“I don’t think we can take out all of them,” Gryff said grimly. They had ducked back behind the side of the house, out of sight of Razor’s men, while Chess talked through his rudimentary plan.
“I don’t want to take out any of them if we can help it,” Chess answered. He watched Gryff frown at him in surprise. “I don’t want to kill anybody,” he protested, “especially the girls.”
Chess thought about Sariel then, and Ileana. It was possible that they already had their own plan. Would he be messing that up? He shrugged.
“Okay,” he said finally, “these guys are used to being the ones with the guns, the ones with all the power. They are not used to being threatened at all. And they are not trained soldiers.” He inhaled deeply. “If we… if we shoot at them - scare them - I think they will panic and shoot wildly.”
“And that’s a good thing?” Gryff exclaimed.
Chess lowered his eyes, feeling doubtful of the merits of his plan. He had to try to explain it to Gryff before he asked the guy to do anything dangerous. He looked at the sky, which was a wash of brilliant colors that were being chased by a deep blue, and realized that they still had a while to wait until it was dark enough for them to move about safely. So he had time to explain. He cleared his throat.
“In the game I used to play -- the one that Lodestar produced and transmitted to civ,” he began haltingly. “Uh…” He watched Gryff nod in recognition and it gave him the confidence to continue.
“Okay, uh, sometimes, in playing that game, we came up against an enemy that was better armed than we were. I mean, whether their ‘firepower’ was arrows or sorcerer’s spells or dragon fire or whatever… they still had way more power than we did.” He leaned his head back against the wall of the house. “So, in a situation like that, we would try to get them to use up whatever it was that they could throw at us from a distance, while we were still out of range of being hit. Then we had a better opportunity to move in and attack.”
Suddenly, Chess had a memory of when he had been involved in the army’s final training exercise. He had proposed a strategy that was a lot like this one: throw the enemy into confusion, distract them, draw their fire away in another direction while the captives snuck off to safety. How all-important that practice exercise had seemed at the time, he realized. And how scared he had been, just like he was feeling now. He closed his eyes. “Die trying,” he thought.
“Razor has said that he doesn’t give his guys much ammunition, because he doesn’t trust them not to waste it,” Chess continued in a low voice. “I think, with a few well-placed explosives and some rifle fire, we could make them panic and use up most of their ammo. And then… try to sneak the girls out.” He opened his eyes to see Gryff staring at him in disbelief. He shrugged again.
They waited until long after they saw the campfire at the top of the hill blaze up, and lanterns switch on. Until the sky was completely dark and the stars had come out. And then, according to the map that Gryff had sketched out, they began placing their limited supply of small explosives.
The girls sat in the center of a pool of dim light, surrounded by Razor’s men. As Chess crept closer to the edge of the camp, he tried to pay attention to everything around him, but his focus kept returning to them. He desperately wanted to run straight to them.
Razor’s men, talking and laughing with each other, seemed to be ignoring the girls, and Chess decided to try to alert them if he could possibly manage it. Heart pounding, he crawled on his belly until he was under the closest truck. Sariel, who had been gazing around placidly, spotted him and raised an eyebrow. She whispered to Ileana, who looked at him from the side of her gaze.
Chess held up one hand with fingers spread wide, and then closed his fist. Five minutes. Ileana lowered her chin in a subtle nod. Then she put her hand on Sariel’s arm and moved close to her.
The girls began to kiss, quickly attracting the attention of all of Razor’s men. Even Chess found himself mesmerized for a few moments, until Ileana frowned in his direction. And then he crawled away and set the rest of the explosives in relative freedom. Five minutes later, the explosions began.
Continued next page...
We must not waste life in devising means. It is better to plan less and do more.
- William Ellery Channing, American clergyman (1780-1842)
Many events in my story were inspired by noteworthy elements from the stories of others: the strategic idea, sometimes useful in D&D, of getting more powerful enemies to fight and weaken each other; the biblical story of Lot’s hospitality toward the angels; and many fundamental parts of the classic “Hero with a Thousand Faces” story. Besides Lot’s story, another biblical story inspired me earlier on in the book: my favorite story of all from the Abrahamic Bible, the story of Esther.
Esther, the main character in the seventeenth book of the Bible, has no power of her own - she is one of many wives of King Xerxes, and the king has recently made a “great edict” that women must respect their husbands (we assume, on pain of death) and, further, that his own wives may not enter his presence without his permission. However, in order to save her people, the Jews, Esther risks her life by going to the king. Luckily for her, the king likes her enough that he does not kill her for this transgression -- but up until that moment, she does not know for certain. This story was in my mind when I wrote the part at the end of section three where Ileana stands up to Razor.
The story of Esther has many elements of a fairy tale, including the repetition of an event (the banquets), the great ceremony surrounding the asking of a request, the pride and jealousy that will be the villain’s downfall, and, most tellingly, the terrible punishment that befalls the villain, which is the one that he himself had planned for the good guy. It seems likely that this is a story brought into the Bible from another time and mythology. Some have suggested that Esther was originally the goddess Ishtar, and indeed, she does seem a little too divinely good. Although I have not heard of exactly this story in another mythology, my research has not been thorough. Certainly, I have heard of many other stories that are remarkably similar across times, places, and cultures...
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