- Heroes are where you find them.
The words of Galen's long dead father echoed in his head as he
leaned on a Zailese darshan, the great double-bladed spear easily
supporting his giant frame. The wound in his calf throbbed with each
heartbeat, however, courtesy of the very spear he now leaned on. Its
former owner lay at his booted feet, a casualty of Galen's great
sword, Frost. Around him, a score or more of Frost's many
lay crumpled and slain, their life's blood flowing into the
Galen had made his stand here, not letting the banner of Aerinor
fall. Even now the silver griffin on a blue field waved in the
breeze, the staff firmly placed in the ground. At the last, with all
his men fallen, Galen had stood alone.
He looked around, peering slowly at the carnage spread out over the
once beautiful Lily Fields, sighing at their destruction. The hot
sun beat down on his neck and a dry wind caressed his face, a wind
of ill omen. In the distance, the curlews muttered and croaked,
picking at the carrion that littered the groundmen and horses,
their blood drying in the summer sun, the once white and pink
flowers of the fields now flecked with crimson.
There were few left standing after the great battle. Mostly men from
his own company, who were already looting the dead, looking for lost
friends or praying for miracles. None to mourn the dead . . . except
Bravery is conquering your fear, not the lack of it. Glory rests in
those who embrace their demons.
Another saying of his sire. He had never known what it meant . . .
until today. He had seen bravery. True bravery.
They had been outnumbered five to one. The Zailese horde had
stretched to the horizon, their great oliphaunts trumpeting in the
predawn with their ponderous feet shaking the ground. The Zailese
spears glinted in the dawn sun. And still, Galen and his company had
marched out to be overwhelmed, to die like men.
His right-side brother had fallen by a black fletched arrow. His
left-side brother felled by a spear thrust. Still they pressed on.
Savagery. Blood. Screaming. Fear. They pressed on.
Galen saw armor clad knights on horseback miraculously fight their
way through the Zailese lines, then charge back, time and time
again. He saw archers use up their arrows and fight with knives and
their bare hands, if need be. He saw squires protect their charges
with their lives, one boy taking a spear thrust in the side to
protect his patron. Such things whirled all around him. And he
For two days they hammered against each other, bled, and died. Two
days of fury and screams. Of burning sun and flies the size of
walnuts, buzzing and biting the hordes of men locked in mortal
combat. Two days of death.
Now it was over. If such things were really ever over. Men kill.
They always have. It was a vicious circle, time without end.
At the last, the Zailese had been routed, driven back across the
border into the burning sands of their vast empire, their dreams of
conquest shattered. Their legendary Jackal fighters were slain to
the last man, stoic and proud with their darshans twirling in their
hands. Baron Mabry's army had suddenly appeared, thought to be
days away. They had marched straight on through the night, desperate
to reach the Lily Fields in time.
In the end, the West had bent under the Zailese war wind, but it had
not broken. They survived. Survived until the next time the Zailese
tried to expand northward. Now Galen stood, mourning, searching for
lost heroes. Searching for meaning in all the madness. For solace.
There never was any.
Just sadness and pain. Then the next battle. The next war. The next
threat. The wheel was infinite and never stopped. It turned forever.
"It is time, General."
Galen nodded at the blue-cloaked men who waited on him. His
bodyguard. His brothers.
They stared at him and smiled. Here was their leader, their
commander, their king. A hero. He had won the day, freed their land
once again, protected their kin.
Galen knew what they thought of him. Knew what they saw. Fools,
betrayed by their idealism. He was no hero. Just a man, like so many
others, like the ones lying cold in the fields, their flowers
already on their graves. Unlike them, however, he continued on. He
always did. Bravery. His own little bit, he mused.