A Mercenary's Tale

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
One warrior's fight to escape his father's legacy, while forfulling it at the same time. Set during the Gallic Wars. this is my favorite story that i have written, and my best IMHO!

Submitted: February 07, 2008

A A A | A A A

Submitted: February 07, 2008




a.d. IV Non. Sept.

We will march today. We will march the next day, and the day after that. After that, I am not sure, but it seems likely that we will march. That is my life, the march. Fifteen miles in a day, mile after mile blending together until all are one, and it is not apparent whether we are at the outset or conclusion of our journey, I, Rextugenos, march. We all march.

I am a warrior and sentry for the Gallic mercenary company known as the Lingones. We have been contacted by the Roman general Julius Caesar, who requires our assistance with fighting our fellow Gauls. Many have voiced protests over fighting our brothers, but Artos, our leader, has decided to go, and we must follow. It’s funny, I joined the Lingones to escape Gaul and my father’s legacy, but now I must return. I remember the day he died, killed twenty years ago over some perceived insult. I remember his hulking frame; the one I had wished to have so much when I was a small child of seven, every inch of that skin covered in tattoos, each of those tattoos representing a victory; I remember it crashing to the ground. I remember his great battleaxe, the one that took two men to carry back to my hut in Alesia, the one that is now sheathed on my back, tumbling from his suddenly lifeless fingers. I remember hearing a stranger’s voice that I recognized as my own yelling as I ran to his side. I remember his last words: “My son, do not let my memory die. Fulfill your birthright. Carry on the legacy of Orgetorix.” I remember concluding, after much thought, that my father was who I never wanted to be, who I never could be. Even so, in the midst of many a battle, I remember catching sight of my reflection in a shield, only to discover my father’s icy eyes and grim death’s-head smile glaring back at me, while the blood of others drips from the head of his great axe. If only I could forget.

As I sit and write this, I lift my head occasionally, as I am on sentry duty, and must guard the camp until my relief comes at midnight. Whenever I turn my head, however, I see the handle of my father’s axe, and I shudder to remember how good it feels to fight, to kill, to laugh aloud as the sons of many good, honest men, as other honorable soldiers die painful, horrid deaths because of me, because of me they die screaming, while I live, laughing and killing. I remember this, and I wonder how my father felt in a fight. Did he fight solely for the glory, or was it to be closer to the pain, suffering, and death that seemed to cling to him, and still holds fast to his bloodthirsty axe? Soon I may be able to ask him myself. Until then, I shall keep repeating what has become my mantra of late: I am my own man, self-made, and I shall never be my father.

“Midnight, Rex. Anything interesting?”

That is Karl, a Germanic tribesman who is the only non-Gaul in the Lingones, and the most recent recruit. He is a good friend, if a trifle superstitious and young. “No, Karl, although I think I might have seen some ‘Skotos’ in the woods over there…”

“Shut up! The wraith are real!”

“Fine, fine. Try to keep your eyes open this time, alright? I’m not supposed to tell you this, but Artos himself is going to relieve you, so he can catch you asleep. Be careful.”

“Yeah, thanks. I won’t let you down.”

Today we march.

a.d. III Non. Sept.

We are about to march. It is likely that we will march the day after this, and the next day. After that, I am not sure, but it seems probable that we will march. That is my life, the march. Fifteen or twenty five miles in a day, I, Rextugenos, march. We all march.

“Lingones, move out! Standard pace!” That is the signal. We are going to try to march twenty miles today. This is not the farthest we have marched in a day, nor the shortest distance. I march along, my father’s axe beating at my back with every step, as if to remind me of its presence, and its thirst for blood, its thirst for death. We have not been in a battle for nearly a month now, and the men are getting restless. I am getting restless. My father’s axe is getting restless.

As I write this, an old proverb occurs to me: “Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.” That is what happened. We were attacked, ambushed. An armed force of Gauls a hundred strong came charging out of the woods, screaming defiance in the form of dozens of hellish war cries, the many sounds clashing together as if to tell of the battle to come. We were outnumbered, with only thirty-six combatants to oppose their hundred. We were caught, standing in a valley with the foe on all sides. We were doomed to lose, we all knew. That said, we all vowed to go with a lion’s roar. My father’s axe leapt into my waiting hands, we were both eager, eager to fight, eager to wound, eager to maim, eager to kill. And so we did. Wave after wave of the enemy rolled and crashed into the Lingones’ lines, but we stood firm. No quarter was asked, none was given. I was sought out by many of the foe, who thought that my small, wiry frame would make me an easy target. They died. I stood tall, laughing as my father’s axe clove through body after body, always moving on in search of new blood to spill, new lives to steal.

It felt so good, so right, to fight, to kill, to have laughed aloud as the sons of many good, honest men, as other honorable soldiers died excruciating, appalling deaths because of me, died screaming because of me, while I live, laughing and slaughtering their brothers. Eventually, however, the far greater numbers of the enemy took their toll, and Karl, who had guarding my back with his distinctive warhammer, yelled that we were to retreat. His voice penetrated my bloodlust, and together we backed towards the main force. As I record this, however, it seems that it might have been better to stay and die honorably, but I will never know for sure.

Prid. Non. Sept.

We ran today. We ran and ran, but to no end. Now we have stopped running. More than fifty miles, mile after mile blending together until all are one, I, Rextugenos, ran. We all ran. And now we have stopped, our journeys ended, our lives about to end.

We are cornered in a cul-de-sac at the end of the valley we were traveling through. With nowhere for us to run, the enemy has set up their camp so that we are blocked in. The Lingones have also set up camp, getting rest while we can. Tomorrow we die.

We have discussed it, and it has been decided. Artos offered to allow those with families to escape under cover of darkness, and gave the slaves left alive their freedom, but we all stayed. We were warriors, and tomorrow the enemy shall learn the true meaning of that. For all that they killed, for the many miles that we ran, for daring to attack us and interfere with our duty, we shall make them pay. Over half of our fighters were slain in the initial engagement, and even with the freed slaves who opted to fight alongside us, our numbers only came to twenty. Early in the morning, at three o’clock, the hour of the wolf, the hour when most people are born, and the most die, we will come for them. We will do our best to raze their camp to the ground, and while we will all die, we will be remembered. Strange, that is all my father wanted, to be remembered. I suppose he was, in a way; his axe reminds me of him constantly. I have even been given his name; after a particularly long and brutal battle, I heard the others speaking of me in hushed tones, calling me Orgetorix, “the King of Killers”. I never want to be my father.

Three o’clock. It is time to strike. We charge in, waiting until the last minute to make any unnecessary noise. The sentries raise the alarm, but then they are savagely cut down, their bodies laying forgotten in the mayhem. Fighters mill about, trading blows, one falling, only to be trampled into the mud, forever nameless. I stride through the camp, glorying in the slaughter, and none can stop me. I am awake now, more awake than I have been in years, and I am at peace. This is my father’s legacy, a blood fury that cannot be stopped, and I am, at long last, my father’s son. I laugh aloud, roaring my defiance to the heavens, bathing my arms in blood. My father’s axe, no, my axe became a blur, cleaving men’s lives from their bodies in a heartbeat. I am the son of the king of killers, the son of Orgetorix, and I have come into my birthright. The many fighters of the enemy ran at me time and time again, but I stood unmoved. I was a god during that battle, and I delighted in the butchery. I had forgotten one thing, however: the rest of my father’s legacy. I was a god, and I burned ever so brightly that morning, even outshining the sun itself. They say that the candle that burns twice as bright burns twice as fast, and I was burning brighter than any mortal ever could. That was the second part of my father’s legacy. I suddenly felt a sharp pain in my chest, and looked down to see an arrow. I was stung several more times, and I fell, silent. At last, at long last, I was my father’s son. Father, I am your son, at last.

Editor’s note: This account was found in a grave nearby another grave that was from about the same time. The latter was a mass grave, with many Gaulish soldiers laid side by side. In the other, smaller grave was one lone skeleton, buried with the highest honors possible, still brandishing a gargantuan battle-axe. This is that man’s story, and it is well worth hearing.

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