glass? The governor’s mansion would look pretty. Who cares if there are homeless people? Thesle needs all the metal to make a new family crest. Who cares if that metal was supposed to be used to fix the grate over the drain? Not like a spy’s going to sneak in. Alexander slammed his fist into his desk. Stop obsessing over things you can’t control, he scolded himself.
Alexander picked up a piece of paper from his desk. Through years of Sulci’s own spying, they had compiled a list of Pons’ top generals. They had a physical description of each man along with his specialty and his battle experience. Of course, the dictator Jerek Tyler was at the top. Underneath Tyler’s description were three lines that led to his top three generals. Under those three descriptions were more lines. A lot of their information was incomplete but it was better than nothing. At least they knew who to aim for if Pons attacked.
He studied the names:
Jerek Tyler, took control of Pons in the year 1342 by killing the royal family of Karst. Destroyed outlying villages between 1350-1360. Destroyed Nox in 1358. Has attacked Sulci 49 times since 1353.
Alexander knew their spy was not Jerek Tyler. Tyler would never be his own spy. Plus Tyler was a tall man; Alexander had seen him once. A tall man with light colored hair and an oddly amused look on his face. No small man with a broken arm.
His eyes moved to the next three names: Nico Vedi, Antony Aleando, Perin Proctor. The information on those three men was very vague. In Pons they did not decorate their generals with impressive uniforms. They looked just like everyone else. Only the Pons soldiers knew who they were. Alexander was sure that he had seen them before, and that he would recognize them. But I can’t recognize anyone if I’m not allowed to see them.
There were several facts that he did know about each man. Vedi had invented Tyler’s defensive plan. Unfortunately Alexander had never gotten to test that plan, but he hoped that when the time came the defense was not as impressive as everyone said it was. Vedi had participated in the Sulci attacks early on but, according to his spies, usually did not anymore. The description said that he was also tall, but had red hair. Should be easy enough to spot. Alexander guessed that this was not their spy either. Red hair was not a common trait in Karst. His guards would have remembered to mention it to him, even if they were slow enough to take the spy to Thesle.
Aleando had inventedTyler’s offensive plan. As far as Alexander could tell, all that plan consisted of was killing everything in their path. All that was listed about Aleando was that he had dark skin. This could be their spy. His men had provided him no information on the spy’s skin color. However, they did get a lot of sun in Pons, so perhaps it would be easy to confuse sun tanned skin with naturally dark skin.
Proctor… well, Alexander hoped that Proctor was not their spy. Pons had a cavalry force of specially trained men who could kill anyone with anything. It was rumored that they didn’t even need a weapon. They could disarm you and kill you with their bare hands. Proctor controlled and trained the Pons cavalry. Luckily for Sulci, they had never faced Pons on the ground. But if Proctor was indeed inside Sulci, how long would it take before he started killing? They probably wouldn’t even notice at first. Just a few people disappearing…
Suddenly a man burst through his door. Alexander recognized him as one of the prison guards. The man was out of breath and looked shocked. Alexander waited for him to speak first. “Sir!”
“The prisoner from Pons, the one they caught today. He’s gone!”
Alexander sat up straight. “What do you mean?”
“The head guard went to do a cell check, and he’s gone!”
Alexander rubbed his eyes and sighed.Why do I always have to clean up Thesle’s messes? “If he had been brought to me in the first place, we wouldn’t have this problem. Stevens!”
Robert Stevens was Alexander’s only staff member. The young man had a small office that connected to Alexander’s office. He knew that Stevens would be awake. He never slept unless Alexander also slept. Within two seconds, Stevens came bursting through the door. He was a small, muscular, dark haired man who was far too intelligent to be put on the wall with the other soldiers his age. “Sir?”
“I need every soldier not currently stationed on the wall to report here immediately.”
“At three in the morning, sir?”
“Our spy is more intelligent than Thesle thought. He’s gone again, and we need to find him… again. Spread the word. If anyone is found hiding him, they will be considered equally as guilty as he is.” He pointed to the guard. “You, go start alerting everyone. And this time, bring the boy tome, not to Thesle.”
The man left quickly. Alexander didn’t want to let the thought cross his mind, but it still crept into his consciousness: Proctor could probably break out of a prison cell. Stevens stayed for a second. “Are you feeling okay, sir?”
“You just don’t seem as active as usual.”
“Two days without sleep will do that. Get moving.” Stevens left the room slowly. Alexander stood up and rubbed his eyes again. No sleep again. For some reason he had been plagued by insomnia for weeks. This situation certainly was not helping. If the day continues with this pattern I might not eat either. Fantastic.
Within thirty minutes, Stevens had his soldiers assembled. Initially Alexander thought there were fewer men than usual, but then he remembered that twenty-five of them were on the wall.Good gods, this lack of sleep is starting to make me crazy. He pulled the soldier who had discovered the spy forward. It was a soldier named Falis, a man of about twenty years old with yellow hair. “Tell them what this spy looks like.”
“Yes sir. Small man, definitely less than six feet tall. Probably closer to five and a half. Dark hair.” Dark hair, Alexander thought. Then it’s definitely not Vedi. “He doesn’t say much, or move very much. He is very good at hiding. His left arm is broken. The rest of him doesn’t look too well off either, but it doesn’t seem to bother him.”
“You mean he has other injuries?” Alexander asked for clarification. Better paint these idiots as clear of a picture as we can. That’s not really fair. I shouldn’t call them all idiots. A few of them are good men.
“Yes sir. I remember a few cuts and bruises. But when we tied his arms he didn’t seem to be in too much pain, even though his arm is broken. So I don’t think bruises will really slow him down.”
“They are used to pain in Pons. Don’t expect to be looking for a sniveling boy crouched in a corner somewhere. Go on.” It’s ridiculous that they even need this much explanation. Most of them are too young to remember a serious Pons attack.
“We put him into a cell on the second floor of the prison a week ago at about eleven in the morning. Last night the guards did a cell check and found that he was gone. The cell was still locked. They searched the prison but could not find him.” Alexander was glad that no one asked how he had gotten out if the cell was locked. Good, no time for stupid questions.
“What color is his skin?”
Falis thought about it for a second. “It was darker… but it might just have been a sun tan, sir.”
Again the thought crept into his head: Proctor. “Thank you Mr. Falis. I will warn you all – do not let the description of this spy fool you. Anyone from Pons is extremely dangerous. You have never fought them on the ground. They are capable of far more than you know. Consider the spy armed and dangerous. Try to take him alive, but if he looks threatening at all, kill him. Don’t hesitate, because he will not. We need to find him soon before anyone gets hurt.”
Alexander looked over to his second in command, a man named Duncan Pascal. Pascal was not a particularly intelligent or courageous individual, but he was Thesle’s nephew. If he were older than sixteen he would have Alexander’s position. Fortunately Thesle did recognize that experience came with age. “General Pascal will split you into teams to begin the search. You will start as soon as you have your assignment.”
Alexander turned away from the group. Stevens followed him. “Any orders for me, sir?”
“I’m going to lie down before I fall over. If they find anything, let me know. I’ll join them when the sun comes up.”