“My proposition to all of you,” Jason began, “is that we arm ourselves as best we can and go to meet the baron. Now I know that it has been said that I think that we should go and fight for the baron, but I do not. We should go and agree to fight for him only if he does something for us.”
“And what exactly do you think that you can get out of the baron?” a villager asked.
“Rights,” Jason answered immediately. “Freedom, for instance, to enter and leave the baron’s lands without his express permission. Rights to own property. Freedom from imprisonment without cause. Rights such as these that no one can take away from us. That is what I would bargain with the baron for.”
“Bargain with the baron?” a dissenter snorted. “You cannot bargain with the baron when he holds all of the cards.”
“He doesn’t hold all of them,” Jason shot back. “He has called for us to assemble and help his army. That means that he finally had need of us, and his need is a weakness. That is our bargaining chip.”
“I still don’t think that it will work, and I’m not willing to risk my life on some half-baked plan that you invented,” the villager said.
“You risk your life by staying here,” Jason countered. “If you wish to save your measly skin so much, you will go to fight for the baron anyway and take your chances with the king’s army. We find ourselves caught between a rock and a hard place; the trick is to find a way to squeeze out from between them and come out on top.”
“And you have a way to do that?” a villager asked.
“I believe that I do,” Jason answered. “If our baron has resorted to recruiting us, that means that he and the barons that he is meeting with have finally run out of resources and fighting men to run this war off of. If my guess is correct, and I know that it is, all of the other barons have done the same thing to try to bolster the numbers of their own forces. That means that there will be a lot of men just like us who think like us and are as unhappy about the situation as we are. I will talk to them and see what I can arrange. Unless I miss my guess, I can get them to make similar demands of their barons. If we can put all of the barons in the same tight spot, they are more likely to cave.”
“There’s a problem with your plan,” Brandon said so that all could hear him. He hated to speak out against Jason, but he had thought of something that needed to be addressed. If he was right, Jason would have thought of it already anyway.
“I have explained as simply as possible the basics of my plan,” Jason explained to the crowd. “What is it that worries you?”
“The demands that you are going to make of the barons,” Brandon started. “The barons’ power is limited by the king, but if they do win and give us the rights that we demand, they will have even less power than they do now. What would convince them to continue the war?”
“That, my friend, is the most important aspect of my plan,” Jason said with a smile. “I will arrange for a messenger to go to the king and bring him news of the rebellion of his barons while simultaneously convincing the barons that the king has grown tired of them and plans to eradicate their positions entirely. If either side believes the claims, the war will certainly happen. The barons will have no choice but to stand and fight the king, even if they do not like our demands.”
“So you are going to tell the king what is going on?” someone called. “Won’t that give him time to prepare his armies? That would be very dangerous to us.”
“That’s not true for two reasons,” Jason answered. “First, tipping the king off will give his time to gather his troops and meet us in a field to do battle. He’ll do it because it is a way for him to assert his authority by winning in the field. That gives us a much better chance of breaking the back of his army without trying to do it over the walls and defenses of his castle. Second, make no mistake that in the barons’ army, we will be the lowest soldiers on the totem pole, especially after the demands that we will make. If we are forced to attack the king in his castle, we will be the first men to charge the walls and also the first to fall by the arrows of the king’s archers. We stand a much better chance of surviving the battle if it takes place in a field. Also, tipping off the king will work to our benefit because it will put the barons on a tight schedule. They will be forced to accept our demands quickly so that they can raise an army that can stand up the king’s.”
“So now all of the sudden you are a military and political genius?” a villager called.
“I would never claim either of those things,” Jason answered. “I have simply thought through the whole situation and made conclusions that any idiot can make. We must go to fight for the baron, but we do not need to do it on his terms.”
The tavern was silent for several long moments as Jason let his words sink in.
“Think over what I have said and make a decision,” he finally said. “I will meet anyone who is coming at the gate tomorrow at sunrise. Come armed and prepared to travel for we will move out as early as possible. We will discuss other important matters on the journey.”
Without another word, Jason jumped off of the bar and headed for the door, Brandon following close behind. The crowd parted to allow them through, most staring in awe at the small man leading the way. Even compared with the giant behind him, he was by far the most impressive man in the whole building.