Chapter 1: The End?

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 138

All that is Necessary for Evil


 

Justin could see his breath as he slowly walked his post.

What it will be like to die? Will it be painful or a dull tingling sensation? Will it be quick and painless or slow and agonizing?

He shook his head and tried to think of something else.

As much as he didn't want it to, his mind kept drifting back to this subject. It wasn't because he wished for death, quite the opposite, he was young and wanted to live. He wanted to go home and marry Alice, he wanted to continue the family business of making the finest swords in the country, it was what he had wanted to do for as long as he could remember. It was all about to come together, he and Alice were to be married and his father was about to make him a partner in the workshop but that all seemed
like a lifetime ago.

He shook his head again, he had to stop thinking about home! It hurt way too much! The fact that he might never again see those he loved was too terrible to contemplate. It had all started with one terrible word, “Invasion!” Old enemies had crossed the border and surprised the garrison stationed there. When the remains of the fort were investigated, the news was bad. Signs of barbaric cruelty were visible everywhere, the few survivors found there died shortly afterward from their wounds.

It had been the same story in every garrison, village, and city the enemy hoard had visited. Just thinking about it made Justin boil with rage all over again. That was one of the reasons he joined the king's army, he had heard the tales of what the enemy was doing to innocent people... to his people and it filled him with an anger he had never known before. That wouldn't happen in his city, not if he could do anything to stop it!

Soon after, he was put through the intense training program which made the king's troops such feared fighters. Then without delay, he was outfitted in the king's livery, equipped with a sword, and marched across the country to face an enemy that was barely human. Now, here he was standing as a barrier between all he loved and complete desolation. It made him feel sick to his stomach. At the moment, he wished he was somewhere else or at least had something better than a flimsy wooden wall, between him and the enemy. The enemy camp was located just beyond catapult range of their walls in a wide valley, through which the king's highway ran. The fort was strategically placed, so as to monitor and if necessary block all traffic along this road. A particularly handy feature at this moment.

At that thought, he stopped walking and turned towards the enemy camp and listened. He recognized a few sounds, the howl of a werewolf, the wail of a satyr, the bellowing of a minotaur, and... he didn't know what that last one was and dreaded finding out. As he nervously checked the straps of his armor, he recalled how a few days before he had encountered the enemy for the first time.

He had been on a scouting mission with his sergeant when they had encountered an advance party of satyrs and werewolves. When he was younger he used to think these creatures were only myths but now here they were in the flesh and trying to tear him to pieces! The fight only lasted a few minutes but it seemed like an eternity, howls, screams, the sound of metal on metal and metal on flesh all fused in a terrible symphony of death and destruction. He remembered how during the struggle a couple of werewolves had attempted to drag off another young soldier just a few years older than him and without realizing what he was doing he had thrown himself at them, freed the young man, whose name was Richard and together they had defeated their opponents. From that point on the two of them had become fast friends.

Even that seemed so long ago, so much had happened since then. Nearly the entire enemy army had come into view and was spread out like an ocean, overflowing the valley. There were thousands of them and now that they had nearly gathered their full strength they would attack in force and Justin didn't know if the king's knights had the strength to stop them. He slammed a fist on the wall in frustration,

“When was evil allowed to get so strong?”

Justin turned to the sound of an armored figure coming up the steps behind him. It was his sergeant, in full armor and tunic, ready for battle. Justin bit his lip, came to attention, and hoped the older man hadn't heard him. No chance, the man was the epitome of a grizzled old war veteran, he had been in the king's service for years and had developed very keen senses. He had heard Justin's outburst and fully intended to answer the question.

“Mornin' Justin, how went the watch?” he asked the young man.

“All quiet sir, nothing to report,” Justin responded.

“Good... good, I figured the blighters would leave us alone most of the night but I doubt it will last. It'll be twilight soon and that's when our enemies are most active.”

Justin nodded and asked the question that had been on his mind,

“Can we stop them, sir?”

The old man was silent a moment before answering,

“I don't know, son,” He paused before adding, “However, what I do know is we shall meet them in battle and do our duty, regardless of the outcome.”

By this time, more troops were arriving to prepare for the expected attack and had heard their sergeant's words. Noticing the other men arriving the old man continued in a louder voice so all could hear him.

“Yes, that's right! We shall do our duty and if necessary we shall die doing it. We are his majesty's knights, we will not flee. We will stand and fight. A true soldier of the king never flees, even when his armor is rent and he bleeds from scores of wounds.”

He looked at Justin, “Some of you may ask yourselves how evil was able to spread and become so strong? Well, it's no great mystery, evil has been able to spread and take such deep root for one reason and one reason only. Dereliction of duty. When a man doesn't do his duty, evil is allowed to take root and spread. When those tasked with fighting it decide to give up because it's too difficult or too inconvenient.”

The men listened to their sergeant's words with growing resolve and tightened their grips on their weapons.

“When a man gets too lazy to do what is right, then and only then can evil get a foothold,”

He paused for a moment and looked into the eyes of the men gathering around him on the parapet, as well as those on the ground beneath. He saw fear. Fear of what the future would hold for each of them and their families. The old man knew he had to inspire them but there was no encouraging word he could give.

“I don't know what the future holds, lads. I don't know whether we will be celebrating victory tonight or lying dead on the field of battle. However, I am confident of this one thing. No matter how this battle ends it will not be said of the men defending these walls that they failed in their duty.”

Looks of fear and apprehension were replaced by those of grim determination to fight to the last.

“We all have loved ones we left behind when we entered the king's service and but our families are depending on us more than ever before.”

The old man spoke as though he were on the parade ground.

“The decision of allowing this evil to endure may have been made before our time but we are not responsible for the actions of those who came before us, we are however responsible for our own! We have before us a chance to shape the lives of those who come after us, will they live under the heel of evil or will they be free? That is the question we must decide here today! Evil can only win if good men cease to do what is right! I call upon you to stand with me today against the evil which threatens our people, which would destroy our nation and reduce our people to bondage and death! I will stand here and resist this evil today and I ask...”

He gestured toward the assembled knights.

“Will you stand with me!?”

The early morning air exploded with the sound of cheers and clashing weapons. The old man beamed with pride at his troops, he couldn't be more proud of them if they had been his own children. Most of them he had trained as raw recruits. He had been with them since the beginning, he had led them into their first action, been with them when they made their first kills, visited them when they were wounded, and mourned with them at the loss of friends. They were young but had been bled, hardened and now they were about to engage in one of the most decisive battles of their age. He knew they
wouldn't disappoint him.

The cheering was cut short by the sound of war horns in the enemy camp and the men raced to their positions. As Justin stood, sword and shield in hand, shoulder to shoulder with his comrades on the wall, he was just able to make out the enemy hoards heading their way. As he heard and saw the enemy host advancing, he began to feel sick with fear again but as he looked about him and saw the determination on the faces of those around him he steeled his resolve. Just then, he caught the eyes of Richard who was standing next to him and nodded. In that instant, although no words were spoken
between them, they knew they could each rely on the other to watch their back and were determined to fight and if necessary die, if it meant their loved ones would live.

At that moment, the colors with the royal crest were raised, a crown interlaced with thorns. At the sight of the king's banner, cheers went up all along the wall.

“FOR THE KING! FOR THE KING!”

As the first scaling ladders hit the wall, Justin thought of his family and Alice. He missed them terribly but he was determined, regardless of whether or not he ever saw them again, he wouldn't let them down! He would stand his ground and he would do his duty.

 

 


Submitted: December 07, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Dan Holman. All rights reserved.

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