August 17

Loyalty

Armello

I am on an Armello roll, no? Yet another Armello short story, this time focusing on a guardsman who truly believed in his king. In those places where I say “retriever” it is Golden Retriever (since the guardsmen are anthropomorphic dogs). The name of the village Oakenfall comes from within the game’s lore. Enjoy!

Loyalty

When all those years ago Leopold volunteered to join the King’s guard he could not think of any greater honor. He left his home, like so many in Oakenfall, to join the Kingsguard. His people, the Retrievers, stood loyally by the King’s side when he brought peace and stability to Armello. His reward was granting them this honorable status.

When Leopold rose through the ranks, from recruit to private, to sergeant, to captain he felt pride. Ever since his watch began he kept his king and kingdom safe. Safe from threats within and without.

Without their king and his guards the kingdom would had fallen long ago.

But now the stability of the realm was challenged.

At first he heard whispers of the King being poisoned, or falling ill. Then the orders  began arriving. To attack nearby villages, to capture the traitors of the realm. To arrest the clans.

None of it made sense at first, until his men began performing their given tasks. Fights and brawls between the guard and the clanspeople broke out, soon turning into small battles. Wherever his men were sent they found the banners of the different clans already flying above the walls of once-loyal settlements. This was not a matter of a simple misunderstanding, the clans were revolting against their king. They were taking his land for themselves, killing his loyal men. It is possible that the clans themselves have attempted to poison the king in an attempt to more easily take the throne.

It all made sense, the King knew who was responsible, and he acted quickly before the clans could fully realize their plot. They wanted to claim Armello for themselves.

Leopold would allow none of it. Not on his watch.

But this open revolt was not the only problem on Leopold’s mind. Dark creatures appeared throughout the realm, attacking every living thing in sight. Stretched thin between fighting the clans and battling this new threat almost every single member of the guard was in the field. The castle still held a small garrison, but the situation was slowly becoming desperate.

Now, Leopold with a fraction of one of the guard companies was marching to battle one of these dark beings. Already missing over half of its men the 4th Company marched on with their leader down the muddy rural road toward a village that was recently attacked. Along the way they saw scores of fleeing peasants, some greeting the guardsmen and cheering to them, some fearfully turning their gaze away.

This war was a challenge to all.

All the guardsmen wore plate armor and their hound shaped helms, halberds in their hands. A blue plume atop their helms and equally blue cloaks denoted their loyalty to their king. But some among their numbers had lost their weapons, or they were too damaged to be used. Others had dented or damaged armor, and their beautiful cloaks shredded or tattered from the weeks they spent fighting and marching. The 4th Company looked like a ghost of itself, only held up by the spirit of its few remaining members.

And this motley group would have to take down a beast.

As they entered the village they found most of the buildings in ruin. Not a single house was left undamaged. Leopold could feel the scent of death and rot in the air. He did not shudder or falter, the kingdom had to be protected.

It did not take long for the beast to find them first. A sudden loud shriek and the loud flutter of its wings was heard by the guardsmen. They looked around, weapons at the ready but it was not visible yet. The beast leapt from behind one of the ruined buildings and plummeted down upon the approaching soldiers.

Scattering to avoid being crushed by the creature’s talons the Guardsmen were far too disciplined to flee or panic from even such an unexpected attack.

“Surround it, and strike from all sides! For the King!” shouted Leopold as he gripped his halberd tighter and joined his men in the attack. Exhausted and frustrated some guardsmen barked and growled as they closed with the monster. Jabbing at it with their weapons.

The Beast did not seem impressed as the Guardsmen tried to surround it. The monster spread its wings and began to sweep them aside. With every stab of their weapons a strange alien fluid poured from the Bane’s wounds. Driven mad with fury it attacked blindly, left and right. Its screech could be heard for miles around as the battle continued.

Though their training and determination was great the beast was proving too much. One by one the guardsmen fell, crushed by its talons, thrown around by its wings, cleaved by its beak. Until only Leopold was left.

The Bane was badly wounded but it was larger than the lone retriever, and it seemed to know that. Its eerily glowing eyes gazed down at the lone captain and then it shrieked, ready to strike.

Leopold, himself, though not wounded by the beast, was exhausted. The weight of the war was bearing down on him, he only remained on his feet due to his resolve.

With a final defiant growl he roared out as he hefted his halberd up and charged at the beast, “Remember Oakenfall!” he yelled.

Before he could strike at ita loud thud could be heard, followed by an even louder shriek from the monster. The Bane thrashed around in pain and confusion, the guard captain stepping back as the monstrosity suddenly found a bolt stuck in its eye.

A few moments later another thud could be heard, and another, as some invisible attacker was accurately taking down the beast. Finally it fell, as the last bolt lodged itself in the Bane’s skull, ending its existence. The darkness which engulfed it slowly seeped away, leaving only the being’s strange bird-like skull with the bolt still protruding from it.

Leopold breathed a sigh of relief and he called out, “Well done! The Beast is dead come-” and his joy was soon extinguished. From behind the cover of a nearby wall he saw a small group of warriors from the rabbit clan emerge. Crossbowmen and men at arms, at their head appeared to be their leader. He looked like an scholar, dressed in robes, lacking any visible armor or weapons, after a moment Leopold saw a few retainers further back, carrying the supplies of the band.

“You appeared to be in trouble there.” spoke the leader of the band. His voice pleasant, friendly, soothing. Leopold did not ease the grip on his weapon, and the rabbits could see that. “We mean you no harm.”

“You are rebels and traitors!” barked out Leopold.

“No, merely explorers. We heard of this Bane attacking nearby settlements, and deemed it necessary to kill it.”

“Pfah! Liar. You take me for an oaf? We are at war, all of Armello is at war! And you tell me you wished to aid this village? The guard?”

“We were simply-” but the rabbit’s words were cut off.

“Enough! By the order of the King you are to come with me to the castle where you will face trial for the treacherous actions of your clan!” exclaimed the lone guard captain, in the middle of a desolate village, surrounded by his dead comrades.

After a brief pause the rabbit answered, “We refuse.” and the crossbowmen brought their weapons to bare, aiming their bolts in Leopold’s direction. “This war was started by the King. The Rabbit clan were his advisors yet he turned us away and began his madness, surely you see this. Surely you understand that you are throwing your life away for somebody who does not care for you or his own subjects.”

The retriever captain lifted the visor of his helm up, to get a better look at his foes, judging the best course of attack, planning this battle. As he panted for fresh air he knew the situation was hopeless, there was close to no chance of winning. He could turn away, flee, surrender. There were many other options than what he intended to do.

But Leopold was a retriever of Oakenfall. Promoted to the rank of guard captain, loyal to the king and his kingdom. To do anything but fight would be to forever stain the name of all he was and believed in.

“In the name of the King, Armello and all of its people I sentence you to death. Your Rebellion ends here!” were Leopold’s final words. As the lone retriever, the most loyal of all the king’s people, charged against the rabbit band one could hear the crunching and breaking of his armor as bolt after bolt pierced his chestplate. His charge slowed from a sprint to a stumble as his breath grew louder and heavier until Leopold fell to his knees and then to the ground. In those final moments he did not think of his failure. He knew that the other guards would protect the king, their home. Where his watch ended the others would carry on, Armello would be saved.

As his spirit passed on the rabbits gathered the dead guardsmen and buried them, as best they could, outside of the village. The helm of each guard resting upon the mound of dirt under which he was buried.

The retrievers of Oakenfall continued their watch.


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Posted August 17, 2017 by admin in category "Short Story

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