The West Garrison
The weather was not our friend on the ride to the Garrison. Gusts of wind, a deluge of rain washing the trail out from under us, and the inability to find shelter left us soaked to the bone and severely exhausted. The horses were down to a trot by the time we peaked over the final hill putting the Garrison into view. I had hoped that we would also see a break in the storm, but alas the torrents of the storm continued far off into the distant horizon beyond the far edge of the city that formed around the military complex.
The Garrison was a large white stone fortress, built on the far side of a wide river. A narrow white stone bridge the only way across. Any invasion force would face impossible odds reaching the main gate on the other side, let alone breaching the Garrison and engaging the hundreds of troops inside. Any attempt at laying siege from our side of the river could destroy the only means of crossing the river, no doubt they had the means to take down the bridge themselves if someone did manage to take down the gate to let their troops in. It did not bode well for our forces knowing that this was our first stop on the way to the Captial and the Queen.
Reaching out far into the open fields beyond was a large village that grew out of the Garrison’s protection. I could barely fathom the number of people that lived willingly inside the queen’s laws. How many of them looked at the oppression around them and wished they could have something better, something with more safety for their loved ones and themselves. How many of them looked on as their leaders took everything they could from them with ease? How many could I inspire to change it all if I were not here on a reconnaissance mission? I needed to stay focused. The last thing I needed was developing more of an ego. Tahn’s scolding on The Kraken’s Beak still served as a reminder for thinking too much of myself. I may have the burden of rekindling the light of Uther in the world, but I am still a child after all.
“Here is where we must part.” Morgul stated calmly as we stood on the bluff overlooking the Garrison, the bridge, and the city. “You will cross the bridge alone, and remember Cinredi, they do not know who you are. Steel yourself and remember the plan. Your here to give your life in service of The Queen.”
“And what of you? Where will you be going?” I questioned.
“I will be around that is for certain. I know many of the smuggling routes to gain entrance to the city. Know that I will be following you and keeping my gaze on the attention you draw.” He said in an auspicious way. “You may be entering alone, but the light of Uther will guide you. Let us pray that it does not glow too brightly.” We then said our goodbyes and he head north along the ravine.
“What is a boy doing all alone on the road to the Garrison? Where did you get this horse?” The gruff guard queried. His full plate armor was well kept and he wore a purple and yellow tunic with The Queen’s insignia on the chest. He was a Paladin.
I then began my trot down the hill towards the main road leading to the bridge. I would have assumed there would be more traffic, but the road was bare minus a few mounted troops that the foot of the bridge. Sat atop brown horses, both heavily armored men raised their lances as the assumed a more official attention stance. One of them road out to meet me and I brought Felaróf to a halt.
“My name is Finis Lumen. This was my Father’s horse before he passed. He told me before he died to come to the city and make something of myself. He was all I had left.” I lied.
“Right, more outlands trash. Welcome to the West Garrison boy. My suggestion. Find a trade and earn your keep. We have a steep penalty for theft. General Thannix does admire his collection of hands though.” He warned with a sick smirk across his face. He then turned his head and raised an arm to his partner. “He is clear. Let him cross.” The other Paladin raised a horn and let out a loud blast of sound. The sound carried across the bridge and a singular horn sounded from the far side. The first Paladin waved me past him and on the bridge.
The dull roar of the river below and Felaróf’s hooves clicking on the stone of the bridge seemed to be the only sounds now. The rest of the world sat quietly by as I made my way across. The bridge seemed to stretch on forever. Slowly I had him trot over to the immense main gate, which was so large that even as we reached the halfway point it was still being opened.
The heavy wooden door set into position as we walked through its threshold. Letting into a large courtyard with a stage in the center. Atop the stage were the gallows. They were empty at the moment, thankfully, but I could see that the Paladin I had spoken to was right. General Thannix was big on punishments. Surrounding the courtyard there was a raised level with a series of guards posted at strategic positions. Opposite to the main gate was a smaller gate that sat open letting me into another courtyard. It seems that the Garrison was built around a maze of courtyards and gates. Each with different uses. Some were for large siege weapons, others served as training areas. The number of troops and supplies was astonishing.
“You there! Boy! What are you doing walking around the Garrison unescorted?” A voice called. I turned to greet the voice and in my thoughts, I had found myself confronted by a large group of armed soldiers with a Captain or Sargeant.
“I am looking where I can find someone to help me. I am looking to join The Queen’s army.” I replied.
“You seem a bit young, have you ever been in a fight? Have you ever had to swing a sword to protect yourself?” The man questioned.
“Yes, I was attacked on the road on my way here” I responded.
“Goblins? Kobolds? Maybe a blink dog or two?” He asked with a militant tone. “The Queen’s army is for putting down rebellion and protecting the throne from real threats. Do you have what it takes?” His last question was punctuated with one of his men pulling me down from Felaróf’s saddle. Down into the mud, I fell. As I pulled myself up another soldier lead Felaróf away from what was becoming a circle around me. These dogs of The Queen were truly about to fight a child. Their first mistake.
The Sargeant brought his knee into my chin causing me to stumble backward into the circle of men around us. The stopped me and then shoved me back towards their leader. I knew that I could draw my sword and end this confrontation quickly but I didn’t want to get myself into any real trouble. I used the momentum from being pushed to propel myself forward. The Sargeant brought was throwing a wide right hook trying to catch me center mass, without my Armor weighing me down I dove past the punch with ease. Once behind him I gave a two-handed shove and sent him reeling on to the ground. The cheers and laughter end quickly as they all drew a small baton from their belts. The Sargeant drew his as he stood and I realized I made my first mistake. I was not meant to fight back, only to be a target.
“You think you are quite the fighter huh? Well men, I get the first hit” He boasted.
“Do I have your word that they will not attack me until you land a blow then?” I taunted, taking a defensive stance. He then lunged at me with a growl. His first blow came from the right at my shoulder level. Quickly I turned to meet it with the scabbard of my sword supporting it with my left hand on the blade and my right on the hilt. “Your blow did not connect, They still can not join the fray.”
“Be quiet Boy!” He yelled as he grabbed the scabbard of my sword and pulled it away from me. I tried to gain control of the grapple but he was much stronger than I was. He gave a big tug and I let go, sending him off balance. This time I kicked up into his chest which caused him to once again fall. I took my sword back and gave a soft rap of the tip of my scabbard on the cheek.
“Does this mean they will help me now? Or was this duel to the first strike?” I boasted. Making my second mistake. Thinking I could win this contest. From behind me a sickening crack sounded as one of the soldiers hit me with his baton. My vision blurred from the attack as the ground began to spin. I shook my head and straightened my sight just in time to see another attack make contact with my stomach, knocking the breath from my chest. I fell to a knee as another blow landed on my left calf. The Sargeant stood up and grabbed me by the neck of my tunic. “Consider this a lesson in respect Boy.” He said through gritted teeth. He had his fist raised high ready to deliver a punch to my face.
“Your lesson is over Sargeant. The boy is too come with me.” Said an Orc decorated in the heavy armor of a samurai just as Orzov, the Captain of the East Garrison wore when he attacked us on the whalebone bridge. This Orc’s armor was much more regal and had more a more stylized appearance, still showing valiantly the colors of The Queen. “This boy is to come with me.”
“You are in for it now you fool, General Thannix is not known for his mercy.” Chuckled the Sargeant Thannix stood next to me and a glowing blade came from the tip of his staff. He then waved his weapon past the Sargeant and he fell over into two perfect halves cut from his head to down through his pelvis. The glowing blade solidified into a black metal scythe. The other soldiers snapped to attention.
“I am sorry child, he clearly could not see that your mercy was a sign you were meant for Paladin training. If you were to truly let yourself go you could have taken out him and his whole unit. You are strangely powerful for a boy of your age.” Thannix said. The soldiers looked at me in disbelief. “I wish to conduct an interview with you to assess your power better. Please come with me to my office.” And as we walked his scythe slowly turned back into his staff. It was not a long walk, but as we traveled I could feel that he too was much stronger than he looked. I had a sense that he was something much more than the Orc standing before me. I attempted to read his aura and was met with a neutral cloud of nothing, which could only mean that he was hiding his powers.
I toyed with the ring on my hand that was holding my armor and lance. I had hoped I wouldn’t have to blow my cover so soon.