The Game Of War

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Grandpapa's Stories

Submitted: May 30, 2017

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Submitted: May 30, 2017

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“Grandpapa, this is boring. Can you tell me a story?”

 

“Now, now, my child, I told you this task requires patience and thought.”

 

“But it’s boooooring!”

 

“Very well, my cherry plum pie; how about one of a great battle? A tale of mighty warriors and valiant knights is always a fun tale to tell. So, let’s get stuck into the action, shall we?”

 

 

 

A rain of black dripped through the saturated sunrise, every individual droplet humming with anticipation. The swarm rose, rose, rose, caressed the edge of the sky in a single moment of pure, complete peace, and then returned to the earth with the full fury of a silent storm. The only sounds heard then were the thunks of the arrows finding their marks, and the screams of the soldiers not lucky enough to receive a mortal wound. Shields were perforated, wood was splintered; Death’s dreaded blade cut down any in its way.

 

And then the cavalry descended upon us like a cyclone of hoof and blade, every thunderous step crashing down with the accompaniment of icy steel - a bitter hail that tore through armour and flesh with equal abandon. They rode in, their mighty steeds clearing the front lines in a single bound; they hadn’t even returned to the ground before they began to shred through our defence, leaving spasms of red confetti to disperse through the air.

 

Next came the infantry lines, a surging tide of iron that battered the already-broken front lines, withdrew periodically, and then split apart to allow for the second flood to surge through. All hope was torn from our grasp by their merciless assault; our captains had fallen, our generals were nowhere to be seen, our ranks were in a state of complete and total chaos. We senseless sheep, shepherdless, then did the only thing we could think of - we retreated.

 

It turned out to be a terrible mistake.

 

With our backs exposed, weapons on the floor, splintered shields abandoned, the horsemen had no trouble cutting us down like dogs; and when we turned once more to fight back, we were met not with knights on horseback, but with another volley of death.

 

No brother of mine survived the day.

 

 

 

At the end of the massacre - this bloody business that can scarcely be called war - naught but a few of our were left, our banners torn and defiled like the scattered remains of broken cathedral glass. Only our king stood tall, crimson blade drawn in defiance to the swarm that amassed against him - his beloved wife, the superior warrior of the pair, had fallen in battle not long after the two oceans of death had met. Now, he was all that stood between his kingdom and devastation.

 

He knew that he would fall. The enemy were many - he was one. The best he could wish for was an honourable defeat. So he stood at the crest of his hill and waited for his end to come.

 

Soon, the grass at the bottom of the hill was no longer visible - in its stead stood row upon row of warmonger, their dark steel irradiating malice and death. They bashed their shields and chanted death as their own king, in his incredible arrogance, came to challenge his vanquished foe to one final duel. For honour’s sake.

 

This false king, this deceitful usurper of an order that has been held for generation upon generation, now stood not ten feet from him. He was clad in formidable platemail, blacker even than the charcoal great helm that rested upon his head and gave no insight as to what turmoil raged within. A sword hung from its sheath, the hilt still bloody from the battle and the ruby set deep into the pommel as deep as the ichor that surrounded it. A flag, buried in the ground but still clutched by his left hand - the flag of the rebellious uprising that had plagued our good king for so long - billowed dramatically in the wind, the soft meanders of the cloth draping themselves over his armour’s sharp edges.

 

No sound was uttered. Save for the slowly rising wind, the world was still and silent - a mirror, patiently waiting to be broken, for that decisive crunch, that inevitable moment after tranquility where everything broke into a thousand pieces and chaos took the world by storm. And, just as he was about to take matters into his own hands, the usurper made the first move.

 

Cruel, clawed fingers wrapped around the blade’s bloodied hilt with a meticulously calculated slowness.

 

A rough, piercing scream rang from the sword, like a smoker’s song, as it scraped against the iron scabbard on its way out.

 

And suddenly they were together. They clashed in a tumultuous crescendo of steel, weaving in and out of strokes, painting a picture, their blood the paint and the world their canvas. They danced to and fro, back and forth, swaying with the wind, with each other’s blows, with the momentum of their swift counter. There was no sound, only the dull shake of clashing steel; there was no fury, only the serene tranquility of true combat; there was no world, only their other half, the yin to their yang. Only they were real. Anything else was unimportant, a passing thought that flitted through life in one moment and winked out of existence the next.

 

They eventually parted, both weary but without major injury. Heavy breathing now introduced itself to the silence. Other sounds began to arrive - a commotion was picking up somewhere off to the East, but neither paid attention to it. Instead of returning to the hurricane of blows that had ensued before, they now circled one another attentively, eyes fixated on their opponent’s mannerisms, their movements, their steps; this was as much a battle of wits as it was of might, and whoever discovered their enemy’s weakness first would certainly win.

 

The false king started without warning, rushing to close the distance between the two before his advantage was spent. No such luck - the true king had been expecting this. He parried the lunge imperfectly, catching a deep gash across his forearm, then planted an ironclad boot on the pretender’s chest and heaved, sending him several feet back.

 

After regaining his footing on the dry grass, the imposter hunched down slightly into a more defensive stance and raised this sword in challenge. The commotion from before was now beginning to rise in volume, but the two duelists shut it out and concentrated on each other, lest one steal a sneaky blow and end it here.

 

The true king raised his blade, most likely for the last time. He’d sustained more damage than his opponent had - he could barely lift his sword now, much less continue the battle for any longer. This fight would kill him, or at least render him unable to fight with his right arm ever again. But if that was his punishment, he’d be damned if that vile trickster didn’t pay his dues too. His mind made up, he emitted a guttural growl from deep, deep in his throat, and charged.

 

A flash of white, blindingly fast; then, a spurt of red. Everything stopped. The imposter dropped his blade as his face contorted into a visage of betrayal, and then his eyes took on a milky sheen. With agonising lethargy, he collapsed to the ground, a raw chasm of sore flesh smashed through his spine. And, behind him, the queen stood, tall and proud, her ivory battle dress scored with splatters of blood.

 

 

 

“But how, Grandpapa? That’s cheating, i took your queen already!”

 

“That’s called promotion, my little pumpkin. It’s a real rule in chess. Also, my dearest one, next time you corner a king, use your other pieces to take it; using your own king is showing off, and will just result in another loss.”

 

“Well, I think you’re cheating.”

 

“The ones closest to you would never cheat you. But don’t ever forget that others have no such qualms. Sleep tight, little one.”


© Copyright 2017 Avery Greyfield. All rights reserved.

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