Are you bright enough to shine despite... The Darkness?

The Blood of the Honored Part 9

Posted on August 7th, by Kevin Gubernatis in Excerpt, Fantasy, short story. No Comments

“Brace the door and hold it fast!” Pargnok commanded as he raced through the barracks entryway. Two of his soldiers, Tongrit and Worglin, slammed the door shut and just as quickly slammed the large iron bar down, locking it into place. Pargnok slammed his own body against the door when he heard the first crash of the beast beyond slamming its massive paws into it. Others joined him, trying to hold the portal against the wicked creature. The door itself was several inches thick and made of oak. Any normal bear would be hard-pressed to even rattle it, but the foe that now stood against the defenders of Forest Edge Fortress was no normal bear.

As timber buckled and steel rattled under the furious barrage, Pargnok thought of all of the decisions that had brought him to this point. He noted his mistakes and lingered long in thoughts of Grobasha and Mettcalf. He knew without a doubt that not killing the fetid witch of a druid was his biggest error. None of this would be happening had he simply ended the elf on the battlement. But he knew that it had been a conscious choice. Though she had not given the Captain many opportunities to bring her down, he had stayed his blade because of the look in her eyes and the absolute desperation he saw in it. Not dissimilar to his own desperation at this moment.

Another slam into the door jarred Pargnok and Wolgrin down to one knee. They quickly regained their footing as more of the patrol added their weight and mass to the living barricade that blocked the monster outside from getting through to those that the soldiers of the Legion of the Manticore sought to protect. Just as Pargnok had caught his breath again, his eye caught something small moving towards him. It was a little goblin girl with sad yellow eyes.

“I can help!” Posha said in her little, screetchy voice. “I can hold the door, too!” Pargnok was about to cry out at the child and warn her away, but before he could, another form moved up swiftly behind her. Geldinier caught the little girl under her arm and hoisted her away, back toward a pit fire in the center of the room. The elf offered Pargnok a solemn nod of appreciation and understanding as carried the girl, both of which the orcish Captain appreciated. Pargnok could hear the girl and Geldinier clearly and since there was little else to do, besides put his weight on the door and hope, he decided to listen to them.

“No, no, no,” Geldinier scolded playfully, as if the girl had tried to run off to play without her supper. “We can’t be getting into our protectors’ way, can we? Come sit by the fire and have some more stew.” He plopped down on a low bench around the pit made out of a log and held her close.

“But I can help!” Posha whined, struggling in the elf’s arms. “I’m strong! I can help hold the door!” If the threat of imminent death were not upon him, Pargnok knew he’d be quite amused with Posha in this moment. Even a bit proud, he supposed.

“But that’s not our task, Posha,” Geldinier told the little girl gently, but firmly. “We are not members of the militia, nor are we soldiers of the Manticore. We have other tasks before us.” Pargnok knew the elf was leading the girl to something, but couldn’t say what. He was grateful that she was no longer charging the door. His gratitude was interrupted by another slam against it. This time, he kept his feet.

“What tasks?” Posha asked, half curious. “I want to help. What if I want to be a Manticore soldier?” Geldinier hugged her close then , turning so that she was facing the fire. All around them Pargnok could see others huddled behind furniture, or tending some of the wounded. He saw poor Pushkin among them, laying immobile. Still others were gathering weapons, loading crossbows and otherwise doing everything possible to prepare for what was to come.

“Who’s to know, Posha?” Geldinier said vaguely as he clenched the little girl tightly to his chest. “There are many tasks ahead of everyone. Especially one so young as you. That is why we must let the Captain and his men protect us, so that we can find out what those tasks are.” Just then Elevani came up behind him and put a hand on his shoulder. Pargnok saw the look that passed between them and watched her squeeze Geldinier’s shoulder once before moving to add her weight to those already at the door.

“But I want to protect everyone too!” Posha pleaded feebly, squirming slightly in the elven man’s hug. “It’s not fair!” She said indignantly and then sulked back into Geldinier’s chest. Pargnok turned from the fire pit to watch Elevani take a place next to Grilcor, who’s expression wandered from surprised to respectful, as he moved aside to make more room for her. And there they all sat, leaning on a door and waiting to be eaten. When another tremor shook the door, Pargnok grimaced at his own failure. If it came to it, he’d jump down the beast’s gullet and give it indigestion before he let one more of his people fall.

“Posha, do you know the story of Dumag Kebuth?” Geldinier asked, tired, as he sighed into the little girls hair, drawing Pargnok’s attention back to the conversation at the pit fire. He saw Posha’s face light up, just a bit, with recognition.

“I know Dumag,” Posha affirmed nodding heavily as only small children can. “He’s the great warrior who freed all the slaves and started the Coalition. He’s the greatest warrior ever!” She accentuated her point by thrusting her fist out holding an imaginary warblade. Pargnok smiled despite himself.

“Yes, Dumag did free all the slaves from the old dwarven princes of the Graystone Peaks, but he had help.” Gildinier continued sagely, nodding at the young girl’s remembrance. “Do you remember Dgonz Ironshade and Skessy Copperscale?” The elf was doing a good job of keeping the little one occupied. There were plenty of other children around, huddled with their parents, or other adults, but for some reason Pargnok seemed only able to pay attention to Posha. He found it both strange and amusing.

“I remember Dgonz,” Posha said confidently, nodding. “He was a goblin like me and Skessy was a Kobold, I think. Wasn’t she a magician?” The girl seemed excited at that, but her mirth was subdued by another crash at the door. The crash subdued Pargnok as well.

“Skessy was one of the most powerful mages that the Coalition had ever known,” Geldinier said, dramatically, waving his hand in front of the fire. “Perhaps even the world, and Dgonz was the shaman and chieftain of the largest goblin clan at that time and was known as Ironshade the Just, for his even hand and devotion to fairness. They both helped Dumag greatly in freeing their people and building the Coalition. Dumag could not have built our great civilization without them. Dumag was the one that started the tradition of referring to all those not in the Legion of the Manticore as ‘The Honored’ – do you know why?”

“I…don’t think so…” Posha said, cocking her head to the side in puzzlement. “Why did he?” Pargnok didn’t hear the next slam at the door. He made sure to keep his footing and brace his back against the door, but his attention was drawn to the elven man and the story he was tellling. He listened intently as Geldinier went on.

“Dumag saw Skessy with her great magics and wondrous craft. He saw her build huge and beautiful structures and homes for those who had none. He saw her build schools and hospitals and shelters for the people he’d rescued, and fortresses and towers to protect them. Dumag saw Skessy Copperscale weave magic into steel and stone, to craft magical tools for her League of Builders and weapons for his Legion of the Manticore. Dumag saw too, Dgonz with his great wisdom and planning. He saw the Shaman create laws to protect the rights of those he had saved, that they would NEVER again know the humiliation of enslavement or the injustice of tyranny. Dumag saw Dgonz Ironshade gather his Griffon’s Council, to ensure that all had their fair say and that wisdom and truth would be what guided those he’d saved into the New Day.

Then, Dunag looked at himself and found that he had far less to offer. He knew only the ways of war and tactics, of battles and blood. He knew only how to fight and kill his enemies. But he saw too that he could protect his allies. It was on that day that Dumag brought his friends together and made a decree and a solemn vow. Vow. He claimed them and all those not of The Manticore, to be The Honored. He told them that their lives and the lives of those others he protected were more important than his own and those like him. He swore on that day that every last drop of his own blood would be spilled before one drop of any civilians within the Coalition. He told them that if all he could offer The Honored was his blood than that is what they would have and he kept his promise. For not one Coalition citizen was ever harmed by its enemies for the rest of Dumag’s life and those who have followed in his footsteps have done all that is within their power, to see that that promise is still kept, as best they can. For to this day, every soldier of the Legion of the Manticore takes the same oath.”

“So you see, Posha?” Geldinier asked scholarly, “we can’t help those who have sworn to fight, like Elevani and Captain Pargnok. For if we do, we could get hurt and cause them to have broken their oaths. You wouldn’t want to do that would you, Posha?” The elf smiled slightly and looked down at the little girl, who was staring into the fire now. Pargnok watched as she blew out a little sigh, causing the flames to dance a bit.
“No,” Posha offered weakly, “but why is it so important that The Honored not get hurt? Why are soldiers allowed to die? Why did Trugmuk have to die so I could live?” She began to sob heavily and Geldinier pulled her in close and patted her head.

“Because little one.” Geldinier said sadly, tears welling in his own eyes now as he looked at his wife. “If The Honored dies, then the Soldier has nothing to live for.” He pulled little Posha in close and rocked her back and fourth as another slam came at the door.

As the door shattered open into splinters of wood, Pargnok flew forward and landed in a heap next to the fire pit, he looked up and saw Posha’s two little yellow eyes gazing at him. Her gaze moved to behind him and she screamed and buried her face back into Geldinier’s chest. As Pargnok rose to his feet, three words and only three words repeated in his mind.

Not one drop.

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