Tyrants come in three basic flavors. In order from least bad to worst: First you have those who have no goal other than their own aggrandizement. They are the ones who want power and wealth for themselves and are pretty open about that being their goal. Most tyrants in history were of this variety. They conquered neighboring lands to increase the tax base so they can have more comforts and luxuries. And if the peasants starve, that’s no problem to them, so long as they get their portion.
This kind of tyrant is almost refreshing in his honesty. You know where you stand with this kind of tyrant. He’s largely predictable. And, when it comes right down to it, people other than the tyrant and his sycophants really have no problem with folk fighting back against this kind of tyrant…provided you win.
(From the mini-series “Shogun”:
Toranaga: “Tsukku-san says that the Netherlands were vassals of the Spanish king until just a few years ago. Is that true?” Blackthorne: “Yes.” Toranaga: “Therefore, the Netherlands – your allies – are in a state of rebellion against their lawful king?” Blackthorne: “They’re fighting against the Spaniard, yes, but – Toranaga: “Isn’t that rebellion? Yes or no?” Blackthorne: “Yes. But there are mitigating circumstances. Serious miti- “ Toranaga: “There are no ‘mitigating circumstances’ when it comes to rebellion against a sovereign lord!” Blackthorne: “Unless you win.” Toranaga looked at him intently. Then laughed uproariously. “Yes, Mister Foreigner…you have named _the one _mitigating factor.”
The second type is a bit more subtle. This type of tyrant is adept at coming up with excuses for why his tyranny is “for the greater good”. You need to give up a little freedom here…for the greater good. You need to pay more in taxes…for the greater good. You can’t have this…for the greater good. You can’t do that…for the greater good.
And one “greater good” after another and soon you find yourself in a straitjacket so tight you can’t breath.
The problem here is that many people buy into the “greater good” arguments. And it’s always a “greater good” to come. When it doesn’t happen, as is the case most of the time, there’s always an excuse. And the excuse is usually whatever you had to give up for that “greater good” you didn’t give up enough. You have to give up more.
And the very extent that people, even those being restricted by the tyranny, believe the “greater good” argument, and if you resist the tyranny in their mind you are the “bad guy”. And, yes, even if you win, you remain the “bad guy” in their minds.
But in this type of tyranny the tyrant remains somewhat limited. He has to at least have some sort of plausible “greater good” for the tyrannies he wants to implement. It doesn’t have to be real, just plausible enough to convince people with limited information (and the tyrant always makes sure they have limited information). The tyrant doesn’t have to believe the arguments. Better, indeed, if he doesn’t (and we’ll get to that in a moment), but plenty of people will.
And so you don’t have to fight the tyrant, but all the people who willingly go along with him because they believe it’s for “the greater good.”
The third type, and the one who is truly the worst, is the true believer, the one who really does believe the tyranny is for “the greater good.” Whereas the non-believer has to concoct a plausible argument for why the tyrannies are necessary for the greater good, the true believer has no such limitation. The true believer only has to convince himself and the human capacity for self-delusion is without limits. While there are limits to how far the openly self-interested tyrant or the deceptive tyrant can go the self-deluded “world saver” seeking “the greater good” has none. He will fill the extermination camps with bodies, send millions to the gulags, “persecute to death” any number, and will feel virtuous doing so.
And his sincerity can be more convincing than the deliberate deception of the second type leading to thousands, even millions of willing accomplices in his tyranny.
Possibly the best representation I’ve seen yet although one might argue where the various societies actually fall on the curve. (I would submit that there is quite a bit less overlap between “Current ‘war’ addicted U.S.A.” and “Most of current Europe” than is shown.)
One could make it a single axis with government control and power to the left and individual liberty and responsibility to the right but by putting them on different axes you acknowledge that some societies can fall not on the curve shown but inside, between it and the axes, having less of both government control and power and individual liberty and responsibility. After all, it’s quite possible for a government to disproportionally restrict individual liberty relative to its overall size and power. Likewise it’s possible for people’s liberty to be restricted by means other than the government they live under. I have elsewhere used the example that being able to get on your roof with a rifle defending your home from barbarians is liberty. Having to constantly do so (and therefore not being able to be free to pursue other pursuits) because the barbarians are ubiquitous is not. Thus, it’s possible for a society to be inside the curve, between it and the axes. The curve, however, represents an outer limit. It is simply not possible to have a great deal of individual liberty and responsibility and a government with a lot of control and power.
But note down there at the lower right. “Threshold of impossibility”.
I have noted elsewhere that at some level someone will get together with some others and combine to impose their will by force on others. Unchecked, this becomes government, since that’s what government is, really, the license to use force to compel obedience. They vary endlessly in form and scope but that one point remains the defining factor.
When that group does get together, the only way to stop them is for others to get together. That requires organizing in defense against them. The problem there is the “free rider” problem. In a strictly voluntary organization an individual benefits not to pay for that organized defense, so long as somebody does. The problem is that each individual has that same incentive: let somebody else pay for it. This is the classic free-rider problem. The end result is either a few people end up disproportionately carrying the burden or the whole things falls apart. And so, those arranging the defense end up, they must end up, compelling contribution from others. And so you have government.
And so we have an irreducible minimum, kind of like a Zero Point Energy of government. You can’t completely get rid of government. Best you can hope to do is to keep it pruned back and kept to the ideals of “to secure these rights”.
Even that goal is highly optimistic and requires a great deal of “socialization” to responsible self rule to implement. We’re nowhere close to being able to implement such a thing. And, so, the best we can hope for is to maybe, with prodigious effort, move things fractionally in that direction.
And given the state of our electoral affairs, I’m not even sure that’s achievable in the short to medium term.
Back when I was younger I practically lived for super hero comic books. I lived vicariously the adventures of the heroes and heroines within them. And before I grew up and got “respectable” I wanted to be a super hero and, if I may be frank, a part of me never really outgrew that. And it’s with sadness that I realize I can’t, that the world doesn’t work that way and I would accomplish no more than to get myself stupidly killed accomplishing nothing.
That doesn’t mean that there isn’t good inspiration that can be taken from comics. And one of my favorites back before my general disaffection with comics (part of their generally becoming darker long about the mid 80’s–I pretty much drifted away after DC’s “Crisis on Infinite Earth’s”) was Marvel’s Captain America. Well, it was recently brought to my attention that as of the “Civil War” arc of a few years ago Cap was still a worthy source of inspiration:
“I remember the first time I really understood what it was to be an American…What it was to be a patriot.”
“I was just a kid…A million years ago, it seems sometimes. Maybe twelve. I was reading Mark Twain.
And he wrote something that struck me right down to my core…something so powerful, so true, that it changed my life. I memorized it so I could repeat it to myself, over and over across the years. He wrote –‘In a republic, who is the country?
Is it the government which is for the moment in the saddle? Why, the government is merely a temporary servant: it cannot be its prerogative to determine what is right and what is wrong, and decide who is a patriot and who isn’t. It’s function is to obey orders, not originate them.
Who, then is the country? Is it the newspaper? Is it the pulpit? Why, these are mere parts of the country, not the whole of it, they have not command, they have only their little share in the command.
In a monarchy, the king and his family are the country: In a republic it is the common voice of the people each of you, for himself, by himself and on his own responsibility, must speak.
It is a solemn and weighty responsibility, and not lightly to be flung aside at the bullying of pulpit, press, government, or the empty catchphrases of politicians.
Each must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, and which course is patriotic and which isn’t. You cannot shirk this and be a man.
To decide it against your convictions is to be an unqualified and inexcusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let men label you as they may.
If you alone of all the nation shall decide one way, and that way be the right way according to your convictions of the right, you have your duty by yourself and by your country. Hold up your head. You have nothing to be ashamed of’.”
Cap continues, “Doesn’t matter what the press says. Doesn’t matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn’t matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right.
This nation was founded on one principle above all else: The requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences.
When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree besides the river of truth, and tell the whole world–
—No you move.”
This, of course, isn’t the first stirring speech that Captain America made. He was noted for them. Another good one, involving his intervention in an altercation between a neo-Nazi group and a group of Jewish counter-protesters. Protest and counter-protest quickly grows into riot. Cap intervenes, breaking up the fight, and…
“All my life I’ve had a habit of making speeches. Some people have criticized me for it. They may be right. Because I cannot express with words the horror I feel at seeing what you’ve done here today.
Don’t you realize that in your attack, you’ve attacked your own freedom as well?
The Freedom that guarantees all ideas–both noble and ignoble–the expression that is imperative if our society is to survive!
[TWIB: speaking to Jewish protestor] You! Can’t you see that in stooping to your enemy’s level–you’re being made over in his image–that you’re becoming the very thing you loathe?
[TWIB: Speaking to Neo-nazi] And You! In your fear and ignorance you deny reality! Rewrite history! I wish I could take you back with me to the day we liberated Diebenwald [TWIB: Presume this is the name given to one of the death camps in the Marvel Universe]–let you smell the stomach-churning stench of death–let you see the mountain of corpses left behind by the corrupt madman and murderer you idolize!
You two aren’t interested in the truth—are you?
You’re only interested in your own self-consuming hate.
Two of a kind.
Even in short bits:
When a government functionary demanded that he submit himself to following government orders:
I’m not Captain President or Captain Government. I’m Captain America.
Or when a General comments that he knows Captain America is loyal:
[TWIB: Touching the hem of a flag] I’m loyal to nothing, General–except the dream.
Since then, the company that put those words in Cap’s mouth seemed bound and determined to destroy the very ideals he stood for.
But the old ones are still out there, and still worthy of being a good place to seek inspiration.
I linked this at instapundit some time ago. But from the fact that a friend sent me this link today, I presume it’s not widely known. The link I put at instapundit was from American Thinker. And for once their title was the most accurate thing ever: Executive Order Canceling the Constitution.
If you’re wondering how that is possible, wonder no more. You know how our government freezes assets of enemy governments? Like Iran’s assets that the FICUS is dying to unfreeze ASAP?
Well, the veneer-thin coat of legality on this bullshit relates to that. At the same time that Dementia Joe and The Commie Ho are giving money and actual nuclear tech to declared enemies of the US, they are declaring US citizens who so much as dare talk against them as enemy collaborators and traitors. And because they’re owned by China (though anyone who thinks that…
I’ve been listening to The Gulag Archipelago on Audible. I have to do it in bits and pieces with frequent breaks because my imagination is too good at turning the words of the narrator into an emotional visceral gut-punch of the true horror that lies behind them. I can only take so much at a time.
Too much darkness even for me.
So folk wanting to try to “sell” me on Communism/Socialism can just kiss right off. Doesn’t matter if this was “true socialism” or not. Doesn’t matter how you try to define “true Marxism” to make it “not this.” What matters is that every time folk selling Marxism to the masses gain power you end up with horrors like this.
Every. Damn. Time.
It has been said that insanity consists of doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. Well, that’s neither a legally nor medically valid definition, but there is an element of truth to it. If you keep insisting on doing the same thing, which has always had the same results, and are all “This time for sure”, then there is something deeply, seriously wrong with you.
So take your socialism/communism, fold it so it’s all sharp corners, cover it in capsaicin oil, and shove it where the sun never shines.
If there were any justice today would be a national holiday at least as big as Independence Day. I’m not kidding.
Back in the 1770’s an unrest that had started more than a century before–with Colonial reaction to the English Civil War, the Catholic reign of James II, and the Glorious Revolution that followed–was growing in the American colonies, at least those along the Atlantic Seaboard from New Hampshire down through Georgia. Protests over taxes imposed without the taxed having any voice in the matter, complaints about a distant monarch and legislative body making rules and laws over people to whom they are not beholden.
There had been clashes which fed that unrest, including the famous “Boston Massacre” where British troops fired into a rioting mob resulting in several deaths. Think of it as the Kent State of the 18th century.
In an effort to quell the unrest, or at least have it be less of a threat to British officials, General Thomas Gage, Military governor of Massachusetts, under orders to take decisive action against the colonists, decided to confiscate firearms and ammunition from certain groups in the colony. His forces marched on the night of April 18, 1775.
The colonists, forewarned of the action (the Longfellow poem, which children learn in school–or they did when I was in school “Listen my children and you shall hear, of the midnight ride of Paul Revere”–is historically inaccurate, but it sure is stirring, isn’t it?), first met the British troops at Lexington Massachusetts where John Parker, in command of the local Colonial Militia said, according to the recollection of one of the participants, “Stand your ground. Don’t fire unless fired upon. But if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.”
Whether Parker actually said those words, the first shot was fired. No one knew who fired it, whether British or Colonial. In the ensuing, brief battle the British regulars put the Colonial militia to flight.
The British then turned toward Concord.
A small unit of militia, hearing reports of firing at Lexington marched out but on spotting a British unit of about 700 while themselves only numbering about 250 they returned to Concord. The Colonial militia departed the town across the North Bridge to a hill about a mile north of town where additional militia reinforcements continued to gather.
The British reached the town and began searching for the weapons they came to confiscate. They found several cannon, too large to be moved quickly, and disabled them. Other weapons and supplies had been either removed or hidden.
On seeing the smoke of the burning carriages from the cannon, the Militia began to move. It is not my purpose here to go into detailed description of their movements but in the end the British regulars found themselves both outnumbered and outmaneuvered. They fled, a rout that surprised the Colonial Militia as much as the British regulars. Again, I simplify but in the end they marched back to Boston continuing to suffer casualties from what amounted to 18th century sniper fire from the surrounding brush. The frustration of the British soldiers led them to atrocities, killing everyone they found in buildings whether they were involved in the fighting or not.
Eventually the British forces fought their way back to Boston where they were besieged by Militia forces numbering over 1500 men.
And the Revolutionary War had begun.
And so, on this day in 1775, the nascent United States took the course that would lead eventually to Independence.
And that’s why April 19 deserves to be a National Holiday on a par at least with Independence Day. The latter was recognition of what became fact on the former.
I suppose that you do think that there’s no absolute right to freedom of speech or freedom of the press. And given the past year, I think we know where you stand on peaceable assembly. So long as it’s “mostly peaceful” BLM rioters it’s okay, but anyone else gathering in groups of 10 or more without wearing masks? That’s forbidden, right?
Of course the 2nd is exactly where you’re coming with this so we know where you stand on this. It’s the very one you’re arguing to restrict.
How about the third? Is the right of people not to have troops quartered in their homes without their consent during peacetime absolute? Or can you sometimes demand it? That right isn’t absolute, right?
And with the fourth, yeah, I think we know where you stand there. Have you ever even spoken against civil asset forfeiture? Maybe you don’t like Stop and Frisk, but you certainly didn’t seem to have any problem with surveilance of American Citizens without warrant while you were Vice President. So I presume you don’t think this right is absolute either.
Then there’s the fifth. Is the right not to be compelled to be a witness against oneself absolute or can the government sometimes force people to testify against themselves? And when you were Vice President I don’t recall you speaking against indefinite detention of American Citizens without trial or drone strikes against Americans from Barak “I’m really good at killing people” Obama. And, of course, there’s that whole civil asset forfeiture thing where people can have their property taken without any hint of due process. So there you have Life, Liberty, and Property all taken without due process of law and you seem to be perfectly okay with that, so I guess the 5th is another you don’t think is absolute.
Okay, what about the sixth? The right to a trial by jury is not absolute? Well, NDAA is a thing so I guess you don’t think it is.
Seventh? We can dismiss a jury in those suits in the common law with value over $20, at least sometimes. Although, considering what appears to be the case with actual criminal proceedings, I can’t really expect that you really do think this is superfluous too.
Well, there’s the Eighth. Do you think that, in some circumstances, we can go ahead and bring back thumbscrews and racks for some cases? After all, the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishments isn’t absolute either, correct?
Now I think you actually like the Ninth. It gives you an excuse to grant “rights” to whoever you might want–the right to plunder others for certain people’s own ends, the rights to “goodies that other people pay for” for some, to rob selected Peter to pay collective Paul. But beyond that? Rights of people to keep what they earn, to live their own lives as they see fit, to make provision for the security and safety of their own families that seem right to them? Oh, no. Never that.
And that brings us to the Tenth. In all your long years as a Senator, then as a Vice President, did you ever once say “this should not be a Federal matter, but rightly belongs to the States or the people”? Even once?
You know, when I started this, I thought I’d show some examples which would illustrate why you cannot possibly mean it to say that “no amendment is absolute” but as I go through them…and I could continue beyond the Bill of Rights, but at this point I think the matter is demonstrated…I find that you apparently really do believe that. You, apparently, think that “rights” are no more than whatever the government, and you in particular, happen to grant them. You believe that you are the arbiter of what rights We the People have and if we disagree, well, that’s just too bad.
You grant the same “rights” as Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Stalin, and Mao. The same “rights” “granted” by every tyrant in history. The “right” to do as you’re told. You are a tyrant. More, you are an oathbreaker. When you swore that oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States you did so under false pretenses, lying through your teeth. Your intent was not to support but to subvert. You are worse than people like Jefferson Davis and others in the Confederate States. They, at least, had the honesty to declare themselves not our countrymen before going to war against us. You pretend not only to be one of us but to actually lead us, swearing falsely to uphold our founding document, the supreme law of the land.
You are a viper in the nest, worthy only of vilification.
This was originally posted in defense of a bunch of kids making pronouncements on public policy (specifically gun control) being criticized for their lack of life experience and general knowledge of the subjects involved. We were supposed to go “oh, those guys were young too, so I guess it’s okay.”
There’s just one problem. None of the listed people, not one, was a policy maker in the nascent United States in 1776. None of them.
Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette, was born in September of 1757, so, yes, he was 18 at the time the United States declared independence. Being born a noble in France and in the context of his family’s martial tradition, he was commissioned an officer at age 13. In December of 1776, Lafayette was made a Major General but, well, at that time and place commissions were largely purchased. It was not until 1777 that he actually began his trek to America. When he learned that the Continental Congress lacked funds for his voyage, he bought a ship (The Victoire) with. his. own. money. on which to make the journey.
While the Marquis de Lafayette would go on to be a significant figure in the American fight for Independence, he was not a shaper of American political policy.
In 1776 James Monroe dropped out of college to join the 3rd Virginia Regiment in the Continental Army. Since he was literate, he was commissioned a Lieutenant. He was cited for bravery and promoted to Captain. As a captain he was expected to recruit his own company of soldiers but, lacking funds (unlike Washington, he was not independently wealthy), he was unable to do so and asked to be returned to the front. It would be some years later, in 1782 (age 24) when Monroe would win election to the Virginia house of Delegates. Later, he would become a United States Senator, a Minister to France, Governor of Virginia, and eventually win election to the Presidency in 1816 (age 58). So, while Monroe would go on to become a shaper of American policy, it was certainly not at the tender age of 18.
Henry Lee III became a Captain in a Virginia Dragoon detachment at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. In 1778, he was promoted to Major. Later, in 1786, then in his 30’s, Henry Lee III became a delegate to the Congress of the Confederation and in the 1788 Virginia convention, a 32 year old Lee favored the adoption of the United States Constitution. In 1799 (age 43) he became a member of the US House of Representatives. So, again, it was a Henry Lee III considerably older than in the meme above who actually became a policy shaper in the United States.
Nathan Hale is certainly a hero of renoun. In 1775 he joined a Connecticut militia unit. He participated in the siege of Boston. He was also part of the first organized intelligence service in the United States and, in that role, as a spy behind the enemy lines, he was captured by the British and executed with the purported last lines “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”
Nathan Hale was a hero and martyr, and is deservedly honored as such. He was not a policy maker.
With Aaron Burr we see the continuation of the pattern that’s becoming clear. He took part in Colonel Benedict Arnold’s expedition to Quebec. He distinguished himself at the Battle of Quebec. In 1776 he joined George Washington’s staff but, by June had quit that position to return to the battlefield. He played an important role in the evacuation of Manhattan after the British landing. Even though active in the war, Burr was able to finish his legal studies and was admitted to the bar in 1782 (age 26). He was a member of the New York State Assembly from 1784 to 1785 (age 27-28). He became seriously involved in politics, however, in 1789 (age 33) when appointed as New York State Attorney General. He became a US Senator in 1791 (age 35). He ran for President in 1796 and again in 1800 in which he became Vice President, which would lead to his famous duel with Hamilton and an end to any political influence he might have. So, again, Burr may have been young in 1776 but he was not a policy maker and would not be one for some years.
And, finally, we get to Alexander Hamilton. Shortly after the battles of Lexington and Concord (April 1775) Hamilton joined a volunteer militia company. He raised the New York Provinical Company of Artillery in in 1776 and was elected captain and fought in the campaign around New York City. He would go on to do more fighting and to serve on George Washington’s staff. In 1782 (Age 27) he became a member of the Congress of the Confederation as New York representative. He resigned in 1783 to return to law practice. In 1787 (age 32) he was an Assemblyman in the New York State legislature. While Hamilton had been a leader in calling for a Constitutional Convention, his actual influence in the convention was rather limited. The other two delegates from New York, being from a different faction, ensured that New York’s vote went their way (each State got one vote, which was decided by majority of the delegates from that State). Hamilton was one of the authors of The Federalist Papers used to “sell” the newly drafted Constitution to the States in general and New York in particular. He would go on to hold various roles in government, most notably Secretary of the Treasury under George Washington and his political infighting was a large part of the reason that John Adams only served a single term (and the power of the Federalist party was essentially broken from that point) until his fateful duel with Aaron Burr.
So the folk in the meme were not policymakers when they were 18-21 years old. That came later–for good or ill–with more seasoning and experience. So who were the policy makers and how young were they?
Well, the instrument shaping the policy of the colonies and the nascent United States at the time of the Declaration of Indpendence was the Second Continental Congress whose youngest member was Thomas Jefferson at 33 and whose oldest was Benjamin Franklin at 81.
Hardly the children demanding to have their way in the political arena today.
Over in another forum we had the argument raised, once again, on the theme of “you can’t fight the military with rifles…” I’ve addressed that before but I wrote a slightly different response to this one:
Ah, the old “lightly armed irregulars in the US can’t successfully fight the US military.” Let me ask you, do you also share that position regarding lightly armed irregulars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and a little place called Vietnam?
Here’s the problem (one of them anyway). A resistance to a government gone rogue wouldn’t be like the American Civil War with setpiece battles with one group on one side of the field and the other group on the other side of the field and they shoot at each other until one side is dead or fled. It won’t have defined lines here people on one side are “your people” and the people on the other side are “the enemy’s people.” It would be all mixed together: allies, enemies, noncombatants all mixed together.
What exactly is the military to do with all its heavy weaponry? Is it to carpetbomb Boise because some insurgents are hiding in the population? Roll tanks through Des Moines because of an illegal propaganda operation somewhere within it? Nuke Indianapolis because a few home workshops are turning out copies of Sten guns (not that hard, actually)? How many of your. own. citizens. are you willing to accept as collateral damage in order to take down those insurgents?
Now, maybe the person giving the firing order on that cruise missile aimed at, say, Kansas City doesn’t have friends or family living in the area likely to be damaged/destroyed. Maybe nobody on the missiles prep or maintenance team does. But you can be bloody sure they know somebody who does. That’s the thing about an all volunteer force. It becomes really awkward to use it indiscriminately against your own people.
Now, you might be able to convince your force that the rebels are a threat to the nation and need to be shut down and that it’s their job to do so. It would take some preparation, both in terms of how you “paint” the rebels and also by making sure that you remove “unreliable” elements from the military in advance (perhaps by declaring the politically unreliable as “extremists” and the purge as “removing extremist elements”). Still, it’s a lot harder to convince that force to use force indiscriminately. You need to be selective. You need to be able to distinguish actual opposition force from allied civilians and noncombatants.
That requires “boots on the ground”, individual soldiers who can go into the population, target the actual individuals who present the threat, and do minimal harm to those who are not. And those individual soldiers are vulnerable to individual weapons. And armed United States Citizens outnumber the combined US military and police forces by about 50 to one, as a very conservative estimate. For that matter, armed United States Citizens outnumber the entire world’s combined military and paramilitary forces by about three to one. And that’s not counting the individuals who could arm others who come late to their “Road to Damascus” moment.
James Madison alluded to that in The Federalist Papers. While the anti-Federalists had serious…misgivings is too mild a term…about having a standing army, Madison noted that there were necessary tasks that simply were not well handled by a citizen militia. He gave the example of manning forts in the frontier. He noted, however, that the largest standing army a nation could realistically support (as a function of population, about twice what we have now) could be countered by a citizen militia at least an order of magnitude larger.
But let’s go further. Suppose, just suppose, you manage to convince the military, through a combination of propaganda and purging, to actually use the heavy weapons on US Citizens, to actually be willing to drop those bombs, roll that armor, launch those missiles, on American Citizens in the United States. You could level cities, certainly, and there’s little that the insurgents could do, directly, to stop you. But that doesn’t mean you have it all your own way. That army needs to be fed. The food has to come from somewhere, and it has to be transported to your bases and your troops. That transportation is vulnerable. The food is vulnerable to interception and/or contamination. How effective is your army going to be if a shipment of food gets laced with LSD (for example)? Are you going to test every shipment of every kind of foodstuffs for every possible contaminant? Well, maybe, but that’s a lot of manpower that’s taken away from actually fighting the insurgency.
And now trustworthy is that manpower? Can you be sure they will diligently perform their tests? That they won’t be subborned? That they won’t need to be suborned because they’re already irate with you because you just bombed Grandma in Boise and left Cousin Earl homeless after a tank ran through his house in Des Moines?
Now add in fuel, electronic spare parts, batteries, ammunition, and every other bit of the logistics it takes to run a modern army. And guarding the supply lines for all that logistics once again requires “boots on the ground”.
And, guess what, those “boots on the ground” guarding the supply lines are vulnerable to those lightly armed irregulars.
Kreg looked over the four people in the room with him. They had lost much, all of them. Kaila had lost her mother’s sword. Keven and Marek had lost a kingdom. And Kreg? He had lost a world.
Kreg allowed himself the hint of a grin. To all appearances, Shillond had lost nothing but weight.
The High Mage of Chanakra was dead. Kreg had accomplished that, along with the destruction of the changeling armies that had conquered Aerioch and most of the rest of the known world. And in the doing he had helped King Marek, Prince Keven, Kaila, Shillond, and himself win free of the High Mage’s dungeons.
Kreg’s grin widened. While they had lost, they had gained too. Kaila had changed in the time Kreg had known her. No longer just a good-natured bruiser with a quick temper, she had revealed a keen mind that he would never have suspected when he met her. Kreg himself had become someone that his self of a year ago would never have recognized.
“You smile,” Kaila said. “I would hear cheerful thoughts.”
“I was just thinking,” Kreg said. “Five people now have to sneak back into Aerioch and raise a rebellion against the Schahi. While we can expect the death of the High Mage to cause such confusion that Chanakra won’t have much influence, these five people will have to escape the country, reach Aerioch, raise forces from somewhere with all the knights either dead, imprisoned, or enslaved, and then throw the Schahi out of Aerioch.”
Kaila seemed puzzled. “And this causes you to smile?”
“Of course,” Kreg said. “The Schahi don’t have a chance.”
In the corner, Shillond frowned.
“Shillond?” Kreg said.
“The High Mage was an idiot,” Shillond said.
“Be thankful that he was, Father,” Kaila said.
“How did an idiot best Baaltor even once?” Shillond shrugged. “How did an idiot gain the magical power to become High Mage of Chanakra? How did an idiot direct the conquest of so much of the world?”
Shillond frowned again and looked into his hands. “I fear that it was not the High Mage of Chanakra who was our true foe. He was no more than a pawn. All of this was just one more deception within the deceptions.
“I fear that our true foe, whoever it might be, somehow has won.”
Early evening of the next day, Shillond returned to the room the five shared carrying a modest basket of bread, cheese, and small flasks of wine.
“It is as we feared.” Shillond set the basket on the room’s small table. “With the death of the High Mage discovered there has been much confusion. The city has been sealed. Guards have been increased at the gates. Lesser mages assigned to those gates to watch for magic. Troops search all ships before permitting them to sail and more mages join those searches. More parties search the city for us, also accompanied by mages.”
“That’s a lot of mages,” Kreg took a small loaf of bread and a block of cheese from the basket. “From everything you’ve told me I thought there would not be many mages in all the world.” He bit into the cheese and grimaced at the sour taste.
“There were fewer than a dozen in all of Aerioch,” Marek said, taking his own portion from the basket. “From whence come these Chanakranon mages?”
“I do not know,” Shillond said.
“If gates and port be closed to us,” Kaila said, “How may we escape the city?”
“Can we scale the wall?” Keven asked. “Cut the throats of patrols and be off before anyone notes their absence?”
“And have those within the towers guarding the city wall feather us from above?” Marek shook his head. “I think not.”
“Then conceal ourselves within the city.” Keven waved toward the room’s shuttered window. “Many thieves and cutthroats abide here. Of what note are four more? Five, with Good Duke Kaila.”
“I am neither thief nor cutthroat—“ Kaila’s voice rose with each word, then she stopped and smiled. “—but I may play the part if needed.”
Shillond sighed. “I do not think so.” He opened one of the shutters on the window and peered into the alley below. “Of the five of us, King Marek does not speak the Chanakranon language and only I speak it well enough to pass for a local. And with three of us being veritable giants to the locals we would be soon noted and draw the searchers to us. And we cannot remain hidden in these rooms or again we would be noticed and found.”
He turned, leaned against the windowsill, and folded his arms. “We must escape, and soon if we are to escape at all.”
“What about that seeming spell?” Kreg asked. “It made Keven not only look like the High Mage, but sound like him. If you could change us, we could pass for natives.”
“It would make us look and sound like natives, but it would not teach Marek the language.”
“I could be a mute,” Marek said. “If I do not speak, I will not need to know the language.”
Shillond shook his head. “The spell will not deceive any mage who spends the effort to look. And with mages searching for us we would again soon be revealed.”
Marek sat on the room’s single bed and leaned his head in his hands, his elbows on his knees. “Is there no hope then?”
“Children!” Kaila said sharply. “Are you all children? We have walked the width of the world, slipped within the enemy’s own stronghold. When captured, Kreg did, from within his very cell, destroy the changeling armies that had conquered Aerioch and when questioned by the High Mage did slay him with no more weapon than his hands. We then proceeded to escape from the enemy’s dungeons and win free to the city. Now…now, when beset by these… inconveniences, you give up hope? Children, I say.”
Kreg smiled and stood. “Kaila is right. We still live. We’re still free.” His eyes met hers. “Fear not for us. Fear rather for all the evil in Chanakra.”
“Well said!” Keven stood as well.
Marek straightened and nodded. “So be it. How shall we proceed?”
“We need to learn more,” Shillond said. “The seeming spell is our best chance to avoid detection for now.” He looked first at Kaila and then at Kreg. “Eyes and ears?”
Kreg nodded. “Eyes.”
Kaila laid a hand on Kreg’s shoulder. “And ears.”
Kreg and Shillond waited in an alley overlooking the docks. In the distance, sunlight glittered on the blue of the Elamak sea.
Keven, as the one who spoke the Chanakranon language best after Shillond, had accompanied Marek to inspect the gates. Kaila was prowling the depths of the city alone. Shillond’s magic had given them the seeming of random locals. He had admonished them to spare no effort in watching and to avoid mages at all costs.
The alley was little more than a crack between the adobe walls of low buildings. On one side stood a tavern, on the other a brothel. Rats scurried in the shadows picking at the garbage dumped in the alleyway. The shadows of the alley coupled with the bright sunlight shining on the docks concealed them from casual view.
“We have not had chance to talk alone since escaping the dungeons,” Shillond said. He had assured Kreg that no one was nearby. “You said that you destroyed the changeling armies but did not say how. You also said that you no longer can block spellcraft. I presume those two are connected?”
Kreg nodded. “I remembered the spell you used to challenge Baaltor. You told me that even someone not a mage can cast that spell, only that spell. I challenged Baaltor. He…made me promises—send me home, even restore Bertan to life—if I would give up on you. I refused and, well, turns out that was the challenge and I won. The prize I sought was the means to break the changeling spell. He gave me that and sufficient power to cast it…once. Once I did that, the extra power was gone, but I guess I have whatever someone gets after a first challenge with that demon. I don’t know. If I have it, I don’t know how to use it.”
“That should not be possible,” Shillond said. “Baaltor is not bested so easily as that.”
“Easy?” Kreg said. “You think that was easy? Bertan….”
“I know, Kreg,” Shillond said softly. “But compared to what Baaltor could have done…. You did not know to choose the form of the challenge so Baaltor could set the form. To choose the challenge of temptation instead of a physical contest? And offering to restore Bertan?” Shillond shook his head. “What Baaltor offers in the challenge of temptation is always something he can offer. After all, what temptation is a known lie?”
“Wait,” Kreg said. “You mean he couldn’t?”
“He could not. Once a spirit resides within the Nameless One’s halls, no force in all the world but the gods themselves can wrest it from thence.” Shillond sighed. “Still, he was right, you know. Weakened as you were, he could have bested you with ease in a contest of might and power such as those by which I face him. Beyond that, when you won, he exceeded the bare minimum required by your victory and gave you sufficient power to cast the spell? Why?”
Kreg sucked air over his teeth. “Because it’s what he wanted to happen?”
“He permitted you to win for his own ends. And if he permitted you…”
“Then maybe we’ve learned why Chanakra is so rife with mages. Perhaps instead of winning power through challenge, they simply…made a deal.”
Shillond nodded. “That could also explain—“
Kreg held up a hand. At the docks, a search party left one of the ships. As they watched, the mage heading the party stood at the dock as the gangplank slid up onto the ship and the crew pushed the ship off from the dock. Oars churned the water as the ship moved out into the harbor.
“That’s the fifth ship,” Kreg said. “All the same pattern.”
“No chance to slip aboard after they search.”
“Not here anyway,” Kreg said.
Kaila frowned as she lounged against the corner of a tavern. Men passing would pause to leer at her scanty attire but would scurry past on seeing her scowl. Too often of late she had worn this particular disguise and wondered what she would do if she needed to carry through on the implied promise of her clothing and pose.
So far, three men had braved her scowl. Each would wake, eventually, in the alleys to which she had taken them, stripped of coin and other trinkets they might think valuable, but alive. Each time she needed to change locations. So far, she had learned that Chanakra possessed few forces ready to search the city, but others were coming, drawn from other cities. Eventually she and her companions would no longer be able to hide within it. Shillond was right. They had to escape and soon.
There. That one. As another man, resplendent in the uniform of a high officer of the guard departed the tavern, Kaila looked up to meet his eyes and smiled. The officer—a captain, Kaila thought—met her eyes and turned toward her. As he looked at her, Kaila arched her back in a way that she knew emphasized her breasts and pulled the hem of her tunic higher.
The woman on whom Shillond had modeled the seeming had much larger breasts than her own. Through such subterfuges as this, she had learned that few men would ignore even her own modest breasts if she chose to twist just…so.
The captain made no pretense of hiding his staring now.
“Is Milord seeking company?” Kaila let her smile widen. She let her mouth open slightly, her tongue touch her upper lip, and then let her lips stretch into her most inviting smile.
The captain looked her up and down. “I’m thinking about it.”
Kaila pouted. “Well, think faster.”
Kaila made no mention of coin. Chanakranon law forbade the selling of sexual favors and the watch took that law quite seriously indeed. The law made no mention of gifts given by a pleased lover to the object of his overnight affection. And if the gift was inadequate? Why, not even a captain of the guard cared to face the wrath of the powerful, if unofficial, pimp’s guild.
The captain bowed and extended a hand. Kaila giggled, curtsied, and took it, grateful for once for the years the King and others had tried to turn her into a court lady instead of a warrior and a knight. Indeed, she hoped that her curtsey was not too polished.
She let the captain lead her where he would. Once some distance from the tavern outside which she had met him, she stumbled and bumped into him.
“I beg Milord’s pardon,” she said.
“Are you all right?”
“Milord is kind, but—“ She looked to the left, stuck her tongue in her cheek as if gnawing on it, then to the right. “—I need to get off the street.”
“Are you well?”
“Please, Milord. It will not take long.”
Now it was the captain’s turn to look both ways. He paused then pointed at the opening to a dark alleyway. “There.”
“Milord is gracious,” Kaila said. “If…if you would be so kind as to keep watch. There are cutpurses about.”
“My lady’s wish.” He waved her forward and followed her into the alleyway.
Once within the shadows, Kaila’s left hand darted out. Her fingers closed on the Captain’s throat, cutting off a cry before it escaped his lips. With inexorable strength, she drew him deeper into the alley. Once certain she was no longer visible from the street, she held him pinned against the wall.
“And now, good sir,” she said, watching as his eyes began to roll back in his head. “Let us see just what you are about.” She released the pressure on his throat and held her other hand against his mouth, not so hard as to cut off air, but enough to muffle the sound of his coughing fit.
The captain snatched at his dagger with his left hand. Before he could draw it, Kaila dropped the hand that had been covering his mouth, grasped the captain’s wrist, and twisted. She felt bones break under that grip.
“That was unkindly done, sir.” She leaned closer, her eyes less than a hand’s width from the Captain’s. “As you might surmise, I am no street wench, but a warrior and a knight. And if you wish to live out this day, you will tell me all you know of the search that proceeds in this city.”
How strange, Keven thought, to treat his own father, the King of Aerioch, as a servant.
The seeming Shillond had given Keven was that of a merchant of better than modest means. Marek’s, of a simple workingman, shorter and broader than Marek’s natural giant size. Mute, of course, given his inability to speak Chanakranon.
Keven wondered for a moment where Kaila had gotten the coin to fund their ruse then decided he did not want to know.
The cafe sat across the square from the North Gate. The gate proper stood open but twin portcullises blocked the passage through the wall. The setting sun cast long shadows across the square, a square filled with people seeking exit from the city.
Keven took a sip of his ale and let his gaze drift over the square. A large crowd, clamored at the gate, seeking egress.
Keven nudged Marek and nodded in the direction of the gate. Spear armed soldiers barred the way as the inner portcullis rose. Keven watched as the soldiers ushered two carts, a wagon, and a half-dozen people on foot through the now open gateway. One person tried to dash through only to face a leveled spear. The man backed away.
The portcullis dropped, leaving the little party isolated within the gateway. Keven could not see, but he could imagine the arrow slots to either side and the murder holes in the roof ready at any instant to rain death on those within.
A green glow descended from the ceiling of the gateway and washed over the people within. It held for several heartbeats then faded. Keven fancied he could hear a shout within the gateway. No. He must have imagined it. How could he hear even spoken word over the clamor of the crowd?
The outer portcullis rose and the party within the gatehouse departed. Another party, from outside, entered. As Keven watched, the outer portcullis closed and the inner opened.
So, Keven thought, they were only interested in those leaving the city, not those entering. No doubt, they sought him and his companions.
Motion to his left caught Keven’s attention. He turned his head. Marek seemed different. Was he taller than a moment before? Yes. Yes, he was.
“Come,” he said, still playing his role. “We have business to be about.”
Marek cocked his head to one side, staring at Keven then his eyes grew wide. He nodded and rose.
Keven dropped some coins on the table as he stood. Marek was definitely taller, his body shaped shifted from the stocky shape of a serving man to the more defined musculature of a seasoned warrior.
The spell, Keven thought. Whatever spell had caused that green light had, weakened by distance perhaps, had started to dissolve their seemings, their magic disguises.
Ahead, Marek pushed through the crowd, forcing a passage between the people and the buildings. Keven followed in his wake. Despite their faltering seemings that changed their appearance and their voices, Marek retained his true size and strength.
Marek now stood a full head taller than the tallest other person visible, his true size. Instead of the clothes of a man serving a somewhat successful merchant, he wore a simple tunic and breeches. His hair had extended to below his shoulders, the length to which it had grown during his captivity.
Keven looked down. His own seeming was likewise gone.
“There!” The shout came from the soldiers at the gate. “Stop that man!”
In the confusion, Marek snatched a pole from an awning that shaded a shop’s entrance. He swept the tip of the pole at knee height. Keven heard the thumps as the pole struck several men who did not move back fast enough. Marek reversed the pole, bringing the opposite end back around at head height. The crowd retreated further.
For a moment, Keven hesitated. Marek’s great size marked him, but Keven’s appearance did not stand out. No one had yet noted him. If he slipped away, he could come back with the others and, what? Rescue his father? And if they decided not to capture but to kill?
He regretted that he did not have a sword as he drew the dagger from his belt.
Marek had turned, seeking to drive his way farther from the gate. Despite no longer needing to maintain their subterfuge, he still had not spoken.
A stocky tough moved into the gap between Keven and Marek’s turned back, a club upraised in his hand.
Keven struck. His dagger bit deep between the ribs of the tough. The tough stiffened and dropped the club. With a practiced twist, Keven drew the dagger free and pushed the falling body of the tough aside. The body fell to the ground, twitching. Keven sprang over it and shouted, “Run, Father!”
Marek thrust three times with the staff. Three men fell gasping to the ground, curled around their own bruised guts. Marek darted forward. Following, Keven scooped up another of the awning poles and slid his dagger back into its sheath. A staff would be a better weapon in this crowd than his dagger.
Keven kept close behind Marek, his staff striking with careful precision to keep the disorganized crowd from closing too near behind them. He spared a glance in the distance behind and saw the detail of soldiers from the gate forcing its way through the crowd.
Unshy about using their spears to speed the crowd’s separation the soldiers were gaining.