I don't really like waking up from being unconscious. If I'm unconscious it means that something bad has happened to me. It's not quite as easy as waking up from a dream. As you can imagine, the first thing I did upon waking up was open my eyes. Everything was blurry. "Ugh... what happened?" Why is everything always blurry when I wake up?
Canary was standing over me, his wrinkled body and his dull eyes looking more youthful. He had a satchel on and I could see a ruby poking out of it. "Good. You woke up. The Flock was getting tired of waiting on you."
"The Flock?" I asked, standing up. I looked at him cautiously. "A better question is how you are alive."
It was dawning on me that I didn't need to bow to authority anymore.
He nodded. "Direct to the point, are you friend? The Flock is a group of Canaries that successfully went rogue and lived in the unexplored caves. They were kept alive by a few traitor compound leaders. Compound 23 had one such leader. On the day that I you arrived I was cut off from the entrance to my tunnel by a rock slide. I waited hours for help to arrive and it never did. I blacked out and woke up in another tunnel filled the Flock."
That would explain quite a bit. "Hm. So... Can I join this flock?" I asked. How big of a group are they?
He nodded. "And for your unanswered question, we are currently 17 strong."
I blinked. I was hoping for more. "Only 17?"
"We lost quite a few Canaries in the attack on the capitol building. At least twenty. The ones who are left are the ones who rallied the other escaping Canaries who were not of the Flock."
I smiled. They had to have gotten quite a few of them into the Flock that he wasn't talking about. "And what happened to them?"
"They split up into groups. One group when they heard there were still thousands of slaves buried underground took upon the name of Compounders and have been focusing on putting out the fires on compound 1. They've made a significant amount of progress, but when the slavers come back and the first compound is clear, it will be easy for them to retake control of the slaves." He looked down. "Honestly, most of the Flock wants to use the tunnels we have to escort as many slaves as they can through the tunnels. I had to stop them."
I raised an eyebrow, not that concerned about the other slaves. What mattered was that I was out. I was free.
"Another group is the Guard. They are the remnants of the islands government that escaped our initial strike and the rest of the slavers. They have most of the weapons on the island. Their main base is located near a tunnel though and I think if something explosive enough was placed under there it would collapse their headquarters. However... we would lose the weapons and the armor. They have control over one of the few functioning forges on the island."
I nodded along, intrigued. "Has the Guard done anything aggressive?"
He shook his head. "They haven't done anything after declaring their group and their apparent right over the island. They are defensive. I think they are stockpiling their weapons."
I made a note to make sure to get at that stockpile. "Continue on."
"The last group we really have to worry about is the Magickers. They managed to break into the library and overcome the defenses surrounding the magic section. They are the most aggressive right now, striking against other slave groups. Or brother organization, the Tunnel Snakes have already fallen to them."
"Why do we have to fight?" I really wanted to hitch a ride to the nearest free island and forget about all of this.
"Because every slave on this island has been marked. The slave ship are going to come back in around a month with massive reinforcements. If we aren't united against them, or well armed, they will sweep us and take no prisoners. This entire island will go back to being a slave outpost for mining metals." He looked down. "And well, we'll be dead."
That's a good reason to fight them off.
"So... clearly, the Guard is not our biggest priority." I said, a plan forming. "The Magickers or the Compounders. The Compounders will have access to the biggest cache of raw materials once this is over. If we can negotiate them to fight with us with the conditions that after they fight for us we will help to release compound 1, will that take care of them?"
He nodded, his eyes slowly brightening with an emotion which only made me sick. There was no room for hope for this. If you had hope, that meant that you believed in luck and you wouldn't try as hard.
"Yes. That should take care of them. We have a large problem though. You caught a few tar lakes on fire down in the caves." He winced.
I groaned. "Let me guess. The slave down there don't have much longer to live?"
"That's the gist of it. Come out onto the balcony with me. I need to show you something." He walked away from me.
I sat up and rolled out of bed. I landed hard on my hooves and let out an grunt of pain. I was bandaged heavily and the fact I couldn't feel them I took to be a bad sign.
You know. I really should have been panicking.
I walked out on the balcony. The sun was slowly starting to set and it's warm rays cast down over us. I guess it would've been oddly romantic if I still wasn't freaked out by Canary's odd fixation on me.
"Isn't it beautiful?" He nudged me.
Oh god. Was he trying to come on to me? I got out of range of his legs. "Yeah. I guess." Keep calm.
"I haven't seen the sunset in two years. I think that all of that time just made my heart grow fonder for it." He said, still creeping me out.
"Uh... sure. Let's go with that."
"This is what we fight for. We all should have the right to fight under the sun for our lives. Being trapped under the stone is just barely living."
Ok. He was slowly stopping with the creepy. "Yeah."
"Which is why I will fight for you. You seem like you have more of a plan with what to do with this island than anybody else. I know that you have plans and I want to be a part of them." He turned to me with a non romantic smile.
"Ok. You will fight for me?" Did I... get a minion?
He nodded. "I will fight for you as long as the sun sets somewhere on this world. You set us all free and I will fight along side you to keep us free."
I smiled. Things were going well. "Say Canary, what is your name?"
"As much as I wished I remembered my old name, I don't. You can call me Canary. The others are getting their own names. What is your name, Canary?" He asked me.
It took a long while before I remembered my own name."You can call me Ivan." I continued looking around the island, or at least what I could see. Rubble was all that remained of quite a few buildings that I assumed were of the government. A large cloud of smoke continued to rise from nearby and it blocked a great deal of my vision. I turned my head and looked to the right. I could see sparkling shores maybe a mile away.
From the remnants of my old life I was going to forge a new one. I thought this island could be the same. "What is this island's name?
He cleared his throat. "This is the island of Rej. A long time ago, years before all of the ore and gems were discovered here, Zebras were free. They were all part of a single nation. And the neighboring islands were friendly and Rej traded with them. But... Rej was too close to the main land. Slavers came and took over Rej, blasting everything with magic and science and whatever else. The other islands held off the outsiders for a time but they too fell to them."
An idea was forming in my head. I could take Rej for myself. It was almost a perfect island paradise. I would rule over Rej... and then 'Liberate' the other islands. They would be all too happy to serve their savior. I could to whatever I wanted after that.
And all I had to do was take over Rej in a month.