The Strategist's Apprentice
By Robert Langmaack
“WHAT?!” bellowed the general. Everyone else in the command tent watched him nervously. “Those Levaran bastards, trying to attack us here? Fools! Our troops will have them running back home with their tails between their legs like the whelps they are! Lieutenant Morres!”
A young officer to his right saluted. “Sir?”
“Go prepare the men for battle. If the enemy’s going to be here in two days, I want them ready to go by tomorrow. We’ll teach those wildmen just how safe they are under my watch!” The general flashed a vicious grin.
Another man, an aging gentleman dressed in the royal strategist regalia, cleared his throat and began speaking carefully. “General, sir, the enemy may have a stratagem in store for us. Maybe we should hold off on attacking until we have a plan of our own.” Behind him, a young boy of eight was writing on parchment with a furrowed brow, occasionally looking up at the assembly with interest.
“Stratagem? Ha!” the general barked. “Bartholomew, our troops are superior to theirs in every way. Who has need of a strategy for a simple skirmish like this?”
“Perhaps,” said Lieutenant Morres, scratching his beard stubble nervously, “we should take precautions, sir, just in case.”
The general waved these words away. “Enough! My mind’s made up! Morres, prepare the men! We march at sun-up!”
The lieutenant sighed briefly, but saluted again. “Yessir.”
As the conversation ended and people began exiting the tent, the young boy got his master’s attention. “Um, master,” he said quietly, “why aren’t you telling him about the Levarans’ flanking tactic?”
Bartholomew hushed him. “The general’s decision is final… as it always is,” he sighed. “And we must always respect the chain of command. Besides, I haven’t decided on a counter-tactic to propose yet, and he is right about our troops. They’ll be fine.” Muttering, he added, “Probably. Now come.”
Vander frowned. “Yes, master.” He looked at the map again one more time before running out of the tent.
That night, Vander snuck out of his tent and made his way to the officers’ quarter. Although he had been told not to wander around at night, he knew his master was worried about the outcome of the battle. ‘A wise strategist plans for every battle, no matter how simple it seems,’ he always said to him. Sadly, he also knew his master wouldn’t say anything to anger the general. He was pretty scary, I guess, he thought. Still, this is for the good of the troops! I have to tell someone!
He had just reached the outer tents of the officer’s quarter when a guard’s voice stopped him in his tracks. “You there, boy! Why are you out here so late?”
Vander began to panic, “I-I-I, um, I-I have a m-message for…for, um…”
“A message? For whom?”
The boy continued stammering for a few moments, until suddenly he remembered a name. “M-Morres! Lieutenant Morres, sir! My master said it’s urgent!”
“Master? Oh, right, Bartholomew’s boy.” The guard looked over the boy curiously, but shrugged. “Wait here, I’ll go see if he’s awake.”
Soon, Vander was standing before Lieutenant Morres. The boy looked up at him. He wore a soft smile on his tired face, which soothed Vander’s fears immediately.
“So, you are Bartholomew’s apprentice, aye?” said the lieutenant. “Your master speaks well of you.”
Vander couldn’t help but smile. “Thank you, sir.”
Morres let out a small chuckle. “So, what’s this message Bartholomew has for me?”
“Well, sir, he’s concerned about the upcoming battle. He was hoping you could convince the general to use a plan he devised.”
The lieutenant regarded him quietly. “I see. And why isn’t Bartholomew himself telling me this?”
Vander fidgeted. “Um, h-he started feeling sick and needed his rest, so he sent me.”
“Hmm. Well, the general is notoriously stubborn, especially when the Levarans are concerned. Still, perhaps I could convince him while we’re on the march. What is this plan then?”
“It’s…well…” Vander tried to speak, but couldn’t. His eyes kept glancing to the map. “I can show you on there.” After an awkward pause, he added, “Th-that’s how my master showed me, I mean.”
Morres nodded. He watched as the young apprentice began moving markers around silently on the map with a surprising intensity. Once he was finished, he redid the battle for Morres, speaking with confidence about the troops’ movements. When he was finished describing his plan, the boy backed away and let the lieutenant look over everything.
“So,” said Vander, once again speaking nervously, “what do you think?”
Morres smiled. “Impressive. With this, even if the Levarans manage to surprise us on the battlefield, we’ll be ready.” He turned his attention back to the boy. “Alright then, go tell your master to rest easy. I’ll make sure our troops are ready for the enemy.”
“I will sir, thank you!” Vander bowed and left, smiling all the way back to his master’s tent.
Two days later, the atmosphere in the camp was electric after their victory. In the command tent, the general clapped his lieutenant on the back. “Ha ha! Excellent work, Morres! They were practically tripping over themselves trying to run away!”
Morres chuckled. “Thank you sir, but the credit really should go to Bartholomew. It was his tactic, not mine.”
Startled, Bartholomew looked up. “What?”
“No need to be modest,” continued Morres. “We’d almost certainly had lost if they’d managed to pull off their flanking maneuver.”
The aging strategist just blinked. “I-I’m sorry milord, but I never devised a plan for that.”
“What’re you talking about? Your apprentice came in and told me about it last night!”
“Vander? I never sent Vander out for anything!"
The officers all looked at each other, then at the young boy. Vander looked up from his notes, saw everyone, and frowned. Stammering, he shrank and said, "A-am I in trouble now?"
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I'm a college graduate currently between jobs. I've earned a BFA in Creative Writing, and am now working on sharpening my writing skills in my spare time.
Labels: Robert Langmaack