Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Great Weapons - Atop the Rampart 01

Roberr stood alone on the parley overlook, and regarded the messenger below. His father had fallen in battle a week earlier, striving in vain to hold back the advancing armies of the Western Captains, and leaving Roberr to assume the role of lord over Langoish Keep. Of the twelve knights in his service, four had made it back to the Keep. The peasant militias had been all but annihilated; only a single troop of archers and a handful of others had returned.

The messenger sat proudly on a spirited black charger, dressed in captured finery and staring up at the new lord with eyes that were at once arrogant and appraising. The flag of truce, under which he had approached, was now draped down his back; the flagpole was held loosely in his left hand, its length laid back over his shoulder. "Are you the lord of these lands?"

Roberr nodded. "I am," he called back. "Your army stands in the domain of Arch-Duke Molkan. This intrusion will not be tolerated. Withdraw now, or face the might of the Eastern Lords."

The demand was empty. Even if the Eastern Lords would stand together, their armies were too far away to rescue Langoish - and it would take time to raise troops, let alone train them.

The messenger knew it too. His response was unconcerned: "Captain Dezarr the Dreadful extends you an offer, on behalf of his master the High Lord of the Shadir. Turn over the gauntlet, and our armies will pass you by. Your lands will remain your own, under Shadir rule."

"What gauntlet?" asked Roberr, honestly puzzled. He was aware of the crenelations in front of him, the doors to either side that would take him off the overlook and into the gatehouse, his soldiers on the walls above, and the unguessably vast armies of the Shadir that had formed up into an orderly camp seven or eight bowshots away from the keep.

"The Hand of Aribil, the Great Gauntlet, Bandlin's Fist." The messenger called back in a strong, sure voice, amplified by sorcery. It rang along the walls, audible to every man defending the keep.

Roberr laughed. He couldn't help it. To face such an absurd demand, in the midst of so much fear... "That old legend? Not even the peasants believe that anymore." He drew a breath. "If we had such a thing, be assured your captain would have felt it by now."

"Nevertheless, Captain Dezarr the Dreadful bade me offer you five days and five nights from the time of this meeting, to find it and hand it over. I will return after that time, to hear your true answer."

"It will be the same. We cannot hand over what we do not possess." Roberr studied the messenger's face, but saw no change of expression. The offer might even be sincere, but the very idea was madness. The Great Weapons were nothing but stories, morality tales mixed with bits of history.

"The offer stands." The messenger wheeled his horse and walked it calmly back to the lines of the enemy camp.

Roberr cursed under his breath. Then he turned and went back inside the gatehouse. "Send word to the peasants," he said. "We welcome any who would help us defend Langoish Keep. All others should flee. And if, by some madness, anybody does know where Bandlin's Fist might lie, I'd like know about it."

This one was a direct result of last night's Foam Sword Fight - I was fending off both boys with a Nerf sword, while they attacked me with Minecraft weapons. Or, at one point, their empty hands. Various elemental attacks were described, which put me vaguely in mind of Glen Cook's The Swordbearer. I found myself picturing a world in which the course of great events was determined, every so often, by the bearers of the Great Weapons: the sword, the gauntlet, the shield, the spear, the dagger, the staff, the sword-spear. No, I have no idea if this will take off as, y'know, an actual story... but if it does, I need to remember the peasant witch Miledha, the vaguely Soul Reaver elemental empowerments, and the manifold variety of lesser sorceries that serve both friends and enemies. I'm mainly writing it down so that maybe, at some point, when I have time and energy, I'll remember to write the whole thing.

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