“So, do you think that this will actually work?” Brandon asked as he and Jason headed back toward the tavern. It had been several hours since they had left, and they were hoping that almost everyone had cleared out by now.
“It has a good chance of working, yes,” Jason answered with more confidence than he actually had. He knew that the most important part of a plan was to get people to trust in it, even if it was shaky.
“So what are we going back to the tavern for?” Brandon asked.
“Mr. Sheridan said that he would get a group of supporters together to meet me later tonight,” Jason explained. “There are several parts to my plan, and every one of them needs a reliable person doing it. Tonight I’ll have several people to choose from to do these things.”
“I can do something,” Brandon said, hurt that his friend hadn’t considered him first.
“I know you would try your best, but let’s face it Brandon, you wouldn’t be able to convince the king that his barons have risen up against him, nor could you convince the barons that the king is planning to dispose of them. I will feel best if I have you backing me up when I go to talk to the other peasants.”
Brandon nodded and dropped the issue. Jason’s answer had stung, but he knew that it was true. He was not the diplomatic sort; in fact, his attempts to reason with people often ended with him throwing someone out of a window. This approach was actually pretty effective for your normal everyday peasant who had just cheated at Poker, but kings tended to not take kindly to it and Brandon was rather attached to his head.
Jason led the way around the back of the tavern and used a service door to gain entrance to the building’s kitchen. Mr. Sheridan’s daughter and son were there cleaning and looked up only briefly to see who had entered. The boy motioned with a thumb to a private room off to the right and Jason headed straight for it. Brandon headed toward the main room of the tavern and began his patrol as had been agreed upon before. With the giant on guard, no one would be entering the building without Jason’s knowledge.
The room that Jason entered was small containing only a small table and a dozen or so chairs. Stacks of small, colored chips stood in front of each chair, poker chips if Jason was not mistaken, and a large floorboard in the corner had been pulled up. Jason decided that the chips would be used for camouflage to hide the true purpose of the meeting should someone walk in on them but wondered what the raised floorboard was for. It was too small to be an escape passage. Mr. Sheridan sat at the head of the table and was flanked on either side by five men. All looked up as Jason as he entered the room.
“Jason,” Mr. Sheridan said. “Take a seat and we can begin.”
Jason stepped to the only empty seat, the one on the end of the table, and sat down. All eyes were on him and once again he felt a moment of discomfort. This gathering would be examining his plan in detail and, whether he liked it or not, their decision would decide whether it succeeded or not.
“So, Jason,” Mr. Sheridan said. “We’re here because we think that your plan may have some merit to it. Explain it again in full with all of the details so that we know exactly what will be required of us and the people.”
For a long time Jason explained his plan much as before in the tavern but with many more details. The men would periodically stop him to ask questions and challenge certain aspects of the plan, but Jason was never stumped. He had thought through the situation thoroughly and had contingency plans for everything except for one situation. He didn’t bring it up himself and hoped that no one would think of it, not only because he thought it unlikely but also because it would be the single most detrimental thing that could ever happen during his scheme. To his relief, no one at the table thought to ask the right question, and an hour after Jason began, they had all agreed to the plan. During this whole process, one of the men, one of the only educated peasants, had been writing on several sheets of paper. When the council had finished questioning Jason, he spread his notes across the table with two large maps, one of the surrounding areas and one of the whole country. With a pencil, he began to mark lines and symbols on the maps, indicating the different stages in Jason’s plan.
Jason watched as the process continued, amazed at the way in which the scribe was able to transpose his plan onto the maps. He was unfamiliar with all of the symbols that were used but was still able to get a fairly specific idea of what was being drawn. Probably because he had invented the plan and knew all parts of it intimately. He listened to the scribe talk as he wrote, correcting him occasionally. In a quarter of an hour, the whole thing was on the maps on the table and another discussion began. Once again, the council began to question and discuss different aspects of the plan, and Jason had to defend them again. Several suggestions were made to improve the plan, many of which he refuted and dismissed easily, but some of which he agreed with a saw implemented. One of the most obvious was that he had planned on waiting until all of the peasants were assembled to talk to them, but one of the men in the room suggested sending out riders to meet the armies coming from each village to talk to them separately. This way, the opinions of a large crowd wouldn’t affect the arguments that were being made. Should one group of villagers reject them, the others might still agree. This would also give the conspirators a larger support base when they reached the barons’ armies.
Three sharp raps on the closed door interrupted their deliberations and immediately the maps and notes were swept off of the table and stuffed under the floor board in the corner. One of the men pulled a deck of cards from his pocket and began to shuffle and deal to each of the members of the council. Twelve people was a few too many for the typical poker game, Jason knew, but perhaps it would stand up to scrutiny should that be necessary. He collected his cards and looked at them, not really understanding what he was seeing. He had never played poker before, leaving such ventures to Brandon who was inordinately good at this sort of thing. People began to throw chips into the middle of the table and his quick eye picked up on what was happening. He matched the bid of the man before him and waited for the biding to come to an end. Calling for two cards like several of the men before him, he looked at his new hand and still didn’t understand what he was looking at. He knew that multiple cards of the same kind was good, but he didn’t know how good. He continued to bid until the end and laid his cards on the table with everyone else. Apparently two cards of one kind and three of another was good enough to win all of the chips in the middle of the table. As he raked the pot toward himself, he decided that poker was actually fun.
Two hands later, there was another knock at the door, this time only one. The council instantly forgot about their game and pulled the maps back out onto the table and began to debate and discuss again. Jason settled back for the long night that he knew lay ahead of him.