Novembar 28, 754 YE
Faric Selor stepped out of the swirling snow and biting wind in the city streets and into the Hunter’s Club, quickly closing the door behind him. He was instantly warmed by the fire in the hearth and the warm ambiance as he scanned the common room -- it was suddenly very easy to forget about the fierce winter storm that had come to Elan like an ice god’s curse.
He spotted Okoral’s olive skin and thick crew cut near the fireplace. The man sat staring vacantly into the dancing flames, with an untouched bowl of beef stew before him.
Faric slipped across the room, nodding a greeting to another Republican who sat in the back corner, Bravosi Henim. Faric sat across Okoral but said nothing. He waited awkwardly for a minute before Okoral shifted his gaze from the fire and acknowledged him.
“Thank you for coming,” Okoral said. The man normally looked much younger than he really was, but at the moment he seemed very worn by stress and exhaustion.
“What is it, Okoral?” asked Faric anxiously. “When I did not hear from you last week, I feared--”
“All the pieces are place. Raknian wishes to launch Phase One immediately.”
Faric’s eyes narrowed as he considered this information.
“What is the problem? You are not ready?” asked Okoral.
Faric shook his head. “I am ready, but why so soon? I thought we were going to wait until Januar because of the--”
“The Elanian people are suffering, Faric,” Okoral said solemnly. “Food stores are at their lowest levels in forty winters. Shortages are worse than I have ever seen, and I’ve lived here since I was a boy. Tairon’s wars are suffocating the people, and Elan must get out from under its yoke. Let the Empire plunder its own people for its wars, and let Elan be free once more.”
Faric knew the situation was bleak. Every day seemed to bring worse news. Secessionary wars in Yudora, rebellions in Gargaston and Walsta, combined with the the Silmarians successful occupation of Vigoor’s northern Guardia province, had put great hardship on the people of Elan. Food prices had tripled in the past 12 months, and combined with increased taxes to fund the wars, many people were under serious financial strain. It was also widely known that imperial wizards in Tairon were using fabricate magic to simply replicate gold coins, causing inflation which disproportionately affected the poor. Faric’s own mother had been unable to pay her rent and would have been thrown out on the street had he not intervened with some of his own money.
“Yes, Elan must be free,” Faric agreed. “I am ready.”
Okoral produced a sealed envelop from a pocket in his vest and pushed it across the table. Faric opened it and read it quickly. When he finished, he was more than a little surprised.
“Ashby Gerard... Talus Riverrun... Boren Darshal... These are members of the City Council!” he exclaimed.
“Quiet, you fool,” hissed Okoral. “This might be a Republican establishment, but we cannot be sure the Commissar does not have spies here.”
Faric looked around, thankful that no one suspicious seemed to have overheard. He said, “My men and I will take care of this, I promise. When the mission is complete, will we proceed with Phase Two?”
“No, Phase Two will proceed simultaneously. You will not be handling that. Raknian has forged some new relationships, and our new allies will take care of that.”
“New allies?” Faric had a lot of confidence in Raknian’s leadership, but was concerned about some of the new friends he’d made for the sake of Elan’s liberation. “What does Rebel Four think of all these new allegiances?”
“Rebel Four supports Raknian’s plans wholeheartedly,” Okoral said. “Sometimes you must work with the lesser of two evils to achieve the greater good.”
Okoral must have seen the concern in Faric’s expression. He said, “Itlstein was slow to act. He had staked his entire plan upon one obscure prophecy, which foretold an event that never materialized. Raknian is much more proactive and will not sit idle while our city is exploited for the sake of those bastards in Tairon.”
Okoral’s devotion to Raknian knew no limit, of course. He would never doubt his boss. He had worked for Raknian for nearly 20 years. Faric too had a lot of respect for Raknian, but he sometimes wished Helmut was still alive, to lead the Republicans with his more rational temper. Helmut would not have outsourced a vital mission such as Phase Two. Then again, Helmut probably would have never planned and executed a scheme like the three-phase scheme Raknian had concocted.
“That’s it, then?” Faric said.
“That’s it,” Okoral replied. “Contact me on Decembar 2 when the job is done.”
As Faric stood to leave, Okoral said, “This will be the winter of revolution -- our puppet-tyrants will meet justice, and Elan will be free! The dawn of spring will see the birth of a new government. And you will be regarded as a hero of the people.”
As Faric left the Hunter’s Club, his doubts were drowned out by Okoral’s words. “Hero of the people.” Faric liked the sound of that.