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The Helmet of Eagle Talons Part 1

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Author's note: Heavily inspired by Lord of the Rings, A Song of Fire and Ice, the Game of Thrones series, the...  Show full author's note »
Author's note: Heavily inspired by Lord of the Rings, A Song of Fire and Ice, the Game of Thrones series, the Iliad, and ancient warfare in general.  « Hide author's note
Chapters:   « Previous 1 2 3 4 Next »

The Burning

Night falls upon the town of Dandga and begins to set under the grassy knolls of Proximus Fields. The Yorld Province is the most southern province and was usually used as a forward base of operations for both the Kastik and the Rez. And with the 8th Kastikian-Rezian War in its first few weeks, the Kastikians and the Rezians had both captured parts of Yorld in an attempt to outflank the others armies. Lately, the warlord Proximus had been weary of these constant wars and declared he would remain neutral
Longest of the chapters so far, Ulysses's word is burned
until provoked. Now, with two massive forces coming from both sides, his forces were in a full retreat and spread thin. But Dandga had remained relatively unaffected by the war. Outside a local tavern, a soldier in the Dandga Town Militia waits for his friends after a long day of training. Many call him Ulysses. A group approaches him with cheers and praises. His friends have arrived.
"All praise our local savior", they bellow jokingly.
"Oh, get your foolish asses in the tavern", Ulysses responds.
They enter the tavern with great enthusiasm. Many drinks later, they find themselves discussing the war and Ulysses volunteering for the militia.
"That damn Proximus is a fool. All he cares about is his power. All the warlords are now concerned since the United Empire Act was agreed upon", said Savo.
Many confused, intoxicated glances fell upon Savo.
"You're all a bunch of drunken fools. Am I the only one here who listens to our temple's announcements? Anyway, the Rezians and Kastikians agreed on a bill that says the Empires can claim any land they want once they have soldiers on it. Basically allows them to forget about dealing with the warlords. Damn disrespectful if you ask me".
"Your damn right it is! Our kingdom was formed on the idea that warlords should always maintain their power if foreigners invade", Asalin responded.
"You know this means that there will finally be a winner in this war", Ulysses added.
Many slurred agreements followed. Now they began to ask Ulysses why he joined the militia. Ulysses’ response was always the same, “I want to be able to protect my daughters and wife when the time comes".
All the sudden, a man burst through the tavern door. He began screaming, "Kastikian Cavalry pillaged caravans traveling on Proxe Trail!"
All patrons began loudly yelling in confusion. Proxe Trail was the main supply route into Dandga, they were officially cut off and had to possibly deal with deadly Kastikian Legionnaire Calvary, the best cavalry in the West. Ulysses quickly rushed out the tavern to report to his unit commander. The commander stood stiffly in front of the town gate. Ulysses saluted and prepared to take his orders.
"Valant Ulysses, at ease. We have the barrack guards on watch, they are somewhat rested and you look too drunk to be the slightest bit capable at unsheathing your weapon. Go home to your family, before I slit your throat for presenting yourself to me as a drunkard. For the love of the Gods, you're an officer, act like it".
"Yes, sir, sorry, sir"
Ulysses stumbled home and was greeted with silence. For it was late, his wife lay in bed and so did the children. He walked over to a rocking chair, slowly slid himself into the creaky chair, and began to doze off.

Ulysses woke to the sound of crackling and screaming. Despite waking up with a painful hangover, he sprung from his chair and sprinted to the basement. When he reached the basement, he slipped on his dark red clothing, then his chain mail, then his helmet with a beautiful black crest, and finally equipped his bow, quiver, and sword. As he made his way back upstairs, he nearly soiled himself, the kitchen and living room was a blaze. None the less, he ran through the flames and busted down his charred door.

No usual blinding sun greeted Ulysses, instead, huge clouds of black smoke. Ulysses coughed and choked on smoke uncontrollably. As he struggled to catch his breath, he was charged by a dark figure. This figure wielded a sword and swung it wildly as he advanced towards Ulysses. All in an instant, Ulysses's training kicked in. He unsheathed his sword, parried his attackers’ first swing, brought his arm back to its original position, and then made a wide arching motion. His sword cut his attackers head in half. Finally, Ulysses managed to stagger out of the smoke with his blood-covered sword. When Ulysses was able to regain his vision, he was stunned beyond belief. Kastikian Legionaries were torching Dandga. Every house, shop, and patch of grass was as bright as the night sky.
He desperately called out his wife's name, “Mary! Mary! Where are you?!"
But his cries were met by five Kastikians Valants. They surrounded him, as they did, Ulysses prepared himself to fight. The first one to attack him was the soldier directly behind him. Ulysses dodged this attack and drove his sword through the soldier's chest. There was no time to recover the sword, so he unsheathed a dagger and surprised a soldier to his right by quickly slitting his throat. He built off of this momentum and quickly killed two other Kastikians. But the last soldier knocked the dagger out of Ulysses's hand. It skidded across the bare dirt of Dandga. With no other weapon, Ulysses pulled an arrow from his quiver in a feeble attempt to defend himself. But the Kastikian snapped his arrow in half, kicked Ulysses in the chest. This blow knocked Ulysses unconscious.

Ulysses awoke slowly and it took him a long time of gathering himself to figure out he was in Dandga Temple. At first sight, the temple seemed nice. It was unharmed by looters or fire. But when Ulysses gazed at the ground, there were puddles of dark red blood. It filled the cracks and gaps of the temple floor and had even begun to gather at his knees. When Ulysses looked upward, he saw a portly, bearded man spinning a knife tip on his index finger looking past Ulysses, at the shrine of Isus. The man noticed Ulysses was awake and greeted him with a smile that reeked of evil. The man did not hesitate to speak with Ulysses.
"I see our trouble maker had awoken from his slumber"
"Who are you?!" demanded Ulysses
"Who am I? I am poverty, I am rape, and I am death. And I could not be more thrilled to meet you. But it is a great displeasure of mine not to know your name"
"My friends call me Ulysses, but you are to call me Valant", Ulysses stated with disgust.
"Very well, Valant. This is, after all, a military matter, so let us keep it formal. You see, Valant, you killed five of my best Valants. And I must say I am very impressed that militiaman such as yourself could do such a thing. So impressed, I'm about to make you an offer" said the bearded man with great enthusiasm.
Ulysses was now getting impatient, "Who are you?!"
"Haven't I already told you? Anyway, I'm prepared to offer you a spot as a Valant in the 12th Kastikian Legion!"
Ulysses's attention had been grabbed. The 12th was the most elite unit in the 1st Kastikian Army. His curiosity led him to ask more, "What is a Legionary such as yourself doing in a helpless town?"
"Very simple, we're here to get slaves or recruits and I am giving you a choice."
"I'd rather die with my family than be absorbed into your army of thief's and murderers!" Ulysses bellowed.
"Then you might wish to turn head to the shrine of Isus", he remarked with a satisfied grin.
Ulysses turned his chained-up body towards the shrine and seen the most unbearable sight of his life. On the shrine, there lay a marble table, on that table was Mary, she was chained to the table. Next to the table, Ulysses two daughters lay tied up.
"It's amazing how foolish women can be, is it not? The second we dragged you in here, she called for you. Now her foolishness will be rightfully punished", said the bearded man.
Ulysses's anger now exploded. He shook his chains and attempted to stand up, but he tired himself out.
"Let them go or so help me, I'll--"
"You'll what? No, you are in no position to order me around. Hasda, please come over here and assist me will you?"
One of the guards walked over to the table and drew his sword. It glistened under the shrine's candlelight. And with one swing, Mary was dead. Her head slowly rolled off the table. A trail of blood followed. Ulysses passed out, his head falling in her blood. His head mixed with parts of hers.
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