The Helmet of Eagle Talons Part 1
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 »
Killing for a GodOutside the charred town of Dandga, there is a wide, water-filled trench. This trench has been housing the dead inhabitants of Dandga for two hours. One body stands out among all of them all. He wears Dandga militia armor. No other militiamen have been left here. Their bodies are either stacked up in the town center or recent servants to the Kastikians. This lone body is Ulysses and he awakes face up next to dozens of bodies. He turns his head to the left; there lay his once beautiful wife Mary.
He quickly preforms a despicable action. He takes the dead body of a vagrant to the bank of the trench and hides under it. Motionless he lies as the Kastikians poke and prod through carcasses. Once they leave, he stands. In front of him, are his dead family, comrades, and memories. Behind him, lay the Thraken Mountain Range, a maze of passes, hills, and caves. Finally, to the East lay an open prairie where the sounds of battle can be heard. They drift in the wind. The clinking of shields and swords can be heard by the dead. Ulysses makes his way towards clinking. He now has only one intention; kill the portly Kastikian warlord. He moves with great haste towards Rezian-controlled territories, praying he can offer his blade there. But before he exits the trench completely, he finds his bow and quiver, his sword, and a helmet that was nt his. This helmet was the definition of beautiful. The helmet itself was hard as steel but it was covered in the softest of feathers and beautiful carvings. The front of the helmet popped out and formed an eagle, and on each chinstrap, eagle talons clutched, and at the top of the helmet there was a beautiful white crest that glimmered even though there was no sunlight. Ulysses placed it on his head and felt a warming sensation surround him. He felt at peace, as though he had the spirit of an eagle. As the green pastures become rare and the dead become frequent. Ulysses realizes his hike's end. Ulysses then begun to hear a voice that came from now earthly man, but from inside the helmet. Do not be alarmed mortal, for you have my blessing. I see the atrocities committed in my temple and I am appalled. The Gods have remained neutral in these wars for too long. It is time we act! But not all the Gods agree. They believe there is no pure warrior that would fight in their name. Prove them wrong Ulysses, smite in my name! For I am Isus! King of Gods, Patron of the Thraken Mountains, and bearer of the Holy Eagle, I command it! Be off mortal and slay in my name. The voice left and a hum soon followed. Ulysses collapsed on his knees and said, “Isus, I thank thee for the gifts of the Gods, but be warned mighty God. When I march to the sound of battle, it will be for my wife who I shall revenge! I do not march as your Holy Warrior or to forcefully convert. Isus, I fight for my wife and children and for the sake of fighting. Be warned King of Gods, I will not hesitate to strike you down with the same weapons you grant me O Lord!” He climbs a grassy knoll for a good while hesitantly, waiting for the Parton of the Thrakens to smite him down, but then he sees a sight as terrifying as the underworld. Below the knoll, there is an open field. Rezians and Kastikians both control half a cornfield and their soldiers are simply charging into one another in the center. Seeing the red banners leads Ulysses to the Rezian main camp. He travels along the sidelines, occasionally dodging arrows. Once at the camp, he jogs towards the general who is staring at maps in a panic.
Ulysses states without warning, "Fair general, I am here to offer you my vassalage!"
He turns and almost shouts, “If you are a drunken fool, then leave this place. For you not know the hells you will enter!"
"On the contrary, I do. I come from Dandga. The 12th Kastikian Legion has burned that now vile place. Good sir, unsheathe me as a weapon and you will witness the full extent of a man's anger on that battlefield"
"You wear the robes of militiaman. What rank do you hold, stranger?"
"Valant be my rank, sir"
"Valant Alexcan was recently killed and his unit is slowly being surrounded. Assist us in winning this patch of grass and you will have my thanks"
"If you think I come forth to fight for this dirt, you are mistaken. Unsheathe me as a weapon, good sir. Isus has blessed my arm this day!"
"Very well, sir, take your blessed arm to my enemies and slay these scoundrels"
Ulysses did not spare anytime. As he charged, he picked up barbed arrows for his lonely bow and charged into the bloody dirt. As Ulysses made haste towards the field, he found himself on a quaint hill in a forest adjacent to the battlefield. He began to step towards the sounds of clattering blades and bashing shields, but then he began to hear muffled whispers. He turned towards the whispers, his bow drawn. As the battle became more distant, the whispers became a conversation. He wandered upon an abandoned temple covered in vines. In front of that temple, 50 Kastikian Elite Legionaries stood in a protective circle around a Kastikian General and a man in a black robe. Ulysses made his way around the tree line where he lay invisible. He made his way on top of the temple where he could hear the two men of importance.
The general stated, "Good Priest, surely the church must have our side. We fight this new war as a crusade to bring the word of Isus to this wretched land!"
The Priest said, "General, the church did have your side. But my associates have reported terrible atrocities committed by your men. Isus cannot support that"
"I assure you, Holy One, no Kastikian has ever slain a citizen"
In that moment, Ulysses became overwhelmed with an uncontrollable rage. His family was slaughtered by Kastikian soldiers in a temple of Isus. In that moment, he stood and spoke.
"You General, Isus teaches us honesty and to punish those who aren't. I believe you and every Kastikian is overdue for theirs." Ulysses drew his bow once again, 3 arrows ready. He released the 3 arrows. They spread out in all directions, killing 3 men. Before they even fell, he sheathed his bow, unsheathed his sword and dropped unto the bare dirt. 47 men now charged Ulysses. It was a glorious spectacle. He parried numerous attacks, countered, and killed all the men besides the general. The trembling leader of men was surrounded by the spilt skulls, torn flesh, and shredded armor of his old minions.
Covered in dirt and blood, the general begged, "Please...don't. I...I never hurt a citizen".
"No, but you serve a corrupt nation that condones it. Therefore, you are guilty of rape and massacre."
Ulysses drew his sword and stepped on the man’s neck. The sword was plunged into his chest with enough power to pierce the other side of the world.
Ulysses turned to the Priest and bowed elegantly. Then he continued to run fast to the sound of clattering swords and bashing shields. Ulysses appeared from the tree line. It only took him a few minutes to find the surrounded Rezian Guards in the cornfield. Ulysses sheathed his weapon and charged with the speed of a messenger. He avoided all Kastikians to compensate for his tardiness. Whatever stalk of sweet corn remained was trampled by his speed. Ulysses pushed through the Kastikians charging the Rezians without killing a man. He finally made it to the Rezian in command and went to him to offer him another sword arm.
"O weary sir! Come hither and listen. For I offer you my sword! Already drenched in blood, it yearns for more! Unleash me gentle sir and see my wrath. Today, Kastikian women shall be widows and children orphans!"
The commander simply nodded and Ulysses was off. He charged into the charging Kastikians with a few band of warriors who would not be called cowards. This band of worn-out men charged valiantly with Ulysses. All wore the traditional Rezian red clothe underneath their scratched and beaten steel armor. This clothe flapped rapidly in the winds that also guided Kastikian barbed arrows. One man who bore numerous dents in his armor and flesh roared. One could easily be fooled a lion was on the field. The screamer did look the part. His long golden hair that acted as his mane draped his armored shoulders. That which followed was a bloody mess. Ranks of Kastikians came upon Ulysses and ranks if Kastikians fell upon Ulysses. Those fools who dared charged him would be blocked, parried, and then killed with an unstoppable thrust. Those would did not charge and were focused with his other warriors, had their throats slit by Ulysses’ dagger. Not an honorable death, but it would suffice for Kastik dogs. By the end of it, no battered Kastikian retreated; they all lie dead upon the bare and blood-soaked cornfield that once sustained men of the prairie. Ulysses drudged back to the commander’s tent, a small limp accompanied him. Once there, he saluted the weary general.
"Fair Valant, you have done me a great service. Almighty Isus was with you this day. Please noble sire, sit and tell me your story"
"Very well, sir."
"You may call me Sir Wolf. I am Sir Wolf of Grafada"
"Well, Sir Wolf of Grafada, I came from Dandga. A peaceful village now burnt to ruins and ruled by drunkards. I was a valant in the militia there because of my military experience in the 7th Great War. Last night I stumbled home drunk and woke up to an inferno. My wife and daughters were killed by a mad Kastikian Cavalry general. I should be dead too, but Isus shall not have it until I kill the thief among thieves"
"What did this man look like?"
"Fat and bearded like a lonely whore"
"I know the man well. Valant, do you know the history between the Rezian and Kastikian rivalry?"
"I, sir, am only in the middle of it, yet I know as much as a beggar"
"You see, Valant, before there was Kastikians and Rezians, there where nasty creatures called Cavias. The Cavia are the worst thing to rule the world. Worse than the dragons, even. In fact, the Cavia enslaved and flew dragons into battle as if they were meager horses. The Cavia is basically a skeleton, but with an intact brain, pieces of flesh still attached, and they are nearly invincible. These nasty buggers ruled over man and forced slavery upon us. Man said enough and revolted in an era known as the Cavia Exodus. They were wiped out to extinction. After that, the leader of the revolt, General Tulok, formed the nation of Rez. After this kingdom was formed, another general named Kastik wanted power, so he became a separatist and formed his own Kingdom, making Azur a buffer zone. That's where the portly man, known as General Jakox, and I met. We were both eager cavalrymen fighting in the First Rezian-Kastikian War. But he then was paid off and joined the Kastikians. Poor, heartless bastard."
"I have always been a fan of history after I got home from the 7th Great War. But I most know more of Jakox. You say you knew him well?"
"Better than my own mother", the General stated with the most serious look a man could possess, a look that tears into the depths of another man’s soul.
"Can you tell me where he went?” asked Ulysses, trying to avoid eye contact with Wolf.
"What unit is he commanding?” the General asked now with a look of boredom.
"The 12th Kastikian Legionaries, the most elite unit the Kastikians have". The unit name alone gave Ulysses images of his wife’s bloody head and horrible assumptions of what happened to his daughters.
Sir Wolf stood up and went to his desk of maps. It only took him a few minutes to say, "So that is the bastard I've been chasing?"
"Excuse me Sir Wolf?"
"You said he lead a raid?"
"Then there's no doubt, he's my target. Valant, we need to control this territory and Jakox's raids are preventing us. I was sent to find his army and destroy it. But I kept running into hordes of Kastikians. My scouts know right where he's heading to wreak more havoc. Valant, I hope you have a coat, because we're going to Wintaron, the Winter Province"
Act II-Marching to Wintaron
On a frosted dirt road, an army of 10,000 men march northward to the province of Wintaron. They are battered and bloodied from days of ad infintium battle. In the center of the column, the leader of the army and a tired valant in blood-soaked armor speak of important matters.
Ulysses started of the conversation, "Sir Wolf, do you believe that Jakox is really in Wintaron?"
"I do, valant, and so do my finest scouts. But let us not talk of that now. I will be killing my oldest and dearest friend for the Empire. I must ponder that. So valant, I think it odd I've marched and fought with you for days yet I do not know your name"
"Ah yes. What a splendid name. You know that is a holy name in the Rezian Empire. You would be greeted by every beggar, whore, and drunk in Riverhead"
"Why is that, sir?"
"Ulysses the Great is revered as a hero among common folk. He led slaves and vagrants to rebel against their corrupt puppet masters in a grand era of change known as the Freedom Age. He made the building blocks for Rezian government. Anyone could be what they wanted, unlike the dictatorships of Kastik. By Isus, I started out as a lonely drunkard and now I command thousands of men."
Before Ulysses could reply, the General asked him one more question, “I heard you mention your service in the 7th Great War. I am truly sorry I did not inquire sooner. Tell me about it. Your Lord commands it.”
Ulysses stared at his horse’s snow-white mane. As he tried to remember what kind of soldier he was and some good war stories for the General, he began to hear swords clashing, men screaming, and blood spurting. He finally exited the battle and said to the General, “Sir, a decade of meade has taken in-important details from me. But I can still tell you a good story.”
The General smiled, “Then be out with it, Valant, before we freeze to death in this godforsaken cold.”
Ulysses now looked forward. Towards the 5,000 tired bannermen. “It was during the Great Siege of Acintosh were I killed my first man”
The General simply nodded and gave Ulysses the history that he already knew and witnessed. How Proximus allied with the Rezian Empire and how he sent his soldiers to deal with the Akars of the Yariu Desert. The fierce desert warriors allied themselves with the Kastikians and were just south of Proximus’s controlled territories in Havenhall. The General had lectured Ulysses on the path to the great city of Acintosh, a bloody trail that Ulysses had already walked, but never fought on.
Ulysses then continued with his story. “I had always remained a reservist. It was nice. I sought no glory for my wife’s sake and I got no glory, even after my first kill. By the time I was called to battle, the walls had been breached after hours of bloody fighting and our commander said he needed all reserves to make one last push. I charged with my brethren of Havenhall. Men would later thump their chests and say what a brave charge it was. It was not brave or anything to remark in song. All around me, inexperienced men cried, s***, and even wounded themselves. I made it to past the broken wall and dead streets with a few hundred of my brethren surrounding me. We charged to the sand-covered castle of Acintosh. There, a few hundred Royal Akar Guard counter-charged us. Their swords so perfectly curved it was awe-inspiring. A big, hefty man came at me wildly. I went under him and sliced his belly open. I had always thought Akars were savages and were made of material lesser than mine. I was wrong. I realized that day all men are equal. I felt so strongly about this in that moment, I bent down on my knees and leaned over the hefty Akarian. All I said to him was “forgive me” and all I did was gather his intestines and shoved them back into his belly all while the battle raged around me.”
The General, his lingering staff, and Ulysses fell silent and continued to march through the valleys of snow for a good two hours. Ulysses eventually broke the silence.
"Sir Wolf, we are on good terms, are we not?"
"Of course, Ulysses. Speak your mind"
"Well, sir. I could see you as a drunk"
A chuckle escaped the general's mouth and bounced off the White Mountains so that every man in the column could hear Wolf's calming bellow.
The general then abruptly stopped his horse and commanded the column stop.
With a concerned face, Ulysses asked, "Sir, what is wrong?"
"I am about to enter the White Valley. A wretched place for an army to march, but it is the only way to kill my friend"
Ulysses had never been in such a position, so he said the one thing that would get the army moving again, "For the Empire. Down with the Separatists. In the dark, our sword's glimmer moves us forward."
"The chant of the Empire." The general looked down at a banner-carrier and his only possession besides armor. He studied the black eagle closely.
He then looked up, "Forward, lads. Into the white hell we march"