© Copyright 2011 James D. Swinney
A Sacrifice for Varkanah
By: James D. Swinney
Dusk settled on the small town of Valdi as the short line of men-at-arms prepared themselves for bloody battle. The watchmen had seen the men in black robes approaching only moments before, and a palpable sense of menace seemed to herald their approach. Where once there had been a vague hope that these men would prove to be friendly, the demeanour of the man who rode at the front of the group quickly quashed that, leaving nothing but fear for the people of Valdi. The head of the evil looking group was riding an enormous destrier, blacker than midnight, with purpose towards the village. A cloak, darker even than the horse, fell from his shoulders, shrouding his very being with mystery.
“Ready yourselves, men!” shouted the master-at-arms of Valdi’s soldiers, William Randsly. He stood in the center of the line, about a pace in front of the rest of the men, his hand resting on the pommel of his plain longsword. He closed his eyes and emptied his mind, a tradition of his before battle, in the hopes of gaining some sort of insight as to what he should do. There was nothing. “If these men are hostile, we’ll have to fight them,” he said, though, Gods, let them not be hostile, is what he thought.
There were some muttered responses from his soldiers, but most of them were just frustrated because they hadn’t seen who their dark enemy was yet. “…no point…kill us all…” William heard one of the men mumble to another. The master-at-arms sighed. It was always an ill omen to hear men complaining before a fight. They’d lost hope before the battle had even begun, and that did no bode well for the inevitable fight.
William hadn’t been with the watchmen who’d seen the robed men first, because he was busy seeing off his favorite nephew Saeran, though he now regretted Saeran’s leaving, as he could’ve used his nephew for more manpower. Because of this, he’d not had enough time to ready his men, though it would have made little difference anyway. This was, for many of the soldiers, their first battle. Of course, it might well have been their last, based on the looks of the approaching enemy.
Looking around nervously, he spotted his oldest son talking with some of the men, wearing a disappointed expression at not being allowed to participate himself. “Drennan!” he called, drawing the boy’s attention suddenly. “I need you to chase after Saeran and bring him back here, to help us. He went northwest, to Rosehollow Village. You know the way.”
Drennan nodded. “Yes, father,” he said. The boy hesitated, and then said, “What is going to happen? What do these men want from us, do you think?” The boy looked worried. Being raised in the tiny, peaceful village of Valdi, he’d never known the horrors of war. His young mind couldn’t comprehend what these men were coming for.
“I don’t know, Drennan,” William replied honestly, “but I do know that everything is going to be fine. When you catch Saeran, bring him back here. Go now, son, fast as you can.” William bent down and embraced his son gently. “Be careful.”
Drennan blinked away a tear, then nodded respectfully to his father and ran off towards the famed stables of Valdi.
Unfortunately, William did not know that everything was going to be all right. Quite the opposite, in fact. William knew that his group of minimally trained warriors couldn’t possibly hold off the approaching company of men. They would lose the battle and their lives as well, if all went as he expected.
Even so, William wasn’t going to give up on them. He would take down as many of the enemies as he could. He would die for these men. However, there was one last thing he had to do before he could.
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A Sacrifice for Varkanah (On Indefinite Hold)Fantasy
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