Later that night, the group reconvened in the Gilded Piglet, taking the conversation to Lorathor’s room.
“They’re not in the same prison we were in,” Ossman started. “In fact, most people don’t know our prison existed. Or at least, didn’t until we broke out.”
“How could they not even know it existed?” Tythel asked, tilting her head in confusion.
“Because there’s a different prison,” Ossman said, settling into a chair they’d brought up from the common room. “A much bigger one.”
“It’s likely that they wanted to keep our imprisonment secret,” Eupheme added, leaning forward. “In case Tythel thought joining those murderous bastards was a good idea – they would have been able to pretend she was always on their side.”
Tythel nodded slowly at the logic. “I take it the rest of the army is in the other prison?”
Ossman frowned. “Yeah. As well as a couple thousand other people.”
“Flath,” Haradeth swore. “When we liberate our people, we risk releasing some of the others.”
“But surely that won’t be that bad?” Tythel asked. “I mean, they’re prisoners of the Alohym, surely they could be allies…” She glanced around and saw the fallen faces.
“They’re not just rebels, Tythel,” Armin said. “Thieves, murderers, the works. All are locked up in there.”
Haradeth took a deep breath. “We’ll throw that to the Shadow for now. Our people are in that prison – what else did you manage to learn about it, Ossman?”
“They converted Goldstone Keep into the prison. Instead of doors, they have fields of Unlight keeping people from escaping. It’s got a defensive wall I wouldn’t want to assault with our army on the outside. Guard towers every twenty paces, with long-range arcwands in each one. The wall is thick stone, from back in the old days, and well maintained.”
“That last part matches with what my rats told me,” Haradeth said. “No way in or out besides the doors. The windows are too small for any of us to fit through.”
“I could try jumping the wall,” Tythel said uncertainly.
“No,” Haradeth said. “Not with snipers every twenty paces. Even in the dark, you’ll be cut down before you hit the ground.”
Tythel leaned back into her chair, frowning.
“Oh, it gets better,” Ossman said in a tone that indicated anything but an improvement. “There’s always at least one Alohym physically there.”
That brought a round of silence to the room. No one’s managed to kill one of those things yet, Tythel thought with a shudder. “What about bribing the guards?”
“They’re too loyal,” Haradeth said. “If we had more time, we could probably find one who would turn against their masters, but we’ve only got a couple days left.”
“Well,” Armin said, with a smile that looked forced even to Tythel, “at least I have something we can use. You may all bow before my amazing talent.”
“We’re not going to bow until you prove how you’re amazing, assuming we even do then.” Tythel said with a blink of appreciation at the joke.
“Fine,” Armin gave an over dramatic sigh. “The unlight barriers they use in place of doors? They’re controlled from the old Magus Tower, which is outside the keep. If we get in there we can disable the field.”
The silence this time was lighter than the one before. “So if we turn it off from back here…” Tythel murmured.
“We only have to assault the Magus Tower.” Armin said with a nod of encouragement. “We can release prisoners as we wish if we control it, so we can even avoid releasing the criminals in there.”
“And as soon as we do, our troops get cut down by the snipers,” Ossman said with a shake of his head.
“What if they didn’t?” Tythel asked, tilting her head in thought.
Now everyone was looking at her. “And how, exactly, do we accomplish that?” Haradeth asked.
Instead of answering, Tythel turned to Lorathor. “Did your contacts know how large the garrison here is?”
Lorathor nodded. “They’ve brought in reinforcements for the big event, so it’s about five hundred.”
Tythel tapped her chin. “That seems low,” she said.
“It’s all they’ve needed to hold us off before,” Lorathor explained. “The Alohym don’t marshall huge armies for the most part. They just equip the forces they have as much as possible.”
“That’s still more than we have,” Haradeth added. “Even if we release everyone of our men they have locked up…”
“Then we don’t just release our men. We let everyone out.” Tythel said. “The criminals, the rebels, all of them. In fact, we let the ones who aren’t with us out first.”
“Light, that’s brutal,” Armin muttered.
Tythel nodded. “Yes, it is. But it could work. We let the initial wave overwhelm the guards, then we let our people out.”
“It could work,” Haradeth said thoughtfully, “Damn me to Shadow, but it could work.” His frown returned. “There’s still the issue of what to do after we get them out, however.”
“We arm them,” Eupheme said. “Did any of you find where the armory was?”
“We were beneath it,” Ossman said.
“How far is that from the prison?”
“About six blocks.”
Eupheme smiled. “The garrison will be torn between coming for the prisoners and coming for us. Sheer weight of numbers will get us out of the initial push. Then it’s six blocks to get our people to the armory.”
“Then we have to get them out of the city, but once everyone’s armed…” Ossman said with a slow smile..
“Once we have an armed force, it becomes much easier,” Haradeth agreed. He looked around the room. “Eupheme, can you walk?”
She nodded. “I don’t want to try to carry anything heavy, but I can walk well enough now.”
“Good.” He stood up, brushing himself off as he did. “Then everyone get ready. We head for the tower in two hours. Unless someone has objections?”
“Just to be clear here,” Armin said, furrowing his eyebrows, “we are planning to use the other prisoners to draw fire from our people. Actually, let me drop the euphemism. We’re planning to send them to be slaughtered for our gain. Is that the plan?” He settled his gaze on Tythel.
“Yes,” Tythel said. “I don’t like it, Armin, but unless we have a better idea…”
Armin shook his head. “I don’t have a better idea. I knew when I started this I’d have to do things I found disgusting. But I will never, ever do them by talking around the horrible thing. If we’re going to do something awful? We call it awful, we admit what we’re doing is terrible, and then decide if we’re comfortable with it. No talking around it, no Alohym propaganda about it. We name it.”
Tythel nodded slowly. “Agreed. Then yes, we are planning to send the other prisoners to get slaughtered for our gain. I do think we won’t lose all of them. I think we’ll end up freeing a lot of them. But we’re letting them out so our people are safer.”
“Well. As long as we’re admitting it.” Armin looked at Tythel, and she found herself wishing more than usual that she could read expressions better. There was something in his eyes she couldn’t place, but it made her uncomfortable.
“Any other objections?” Haradeth asked after a pause.
No one had any.
“Then get ready. Two hours.”
Tythel wanted to talk to Armin, but he was out the door before Haradeth had finished the last word.