The Scythe was meeting with his underlings in a secret meeting. A plan began to hatch as to how they would get better information from their enemy. As the underlings began to give their reports on the weeks activities and turn in their tributes, each was asked in turn what they could do better to eliminate mishaps and surprises that would crop up from mission to mission and cause near to real tragedies within their ranks.
The underlings gave a variety of answers, most of which had been tried with limited success in the past. When the last one finished with presenting their ideas, an awkward silence befell the room. All of the advisors were facing the red curtain in the doorway where two guards sat with folded arms. The voice of The Scythe came from the other side of the curtain once more.
“Companions, I am going to implement a new plan for retrieving a constant supply of fresh information from our adversaries. We will be using a variety of old and new techniques that should prove very fruitful in the near future. I will be contacting you with further details concerning this plan and how we will use it. For now, I would like to introduce you to our newest recruit.”
One of the guards got up from his chair and opened the front door. Standing on the porch was an unassuming human male of about thirty-five to forty years of age, wearing an overcoat and hat and carrying what appeared to be a medical satchel.
The man entered the room and asked, “Is there a doctor in the house?” at which he began laughing softly at his own joke. Seeing that no one else was laughing, he held up his bag as if it explained his joke.
“Tough crowd.” he said softly, mostly to himself. He cleared his throat and began to introduce himself but was interrupted by the voice behind the curtain.
”Thank you for coming tonight doctor. We have no formalities here and so there is no need for introductions. In fact, we prefer to work with as little knowledge about each other as possible. The need for secrecy is great and one cannot divulge information one doesn’t have. That being said, this is our new recruit. As you can see, he is well versed in the medical field and is quite useful. I want all of you to study his appearance because you will all be working with our friend here in some capacity in the future.” The men all continued to stare at the doctor, causing him to fidget nervously.
“Doctor, you obviously received my dispatch last night because you have arrived here tonight. Did you understand the nature of the dispatch fully? You need only answer with a yes or no.”
“Yes, yes I did. Might I say that your offer was most..”
“Thank you doctor! The details of the dispatch are for you and I alone.”
“Oh yes, well I, uh, see.”
“I will be sending out detailed instructions to each of you through the normal channels in the coming days. I want to implement my ideas as soon as possible in order to see how well they work.” The advisors all nodded in understanding before rising to their feet.
“Doctor, you may now place your left hand inside the left pocket of your overcoat and remove the paper dispatch within and read it to yourself. Please tell me yes or no if you understand the instructions I have given you.”
The doctor reached into his pocket and pulled out the scrap of parchment. “Well how about that! How did you manage to put that dispatch in my pocket without my knowledge?”
“Doctor, please read the dispatch and tell me if you understand the instructions with a simple yes or no.”
“Oh yes, yes, of course, sorry I am just a bit bewildered and surprised that’s all.” The doctor silently read the paper in his hand and looked up with a questioning look on his face. “Yes.”
“Thank you doctor, you may now go to the appointed location in your dispatch and retrieve your supplies and further instructions.”
The doctor went out, closing the door softly behind him.
“I believe that once our new recruit has gotten the opportunity to get used to our methods he will do nicely. His first test will be tomorrow evening. You each have your new orders, those who will be working with the doctor on his first assignment please watch him closely and try to make him feel at ease. That will be all for tonight, are there any questions concerning your instructions?”
There was a small pause of silence.
“Very well, we will meet again at the next appointed time and place” Both of the guards got up and opened the door once more as the advisors filed out into the night.
The doctor awoke the next morning and rubbed his eyes. He got dressed and once again reached into his overcoat to see if the paper was there or if it had been a dream. The dispatch he pulled from his pocket confirmed that he had really been involved in this adventure that he thought he dreamed up.
He read the instructions on the new dispatch over and over and committing them to memory as it instructed him to do. When he was finished, he threw the dispatch into the morning fire and sipped his tea. This was like no other morning he had ever experienced before. He was excited and worried at the same time. Would he be able to pull this off? Would things go as the Scythe had planned? Why all the secrecy and mystery? Why was he willing to do things like this for someone that he wasn’t allowed to see? And that voice… there was something strange about the voice of the Scythe, was it male or female? The way it sounded like it was coming out of a deep well with all of it’s echoing like that… did they have a well built into that house behind the red curtain? Or was it some strange effect of the potion he was instructed to drink before the meeting?
So many questions for so early in the day. Even though his head was still fuzzy, the tea made him feel much better. It was a recipe he had developed years earlier for some of his patients that needed something to ease their pain and stress after having to endure an operation to fix a broken limb or internal bleeding. He reminisced about his life experiences and how the experience and his improved skills were going to help him in the future.
Once he finished his tea, the doctor finished getting dressed and headed out of the inn to the town hall where he hoped he would be able to locate the office of the Champions of the Shield.
“Excuse me kind sir, but could you tell me if this is the town ruled by a Mayor Carvish would it?”
”No it would not be!” the clerk said with obvious disdain. “And if you are referring to that overbearing brute Merr Kavesh of those so called ‘Champions of the Shield’ cult, you can find him over at the town barracks.”
“From the sound of your tone I would say that you do not much care for the man?” the doctor pressed.
“He is a pompous ass that believes he knows best for me and the rest of the town folk. No, I don’t care for the man!” he practically spat out.
“I heard that he was a great warrior in his day and leads with confidence and wisdom. It would be a shame to hear the tales of those poor farmers out there told me the other day were falsehoods.” replied the doctor.
The clerk shook his head, calmed himself down somewhat and spoke again. “Well, I suppose I can’t blame them for taking Kavesh’s side if they were poor farmers.” he said. “Merr Kavesh has always had a soft side for town folk outside the city, it’s the townsfolk inside the city he seems to take for granted, expecting us to pay for all of his “expeditions” all the time. It isn’t like I don’t want to help those that can’t really help themselves, but I don’t like to foot the bill through raised taxes and all.”
“Ahh, yes I see you point, good sir.” said the doctor. “But I have some good news for you! You see, I am of the medical profession and I have come to offer my services to this good town.” he explained.
“Offer your services! HA! Now that’s a good one!” the clerk scoffed. “That’s just what we need alright, more services to pay for!”
“Oh no, no, no, I don’t think you understand, my good man! I don’t plan on charging anyone for them!” the doctor laughed as he made his way out the door towards the barracks.
As he made his way towards the barracks, a soldier stopped him short and told him to make his way onward as there were no hand outs at the barracks. The doctor looked genuinely perplexed at first and then he said, “Oh no, I am not here to beg for food. You see, I am here to speak to your general, Merr Kavesh.”
“Merr Kavesh is our commanding officer and is addressed as High Commander and you will address him as such in the future.” the soldier stated as matter-of-factly as he could muster. “If you plan on enlisting, you had better learn your ranks if you know what is good for you.”
“Ah, straight to the point I see. Yes, as a matter of fact I have come to speak to someone concerning that very fact. Could you please direct me to the person in charge of recruitment?”
“That would be me.” The sergeant said with a dubious smile. “Although from the look of you, I wouldn’t take you for a fighting man.”
“Oh that is because I am definitely NOT a ‘fighting man’ as you say. I am a ‘medic’, I believe you call them, also known as a doctor in the private sector.”
“I see. That distinction will be up to your commanding officer to decide. Please follow me inside and we will get the paperwork out of the way.”
A few weeks later . . .
“How are you fitting in Corporal Slaten?”
“Please, can’t we just keep it to ‘Doc’? It seems so formal all of the time to keep referring to rank. For the life of me, I don’t know why the army uses such a thing anyway? We are all on the same side aren’t we? It is such a bother!”
“You know why we use the rank system Doc, I have explained it over and over to you. Why can’t you just accept it like everyone else and move on?”
“I can see that you don’t really care for it either, Sergeant.” Slaten remarked.
“What are you talking about?”
“You just called me ‘Doc’, and that means you would prefer to forget about these ranks as well!” This remark earned him a glare from the Sergeant.
“I am getting accustomed to army life well enough I suppose, but I really do miss my sister Caroline. That reminds me, I need to write her a letter. She adores poetry, perhaps I will write her a little poem to cheer her up.”
“Sounds like a great idea. I never knew you had any family.”
“We all have families, where do you think we came from? The ocean?”
“Heh. Aren’t you the funny man today?”
“Permission to write a letter to my sister, sir?” Slaten saluted his commanding officer.
“Permission granted.” The sergeant responded in kind, chuckling as he left the room.
The doctor closed the door and pulled out the latest cypher he had received the other night in his regular dispatch. He was getting better at handling these dispatches with stealth and precaution. His “handler” had selected a very discreet, yet accessible location for the drop off of their dispatches so that, unless someone was looking directly at him, they wouldn’t know he was even making the exchange.
This last dispatch was asking for supply and food ration amounts, weapon conditions, and medical supplies. Since he had been there only a few weeks, it was a surprise that they had put him in charge of all medical supplies for the garrison. The lieutenant had been impressed with his quick thinking and medical knowledge in their latest skirmish with a band of Orcs in the area.
Slaten had mended the broken bones of a few soldiers, while knowing how to concoct the necessary potions to relieve the pain and fever of those with lacerations and bruises. The doctor splinted the limbs, applied salves, and administered other medications he had made in preparation for his medical needs. It was clear the man knew his herbs and how to use them and the lieutenant knew good talent when it walked in the front door.