Wednesday 29 – Friday 31 August 2012
The time had finally come, and Elle had summoned all of the village leaders who had agreed to help. Barnaby’s cottage felt tiny filled with so many people.
‘Tonight, we plan,’ Elle said, ‘every second of our quest, every move that we make, we map out in detail. No room for mistakes, no failure. Josslyn will die.’ She looked around the room and noted several heads nodding.
It hadn’t been difficult to convince any of these people that Josslyn needed to be removed from power, or indeed, executed. They had all lost so much, from homes to members of their families, that inciting rebellion against the monarch was the easiest part of Elle’s plan.
‘As much as it is possible,’ she continued, ‘we will have safety in numbers.’
‘Aye, but she has greater numbers than us,’ a gravelly voice replied from the back of the crowd. Elle recognised it immediately.
‘Stephen, where’s the courage that you showed me the last time we spoke?’
‘It’s still there, Elle, I’m just telling the truth. She has her death squads of hundreds, maybe thousands of brainwashed and scared men. We have us and those in our villages who are willing to risk everything.’
A chorus of voices chimed out in agreement. Barnaby added his voice to the discussion.
‘That may be so, and we may all die trying to remove the threat of Josslyn as our Queen, but how much more do we need to have taken from us before we’re brave enough to stand up? Those of you who still have your children, don’t you owe it to them to give them a fighting chance in life? Or do you want your children to be future members of Josslyn’s death squads? That is not a life I would wish upon my children . . . had she not already stolen them from me.’
The room fell silent. The story of how Barnaby had lost his wife and children was folkloric throughout the land. When Barnaby spoke of loss, people listened because no one had suffered at the hands of Queen Josslyn as much as he had suffered.
‘You all gave Elle your promise that when the time came, you would stand up. Now is that time,’ Barnaby added.
The mood in the room tangibly changed. Calm and purpose were restored.
‘So, what’s the plan?’ Patrick Miller asked. ‘And who is this insider you have?’
‘In order to construct the plan, we need to make contact with my inside man. He was supposed to contact me today, but I haven’t received word.’
‘Perhaps,’ one of the village leaders commented, ‘he is a turncoat, or a double agent?’
‘No,’ Elle snapped back, ‘that’s not possible.’
‘My dear,’ he replied, ‘it is entirely possible where the mighty Queen Josslyn is concerned.’
‘No,’ Elle said again, ‘he’d never side with her.’
‘Can you be absolutely sure, Elle?’ Patrick asked.
Before she could answer, there was a quiet knock on the door. Barnaby made his way through the bodies and slowly opened the door. He spoke in muffled tones with the visitor, and then opened the door wider. The village leaders gasped, and looked between the visitor, Barnaby, and Elle. Many unsheathed their swords and held them at the ready.
‘WAIT,’ Elle screamed.
‘He is a traitor,’ shouted someone by the door. ‘He is Josslyn’s most trusted advisor. He’s been sent to spy on us. The death squads will be close.’
‘NO,’ Elle yelled, ‘he will not betray us. This is Francois, my inside man . . . my big brother.’ The room fell silent, swords appeared to heavy to hold and were slowly lowered, and a path was cleared from the door to Elle. Francois raced forward and wrapped his arms around Elle, lifting her off of the ground in a bear hug.
‘I couldn’t come earlier, and I couldn’t get word to you. She travelled to a village today, to visit her people, and I was dragged along.’ Francois looked cautiously around the room, still half expecting to feel the blade of a sword pierce his body.
‘I have news for you. She plans to stop the attack before it happens. We must work fast,’ Francois continued speaking, divulging everything he’d learned about Queen Josslyn’s counter-attack on those who would dare make an attempt on her life.
. . . To be continued . . .