A heavy burden

A heavy burden

“These mountains that you carry, you were only supposed to climb them.” the bespectacled man sighed wearily. He was answered by the sound of a landslide.

“Don’t get mad at me, you were given clear instructions!” he shouted haughtily. As the echo of his voice faded it was answered with a scattering of small stones that petered out quickly.

“That’s better.” The man declared. He straightened his crisp blue jacket and wiped some dust from his shoulders. Whether the dust was real or imagined he seemed happy with his efforts, as well he should be. His appearance was immaculate. A brilliant blue jacket with gold tassels and trim with matching trousers. He held an old heavy book in his hand, being very gentle with it. Returning his attention to the scene before him he scowled.

“What are you still doing here?” A sharp crack followed by the clatter of a single falling stone.

“What do you mean what should you do?! Put them back obviously. And climb to the top like you were told this time.” The last words were emphasized with some well practiced jabs of a finger.

The ground shook and my knees nearly buckled. I watched the titans of stone lumber back the way they had come. Three of them, unfathomably large. A caravan could comfortably camp in the depressions their feet made. They rose up into the sky clearing all of the nearest tree tops nearly four times over. I called their appendage feet for lack of a better word. The creatures were not bipedal like a person by any stretch. Instead they appeared to be large spiked balls. The protrusions of stone carried them along like the massive limbs of a scuttling insect or a crab while yet more limbs held the mass of stone above them.

“If those idiots fail again I’ll turn them back into rubble.” Muttered the man. He turned and finally took notice of me.

“Yes yes what is it?” I heard my teeth click shut as I snapped my mouth closed. Returning to attention I threw a crisp salute and extended a shaky hand holding a letter. He quickly snatched it from my hand, gave half a glance to the wax seal, and began to read.

“Another fire elemental for the smiths, simple enough. Fog cover for the men building palisades? Tricky… but it might work. Dimensional rifts in the latrines? Who does Lieutenant Tiabald think he is?” The mage asked the question at me but I wisely kept my mouth shout as the man simply continued talking.

“Trying to requisition my manpower to do his… dirty work.” The mage once again wiped his coat as he said the final words.

“Tell that boar of a man to…” He crumpled the letter as his face turned red. Catching himself he took in a long breath and let it out slowly.

“Never mind soldier. I’ll send him my own reply.” He said with a smile I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy.

“You may go.” He said turning his attention to the book he held and immediately forgetting my presence.

“Er… pardon my Lord. Might I ask you a question.” I mustered the courage to ask.

The man was not much taller than I was and yet he still managed to stare down at me from over his book. There was a curious gleam in his eye that made me swallow involuntarily.

“Very well then…?”

“Corporal Davish Sir.”

“Very wll Corporal Davish, ask your question but just the one.” I nodded. Wasn’t sure I had the boldness to ask a second anyways.

“I’ve heard the stories Sir. About going to war. I’ve heard about King Lamont waging war against the giants in the north. Lady Cynthias bold stand against Emperor Vasiliev the Ninth far to the south. Even seen some of the tapestries made of battles. But I’ve never had to fight myself until now. So my question is, why am I even here. What good can one man such as myself do against all of this.” I asked, gesturing to the battlefield below.

The two of us stood on a cliff near the rear of the camp and looked at it sprawled below. Nearly forty thousand men and women camped in neat rows. Setting up defensive walls, digging ditches, readying themselves. The second largest army ever assembled in the Kingdom’s long history. But on the edge of camp were creeping masses of thorns growing several meters ever minute. Overhead the gryphon cavalry flew scouting and transporting messages. I couldn’t see it but had heard reports that a massive green dragon lurked in the nearby woods having had it’s oath called upon by the King. And the rumbling footsteps of the stone titans moving their mountains. A dozen more wizards, witches, and sorcerers lurked within the camp as well preparing to call down forces I could barely comprehend.

And then there was our enemy. We’d never faced a force such as this. Barbarians with strange metal siege weapons. Massively armored carts that rolled on long thin flaps in a circle, a long tube of metal poking out the top. Our scouts had warned those tubes were cannons that could fire farther and more accurately than our own. And not only that but where they struck exploded like our wizards fireballs. They had a device that could fly using spinning swords. It had strange small barrels, too little to be cannons. We had yet to see what those could do. They held no swords and seemed to have no arcane powers with them. They didn’t even wear armor, instead clad in hefty layers of fabric splotched the color of sand and dirt. The enemy numbered only three thousand and yet our king had mustered the largest army he could to face them. 

“I understand your concern Corporal. The stories only tell the grandest stories of heroic figures. You’ve never had to hear about the normal men and women who make up the bulk of the fighting. When battle is joined rest assured that you will be vital. The magic power I and the others wield is here to support you, not the other way around. We’ll do all we can to counter whatever forces they bring. But when it comes down to it you and the other soldiers will swing your swords toward our victory.” He grew wistful then and it appeared he was going to speak further on the matter until a thundering crash swept through kicking up dust and dirt.

“NO NO NO! Not there you fools!” He leapt from the cliff and drifted off on a glowing blue disk that appeared beneath him. Off to chastise the Titans once more.

Lord Basil Fenwright Wilmsburg, Duke of Yorling. Perhaps the most powerful man in the kingdom. Off to chastise living earth as though they were children. I laughed, whether at the absurdity of the situation or at the stress of the battle to come I didn’t know. And perhaps that was a good thing.