By Fire And Blade

It takes Galrun more than a week to reach Pashtan, which is far to the East. But now he has he can see what remains of this branch of Tryan’s army and it is clearly depleted. The soldiers look exhausted and by the looks on their faces have had to withstand grueling battles. How many Galrun doesn’t know as he truly had no idea that Tyran had expanded this far.

“What have you faced?” Galrun soon asks a soldier, he is the closest to where the warrior decided to pause, and by looks of the One Sun Domain emblazoned professional he is older and more battle hardened than many others of those he’s been fighting alongside.

The man with the leathery face and sunken tired eyes raises his head and replies, “The natives. They are fierce. They never back down. And they just keep coming.”

Galrun takes note of the middle distance stare the soldier has as he looks beyond Galrun. Not through him but slightly off to his left. Galrun didn’t know Pashtan had natives. He thought it was a desert, but something about that belief doesn’t quite sit right with him. For what reason however he has no clue. But it is clear the soldier has no more words to offer him, so he returns to his forward stride. He doesn’t know exactly where he is headed, except for the head of the camp, as his feet sink into the soft auburn sand beneath his feet. It’s warm but not hot, which gives him no clue as to what he should expect. He knows essentially nought of how, or if, seasons here work. Still, it’s better than wading through the mud like he’d been forced to do in Halberg.

Suddenly a proud armour clad man steps forward. From where Galrun does not know as he had been surveying the low rocks, which seem to be acting as a defensive wall on three sides of the camp.

The amour clad man is emblazoned with the sigil of the One Sun Domain, while his helmet is tucked under his right arm. The thick twin fronds of azure from the back of the dome shape tell Galrun he is a general. This, he figures, is who Tyran had been referring to.

“Welcome Galrun, Tyran sent a messenger to say you would be arriving soon. I’m…” The general begins but never finishes as Galrun interjects. “I don’t care for introductions. Just give me details. I’m here to win a battle, nothing more.”

His blunt interjection catches the general off guard and that is exactly what Galrun wants. He doubts the general wants him here, but it is of little concern what this general wants. Galrun has been sent here because the military leader has failed, he assumes, in some capacity. Whereas in the instance of Halberg, Galrun had been sent to lead the attack and bring it to swift conclusion following the death of the branches general during the previous battle. Tyran had shown grief at the loss of the military man, who Galrun can’t even recall the face or name of. Such a thing wasn’t unusual for Galrun. Though, when he’d served as replacement for the general he’d refused to issue orders or make demands of those who were technically serving under him. There were other officers who were present to keep the soldiers on task and aid in the completion of his own mission, which they had likely out of fear for what the large man would do if they failed.

“The natives are fierce. They fight with tooth and nail. Never relenting…” The general begins. He is still flustered after the first interruption when Galrun cuts him off again.

“That is not detail. I learned these things from one of your men I passed in the camp. I need to know items of importance, of the type that a general should be aware of.”

The general at first doesn’t know what to say. Though, his loss of words hasn’t stopped him from concluding that he doesn’t like this Galrun. He’s heard tales of the man mountain who serves as the executioner of Tyran, and that he is without manners or tact. From what the general has glimpsed thus far none of those stories are exaggerated. But still he is here at the request of Tyran, their all-ruler, so he must bow to this man like he would the ruler of the One Sun Domain himself.

“We have lost more than half our number.” The general finally offers after a long but silent exhalation of air which is lost on the gentle breeze that sees grains of sand shift noisily around them in every direction.

Galrun’s black hair rustles in the breeze which he drinks in greedily. His body is not as weary as he would have expected following such a long ride. He marks that as a good omen. Unlike the grains of sand which batter his tanned skin, while he considers the general’s first statement. After a few seconds he concludes that this general is inept and so says, “Order an attack.”

The general’s eyes go wide with shock. He can’t believe what this Galrun has just demanded, in the manner he has done so and to a general nonetheless. Whether serving as a representative on behalf of Tyran or not the situation calls for more discretion and respect than has thus far been afforded. Especially, considering they are stood among the common soldiers, who can hear every single word that is being uttered.

“Are you mad? My soldiers are exhausted. They need rest and you have no sense of what we are facing here!” The general exclaims with a mixture of surprise and outrage filling his voice.

“I know nothing because you have told me nothing except for the scale of your losses. If that, general, is what you call details then I fail to understand why these men continue to follow you.” Galrun replies without a hint of emotion showing on his thin face. His green eyes stare at the general. The stare makes the general feel uncomfortable as he suddenly feels the need to shudder. But the general refuses to permit Galrun the satisfaction of viewing such a thing so just attempts to return the stare. His own eyes are far less impressive he knows and that is without admitting that something about Galrun’s eyes seems familiar. Though the general cannot place how that can be as they have never met prior to today. If they had he would have urged Tyran not to send Galrun here.

“Order the attack.” Galrun repeats now through gritted teeth. However, the expression on his face doesn’t change as the general catches sight of the massive man’s gauntled hand on the pommel of his longsword. The weapon is still in its scabbard but as a career soldier the general knows how quickly that can change.

“I refuse.” The general returns bluntly. His head held high as he says the two words loudly.

“I will offer details if you insist but I will not…” The general begins but never finishes as Galrun interrupts him for a third time.

“Your chance for that has passed. Now don’t make me repeat myself.” Galrun warns much to the general’s dismay.

“You dare to threaten me?” The general explodes angrily as his face begins to turn red with anger. He can’t believe the arrogance of this man, this executioner, who dares to call into question his competence and refusal to follow a clearly wasteful order that will see his already dwindled forces slashed further.

“You’re a coward.” Galrun utters. His gaze is now focused on the massive expanse of sand past the edge of the camp. The visibility is limited due to the whirling grains that are dancing on the breeze. But the swirling particles have as yet not become a sandstorm. Galrun is thankful for that as he doubts many would make it through the other side of such a thing alive, let alone in a fit state to engage in battle.

“No, I am simply not a fool.” The general says before pausing to take a breath and then questioning, “What would issuing such an order achieve?”

“You and one of your soldiers informed that these natives are fierce. And on my way through the camp I heard mutterings that these Pashtani are strong and fight with unwavering conviction. I wish to test such notions. That is how you win wars. You test the limits of your enemy.” Galrun explains. He’s bored with the exchange and whether the general realises it or not his orders will be followed regardless.

“That is not how you become victorious Galrun. I refuse your order, which isn’t even an order at all. My men will stay in camp until reinforcements arrive.”

Galrun rolls his eyes. He knows the general is putting on a display that he hopes will win him favour with what remains of his soldiers. But they both know there are no reinforcements coming. So whether the general realises it or not he has just proved he is a coward and Galrun cannot abide cowards.

“Guards have this man…” The general begins but never finishes. Though, this time he is not interrupted by words.

Galrun as quick as a flash pulls the longsword from his scabbard and drives in through the generals open mouth and out the back of his skull. Dark thick red blood drips from the tip of Galrun’s sword as the generals eyes glaze over. The soldiers around them simply hold their breath. It appears they were expecting this to be the outcome of the conversation. Whether, they anticipated it to be the general whose life was ended or Galrun’s, the warrior cannot say, but at least the soldiers are smarter than their now dead general had been.

Galrun quickly retracts his sword so that the body crashes to the sand of Pashtan, which plumes upward in response. Galrun wipes his blade clean and then returns it to the scabbard on his waist. By the time he is ready to speak the sand, which plumed up in response to the impact of the generals corpse, has settled, or simply drifted off on the breeze. Blood meanwhile, continues to spill from the lifeless mass of the general, creating a growing pool around the top fifth of the body.

“These are my orders and I will not repeat them.” Galrun says while pointing down at the dead general. He’s making a point and by the looks on the faces around him the soldiers understand the unspoken threat in the moment before he demands, “Attack!”

As soon as the order leaves Galrun’s lips the soldiers leap to their feet with their weapons, which much like those who fought alongside him in Halberg are swords, in hand. After which they race forward to attack. Exactly where Galrun does not know but it seems from the ferocity of their cries that the natives must be close. Or the soldiers are far duller than he had judged them as moments earlier.

Galrun pulls his own longsword and then joining with his allies breaks into trot that becomes a jog and then finally a full run. Unlike the soldiers around him he keeps his sword low, while many of them hold their blades aloft. Though those soldiers don’t get far as suddenly out of the sands and murk caused by the swirling grains on the breeze the natives of Pashtan appear. They move as fast as lightning, without remorse or seemingly care for themselves. The display surprises Galrun but still he rushes headlong toward the tip of the battle between the soldiers now at his command and their Pashtani enemies.

Galrun swings his sword to fell a Pashtani, but somehow he misses. It shocks him but he quickly recovers and forces the failure aside, though he does note how many he has already lost. It makes him wonder whether he should have brought his helmet and adorned it for the battle, but it is too late now for him to worry about such things now as a pair of Pashtani assault him. The figures seem almost ethereal in their thick hooded cloaks, but like all of Galrun’s enemies they underestimate his speed. So when Galrun brings his sword round with blistering speed he is shocked to find that the blow is not only deflected by one of the Pashtan natives, but also forced back upon him. Galrun can barely believe it. No one has ever managed to use his own attack and strength against him and the one responsible is far smaller than he. However, he manages to stop the returned attack from inflicting any harm on himself as he spins round hoping to use the momentum to slam his blade back into one of his twin attackers. Except Galrun never gets the chance, seeing as a solid strike is delivered to the side of head. The force of the impact causes him to stagger backward a few paces while desperately trying to clear the pinpricks of white light from his vision. He can’t and finds that his fumbling leads to him being slammed to the floor by his own weight after his legs are taken out from underneath him. The force of the impact having forced the air from his lungs makes him choke and cough even as he raises his head to find most of the soldiers under his command are either already dead or in the process of dying. By his calculations they have been utterly defeated but he takes solace in the fact that he can still feel his legs. It surprises him to learn that fact but he won’t question his fortune as he tries to flip himself onto his side so that he can climb back to his feet. But before he can manage the manoeuvre something hard slams into his temple sending his head spinning wildly. His already struggling vision turning into little more than small streaks of light that are torn across an otherwise seemingly infinite expanse of black. If there were pain Galrun would claim he has been blinded, but there isn’t. He takes no comfort in the realisation as a great weight presses against his chest, threatening to crush it. He tries to dislodge the mass atop him without an ounce of success as he instead begins to feel the weight press him further into the sand. He wonders if whoever is atop him plans to drown him in the grains which he can feel grating against the edges of his auricle.

Then he could swear he hears a voice, chanting. Over and over it drones on for what feels like years, but Galrun knows that isn’t possible. Instead, he is sure these are the final moments of his life before death claims him. He’s read many a tale of the madness men in battle experience in their final moments. How such things have been written about he does not know, but that is the only explanation he has for what is happening right now. While far away he can just make out the sounds of the last of Tyran’s soldiers, who are present here, die. Galrun doesn’t register the dying screams of his allies, though he is aware of them. Instead, he tries to focus on the chanting voice but the more he does so the less he can make it out. That is why it has reached a point in which he not only cannot decipher words but also the sex of the voice. With that realisation it strikes him that he has to stop listening but it’s already too late. He has no control over his body anymore. His energy becoming completely depleted as everything goes black and his body goes limp no longer able to fight whatever is being done to it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: