You enlist with the guerillas.
“I’m constantly having to fight off robbers on the road, so I’m used to combat. I’ll join your guerillas,” you say.
“Alright. Follow me.”
As you make your way through camp, you take in all the faces: the young and the old, the men and women — all downtrodden and yet, high-spirited. They’ve clearly chosen a hard life to live, but they all shared the same sentiment. It’s much better to live a hard life in which you are free than a hard life in which you have to toil under the fist of another.
You notice the camp is rustic at best, blending into the surroundings as much as possible. It’s useless to have a permanent post if you’re constantly on the run, after all.
During your walk, you ask the man for his name.
“Tani. It’s Tani.”
“I take it you’re the leader of these people?”
“Not by choice. They just seemed to follow me, seeing as I was the one who struck the first blow. They seem to believe that I’m the one best suited for the role.”
“You seem to loath that fact.”
“Irrelevant,” snapped Tani. “We’re here.”
Tani has brought you to a campfire where the rest of the guerilla fighters were gathered. “I’ve brought us a new member, lads!” he calls out.
The fighters then turn their gazes towards you. Each of them have a different expression on their face. Some are joyous, welcoming you to their midst, while others have a melancholy about them, and in some, you feel nothing but contempt emanating your way.
You decide to introduce yourself. “Hello, I–”
One of the fighters then interrupts you with a slew of questions. “Can you hold your breath for longer than a minute?”
“How fast can you climb a tree?”
“I–what are you talking about?”
“Can you hear a hare before it hears you?”
“Are you daft?” you say in disbelief.
The man then unleashes a terrible frown at you and comments to Tani,“You’ve brought us a liability.”
“Go easy on him, Jacob,” Tani answered. “We need all the help we can get.”
“Don’t expect me to babysit him out in the field!” Jacob retorts. It seems Jacob doesn’t take too kindly to you.
“You won’t,” you say. “I can take care of myself.”
“We’ll see,” returns Jacob, his contemptuous sneer from earlier only deepening.
Tani interjects. “Stop it, you two! We’re here to discuss the plan, so listen closely. We have reasons to believe that the baron will be coming out in force soon. We can expect that his goal is to exterminate us.”
“Why doesn’t he get someone else to do it for him?” you ask.
“Because it’s a matter of honor. The Mogul granted him this village. If he sees the baron as incapable of taking care of it himself, he’ll just replace him. A blow to his reputation would be a worse fate than death… So, he must do it without his liege’s support.”
“Why don’t you expose him then?” you reason. “Why not send a plea to the Mogul to replace the baron? He has obviously failed in his duties.”
“Because that would replace one tyrant with another. As the saying goes, ‘Better the enemy you know than the one you don’t.’ Who’s to guarantee that his replacement wouldn’t be even more vicious than the current baron?”
“Who’s to guarantee that he will be?” you retort.
“We don’t have time for philosophy! If we don’t act now, we will be exterminated either way. So listen up! We’ll prepare an ambush. He is most likely to take the main path past the mountain, so we’ll set up traps along that path and stalk the area until he appears. And then… we pounce! We leave tonight. Prepare your gear and hug your loved ones, men. This is it.”
As the night approaches you tend to your gear. The blades must be sharp, the armor must be fitted correctly so as to not encumber you. The plan must be memorized by heart: a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If one of you falters falters, then that could very well be the team’s demise.
Once the sun sets, Tani rallies everyone.
“The time has come. Let’s go!”
Your group makes its way through the dark jungle. The peasants have been on the mountain for so long that they know every square inch of it by heart. Their step is as swift as an antelope’s, their path illuminated only by the light of the moons. You barely manage to keep up with them as they make their way to the ambush point.
When you reach it, everyone springs into action. The men begin to dig the trenches, sharpen the stakes, set the traps, and prepare their cover, from which they intend to rain a furious barrage down upon their enemy. They’ve been doing this for so long that it’s become second nature to them. In the midst of the preparations, Tani comes up to you and hands you a woodsman’s ax. He points to a tree at the end of the path. “I want you to fell that tree and drag it across the path as a roadblock. Go!”
You grab the axe and set into action. Blow after blow, strike after strike, the tree is no match for your mighty axe. Yet, unlike a real opponent, the tree cannot fight back; it will not hurt you no matter how much you hurt it. The baron’s men are not likely to do the same.
Eventually, your blows manage to cut through the tree’s trunk, and it falls acrossthe path. Now comes the grueling part: the waiting.