Fluttering Shadows

The simplest of things can inspire people. Provided you take the time to explore the world, even if all you do is check your digital feeds. As I thumbed through the posts in my Facebook feed, I came across a post by ElfWatcher.com and the seed of a story wedged itself into my mind. The man eagerly collects one of his messengers on news from the battlefield. Those were the words that sprouted from that seed. As the story’s skeleton developed, I looked at some of my other stories and dropped this budding narrative into that world. From there, the first draft flew from my fingers. Unfortunately, other projects got in the way, and I soon lost track of this interesting tale. After months of inaction, I stumbled upon the first draft of this story in my digital notebook. It didn’t take long for me to hone that initial narrative into a piece of fiction that I’m proud to share with the world. Sit down and get comfortable as we explore a unique spy master and his network of informants.

“My army surrendered!?” Namen slammed his fist against his thrown and snarled. “What did my cowardly force do after they laid down their weapons to these rebels?”

The messenger’s hands trembled behind his back as his stoic face locked onto the King’s ornate chair. He bowed, spreading his arms out like a flying bird. “I wasn’t there to witness the results, sire. I only had the message I was dispatched with. Do you want me to discover the fallout of the surrender?”

“No, there’s nothing you can accomplish,” the King grumbled as he crumpled the missive in his fist. He flung the wadded paper at the messenger’s face, “Kameron will locate these traitors!”

The messenger ducked the parchment projectile, while an advisor sitting close to the King interlaced her fingers and cleared her throat. “Your majesty, I believe it would be best to collect any information that Baxter has before deciding on how to deal with these deserters. What good would it do to send another battalion if the rebels have captured the nearest keep?”

The King’s eyes narrowed as his lips trembled. His white fingers rose from the inlaid wooden armrest, curling into a fist. “Speaking with Baxter is troublesome enough during times of peace. During war, it’s difficult to take him seriously while he is talking with his agents.”

“Baxter’s unique.” The advisor smiled and leaned closer to the king, “But he is the best spymaster this nation has ever wielded.”

“I’m aware of that, Kerri!” Namen struck the table with both meaty fists. “But I won’t deal with him, if he’s communicating with his spies. You go discover everything he has learned about these rebels and traitors.”

Kerri rose, inclining her head, and flowed across the floor. She grabbed the messenger’s arm and guided him from the meeting hall. When the door closed, she spun the fool around and slapped his face. “Why did you bring that message directly to Namen?”

The messenger’s eyes hardened into daggers as his fingers explored his reddening cheek, “It’s my job. The last time I checked, you’re simply an advisor.” He gripped his hands behind his back while his mouth twisted into a smirk. “How would Namen react if he learned you struck one of his messengers? I believe he’s given orders to protect people carrying his commands.”

“True,” Kerri flicked the messenger’s nose as her lips parted, displaying her canines. “Unfortunately, for you, Namen didn’t give you the protection of a command.” She thumped his chest with two fingers, “Never forget who your friends are, messenger.” Kerri spun on her heels and stormed down the hall. When she reached a stairwell, she sighed and flew up the stairs.

Upon reaching the door to the roof, she flung it open and stared at the man standing on the ledge, obscured by flapping butterflies. One landed on an outstretched fingertip, and he pulled it to his ear. She cleared her throat and marched toward him, “Baxter, I need to speak with you.”

Baxter raised his other hand and brandished a finger at the interloper. When the butterfly launched from his finger, he turned around and bowed deeply. “To what do I owe the pleasure of your visit, Kerri?”

“Have your little,” Kerri began as she gestured at the swarming butterflies. “Eyes and ears heard anything about the incident near the border with the Western Kingdom?”

The man spun and inclined his head as another butterfly landed on his shoulder and inched closer to his ear. “My agents flutter all over the world, gathering everything they see and hear.” His mouth curled as he folded his hands together. “However, since you’re aware of my reach, I’ll presume you want specifics.” He touched a finger to his lips and smiled warmly. “Should I assume Namen wishes to learn the fate of the soldiers who surrendered to the rebel horde?”

Kerri winced as she straightened her shoulders, “That is an answer he’s seeking.”

The spymaster placed his finger next to the butterfly on his shoulder, and it crept along its length. Baxter’s hand drifted to his eyes as he studied the wings of the creature. Baxter raised it, allowing the rest of his minions to flutter about it. “A force three times the battalion’s size ambushed and surrounded our soldiers.”

“The rebels outnumbered us?”

Baxter tossed the butterfly into the air. “I’m only telling you what has passed on to me, but that’s why they surrendered. However, before you condemn them, know that after surrendering, most have already regrouped. They’ve been scavenging what they can from the land to harry the massive force trying to sweep through the kingdom.”

“What’s coming our way?”

“The rebels have harnessed, orcs, goblins, and even some trolls.” Baxter raised a finger as another messenger flitted to the perch. He brought the butterfly up to his ear and translated the message. “They’re within a week’s march of Colvin’s Keep. His current defenses will fall unless the King can bolster their walls with a pair of battalions.”

“What about the passes that don’t cross Colvin’s lands?”

Baxter tossed the insect back into the air. “My informants have found no other military groups encroaching upon the king’s territories.” Another of his spies landed on his shoulder, and Baxter raised a hand. “At least nothing at present. The King will be the first person I contact if that changes. Now, I’d suggest that you tell Namen about the force marching towards Colvin’s Keep. If it falls, there’s nobody to stop these monsters from bringing death and destruction.” He turned and lifted his arm, displaying half a dozen butterflies perched there. “And while I can detail the devastation, I’m unable to halt this avalanche.”

Kerri bit her lip, spun around, grabbed the door’s handle, and opened it, finding Namen on the other side. “Sire, the spymaster has grim news concerning Colvin’s Keep.”

Namen snarled and marched down the stairs, his voice thundering through the palace. “Kameron, I have need of your magical abilities!”