Accitaine

An old soldiers tale...

recounted some 30 years after...

“Hello young un’s, what can an old soldier do fer ye? The Battle of Heidelgard? Aye, I was there, that whole campaign I was; well, Pull up a pew, be my guest… oh, thank ye lass, make mine a Stetzling Best, muchly obliged. Newlyweds is it? Aye you have that look about ye both, nice to see… So, what about the battle takes yer fancy? Ah, the Goddess, the Pillars and their allies eh? Of course… well, most folks want to hear about that, I’ve told it enough I guess… Aye Menken, I’m fetchin to tell it again, just you keep them beers coming and let folks sit close as they like…”

“ I were a Sergeant in the 1st Light Company, 1st Regiment of Foot in the Glorious Tenth under Colonel Korvanis and she were under that legend of a man Marshall Xamander (course, he were still a general at that time)… that uniform you’re in lass, Light Dragoons is it? Nice musketoons ye use these days, you know that the inventor of your pieces was Erzbeta Slalek, a friend of the Pillars? Well, now ye know… So, right, let me set the scene for ye, Heidelgard, like the rest of the lands was under the Hammer o’ the Dead, only we was getting’ it worse an’ that ain’t no lie… you hope you never see battle or death like that lass, never… dead like carpet on the streets, stench of the black beyond, fear like you can’t imagine, fear of a foe who’s already dead and itchin’ to make you just’ like them, and they don’t stop ‘cept with the comin’ of dawn. Us in the 10th and the boys and girls of the 4th Battlegroup were fightin’ like maniacs to hold back the dead, aye and a number of civvies were also pitchin’ in an all, but it were endless, and that ghostly ship the Raakir with its dead whale guardian was causin’ terrible trouble to those poor sods guarding the docks and the western walls.

“There were loads of heroes in that battle, but if I had to choose one above all others, I’d choose Ruprecht Schalko… aye, he were an Inquisitor of the Society lad, but he were a good one, upstanding, brave and selfless. His attack on the whale and the Raakir saved lives I can’t count, and there’ll be more’n a few soldiers kids named after him I’d warrant; man suffered for it mind you, disfigured, lost an eye and that’s just the stuff ye could see. Man died saving the Cathedral from an underground evil, saved loads more lives, and may the prayers of all who owe him be heard by the Goddess…

“Anyhows, the arrival of the Goddess Calliszia and her Pillars started to change that… sure, she had the Legion of the Goddess under De Valuac, Koryull and Vasi-Darra comin’, and the Cantabrians too, and… yes yes, that flying Island as well lad, hold yer horses… yes, and that Dragon, now who’s tellin’ this tale Menken, me or you? Good… send another Best over an’ I’ll continue… ta… so, right, the Goddess and the Pillars… we knew from the Bishop and his proclamations that the Goddess had arisen and when we felt somethin’ when we prayed, somethin’ answerin’ us and soothin’ us, but to see this winged and wonderful woman appear at the Begeerstrat Church, it made it real ye see… she walked with a limp then, but as her strength grew and our faith in her grew, that limp started to ease up, and I know at the end she walked straight and tall, a Goddess who defended us and took on the First Denied… the Pillars lass? Oh yes, quite right, we never forget them… of the Divine they were and if they wasn’t supportin’ her and protectin’ her , we’d all be dead and worse… yes, and that big bloody great sun burnin’ overhead, thank her for that again, an the moons an stars at night, an lastly but not leastly, those Embassies we now have from Outlanders…

“Those Pillars lass, they could fight I tell ye… that goliath Skal Dreissel, that shootist Zeru Otxoa, the peerless archer Geesje Van Kuipers, that crafty Fullica Atra, and as he was known then, Jorik… the feats they performed in the nights after their arrival, destroying Nightstalkers, holding and then drivin’ back the Undead at any battle they fought… gave us belief in ourselves to keep sluggin’ away and never givin’ up… the Goddess saved our souls, but they helped save her and our own mortal bodies lad… anyways, one night it were getting’ bad, worse than before, and we heard that the Goddess and the Pillars were going ta cross the Black Wall surroundin’ the Old Murk (as bad a place for people even when it weren’t overrun with the Undead), we were instructed to escort them there, it were where so many of us in the 1st Regiment either made an end or made a name… Colonel Korvanis was leadin’ us, Captain Mierko an I were tasked with leadin’ the Light Company scouts, an bloody work it were, with 40% casualties on the way to the Murk…

“That bloody great black column o’ evil still gives me the fear I don’t mind sayin’, so when we saw the Goddess and the Pillars march into it, I can say I never felt so much fear, but never so much pride; that were my Goddess there, and that were humans helpin’ and protectin’ her walkin into the worst place in the world… Still, we weren’t none too safe either, as we had to hold our position and defend that area, hopin’ that the Goddess and the Pillars would make their return… Hardest fightin’ we ever did over that battle as all manner of evil and foulness came at us, but we held, and with the word reachin’ us that the Legion of the Goddess and the Cantabrians had arrived and were givin’ the evil hordes somethin’ to think about, not to mention those wondrous clockwork contraptions (and that great big towerin’ one layin’ waste to swathes of the dead) and the Dragon, we felt we had the chance… We was fightin’ for hours, and then it all seemed to go odd, as all and I mean all the dead forces started barrellin’ towards us and the Murk… we knew somethin’ was up and got ready to sell out lives dearly, when the dead passed us, an ignored us…we saw the Death Wall fade and then scores of people came out of the Murk, human survivors… they was followed not long after by the Goddess and the Pillars and some other folks with them, and that’s when we hears this sound, like a voice or musical note, says one thing and that thing hangs in the air, growin’ in sound and meanin’, and then came the light… I saw the dead turnin to ashes and explodin’ where the light touched ‘em, an then the sound ended, though I can still hear it at quiet times in me memories…

“The light stayed for some hours and to you young un’s only ever known the real sun, it was a taste of what we’d been missin all our lives, like somethin’ warm and wonderful touchin yer face and healin’ ye…When we heard that it was an Angel called Korvuus, and he were apparently the most powerful one in the world who sacrificed his life and essence to do that and destroy the undead attackin’ the land, well, I tell ye I give praise every day for him and that soldierly thing he did, an if anyone says I’m comin’ over all Cantabrian about that, well, sod them…anyways, lookin back, where the Murk had been there was this crater you all know now as the Solaarus Lake, and no Undead anywhere to see… well, almost no undead… I know nobody believes me, but I tells you that in the aftermath, when we was helpin’ the civvies and others back to the GaartenKwarteer, me an my squad were patrolling, and I sees this one fella walkin down the street towards one o the holes in the wall…He were dressed like some Cassezan gunslinger an I thought it mighta been a friend or countryman o the Pillar Zeru, so I calls out a friendly greetin ta him afore I start to askin meself why do his footsteps sound like toppling tombstones and when he turns to look at me afore he goes, I tells you it was the coldest, mos’ pitiless stare I ever felt… maybe it was the fact I been so close to death for so long it made me attuned, but as he was walkin, I thought I saw the shades and shapes of hundreds, mebbe thousands o forms walkin in his wake and matchin his stride… with that stare and those 3 block pitted pistols on his person, I thought I was next an I could hardly move or shout to the squad nearby, but he turned and carried right on walkin, and all those dead walked right on with him… yup lass, I just spoke to The Black Whirlwind hisself, and lived to talk of it, and I don’t care who says I’m lyin’, I don’t…

“In the close aftermath o the Battle, there was time for the old King Maximillian (a great man and a great King, may he rest in the Goddess light) to hold a public gathering of praise and celebration, and we was gathered all near the Begeerstraat Church, an there he took a knee afore the Goddess and swore his faith, followed by all present… it were a special moment I can tell you, an it still makes me wet around me eyes when I recall it… he were also rewardin the Pillars ( the Goddess makes the Declaration of Conscience Address, you all know it), an he were handin’ out rewards and honours to the Pillars and the other heroes of the City, an that’s when that other famous occurrence happens, the comin’ o the Amarkachans, an THAT, my young newlyweds an other rapt listeners, is a story for another day… hmmm, that was thirsty work sir, howsabout another pint of Best, an I’ll consider carryin on?…”

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AndyGlen

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