[Mock-Fiction] IV - Alea Iacta Est {Rogue's Story}

Note: Please read the Formal Notice movella. It should be on the list on the right hand side.

Yup. Just the one perspective.

Cover by Secrets Unfold

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18. 15 – Stratagem

It was at sunset that Rogue had scheduled a meeting with all the finest strategists that history and other realities could offer. She was disappointed to find out that Noel had nothing on what Enya, Sakura or Mitchell were doing that was so important that they had to miss tonight's meeting – especially at this crucial time. And sneaking was a speciality of Noel’s.

 

“I don’ understand it, ma’am,” he had said, when he’s got back, itching his head of blonde hair, “It was as if they didn’t have no bloomin’ knowledge of the whole deal!” he paused before he whispered with some despair, “Do you think they’ve forsaken us? Because of your outburst?”

Rogue shook her head, “That’s not like them,” she kept saying, “Not like them at all…” she appeared to arrive at a decision: “Noel, get a few of the beefier guys and stand guard of this tent,” she went to her table momentarily and handed him a sheet of paper with a list of names, “Two meters radius, alright? Anyone who’s not on this list – don’t let them in.”

 

“Aye, ma’am, anything you says,” Noel turned to go, but put in as an afterthought, “Ma’am… have you forsaken them?”
“No,” replied Rogue, slowly, “I have a bad feeling, that’s all.”
“Ah, that a day like this should come – you mistrusting the inhabitants of Masyaf!”

“All that is flesh and bone is vulnerable to disease. All that is soul and mind is vulnerable to corruption,” she spread her arms, “On with what I’ve told you, Noel, if you please.”

Noel nodded and left.

Khadir stood by, observing. He didn’t say anything. He rubbed his bare arms, as a chill set over the desert – the night being born of the sun’s recurring demise.

 

As it took a few moments for her guests to arrive, Rogue shuffled her sheets of paper a little more – idly adding a few notes or correcting a grammatical mistake. She looked at her board, but there was little use in fixing it. The others would chip in and she’d add their ideas accordingly. If they thought they had better ideas, who was she to argue? Frankly, strategy wasn’t her forte – all she was paid to do was ship in a few ruffians to add to the bulk of an army. But she had general knowledge of tactics and strategy in case the need for it came up. Like now.

 

One by one, they strolled in. Rogue noted that Boudicca, Bartlomeo (Ezio’s mercenary army leader) and Shire of Lothlorien were absent – as well as the stand-in for Masyaf. Cromwell, Alfred, and Joan appeared to be having some sort of religious argument, and the threat of violence could be heard in their voices – even though no curse or challenge had been made.

“As much as I’d love to listen to a denominational debate on Christianity,” said Rogue, and she meant it, “We have a larger problem afoot.”

“Nothing larger than the Lord’s work,” said Cromwell.

“No. But killing each other (before a war I need you all for) isn’t much in the way of piety.”

“No such an arrangement was made,” said Joan.

“It doesn’t need to be made – your voices and your expressions made it clear enough.”

 

The tent quietened, over-crowded with people. As she’d instructed, Leonardo and Malik had both joined. Though men without – or removed of – military strength, their minds were far more valuable for this line of work.

Unexpectedly, Leonardo passed her a the Hidden Blade retrieved from the ancient Masyaf archives – fixed, so that she didn’t have to lose a finger in order to use the device.

“Oh,” she said, surprised, “Erm… thank you.”
Leonardo shrugged as if he took pleasure in that kind of thing, “It’s a good thing you had Darim send it to me, too. You can’t use it without losing your left ring-finger.”
Rogue regarded Darim, who was currently looking away, standing behind his father.

Thank you, Darim, for clearly stalking me and  taking this from where I hid it and giving it to Leonardo… thought Rogue, slightly marvelled and irritated at the same time.

 

Bene. Enough of the niceties, let us to business,” said Ezio, putting his hands on the table. You could tell from his manner that he was something of an expert at this. Still, better than what Rogue was, so she wasn’t complaining. He stroked his chin, “This is a very scant strategem you’ve conjured…” he said, pouting.

Rogue shurgged, “Mi dispaice, I’m no strategist.”

“Then what are you, signora?”

Rogue cracked her knuckles, “A tough nut.”
“Give her some credit, Ezio,” said Altair, remembering the trench, “She’s done plenty in the way of a defence mechanism. Mabrook,” he pointed at some pieces on the board that appeared to be standing on the inside of the trench, “This, I’m assuming, is the buffer?”

Rogue nodded, “I’ve had a long, hard argument with Khadir. He’s my best man and his is the best century. They will protect Masyaf from the inside, should the tables turn on us.”

“You leave the best for defence?” said Malik, incredulously.

“And only the best for Masyaf,” said Rogue, “If the trench is set alight, it will burn for three days because of the tar. By then, I can only hope that Khadir and the others can build a strategy to destroy what remains of our enemy.”

“God Almighty, that’s no way to be thinking!” said Alfred.

“It is a measure I must consider.”

“What about this, eh?” Leonidas pointed at the soldiers plotted outside the trench, “Now, I’m the first to say that the phalanx is the pride and joy of any army. But this… don’t you think this is a little lacking?”

Rogue smacked her forehead, flustered, “Really, King of Sparta, why do you think I called the lot of you in? Of course it’s lacking! Help me out here!”

 

Leonardo gave it some thought, “Well, I suppose you could do this…” his tongue flicking out of the corner of his mouth, he drew a line with his finger like a half-circle, the ends pointing towards the enemy, “Eventually, as the enemy approaches, you could enclose them in a full circle and defeat them that way.”
“It won’t work,” said Malik, “As stupid as they make themselves out to be, they’ll sense the trap.”

“Unless…” said Leonardo, thinking of an ‘unless’ whilst there was a disruption.

 

A heavy voice boomed from outside, “What, ho? Am I late?” it said. A large, tall figure burst into the tent, “Aha, there’s the old crone,” he pointed the tip of his sword at Rogue, “No one claims to be my Bianca and gets away with it!”
“Bartolomeo di Alviano, sir,” said Rogue, stiffly, “you heard about that, then?”

“Heard about it! I’m glad I did, now that I can settle the old score with you!”

“Now?” she asked sheepishly.

“What, ‘now’? Are you mad, woman? There’s war to attend to – and I doubt any warring will be done if I put Bellona in the emergency room.”

“Oh, Ares,” laughed Rogue, “Watch your loins. There will be only one lord of war in the emergency room and it won’t be me.”

“You have yourself a wager! But after this oddly silly business, eh?” he smiled at her, and then looked at this board, “Ho, what mess is this?”

“My mark of shame…” muttered Rogue tightly.

 

Leonardo explained the half-circle idea to Bartolomeo, and then told him about the flaw, “Ezio, your painter here is quite the war-monger,” said Bartolomeo heartily, “The flaw can be easily tackled if you set up another camp,” he point behind the encampment of the enemy on the board, “here.”

“Can that be set up within the night?” asked Rogue, “Without the notice of the enemy?”

“Bianca, my old girl,” Bartolomeo slapped her on the back – perhaps in an affectionate gesture – but it only resulted with Rogue slamming her face into the table, “I’ve already done so!”

“What?” asked Malik, “Why?”

“Well… what other options do you have?”

There was silence for a long while.

 

“Alright, then, Barto’s had this figured in – what? Ten minutes? When I couldn’t figure it out in three days…” said Rogue, still rubbing her face and shaking her head as she heard the others laugh. It wasn’t undeserved, she supposed, “But, to put the other factors in place…” she rearranged the board so that it the enemy was enclosed by two semi-circles that would join as the battle progressed, “We need a tough shield wall.”

“Aye,” Leonidas punched Alfred in the shoulder – king to king – and said, “That’s our strong suit.”

“Sits well with the boys too…” said Rogue, “I’ll have rifles – or muskets, whatever – spears, and arrows between shields.”

“Good and well for us,” said Cromwell.

“And us?” asked Altair, “Are we just part of the bulk?”

Rogue looked up at him for a moment, “I suppose so… unless you want to do a bit of assassinating now? There won’t be much room for it on the battlefield.”
“Sounds like a good way to stretch our legs, after sitting around in the Bureau all this time,” said Darim.

“Aye, look at that blunt old sword cutting a new plan,” said Bartolomeo, smiling, “good to see us mercenaries have a good repute yet.”

“I lack in many departments,” said Rogue, waving away the remark, “Hell… What am I going to do about the horses?”

 

This drew everyone up short. As much as they might be an asset, horses often prove a weak spot – mostly because they have virtually no armour to protect them and a soldier falling from a horse was well likely to break his neck. Being so high up also makes the horse-rider an awfully easy target. A cavalry was good for  distance and speed. But this wasn’t a distance war. It was practically next door.

“You could have them behind,” said Joan, “as a buffer to your shield wall. They could have rifles, or arrows, or spears…”
Rogue shook her head, only half-listening, “Not a fan of war animals,” she said, “Not at all.”

“Would you have turned your nose up if the animals were elephants instead of horses?” asked Joan, angrily.

“Oh, no,” said Rogue, “Elephants would be a huge advantage. Only they aren’t elephants. They’re horses. Arab-bred at that.”

“What has the breed to do with anything?”

“They’re made for running, not for fighting. Especially if they’re all stallions, as what my stable-keeps have told me. This is not a race-to-the-field type battle. The ground for the massacre is just outside the trench.”

“And your decision?”

“Spare the animals,” she threw the horse-pieces off the board, “They’ll be no benefit to us on the battle field.”

“This is preposterous!” said Joan, “I am to walk beside these men, brushing shoulders with heathens?”

“You’re the saint,” said Rogue in a levelled voice, “yours is the choice. To make yourself an easy target by being above men just like you, or fortifying yourself by fighting with them?”

“No horse for you either?”

Rogue snorted, “I’m sorry. I love horses. But I really, really hate the pain in the arse I get after riding them. The pain in the legs I get after marching in war – worth it,” she stared at the board one more time, “Anything to add? Anyone?”

 

“Boudicca and Shire not come, still,” said Khadir.

“Well,” said Rogue, “We’ll just have to give them a briefing in the morning, I suppose,” she closed up her board, the pieces magnetically sticking in place, “I’ll have my tent set up in the middle of our ranks,” she turned to all the war-mongers, “You should all go and prepare. The battle may proceed tomorrow, or perhaps the day after. There’s no telling with our clearly disorganised enemy. Leonardo, Malik – you two should set up camp with us too, in case we need further assistance in the matter s of the mind,” she regarded Khadir, “You should prepare too, Khadir.”

Khadir flushed red and said in Arabic, “Ya ayyuhal Mariqah! What is there to prepare for when you’re leaving me behind?”
“Khadir, we’ve been through this…”
“I did not heed your every order to be left as a bench-boy!” he said.

“You are not a bench-boy,” she said, “Far from it, actually. You are my successor for this army, should all my efforts leave no dent in the helmet of our enemy,” She packed up her her table and nodded as everyone began to leave. Rogue pointed at Khadir, “Don’t think of yourself as any higher or any lower. Because: I don’t. Ya ‘ameen, forgive me. I did not seek to undermine you. Never, you.”

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