“You did well,” Raven congradulated the messanger as the message Alice wrote was copied. “Send the message through and give me any replies by hand.”
“You want me to come and deliver them?” The messanger asked with a shakey voice.
“Yes, exactly. You and I will read the real replies and give the girl whatever we see fit. You’ll do this wihtout any...”
“There’ll be no need for anything like that, I promise you!” The messanger sweated again as Raven made his point clear. The man could see that the only way to survive was to do whatever Raven told him.
He sent the message as soon as Raven left.
Fred picked up the raiders’ messages on his way in. He worked at the mill to bring in more income but the cause was his true calling. Fred was a raider through and through! He took as many assignments as he could; even volunteering for other mens’ work. He knew what his vocation was -- raiding and he did it as often as he was able.
Even at this moment, he was giving and taking messanges to handlers in the crowd. Fred had done this so many times that he did not even have to look at the lables. He knew who each message was from and where each had to go. At leasr, he knew with most messages. There was one message from Bounding that Fred was not sure what to do with.
The lettering on it was in a fine hand with a swirling, light touch. Fred did not recognize who it was from or who it was addressed to. The address was made out to a man who was no longer alive! Fred thought about giving the letter to a higher-up but he hesitated and knew that he would open the letter himself, that he had to open the letter himself.
He opened the letter. The instructions inside were fairly simple: Find a man named Dan and warn him that someone named Raven had kidnapped a raider leader called Timothy. The instructions were easy enough to follow and the raiders could use as many allies as they could get. This man, Dan, could be of some use...
Fred read the instructions again before going to a magic user.
“I need a spell to find a man,” Fred told the sorceror.
“Describe him with as much detail as possible,” the magic-user commanded in a board voice. “Tell me his full name if you can.”
Fred told the man was much as he could; he had to hope it would be enough. The spell was cast. Fred found himself in front of two men. One was older with grey streaks in his hair; the other was younger with dark hair and pale skin. He had the arms of a craftsmen. The younger man was clearly Dan. Still, Fred asked out of politeness.
“Which one of you is Dan? I have a message from a woman named Alice in Bounding.” Fred added the last part after he saw both men reaching for a weapon.
“You heard from Alice?” The younger man’s voice danced with excitement as he walked up to Fred. Fred saw the light shine in his eyes as well. It was clear that the man was Dan and that he and Alice were close. Fred knew that he could catch Dan’s attention by simply mentioning her name. It would not be hard to get Dan to join the raiders. Simply make him that think that Alice wanted him to.
“I have a message here from her. She sent it to the raiders in Kingston.” Fred handed Dan the letter. He tore it open without even looking at the front. Miko, on the other hand, did see the front.
“This letter is addressed to Colonal Daga. I knew the man; we served the last emperor together at the pass. You are not Daga.” Miko said the words as plainly as he could, without heat or anger in his voice. His eyes gave off a heat that made up for the lack in his voice.
“I’m sorry to tell you that the Colonal died last year. I am the Colonal’s son so the letter naturally came to me.” Fred made up the lie quickly but he no longer had to think about such things.
“Daga was a good man and a true leader. He will be missed,” Miko swore.
Fred bowed his head and nodded. He knew that the matter was dropped. “I can have a reply sent through the raiders. Alice and Timothy were like family to us.”
Dan was sentimental. He was the type who would see a friend of the girl’s as a friend of his. Timothy was a raider so the words were not really a lie. Timothy was a raider and soon Dan would be too.
Miko could since that something was wrong from the moment he woke up that morning. He couldn’t say if it was the way the birds sang or the exact veins of frost that covered the ground; he just knew that something was off! He kept each muscle in his body taunt, ready for anything, because anything could happen today.
Dan seemed to be making good progress on his radio staff. Still, Miko was not anticipating any confrontation from Raven. He was just worried about all the other things that could go wrong today. Miko knew that he should be shaking with excitement, or at least shaking off jitters of happiness, but he could not start to see the ending of this plan. He could only see the questions that still hung in the air.
Miko could not say that he was surprised or excited when Colonal Daga’s son came with a message either. He knew that this was the misgiving that he had been feeling. There was something wrong with the kid. He gave off an ora that Miko could not make himself trust. The kid’s story just didn’t add up. He looked nothing like Daga for one thing and, more to the point, he had none of Daga’s manerisms. Miko did believe that Fred had brought a message from Alice.
Miko had never met Alice but Dan was close to her and he surely would have noticed if the letter was not in Alice’s hand. Miko felt sure that he could trust the message but the messanger was another matter. The raiders were an odd bunch. The might kill each other as quickly as their enemies. Purhaps they viewed each other as enemies?
One of the main things that bothered Miko was that he was not sure Fred viewed him and Dan as friends or even allies. Fred seemed polite enough to Dan but his eyes held a hatered when he looked at Miko.
“What do you think of our new friend?” Dan asked Miko.
“You mean Daga’s son?” Dan nodded. “I don’t trust him but I can’t say why.”
“He’s hiding something...” Dan agreed.
“We might have to trust him any way.” Miko continued after a cofused look from Dan. “He seems to have taken a shine to you and that letter he gave you is real enough. Hoe do you plan on sending a reply without Fred’s contacts?”
“I have friends in the resistance. None of them are in this city but their names should buy us a friend or two.”
“You know anyone in the leadership council, boy?” Miko asked with excitement.
“No one so high,” Dan told him with regret. “He says he refused a spot on the council. I know one of the few generals who have not lost a single battle.”
“Ho-Oh!” Miko cackled with glee. “They begged him on their knees to join the council. You just hint that you know him -- much less that he’s a friend -- and those nutters will be fighting for the right to serve you!”
“No problem sending a reply message, then. We still have a big question to answer: can we trust Fred?”
“Let me talk to the kid before we decide anything,” Miko offered, seeing that Dan was not so used to making these decisions about others.
Miko did not have a hard time corning Fred alone. The kid liked to stay near Dan, watching him, but never getting close enough to be approached. Miko just stayed behind after talking with Dan and he was able to run into Fred fairly quickly.
“I wondered if the two of us could share some stories about your old man. The two of us served together but I can not seen him in a number of years.”
“I fear that my heart is too heavey with the loss,” Fred told him quickly.
“Our visit must have been further back than I reliezed,” Miko declared. “The last time I saw your father, he told me that he and his wife were having trouble baring children.”
“It must have been long ago indeed,” Fred agreed suspiciously.
“Actually, it was during the Tanue War, eight years ago. He wrote to me a year latter to tell me that his wife had died, leaving him alone in the world. So, if he remarried, and I doubt he did, you would have to be about six years old to be Daga’s son.” Miko’s eyes shone with a stealy resolve that rooted Fred’s legs to the spot.
“I’m not Daga’s son,” Fred began slowly. “I am his student. I was by his side when he died.”
“What nicname did Daga call his wife?”
“Daga never mentioned his wife amoung the raiders. None of the leaders do. It keeps their families safe.” Miko could see that the kid was a smart liar but he was still a liar.
“You were at the man’s death bed. I’m sure you were closer than mere associates. You would know his wife and know her nicname if you really knew Daga.”
Fred’s mouth opened and closed. He was at a loss!
“I’ll make you a deal, kid. You leave the note here and return to your own city. Dan and I will never tell anyone about your little lies. The raiders do not take kindly to a mere private impersonating the son of a councilor! We will keep your secret and you will hold your tongue about us. It is a win/win deal. Are you in?”
Fred swallowed noisilly. “I can keep a secret.” And the deal was done.