Medievia Mudslinger

August 20th, 2002

When men become heroes ... - By Fernoi

Dearest Oleah,

I shall keep this short for we will be in battle by sunset. I know not when, or even if, I will see you again. All I know is that what I am doing is worth doing. If I was not, if I acted like countless other men in Medievia, then the city would already be overrun. I hope you are well, and I hope little Karna is the same... my little princess. Tell her daddy will be home soon.

"Lets 'ave a look at that!" boomed a voice, and I snapped my head up reflexively. A huge man, almost as big as his voice, filled the entrance to the small tent where I was writing, and I blinked in confusion for a moment. I should have recognized Hargred immediately - nobody else had such a massive fur cloak or such a broad grin.

"'Allo Hargred," I replied in a similar fashion, trying my best to return the grin. Sometimes that can be too hard to do convincingly. This was one of those times. "You're dripping on my carpet," I managed to joke as I looked at the water falling onto the mud floor from his cloak and long black hair. Rumor had it that he had wrestled a bear bare-handed to get that garment and I could believe it. He eyed my parchment curiously but made no further comment on it - he would have known that it was personal. We had worked together a few times and we didn't need to go through the usual rigmarole to talk. "So, you came," I added, trying to provoke some response.

"Aye, I couldn't let me best mate go out there by himself now could I?" I chuckled by way of reply but Hargred's face grew darker and more serious for a moment. "Ah, truth be told, I wanted to see how bad it was. The people are worried, back in ole' Med y'know..."

"Do they know exactly what's happening?" I asked.

"Nay, haven't a clue," replied Hargred, "They all reckon you're here for some kind of training, in case the city's ever in any trouble."

"Hah! That's what they've been told? No wonder Oleah laughed when I said I was fighting for a worthy cause. The city's in as much trouble as it's ever going to be in ... They're dangerous creatures these Goblins," I said.

There was a silence, which was broken by Hargred wrapping his fur cloak tightly around his neck as he shivered. "It's freezing in 'ere," he complained. "'ow long are we going to be 'ere for anyway?"

"They think the greenskins will arrive by sunset," I replied.

"Sunset? That's about three hours from now. Good job I got here when I did," he muttered, scratching the back of his muscular neck.

"Three hours? I need to finish this," I said, pointing to the letter on the board on my knees. Space and furniture were at a premium in the camp. "I might never talk to her again." Again, there was a silence. I turned my head and crouched over the letter to stop Hargred noticing the tears welling up in my eyes.

"Aye, I'll see ye later then... Leave yer in peace," he said, taking the hint. I nodded, and pressed my quill to the parchment once more.

I have heard that you do not know what we are fighting for, or what danger you are in. The city of Medievia is in trouble. I implore you, Oleah, take our baby and run ... Go to Trellor, go to Karlisna ... Go anywhere. Do not linger though, I do not know how long our little band will be able to hold them off for. I can't go into detail here, but there is no training camp. Medievia is under attack. We are still waiting for reinforcements, and have been for weeks now - They are not coming. I am going to stay, even if I have to fight alone. I will fight for my city, my freedom, my pride and my loves. You and Karna. Do not write back. Do not tell me where you are going. If I live on past tonight, I will find you. Whether I live or not, we will all be together one day. Give Karna a kiss from daddy.
All my love,

A tear trickled down my cheek but I quickly dashed it away. I stood up, folding the parchment into a small square and walked out of the tent. The rain pattered down on my face and cloak. I hurried to a large tent, keeping my cloak wrapped around the parchment, keeping the letter dry. I walked straight into the tent, wrote the name 'Oleah' on the paper and dropped it into a small basket with the other letters. They would get sent - we had been promised that much at least.

I heard a bell ring and hurried outside where many others were standing. I saw Hargred's enormous form, still wrapped in his fur cloak. One meaty hand clutched his giant, two-bladed axe but his face had none of its usual charm and humor. He no longer looked like a gentle giant - now he seemed a monstrous titan, ready for war. I took up a place next to him, fingering the hilt of my sword as the rain dripped down my arm. The cool air sent a chill down my spine.

There was a squelching sound - the unmistakable noise of a rider. A large white horse trotted up in front of the assembled men, carrying the precious cargo of General Durgo. His face was emotionless and his sword seemed to shine, even in the rain. He opened his mouth and spoke in his gruff voice, and none of the fifty or so men made a sound.

"Men of Medievia. You are here today not as men, not as farmers, not as carpenters, not as traders, but as soldiers. As warriors. As defenders of the realm." The hairs begun to stand up on the back of my neck and it was nothing to do with the cold. "You are not here as fathers, or sons or husbands. You are here to protect those who you hold dear, you are here to protect your fathers, and wives and sons and daughters. You are here to protect the city of Medievia."

Some of the younger men assembled were nervous and twitching. Myself and Hargred had been in many battles, and had the scars to show for it - but we had never faced these kinds of odds before. The general continued.

"Some of you are young. You have your whole lives ahead of you. You can be a farmer, have a wife and children, and live a quiet, peaceful life. But no - you decided to go miles away from your city, to this god forsaken hovel, and intercept the hordes. Why? Because you have guts! You have more guts than all those men tucked up in bed back in the City of Medievia right now. You are more of a man than those so called 'veterans' who are cowering back in Medievia, weeping into their ale! If any of you wish to leave now, to take a horse and go back to your family, I will not think any worse of you..."

The nervous glances were starting to disappear now, as the general's voice rose. The assembled men began to draw swords from their sheaths and axes from the straps across their back. Nobody dared to move their feet. The general's face shook as his voice grew louder.

"Tonight, I will march into the field of battle with you, not like those damn bureaucrats back in the city. Not like those cowards back in the city. We will fight against the goblins, and many of us will die... But not all of us. Never all of us. While there is still blood coursing through my veins, and air rushing through my lungs I will fight to the end to defend my homeland. I hope you will all do the same. And if you do all die in this field here, many miles east of my city ... of our city... the people will know. They will know who the real heroes are, and they will know who to thank when they raise their children safely, five years in the future!"

There was a loud beating of a drum in the distance. I looked up, hearing the horde approaching. Everyone else copied my movement and then they looked at the general. He was silent. Hargred walked to the front of the crowd, and rose his enormous axe in the air.

"We have the gods on our side. That noise you hear... It is the beasts approaching, and we will all fight to the death now. As you walk forwards, across that muddy field, remember what you are fighting for. Remember your loved ones, and your city. Now, the time has come..."

The general rode to the front of the crowd, and dismounted his horse. The horde slowly rose over the crest of a hill in front of us. Banners waving and drums beating, the goblins marched forwards.

"ATTACK!" the general screamed, and charged forwards. I was first to take off after him, and was followed by Hargred and the rest of the men. The brave defenders of Medievia charged forwards into battle with the foe.

My sword swung around, lopping off the head of the first goblin. General Durgo was swinging his own blade amidst a horde of goblins. Hargred was at my back, his axe carving a merciless red wave of death. The younger men, some of whom had never even seen combat before, were wielding their weapons like veterans. I brought up my sword to parry the blow of a goblin and launched a kick into his midsection, knocking the beast to the floor where it was trodden on by its own allies.

I felt Hargred stumble backwards, into my back, and forgot all thoughts of self preservation. I span around, and stood next to my battle-hardened friend, adding my blade to his. Hargred's enormous foot came up, smashing into a goblin's face, doing just as much damage as his steel axe blades. I turned my head and looked to the west, where the City of Medievia was just a tiny speck on the horizon. My eyes welled up with tears. The distraction cost me as I felt a goblin's blade plunge into my side. I span around bringing my blade with me to take off another greenskin's head. I ignored the pain and fought on.

In front of me, one of the young men finally succumbed to a lucky thrust from the swords of one of the goblins. He fell to the floor and the greenskins mobbed his body, ripping into his flesh with their dark weapons. I heard Hargred roar with anger and saw a flash of his axe as it whirled its compelling dance of death.

To the fore I saw that General Durgo had been pushed against a tree. At least a dozen of the horde were surrounding him, prodding their spears at his side. They didn't have the guts to engage a man who had faced these odds before in hand to hand combat. I gave them no choice. Running forward, I hurled myself at them, meaning they either ran onto the general's blade or fell victim to my own. Either way was fine by me.

"There!" I heard a voice shout. "We need to kill that!" I saw Hargred shouting and pointing at a much larger goblin than the rest. He was clad in silver armor and was wielding two small axes in his bony hands. Hargred was already fighting his way over and I began doing the same, hearing the general's manic laughter behind me as he cut down more of our green-skinned foes.

Many crushed bones and perforated green layers of skin later, Hargred and myself had fought our way through to the larger goblin and four others. The bodyguard goblins stood out from the pack, their armor being just like that of their leader. Hargred shouted something to me but I didn't hear it. I didn't hear anything. All I could see was the four goblins and their leader. The sounds of combat were blanked out as I saw Hargred rush forwards, his mouth open.

The giant left the floor, hurling himself into the four goblins and smashing them aside. Hargred cackled as he followed through, laying into the beasts with flailing fists for his axe had been lost long earlier.

I stepped forward, fingering the hilt of my blade. The goblin raised the visor on his helmet and stared at me with small, red eyes. He gave an evil smile, baring his white, pointed teeth. He took a step forward, scraping his hand axes against each other and then we both ran at each other. I realized that this fight would be the deciding point in the whole battle - kill him and the rest would flee. I whispered my child's name and then my wife's as I met the goblin with a kick to the stomach. It hurt me more than him due to the silver armor encasing the creature's vitals.

The blade of my sword parried the downward slash of the greenskin's axe and I kicked the beast's hand. It had the desired effect, causing the goblin to stumble backwards. I seized the initiative, running forward at the creature. Fatigue meant nothing as I span around with my blade carving a path through the air. The thirsty steel didn't meet the blood it desired, swinging through the empty air as the beast ducked.

The goblin retaliated by taking off a chunk of my thigh with one of its axes. I howled in pain, clutching the wound and dropping to one knee. The creature cackled, and brought its axe above its head, ready to perform a beheading. As the axe swung down I threw myself backwards and the creature's weapon thudded into the muddy ground. The goblin dropped its other axe and drew its sword. Unfortunately I didn't see this as I desperately hurtled forwards at the creature. I had to be fast but he was my match.

Pain. What a terribly wonderful thing. And what pain can do to a man. And what it did to me as the greenskin's sword impaled me through the stomach. I knew I had seconds to live. The goblin laughed, raising its visor and peering at me. Suddenly I brought my sword up, cutting through the gap between the creatures helm and its breastplate, taking off its foul head once and for all. I fell to the floor, feeling my precious life blood trickle away. I smiled a final smile. I had found a place to die. I whispered my child's name one last time and thought of her sleeping soundly in her bed, before closing my eyes for the last time. My job was done...

Hargred sat opposite Oleah at a small wooden table. The chair was barely big enough for the giant of a man, who had an enormous scar running down the side of his face from the last battle. Oleah had a small child in her arms.

"Are you okay, little Karna?" The baby burped in response, and Oleah looked at Hargred. "So ..." She said, but trailed off.

Hargred gave a deep sign, before speaking. "Oleah. I've known yer 'usband for a long time. We've fought together across the globe, we've 'ad our good times and our bad... But this is the worst."

Oleah paused for a moment and then started talking frantically. "Why? What happened? What's wrong with him? Is he hurt?"

Before Hargred could answer, there was a loud pop and an imp appeared on the table. It looked around, then stared at Oleah before producing a small yellow piece of parchment. The creature handed it to Oleah, and Hargred waited patiently as she read it. She paused.

"If I never see you again... He's not... Is he?"

She looked at Hargred who let out a deep sign. Oleah's bottom lip trembled as he grabbed her hand.

He nodded.

The baby in Oleah's arms burst into tears, even though it was clearly too young to understand. Oleah was silent, staring at the table.

"Thank you." she said, and then her head fell into her hands and she began to weep uncontrollably. Hargred looked around, and then spoke again.

"When he died ... Not just him, but all the others as well. They were saving this city. If he hadn't have given every ounce of energy in his body those goblins would be pillaging this city, and killing your daughter as well. It's better like this... When he died, he was fighting their leader. He killed it as well. He won that battle."

Oleah looked up from the table, staring into Hargred's eyes. He clutched her hand tightly before he spoke. "He was a hero."


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