Disclaimer: I don't own the rights to The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.
Fall of the Guard
Chapter 1 - The Plan
"They're waiting for you in the armory, Gamin."
The silver-haired Gelfling guard nodded his head. "How many?"
"All of them," replied the dark-haired female Drenchen.
Gamin blinked a couple of times. "All of them?"
"That's what I said. All of them. Well, except for Keeg, Ong, Din, Steren, Fina, and Fier." She cocked her head. "Strange, isn't it? The only Gelfling who aren't here are the ones from your section."
"And what does that tell you, Isa?"
Isa smirked. "That you've already told them your plan. Either that or you're a lousy section leader."
Gamin couldn't help but chuckle. "You'll find out soon which one it is." He started to reach for the armory's door, but paused. "You know, I'm still not sure how exactly I ended up in charge of this... thing we're planning to do."
Isa scoffed. "You don't know? Please. You're the one who came up with the plan."
"Only because no one else had one." He shrugged. "At least I won't be doing this alone."
"You might be, if you keep everyone in the armory waiting," Isa quipped.
After sharing a quick laugh, Gamin and Isa entered the armory, where, as Isa had stated, over forty Gelfling - virtually the entire Castle Guard - were waiting for them.
"About time," said one guard, looking up from cleaning his sword. "I was starting to worry that you'd changed your mind about all of this."
Gamin clasped a hand on the guard's shoulder. "Malik, my friend, I thought you knew me better than that."
"Ha! And I thought I knew myself. Then today I decided to turn against everything I ever believed in."
Gamin nodded. "I think we're all going to be doing plenty of self-reflection when this is over."
"Assuming we're still here when it's over," Malik deadpanned.
"Why the doubts, Malik?" asked Gamin, raising his eyebrows slightly. "Weren't you the one who announced we were taking this Castle 'this very night'?"
"In my defense, that was more of a spur-of-the-moment suggestion."
Gamin gazed around the armory. "A very popular suggestion from the looks of it," he remarked, offering Malik a wryly smile.
He felt a tap on his shoulder. "Pardon me, Section Leader. But may I have a word with you?"
Gamin turned around. His smile faltered when he saw who it was. "You should go, Paladin," he urged, his tone now sober. "You've already risked your life coming here to warn us of the Skeksis' treachery. There's no need for you to get involved in this."
The red-haired Paladin was having none of it. "I think I'm entitled to a little payback," he asserted, his hand gripped tightly on the handle of his sword, clearly yearning to unsheathe it. "The All-Maudra was my charge. I swore I would die in defense of her if need be. But in the end, it was she who died trying to protect me. I owe it to her memory to see that the Emperor and his lackeys are brought to justice."
Despite his misgivings, Gamin nodded. "I understand, Arric. Thank you. Now, what is it you want to talk about it?"
"Earlier today, Princess Tavra, the All-Maudra's second-born, entered the Castle and helped free your Drenchen comrade," Arric explained. "But she didn't leave with him. Her companions told me they last saw her following the Emperor into the catacombs beneath the Castle. Have you seen or heard anything of her?"
Startled by the Paladin's latest revelation, Gamin shook his head. "I didn't even know she was here. I'm sorry, Arric, but I don't have any information."
"Then I have another reason for staying with you," Arric stated. "I cannot leave here while there's a chance the princess is alive." He lowered his head, solemnly adding, "Not after what happened to her mother."
Again, Gamin nodded. "Of course. Thra willing, we will find her, alive and safe."
He turned to address his fellow guards. "All right, let's get this started. First of all, thank you for coming." He paused, not certain of what to say next. His Stonewood training had taught him plenty about being a warrior, but sadly, nothing about giving speeches.
A couple moments of awkward silence passed before he found his voice again. "I confess I'm surprised to see that everyone showed up. I don't know if I should be proud or disappointed by your eagerness to commit treason."
There was some scattered laughter from the audience, but other than that everyone just stood there, waiting for him to continue.
He took a deep breath and sighed before continuing. "I think, though, that from the day we lost Mira, we all knew, deep in our hearts, that we were not being told the truth about her death. At first, we told each other - and ourselves - to ignore those feelings. It was... easier to believe the lies we were being told rather than face the truth. But now the truth stares us in the face. And it's more terrible than any of us could have imagined. All we can do now is act."
Out of the corner of his eye, Gamin spotted acting-Captain Tolyn standing alone, silent, arms folded across his chest, his expression completely unreadable.
"Now then," he said, turning his attention back to the rest of the Guard, "I've already gone over my plan with the Gelfling in my section. They're on Watch right now, maintaining the pretense that everything is normal. I've also told them that if anything goes wrong tonight, that they should head for Stone-In-The-Wood immediately."
He paused, wondering if he'd been selfish to choose his own Gelfling as the ones who'd be spared the consequences of any failure on his part.
Pushing that thought aside, he continued. "As for the rest of us, this is the plan: The Lords-" he quickly corrected himself "-the Skeksis will be feasting in a few hours. They'll have soon stuffed and drunk themselves to the brim. That's when we'll storm the throne room and take them by surprise."
The Gelfling in attendance began voicing their approval.
"We'll have them completely outnumbered," a grizzled Drenchen remarked.
"They'll be in no condition to fight," added a bald Spriton.
"I can't wait to give those foul lizards a taste of my blade," a dirty-blonde female Vapran said eagerly.
Isa raised her hand. "How will we know exactly when the Skeksis are most vulnerable?" she asked. "Guards are never allowed in the throne room during the feasts. If the Skeksis catch us spying on them while they eat, they'll know we're up to something."
"She's right. The only ones allowed in the throne room during the feasts are the Podlings," Malik pointed out.
"I know. Which is exactly why we'll be watching the Podlings," replied Gamin. "We'll wait for them to send out the Ulcola beetles."
"Ulcola beetles?" questioned one of the newer guards. "What's so special about them?"
"The Skeksis like to eat them at the end of their feasts," Gamin explained. "They act as a stool softener."
"I don't think I needed to know that last part," muttered Arric.
"Malik and Isa will watch the kitchens," Gamin continued. "A few of us will patrol the corridors. Like those on Watch right now, they'll be maintaining a pretense of normalcy. The rest of us will wait here in the armory. As soon as the Podlings bring out the Ulcola beetles, we'll make our move."
"What about the Chamberlain?" asked Malik. "Him and the other Skeksis who aren't here right now?"
"We'll worry about them later. Right now, our priority is to seize this Castle." Gamin gazed around the armory. "Are there any more questions?"
When no one said a thing, he turned to Tolyn. "Is there anything you'd like to say, Tolyn?"
Tolyn bristled. "Me?"
"You haven't said a word this entire time."
"I was under the impression you were in charge here," Tolyn replied stiffly.
"Technically, you're still acting-Captain. I thought you might have something to say."
Tolyn shrugged. "What is there left to say, Gamin? Like you said, all we can do now is act."
Gamin nodded. "Well spoken." He turned back to the other guards. "This is... not a situation any of us wished to find ourselves in," he said solemnly. "All our lives we have served the Skeksis faithfully. I'm sure some of you still have doubts and misgivings. I admit, I have many questions myself. But we've all heard Arric's tale. Our comrade Mira was murdered at the hands of the Skeksis. Our friend Rian was then falsely accused of her death. When the Captain tried to protect his son, as any father would, the Skeksis killed him, too. And now the All-Maudra is dead. Murdered in cold blood because she refused to betray her people. We also know the Skeksis plan to drain more of our kind for their essence. Just like they drained Mira. We cannot deny the truth any longer. The Skeksis have betrayed us. They have betrayed the Crystal. Betrayed Thra. We are left with no choice but to remove them from power."
The Gelfling in the armory responded with nods and utterances of agreement.
"What will we do with the Skeksis once we've captured them?" asked Malik.
"We should show them the same mercy they showed Mira, the Captain, and the All-Maudra," growled Isa. "None."
"No," said Gamin sharply. "We may no longer serve the Skeksis, but we still serve Thra and the Crystal. And we are not murderers. The Skeksis will be imprisoned. They will be made to answer for their crimes, but it is not us who will decide their fate. Thra will decide."
He sighed again. Time's growing short. Better wrap this up now, he thought.
"Night will soon fall upon the Castle. Thra willing, when the First Brother rises tomorrow, it will be a new day for all of us." He pulled out his sword and thrust it high above his head. "For Thra, my brothers and sisters! For Thra!"
"For Thra!" Every guard thrust their weapon into the air...
...except for Tolyn, who, unnoticed by Gamin and the others, had quietly slipped out of the armory.
To be continued...