This is the 32nd in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing. You can find out more about the challenge here.
The Tactic, by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 1st January 2012
Word count: 578
Theme: war, counsel, peace, defend, priorities, compromise
“Do you believe in this?” the mercenary asked hefting an extremely large sword.
“Of course,” the monk said, “But it does not change my belief that violence is the wrong path.” The large mercenary was stood across an oval table opposite the monk, in the general’s tent. The other commanders and nobles, along with General Sals were watching the interchange with great interest.
“When the enemy is fool enough to present his neck, you do not hesitate, you act. The fastest way to your fabled peace is to end the enemy quickly, while you are strong and they have shown weakness,” the mercenary said matter of factly as he lowered his sword.
“Not without cost Captain, a cost that makes you weak on many levels, and others who think exactly like you, would then attack. There is never a peace as long as violence is perpetual,” the monk said calmly. “General, I do not know if my counsel has any weight here, but I offer it for your consideration.”
The general stirred, called back into the fray unexpectedly, all eyes were upon him now.
He cleared his throat to buy himself a few moments to decide his response.
“This is all academic,” he said finally, “All we have is someone’s word that the the Thrace Empire would meet us at a time and place to settle this war. We have received nothing formal, and if we go there and it’s a trap, or worse, then all could be lost.”
“What could be worse than a trap?” a low ranking commander of the fourth company asked.
“A diversion would be worse. I take the whole army there, expecting the Thrace to do the same, and he marches right past us, takes up a position that cuts us off from the towns we’re here to protect, and the war is effectively over. That is worse. Unless we know his disposition, we can not counter. If I split our forces, and he doesn’t, he’ll run right over each force. If I split, and he doesn’t, then he’ll have half his force past us.”
“And if his desire is not an invitation to battle?” asked the monk.
“Then I no matter what I do, I’ll look a fool, and could perpetuate the war, even escalate it. There is nothing in the half substantiated rumour to suggest this is a peace offer, though, so I can do nothing else but try to out think him,” the General said.
“Then might I suggest a middle path?” the monk asked.
“What middle path?” the general asked.
“Don’t take half, and don’t take everyone.. Instead split your force in three,” the monk answered.
“What use is that?” the mercenary captain asked.
“Father Godden,” the general said, “That is indeed wise council. If I’m right about your reasoning.”
“You appear to be a wise leader,” the monk said, “I’m sure you understood me well enough. Divide your force in three, hold one part in a defensive position here, the second will go to the rendezvous, such a small force would appear a gesture of peace, but be well enough armed to hold for some time.”
“And the third group?” the company captain asked.
“Sits in between, with messengers ready to and from both other forces on the ready,” the General answered before the monk could. “It might still be too little too late, but it offers us more choices. I think we have our decision, alert the commanders.”
There was a flurry of activity as the gathered men left immediately to ready their commands.