He arose late in the evening, hardly feeling rested. Garkhen quickly went through his daily preparations and left his quarters, wondering what he would find occurring.
The city seemed oddly quiet now, without the thunder of war echoing through it. And as far as he knew, he did not have any current orders to be anywhere. It was… odd, as if he suddenly had no direction or purpose. Yet he did, for he was a Warder of Bahamut, and a member of Telarnen’s Company. He was simply… waiting, right now.
He made his way over to the mess, and found a few other soldiers there. Garkhen was pleased to discover that meals were being served as requested, rather than at set times. Apparently the recent events had shaken up schedules so badly that even meal times were no longer certain. He sat alone to eat, and tried to listen to the few conversations around him. He gathered little, other than that rumor said they would be marching out soon to face more undead and demons.
He could tell that there was an undercurrent of fear to the discussions. These were soldiers trained and prepared for fighting men, not monsters, and the horrors of the past days only reinforced the terror of what they faced. But those inclined to desert had, for the most part, already done so.
For his own part, Garkhen found himself feeling oddly calm. While he had never fought before his experiences of the past few days, yet he knew this was where he was meant to be. A Warder lived to be a shield between the defenseless and such monsters as these. And with the gifts of his birth—strength, hardiness, claws, and lightning breath—he felt he was best suited for battle rather than some other path. Yet he still found it odd that he felt so little fear, now. Garkhen wondered if, perhaps, the courage was another gift to him—a gift from Bahamut. The stories spoke of such things, after all.
He ate alone, in silence save for his own thoughts. Just as he finished his meal, he saw Sgt. Gerim coming toward him. Garkhen stood to meet him.
“Private Garkhen,” the Sergeant began, “It’s good to see you up.”
He shook his head slightly, with a bit of a grin. “To be honest, after that hit you took last night, I’m surprised you’re up and about. That’s some armor you have.”
“Thank you, sir,” Garkhen replied, quietly, wondering what he was getting at.
The human nodded, then said, “We’ve gotten our orders. We march out tomorrow… towards Elifort.”
It was Garkhen’s turn to nod. That came as no surprise to him, of course, but from the way conversation ebbed and then re-surged around them, it seemed that others nearby had heard the news.
“I will be ready, sir.”
“Very good, Private.” Sgt. Gerim paused a moment, then asked, “Have you seen the rest of the squad?”
“No, sir, I fear I have not,” Garkhen replied.
The sergeant looked around the mess, shook his head slightly, said, “Thank you, Private. Report at the morning trumpet tomorrow,” then departed.
They departed the next morning, as the sun rose. The former Rebel army awaited them on the plain. After a tense moment and some shouted commands, the two armies joined into one column, marching along the road to the northeast. They marched hard striving to reach Elifort as quickly as possible. In the evenings, they did their best to prepare for the battles ahead, discussing tactics and practicing techniques for defeating Infernals.
It quickly became clear to Garkhen that this war would not come down to armies—normal steel had proven ineffective, and there were too few wizards and priests to enchant or bless so many weapons. Instead, it seemed likely that the battle would come down to a contest of champions. The best warriors of the army, supported and aided by all the magic their forces could muster, would have to stand against whatever terrible foes they would face ahead.
And Garkhen was surprised to find he was considered both a priest and a champion. He thought he should protest that he was unskilled in warfare, but he had seen what combat against the Infernals was like. His armor and Bahamut’s power might well be more effective against such foes than years of experience, for what was knowledge of swordplay against a flaming beast whose claws could rend steel?
And so they marched for many days, until they saw mountains and reached their foothills. Cautiously their column followed the road as the land rose, and the highway meandered, seeking the easiest way through the increasingly rough terrain.
Finally, they crested a hill and saw a walled city in the distance. And in front of it, an army camped, such as had not been seen on their world since the times of story. The Infernals were waiting.
Apologies for the late post. I had fine ideas about how I was going to write a lot over break and give you some nice, long posts, but… well, at least this post finished out this chapter.
This was one of those “I know where I’m going, but I’m not quite sure how to get there” bits here. So, if it feels a bit disjointed, that’s the main reason why.