Part I - Bringer of Storms :: 17
Killing the emperor would take a long time.
"It requires skill, luck, and years of planning."
Parton nodded, crossing his legs as the man speaking paced back and forth in the hay-strewn barn.
"There are three of us. Rumors of jaded troops and courtiers we could win. They say the Emperor is going mad with power and greed. Says he will stop at nothing to obtain the resources in the North."
Elara stood from her hay bale. "The Whistlands cannot sustain a battle with the North. Their magic is too strong. No matter what technology or manpower is thrown at them."
Jute nodded in agreement. "And thus the silliness must stop. If it takes civil unrest to do so, then we must be the seeds that sew it."
Parton looked at Elara. "I didn't think holy people took sides."
With a grunt, Jute held up a hand to stop the priestess from answering. "You doubt Elara's resolve in this? After what you saw yourself?"
Shrugging, Parton responded with a sigh. "I have no doubt what I witnessed in battle and out of it will be with me for a long time."
"Not to mention risidual damage from the magic burst you were in," added Elara.
Parton nodded and continued. "I just cannot fathom three people taking on an entire empire and everything that goes with it."
"The seed of doubt is there. We must tend it, encourage it to grow, and bide our time."
"How?" asked Parton, scratching his head. "I fail to see how that can be done."
Jute looked to Elara.
She frowned as she nodded. "I have contacts in the Capitol that are ready to join us. Important people at the courts."
"And I can have at least one battalion behind us in a moon," Jute assured.
Just grinned. "An important one. If we are to accomplish this, we will need the assistance of those closest to the Imperial family: the aristocracy."
"I don't have anything to do with my family," Parton protested, crossing his arms. "What makes you think they'll want to have a failure of a soldier return to them? They only sent me out here to get rid of me in the first place."
"I can handle your lack of 'career' within the Imperial Army, Lott."
Parton sighed, surprised the stoic-by-reputation Jute had used his first name. "So you promote me. Then what?"
"I lavish you with accolades, get you decorated. Then you can go home a war hero. Return to your family in a way they can't continue to deny you."
Rolling his eyes, Parton leaned forward on his bale. "And if they don't, even after all that?"
"We find another way to get what we need and you become a cog in this infantile rebellion."
"Ok, so say it works. Then what?"
"We work to take the Machine. Those in power of the Machine are in power of it all. You saw the power of the slugthrowers. Put one of those in every rebel's hands and we'll win."
"You mean your hypothetical rebel army?"
Jute frowned. "It's only hypothetical because I haven't started building it there. The foundation is there. We have to raise the building."
"And if I refuse?"
A slugthrower was pointed at Parton before he had even registered that it had been drawn.
"I kill you here and now. Send a letter home to your estranged parents and siblings. Tell them that you regrettably died in battle."
Parton held his blink and stood. Elara started to move towards them. "Gentlemen, please."
Jute kept the weapon trained on Parton's face. "I don't have to tell you that we will all likely die doing this. I don't have to tell you that we could make countless mistakes, get killed or jailed before this even gets off the ground. But I can tell you this: today, every one of the dead soldiers died for an outmoded ideal's ridiculous idea of honor. We are honorable men of battle and yet we are used as pawns to increase the ever-overflowing coffers of an Emperor that can't even be bothered to publicly announce the name and face of his own daughter. Is that the kind of leader you want to fight for? Is this the kind of structure you want to live in?"
Parton sat back down. "Of course not. I saw the dead, saw what war does to the soldier and the civilian. Saw the futility in it, in me. I was powerless to stop even one bad event from occurring. What good am I if all I am is a spear?"
"Precisely," replied Jute, holstering the gun. "You can do good by joining me. Bring an end to this madness with me."
"Just promise me that we will do better than the Emperor."
Jute grinned. "I don't see how we could do worse."