Chapter 1: Around the Campfire

Fire spat embers into the air around the campsite as a few of the members gathered around. The men were always pouring over each other’s war stories. To anyone else listening without context, it would be a long conversation consisting only of men saying names and others reacting to their mostly bitter ends with sniggers or a solemn head nod. Captain Roland Quim was always keen on only listening to the stories, he likened them to those that he heard as a child. However, he did not like to talk about the men he killed. Somewhere inside his battle hardened body was still a small space that allowed for a healthy respect the those he killed, lest they haunt him at night. Roland was a soldier, and a soldier did his duty, and when it didn’t consist of cleaning, it consisted of killing.

 

As a captain, Roland was of a rare breed. Where most soldiers despised their leadership and bitterly did their duty to the tune of the dangling shackles of their oaths, they loved Roland. He was a stalwart leader, fierce in his resolve and confident in his decisions. Aside from that, the only enemies that ever got close enough to befall him were only alive long enough to see the tables turn on themselves instead. His men greatly respected him, and should the gates of hell ever have availed themselves, his men would most likely follow him in, screaming for blood and glory along the way.

Before long, the fire was encircled by soldiers big and small, setting down their swords and shields.

“Tell me greenling, who was your first kill?” grunted Wallum towards a smaller man across the fire. He was wiry and definitely did not have a body forged for battle. Being put on the spot made the young man grow nervous. His eyes darted back and forth of the eyes of those around the fire fell on him like lead rain.

“I…I uh…” he spattered, “I would have to say he…uh…screamed a lot….” his voice trailed up and the men started laughing, some holding their bellies.

 

“That sword’s brand new, isn’t it?” Wallum chortled, joined by the others.

 

“Almost as new as those bristles on his lip!” Another added, pointing his finger. The laughs filled the air so much that even the smoke was running out of room. The victim of these jib’s hung his head as the joking continued.

 

From his seat in the circle, Captain Roland could see the young man’s embarrassment. In a way, he empathized. The world had not yet beaten this man into submission and here he was trying to prove he was as hard as the rest. After was seemed like an eternity, the laughing calmed down, Roland lifted his gaze from the flames.

 

“What’s your name, greenling?” Roland asked, the question hanging in the air.

 

“My name’s, Cord,” he stuttered a bit before adding “Sir.” His head was still switching between the Captain’s gaze and the ground.

 

“Well, mister Cord,” Roland started, tossing a stick into the fire, “Every single man here tonight was in the exact same position you are in now.” He now stood, the light from the fire waging war with the darkness over his body. He continued,

“Some of these men would give anything to be back in your position now, with a clean sword and a clear conscious.” Some of the men nodded in agreement at his statement, while some scoffs were also heard.

“You will be finding out soon enough,” His voice trailed, earning the attention of every man around the circle, “the most difficult and trying battles aren’t the ones fought on the ground, but the ones that take place in your head.”

The circle was deathly quiet as the captain spoke, out of respect and admiration. The greenling Cord was hanging on the captain’s every word.

“Anyone who has killed knows what I am speaking to,” Cord hadn’t noticed while the captain was speaking, he had been slowly moving towards the greenling. The Captain leaned in close, with the light of the fire raging behind him, “I wouldn’t be so keen as to plunge that sword into flesh so quickly, Mister Cord, as it may be a part of you that gets killed instead.”

 

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