April 19, 2018
The Scrivener is DeSmet Jesuit’s literary magazine. The purpose of The Scrivener is to promote the artwork and manuscripts, short stories and poems, of the students, teachers, and staff at DeSmet Jesuit High School. Students, faculty, and staff submit their works throughout the year and the student literary and art editors choose which submissions to publish. Robert Hutchison is the moderator and receives great help from Mrs. Laurie Kohler and Miss Emily Ledbetter. Any students, faculty, or staff member looking to submit their work should e-mail Mr. Hutchison.
The Siege of Widow’s Web – Part 1
Garth had never known a time when he had been so scared. The world around him seemed to spin; he took this moment and relieved himself of his breakfast over the enclosed bridge. He wiped his mouth of the vomit, taking this time to think. It had been three days since they had been put at their posts. Each day had been worse than the last hours passed with a mixture of anxiousness and boredom. On this day the added element to the two was fear. They had known of the coming army three days ago but didn’t realize the mere mass of it until the middle of the night on the second day. A great sound of swords banging on shields aroused the entire castle echoing through the stone halls for hours. When they stopped, the sun had risen and more guards needed to be put on duty. Lady Edith Thorament had known they were coming for she had told all of them three days ago. Thorament was the last house in the East that had not surrendered or sworn fealty to the General and his army. He had conquered the capital, thus declaring himself the new king, and by this title he deemed he had right to all lands once belonging to the old kingship.
The old royal family was still alive or so Garth was told. They had fled to a neighboring country and, with help from their allies, would return with a large army. He didn’t know if it was true or if it was just something Lady Thorament told them to keep the morale high. After all, Widow’s Web was nearly impossible to impregnate. The only way into the castle were several enclosed bridges that only ten men shoulder to shoulder could walk across. They were made of stone while the roof was low and made of wood making it impossible for cavalry to enter. All of which led to one central tower, which served as a keep for the castle. From the higher plateaus this made it look like the various bridges were connected like a web.
Garth slid his back against one of the various beams that supported the celling. He gripped his stomach regretting the bowl of hot porridge he had had for breakfast. It felt as if a sword had gutted him in the stomach. After this pain subsided, he took off his pointed helm and wiped his brow of sweat. Fifteen years he’d been alive, not long enough for him to become literate and go to one of the universities. Actually he never found use for reading in his life as a farmer in the valley reading was a faun’s job; they loved everything to do with reading or art, or at least that’s what he’d heard as he had never met one. But it was probably true; he knew of a faun saying that went “book’s first, wine second and mounting your mate’s last.” Putting his woman over reading was something Garth could never do which is why he thought he would not like to be a faun. His wife was with child now; they hoped it would be a boy. Garth could use an extra hand on the farm, but if it were a girl, they would manage as they always did. The two of them had been married nearly a year now and took housing in the cottage just below Bridge Keith (the bridge he currently stood on). It was just a dot whenever he looked over the bridge, but to him it was everything.
As his mind wandered his gut began to subside form its violent state. With a deep sigh he stood up and made his way toward the gate house barracks. It was the end of his shift and after the loss of his breakfast, he felt the need to lay down. Bridge Keith had a nervous air to it this morning with various guards crowding its edges trying to get the more circulated air. Most had their pointed helms off which was the only part of their entire armor that were made of metal. The rest of the amour was boiled leather from the valley below and the surrounding plateaus. Cattle and leather were the only exports the area could produce, which were then traded for iron that was used for the soldiers. Unfortunately, the amount of iron was inefficient which left most of the troops with short swords and wooden shields. The only exception being Lady Thorament’s son, who with full iron armor and a long sword, commanded the household guard. Their aggressors on the other hand were well equipped with iron armor, shields and long swords. Crossbows were also said to be used by the enemy, but this was of little use since the bridge had been enclosed and nowhere on the current plateau could they get an angle. Catapults and trebuchets were virtually useless since it was a mile from every plateau to the central tower. Battering rams were the only equipment of any use, but the enemy only needed to use one, since they only had besieged Bridge Keith’s gate. The other gates were left unguarded but still locked just to be safe, not that they had to worry about an attack from the other flanks since there was a gorge 600 hundred feet deep and several yards wide between each plateau. To get around to the next plateau one would have to walk nearly a mile. Garth could never understand anyone who would ever wish to be a solider in a lively army; he would rather spend his nights warm in his bed with his wife than preparing to besiege a fortress.
The warm spring air rushed through one of the wall breaks. The valley was normally quite blustery and before the entire area was called Widow’s Web it was known as Whistler’s Gorge. Garth took his helm and secured it back on his head to keep his ears from chapping from the wind. It squeezed his skull like a lemon. It was a few sizes too small due to the castle’s armory lacking supplies. Despite its age, Widow’s Web until then had never been besieged. The castle’s web-like layout intimidated the most ambitious of all invaders except for the tyrant Tom Myrin. He had won over the hearts of the commoners with his insane ideas of officials being nominated by peasants, leaders serving in terms, separation from the royal council and even dismantlement of the country’s democratic monarchy. Elected by the peasants, this family had to be of noble lineage and rule a castle for nearly a hundred years. Then there was the Royal Council, a union of kingdoms that almost all had democratic monarchies and used the same currency. Garth truly didn’t care what system was in place to rule over him as long as it allowed him to put food on the table for his family. The current democratic monarchy had this for him, his father, and his father’s father, so he would support it to the end. He never considered himself to be chauvinist, but he would do what he could for his country to a certain extent.
These thoughts were pushed aside when he finally made it to the gate house barracks. The gates of the castle had thankfully been built last in the construction of Widow’s Web giving the men stationed in them less to worry about beams and stones falling out. Its massive gate was wooden and swung outward instead of inward to ensure more difficulty for the attackers battering ram along with a strong beam placed on the back for extra defense. Two roofed buttresses guarded both sides of the gate leaving just enough room for a carriage to come through each of which housed ten men for the reserves of the valley leaving Garth with only other farmers as his selection as roommates.
He pushed open its door and went inside to find several of his bedfellows sitting around the central fire pit. Its flames had died hours ago causing its creators to draw more toward its center for warmth as they smoked their pipes with great enthusiasm. Creating a light haze in the room like that of morning fog by the valley’s streams. Another had taken residence in one of the straw beds against the cold stone wall. Garth presence had not been taken note of till he shut the heavy wooden door with a clang. Their eyes were torn from the smolder and onto him.
“Where in hell you been?” one of the three near the pit inquired harshly.
“Martin caught me on my way out of the Great Hall and made me do an extra patrol.” Garth made his way over to one of the straw beds and began to remove the leather from himself.
“The charlatan thinks he’s in charge of everyone because his mother’s head of house Thorament.”
He proceeded to undress until he was just in his tunic and britches making a small pile next to his bed.
“I hear him and her have done a little midnight wrestling,” one them by the pit joked with an undertone of disrespect toward the hierarchy.
Everyone laughed at this until a voice with the essences of adolescences interrupted.
“Could you all shut the hell up,” Ralph, the one on the bed said to him. “I’m trying to sleep.”
“O, you poor little boy,” another by the pit mocked with a voice reserved for children. “Did we wake you?”
“Don’t treat me like a child Arthur,” he spat with venomous attitude. As far as Garth could tell, Ralph hated being treated childishly by the others mainly due to the fact that he was two years their junior. He had a large gash across his right cheek, which opened into his mouth showing all his teeth whenever he grinned. Ralph would only say that it was from a bandit who had killed his father when he was ten. They naturally assumed this was the source of his awful temperament. The lack of sleep also didn’t help for his morale or the entire group for that matter.
Arthur took off one of his boots and flung it at Ralph with no intent of harm but more out of playfulness. It struck the wall with a thud, missing its target but still infuriating Ralph. He took leave of the mattress and stormed over to Arthur who sat there grinning with a great fluster. The smirk was wiped from his face with a blow to his nose causing him to tumble backwards. Ralph grinned at what he had just done revealing all of the teeth on the right side of his mouth. They all began to laugh at this sight of pure barbarism, raising their sprits that had been so low that day. Garth laid down on the mattress and gathered up stray hay strands to rest his head on. His bedfellow’s laughter began to subside being replaced with the steady sound of smoking pipes and low grumbling table talk. The ringing of the bell from on top the central tower could be heard lulling Garth to a peaceful slumber away from the chaos of his world.
The Siege of Widow’s Web – Part II
Beyond the gate house rested the enemy camp well protected behind a hill which separated it and Widow’s wed from each other. Their camp never went beyond the hill to avoid any enemy fire. It was not that of a regular military establishment their tents weren’t in straight rows but jotted out from the center like roots from an oak. The reason for the jumbled arrangement of the camp was that the entire encampment was put up overnight. Myrin’s tent was the center of camp being clearly the largest of them all and most guarded. To Myrin the camp was a joke and the time it took them to march from the capital had taken too long. Although he had to admit the revolution was swift and had taken less time than expected. Four days’ prior the rebellion had seized the capital city and its armory making the rebel faction a true force to be reckoned with. Capturing the capital was a small feat, the entire city was like a pile of dry oak ready to go up in flame at the first spark of revolution. That spark had been the price of bread rising that day from 4 crowns to 9 per loaf due to the amount of inflation happening in the country. Other food prices followed suit making people’s saving’s worthless. Most commoners made on average 12 crowns a week with 2-4 crowns going to taxes, (the tax varies for family size) 1 crown for half a pound of tobacco and 2 crowns for a pint of beer which the men had more than one weekly. A riot broke out in the market over the rising food prices, the rebellion sized the opportunity while the guards were distracted and took the castle. Myrin’s forces killed the current patriarch of the ruling family but unfortunately the king’s 20-year-old son escaped to an allied nation along with most of his family. The old king was weak ruler that only led his country to economic debt all for his lavish courts so it was easy to convince most of the city’s guards and the nation’s noble houses to join him. Any resistance with in the country was quickly crushed or surrender to the overwhelming majority. This new regime took control of economic crises by setting prices for food and lowering taxes on the trade caravans.
On the second day of Myrins regime ruling the nation he declared that as soon as the situation stabilized free elections would be held for a new ruler that would serve on a 5-year term. All of these changes seem to appease the masses in the city. The country side dwellers on the other hand didn’t feel directly the effect of either the old order or the new making them a bit more cautious about siding with Myrin. This was particularly present at Widow’s web were there was little to no use of Crowns expect when buying or selling to the local government. It didn’t have much only cattle and diary. But with it being the last noble house who had not sworn fealty to Myrin’s regime they need to be dealt with before rushing back to the capital preparing for the heir to the old kingdom to return with a supposed massive army.
“Sir are you all right,” Myrin was snapped out of his train of thought by one of his commanders sitting across from him. They were in his tent discussing the plans for the upcoming battle.
“Yes, I’m alright, Just tried,” he told him trying to evade notice of his minor lapse in listen skills. To most of his men it would come as a shock that somehow he was unable to pay attention to someone else talking. His men view him as almost a God like figure obeying his every command without hesitation. If tomorrow he were to say that his men’s children were a threat to the revolution, he was certain that most of them would go out smash their own children’s heads in. There was one exception in his army who did not belong to his cult of personality, was Justin the Weeping, who currently sat across from him and was his second in command. Unlike the rest of the men his reasons were for joining the revolution was less of the belief that the people should be given more power over who rules them and more of a personal reason. About four years ago him and his wife were brought to the palace, by the prince and the royal guard they were then accused of being spies and intimately put thought interrogation. At least that’s what they called it ever day they were wiped, spat upon or beaten. The prince personality oversaw the interrogation and somedays he did it himself. According to Justin it was worst when the prince interrogated him, in some sessions the prince didn’t even ask him any questions. His wife died from the interrogation, eventually a true spy was found and Justin was thrown out on the streets with scars and bruises all over his body. The true monument to his story were the two scars on his face that went down to his bottom jaw to the bottom of his eyes making him look as if two tears had just recently run down his face.
Justin continued his brief with Myrin knowing this time he would be paying attention. ”We’ll be attacking the gate at sunrise, the battering ram has been set up and is man by my six best men.” His finger moved across the map to where the wood pieces were (which represented platoons on the battlefield) ended.” You’ll be here, at the back the most protected place in the battle but you’ll be seen by the troops that’ll boost morale. Now only advance your position if we secure the gatehouse, otherwise stay put.” Myrin nodded, not even being needed to be told that, self-preservation was his first priority.
“From there it shouldn’t be a hard fight, it’ll take an hour at most to secure Widow’s Web. Then we kill the whore and her offspring, after that will kill the livestock and take as much as we can carry back to the capital.”
“How long do think we can last under siege.” Myrin asked almost fearful of his answer
Justin began to rub his eyes trying to think of a proper response, if felt like hours before he spoke again but when he did it was low and sounded muffled as if someone had stuffed cloth down his throat.
“A year, year and a half if we ration carefully.”
“Good, that should be enough to last em out,” Myrin said more to himself then to Justin, “Those Ormans could never wait that long for a siege. When they lose heart their men will desert and that’s when we strike.” He pounded his fist down onto the table causing some of the wood figures to tumble. “Then the people can vote and our country will be free from the tyrants.”
Justin began to chuckle at this statement.
“What are you laughing at,” he questioned with a sneer.
“I’ve fought with and against men like you. And you’re all the same telling the peasants bullshit you can’t deliver, like the street I’ll be gold and fresh chicken served with every meal. But we both know the truth, you enjoy leading them and when this revolution is truly over you’ll never give power you love being the king of your own fucked up world.” Myrin was taken back by this no one had ever dare speak to him in such a manner. His eyebrows knitted and began to talk in a deeper voice that he usually reserved for speeches.
“If you know I’m such an awful person, why are you still here.” It was almost comical that such a deep voice would come out of someone with such small a stature.
“I want prince joseph, and as soon as he’s dead I’m leaving you and your lot of crazies.” Justin inhaled for a moment letting the words sink into Tom’s thick skull, surprisingly Myrin looked almost bored at his response.
“Is that it, a little predictable wouldn’t you say,” he stood up and went over to his armor rack in the corner that had a full suit. It shimmered like a calm ocean of gold before a storm arrives. He took the helm off the rack, it, like the rest of the armor was made of gold, but unlike the rest of the armor had a single horn in the center of the forehead about as long as one’s ring finger and just as thick. This was supposed to represent his sigil which was the Unicorn but now the universal sign for the revolution.
“What’cha expect.” Justin asked with sour in his voice.
“Don’t know,” he talked without taking his eyes off the helmet,” Now get out I need rest.” Justin didn’t respect Tom but he had been trained though out his career as a solider to carry out orders from his superiors. After Justin left Myrin stared as his helm for a while looking at his reflection in its shinny golden surface. His face had become distorted in the helm with it becoming barley reconcilable from the original. The entire face had curved around the sockets and horn giving his face the appearance of liquid running down the helm.
“I am not a tyrant,” he spoke to himself over and over again hoping that he might believe it and sink into the lie once again.
Garth woke with a fearful shock, he was drenched in sweat and couldn’t stop shaking from the fear he had just experienced. It was probably the most horrifying dream he would ever have, in the sense that he could barely distinguish with real life even now he wasn’t sure if all of it wasn’t real. It had been about his wife giving birth to the baby, she was in their bedroom alone while he could see her but couldn’t do anything else almost as if just his eyes were in the dream. Her screams pained him at the thought that he could do nothing to ease the sorrows of his wife. After what felt like hours an infant appeared between her legs, crying even louder then it’s mother and wet with fluid, she cradled into her arms trying to calm it. But without warning her head slumped and her eyes shut while the infant cried all the more louder.
He rose from the straw bed with great urgency, practically leaping for his pipe to calm his nerves. His hands shaking as he grasped it, then reached for the small pile of tobacco near the fire pit and poured a gracious amount till it practically overflowed with black powder. Garth then dipped his head low into the pit trying desperately with his hands to fan the ashes into a flame to feed his desire for a smoke. This position continued with his pipe held in his mouth and his hands fanning the ashes until a flame appeared. He ducked his head close to it allowing for the tobacco to be lit, then pulled back relaxing for his smoke and calming his nerves. It was only then that he realized how early it was, the sky was a blood red barley lighting the surrounding world.
To combat this natural darkness he tossed another cow chip on the fire and continued to fan. It didn’t take long for flames to start licking the chip until it became a steady fire giving off a modest amount of light filled the gatehouse. Garth leaden back and admired his work happy to have his mind focused on something else other then his dream. Although this did not satisfy his other bedfellows who began to stir. The first of which was Ralph who rose from his bed and yawn so long it look as if his gash had stretched two more inches.
“How’cha sleep?” Garth asked tearing his eyes away from the fire. He didn’t respond to this at first only making his way over to the pit and sat himself down next to him. Ralph wiggled his fingers, signaling for the pipe, which Garth obeyed the request and put it in his grasp. With a pipe in his mouth Ralph began to suck on it’s end, but unlike how his other bedfellows smoked through their nose or mouth he smoked through his gash making him look more like dragon then boy.
“like shit,” he responded shortly after a few puffs. “You were talking in your sleep, kept me up half the night.
“O, uh sorry,” Garth apologized then leaving an awkward silence in the air for awhile till he spoke up again. “what was I saying?”
“You were more of just shouting, Julia over and over, you worried about the baby.” Ralph knew a great deal about Garth’s home life, since Ralph did not have his own farm or wife he logged at the communally housing in the castle where he was assigned to a duty every day. On most days he was sent to Garth’s farm to help with the life stock, or on days when Garth had to go to the slaughter house which was on the other side of the valley Ralph would stay and keep Julia company.
“I’m worried about her, the doctor says she’s due tomorrow and what if I don’t get there in time,” he put his head in his palms. “I wouldn’t even get a chance to say goodbye.” Garth’s family tree was riddled with maternal deaths his mother died giving birth to his brother and her mother before her died of giving birth to her.
“Well one less mouth,” Garth head shot up like mouse leaping out of a hole, giving Ralph a stare that he thought would frighten him but instead had no effect. This infuriated Garth even more making his face go as red as a cherry and fist clench ready to pounce like a cat. But he never got a chance, his attention was torn away to Arthur who had gotten out of his bed and look out the arrow slit in the wall just to be met with a terrible sight. Hundreds or perhaps thousands could be seen coming over the edge of the hill, in their front was a long, large log with it’s end having a goat skull mounted on it six men carried with great pace trying to stay in front while still carrying such a heavy load. All of them wore the sign of the revolution and her colors red on the right side and blue on the left with a white unicorn in the center, every tenth man in the front carried a banner of this design to show pride for what they were fighting for.
A screeched exited him, in instant he was yelling everyone to get up for the enemy was attacking. Completely forgetting about the argument with his comrade, Garth ran out of the gatehouse and to a bell mounted on the outside to warn of the impending attack. He griped the rope in his palm then began to swing it back and forth trying to ring it as fast and loud as he could.
“We’re under attack, We’re under attack,” he screamed so loud he though people in the capital could hear him. This continued for some time until he felt the pounding of a hundred boots on the bridge coming his way. With the semi comfortable of reinforcements coming to the gate Garth ran back inside the gatehouse. In the few seconds Garth was out the entire group of his bedfellows went into a frenzy. Ralph was trying as fast as he could to get his armor on, Arthur was gathering up the weapons that had been scattered about the room during their stay, while the others were grabbing anything that wasn’t bolted down and piling it against the gate to give it extra defense. Garth joined in on this confusion and began to get his own leather armor on his body.
The situation reminded garth of the time when he saw a mouse being chased around the farm house by a stray cat. Eventually the cat boxed it in against the barn wall making escape nearly impossible. Each time the mouse tried to run in one direction the cat would slam it’s paw down in its path. With of the rodent’s running area decreased as two grey walls of fur closed in on him the cat edged its self closer and closer. Garth truly believed that religion was only for humans until that day, which one could say that for a spilt second the rodent had gotten down on his knees and prayed. Then before it could even mutter an our father the cat’s head boded down and snapped it’s neck.
He didn’t know why at the time it had depressed him so much, he would take cattle to the slaughter house every week, but it was the look in it’s eyes almost as if it knew of its impending doom and accepted it. Garth promised to himself on the day that he was enlisted he wouldn’t be like the mouse he would be like a cat and get them before they got him. His body began to quiver as he came back to the moment, the rebel’s were nearly on their door step, with shaky hands he pick up a pike then ran over by Arthur who had his back against the wall next to the one of the pike holes. In one swift motion Arthur spun around and plug a hole with the spear head but didn’t go any deeper. Garth went over to the next hole and mirrored Arthur’s action then waited to pounce on the enemy.
With great huffs and puffs Justin march in rhythm with his men under the cover of the battering rams roof. It was a weightfull push of the ram with 5 men on each side and two men in the back, although he had to admit that in all his years as a solider he hadn’t seen a ram go at the pace of a fast march which was why the men called it Stallion. It was a beautiful engineering feet well sanded ash wood, it’s joints perfectly collapsible, a swinging log with a ram’s skull on the end and completely roofed in, in order to keep flying projectiles off them even though none were present at the moment. Justin would have leaped over the moon to get siege equipment like this when he was foot solider for the king, back then they would chop down a monstrous of tree and shaped it’s end to a fine point. He took a great push against the Stallion and pushed these thoughts of his past were pushed to the back of his head. Another great breath escaped his lungs as him and the platoon shoved the stallion along in-between the two jutting gate houses and toward the wooded gate.
Then with a quick and thundering halt Justin was nearly thrown off his position on the ram and into the gate which would have broken considering how the men joked about what a thick skull he had. Justin regained himself form this minor folly which he thanked God none of the men had seen, then ready himself for him to give great burst of orders to them. Heavy breaths softened, till little more than short wheezes, the shaking of the earth from the rebel army subsided, l silence engulfed all of widow’s web. The outside world didn’t seem to matter, the ideologies that they fought for slipped from their mind like water, the only clear thought that remained in Justin, Myrin, Garth, Arthur, Ralph and all the other foot soldier’s head’s was “They’re going to kill us so we must kill them.” Time itself seem to stop as if knowing what was about to happen also trying to squeeze as much peace time as it could before chaos ensued.
“HEVY,” Justin’s command seemed to shatter the mere idea of peace and in it’s place stood the sole idea of war. The men pulled back on the ram and sung it forward causing it to crash into the gate with a bang. Wood splintered and cracked but the hinges stayed frim refusing to swing to the intruders. A sharp pain shot through Justin’s side and up his body jolting him out of his contraction on breaking down the gate, instead self-preservation replaced the thought. He looked down his side to see a pike had jotted out from one of the gatehouses and was loosely lodge below his ribs where his armor had a kink in it’s plates. Rage flowed through Justin as he grasped the spear then ripped it out of his side with little concern to blood lost and broke the pike’s tip off with his great hands making it seem to him like a wood chip under the hoof of a heavy horse. With great thrust he flung it back into the pike hole it had come out which too Arthur’s unfortunate luck slammed into his gut. He flopped upon the ground and began to jerk about like a fish
Garth who had heard Arthur’s shout of pain looked over to see him sprawled across clutching his gut with great agony. Without a second though he left his pike in the hole and bent down to help his fellow comrade, he pulled Arthur’s arm over his neck in an attempt to help him walk.
“What in hell you doin,” Arthur inquired when he had regained himself. “Get back and keep fighting.”
“It doesn’t matter, the pike’s aren’t doing anything, now come on let’s help with the gate.” Arthur agreed to this with a simple nod then used his own legs to walk but still clenched his gut which had turned a shade of purple. Although Garth still allowed Arthur to use him as support but every few steps he would kick Arthur’s shins to reminded him that he had two good working feet. Once outside they saw the extent of the items that were less then an hour ago inside the gate house but now had been stacked up against the gate till it was up to Garth’s neck. Whatever wasn’t nailed down in the gatehouses they had thrown on the pile, loose stones, hay piles, barrels of cow chips crates of food and furniture. Even this did not seem to suffice as the rest of their bedfellows pushed themselves against the pile to increase the stability of it all, but with every swing of the ram the whole mass would shake causing pieces of the assortment to come crumbling down on them. Ralph was one of them, fight a losing battle of keep the gate from swinging inward, he was on the very edge of the door between a crate and the door hinge pushing with all his might. Arthur seemed to forget of his previous injuries as he bounded out of Garth’s support and put his own back against the pile right next to Ralph. The gate shook and splintered causing more objects to plummet on the defenders, Garth himself did not join in this feeble attempt in keeping the new order separated from the old but instead stood back in awe at what was happening. A tear escaped his eye, he knew what was about to happen, the rebels would come in and surly kill all of them, then they’d go down into the valley and burn all of it.
“I should run,” he whispered to himself, he should go run down into the valley and grab is wife then sneak out through one of the unguarded gates. He knew that getting down their in time was nearly impossible before the invasion would occur and she was 9 months pregnant. But their was a chance that they could get away from it all, leave everything behind and live in the capital or maybe Velicos, he could take up a trade join a guild even, their child would go to school then every night he’d get home at a decent time and eat something besides beef. They were fleeting dreams of a fantasy that would never manifest itself in reality, Garth knew but it gave him hope that he had a choice of fighting, he wasn’t doing this for his life he was doing it to keep widow’s web safe even though he knew deep inside that it was less about patriotism and more of survival. So using that logic he was doing a selfless action that could make his child proud to be his offspring.
Garth push these thoughts away for another time, while trying to remain focused on the present situation. Though what did keep pushing itself to the head of his thoughts was where were the reinforcements, he turned his head down the bridge toward the central tower, a faint vibration of marching feet could be felt and one see the large sigil on their wooden shields of a black six legged spider. They were still a great deal away but would be there in the next few minutes.
A loud crack of wood reached his ears, he turned to see in horror that the make shift barricade had crumpled reforming into small clusters, which the only threat it imposed to the invaders was a minor tripping hazard. Arthur, Ralph and the three others didn’t give up their fight to keep the gate closed, they heaved and dug in their heels trying desperately to slow it’s progress. This had little affect on it as the wood beam that held the two separate doors together began to creak and crack at the strain. There was one last great heave then the ram burst in with a force that was so powerful it snapped the beam as easy as one would do with a twig. The gate opened with snail like speed due to the defenders resistance, Garth knew it wouldn’t maintain this speed for long as the bulk of the rebel forces had begun to advance at the sight of the battering ram crew breaking through the defenses. He looked behind him to see their own troops had arrived, they themselves look to be in the same state of terror once they saw the scene unfold in front of them. No one else joined in on the effort of keeping the gate shut, they all knew of the inevitable but all of them seemed to be rooted in their shoes. The door’s hinges seemed to scream in agony as they were forced open the opposite way they were intended. Garth knew that his comrades would be overrun in a mere moment by the rebels, his tongue seemed to grow heavy at this though, making loud verbalization difficult, but he had to do something before he could think his lips began to move as a reflect suddenly blaring out a warning without realizing it was him speaking.
“GET AWAY,” only three of the five obeyed his command but both Arthur and Ralph stayed in their spots pushing with what strength they had left. Garth admired them for their bravery but not as much for their judgment due to fact they would be swarmed in mere moments. The remaining two seemed to also realized this fact by the look of utter terror on their faces but moved to slow as a great mass of soldiers came crashing through the gate. They were practically thrown against the gate house wall as the gate rammed against them, it stuttered for a mere moment then as another wave pushed against it causing the gate to came back with a much harder swing.
Times itself seemed to slow, Arthur got himself to his bearings as he leaned against the gate house, Ralph was behind him still regaining himself for a mere second one could have believed that the two boys had mere scraped themselves after wrestling, not in battle. It was almost a moment of peace that Garth wished he could have stay in permanently, it was like moment during a storm when there’s a flash from above and you forget your hurry to rush inside then the loud crash brings one back into the realization that it was storming. But peace always comes to an end, the door rushed into the side of Arthur’s skull giving little residence. Garth shut his eyes only hear a defining crunch then a splatter of liquid against his face, his breath quickened as turned and ran behind the line loyalist men.
He didn’t want to die, he though as a million ideas came to him, he needed to leave, forget about his wife forget about the baby he wanted to live, he’d run to one of the other gates then go to Velicos where he’d prostitute himself or whatever job he could get his hands. Garth tried more and more desperately to make his way through the mass of friendly troops. His heart seemed to jump into his throat as the words I need to get out, repeated over and over in his head. The brave and calm facade that he put on for himself had fallen with any hope for victory his eyes began to flood as he became less and less of a solider and more of a boy. With his mind completely occupied, Garth seemed to forget how to run as he trip over his own two feet. The crowd of men reversed their steps as they began to get pushed back. An endless wave of rebels seemed to bang up against the dam of wooden shields chipping away at it. Justin on the other side tried desperately to wrangle the troop together into a more practical position but it was like herding cats, these were raw recruits with the only battle experience being in a mob that took over the capital. The loyalist seemed much more effective at keeping them back then anticipated, Justin need to break through their line or else moral would drop and the entire rebel army would route. To hell with it he though, with a fierce war cry he began to charge with several others of his comrades close behind him mimicking his actions. Before Justin had even reached the line it had begun to break, the pure sight of Justin the Weeping coming straight for them sent some flinging behind the ranks. A new wave of enthusiasm rushed over the rebels as they charged straight through, completely consuming what was left of the front line. Other loyalist followed suit trying desperately to fight but losing ground fast thrusting their spears and thrashing their knives. This did not phase Justin as he knew they would all fall to their might soon enough so he set his sights on his true goal Thorament’s son.
The boy was no military leader which angered him that he was able to hold them back longer then expected. He probably didn’t even work for the position and was just handed it like one would be handed a hammer. It sickened him to his core that someone could get such an easy rank with little work just because of blood, Justin worked all of two years for he could lead a regiment but this child was in charge of their whole dam army. It didn’t matter he thought in a moment he would put his head on a spike, then the rest of the army would kneel. The boy didn’t even show any aspect of bravery positioning himself behind his men whilst shouting commands, although these men showed very little loyalty to Marten and more to their lives as they themselves began to shrink back behind him. While Marten was too occupied with trying to keep his men in line to notice he was unprotected Justin saw this as a prefect opportunity to strike him down. With his great spiked mace in hand Justin lunched at him with great speed, he knocked him onto his back and sending the sword he held flying from his hand. It skid across the bridge till it banged up against Garth who was currently crawling in-between legs in order to avoid conflict. He didn’t notice the weapon till it cut his own fingers tips giving him quite a stir, he grasped it having no weapon at the time. Garth’s eyes darted across the area knowing that he had seen the sword before but couldn’t seem to think of who in his state of fear. It did matter though as his eyes fell upon Marten who currently laid on his back desperately trying to get up like a turtle tipped on it’s shell as a large man approached him. He’d find the entire situation comical of Marten on his back unable to get due to the heavy armor on him but he wouldn’t want to see him die even if he was an ass to him. His hands shook desperately as he tried to pick up the weapon he was frightened at the sight of man who could probably crush Garth’s skull with just his palms. A voice seemed to scream inside his head, “You’re a coward, you’re not a warrior, you’re nobody run away hide.” It trailed on and on getting louder with each step closer the man made to Marten.
“YOU’RE A COWARD!” The voice screeched with such power it felt as if his brain was into two. Without thinking Garth grasped the sword then rushed to the aid of his younger comrade. Justin mood while was much smugger then fearful he felt as if he was invisible all his life he was told how the lords and their children were above the commoners in every way, but now he was above one of them. He approached Marten with such stagnate gait as to soak in the beauty of the situation if he was given the choice he would have stayed in the moment forever. It seemed almost too soon when he reached the young lording at the edge of the bridge who was desperately tried to get up by using the wooden railing but with no success.
“My Lord,” he said to with an ironic tone that made Marten looked at him a mixture of hate and fear. Seeing as he could delay the act no longer he raised his spiked mace high above his head at the same moment a gap in between his plates revealed it’s self on his hip. Garth saw this weak point as his opening charging straight for it as the voice in his head screamed, “Do it you coward.”
The sword slice through Justin as if he was constructed of butter going up through his side and out his right shoulder. Justin screamed only knowing a pain this terrible since his time in the prince’s dungeon. His hands slacked from agony, the spiked mace slipped from his grasped banging down upon Marten’s left knee bending his weak metal armor till it bit deep into his skin. Garth could no longer hear the voice any longer but it’s repercussions remained causing him to believe it’s silence meant he had done something right almost taking joy in his actions. Justin swiveled his head to Garth he was in pure horror that a boy could do such a thing to him.
“I am no coward,” he told him slowing dislodging the sword form his torso. Determination drain from Justin knowing full that he would die soon and would not fight this boy, a tear escaped him running through his scar like a stream in a canyon he knew soon he would be with his wife. Then with one swift swipe of the sword Justin’s head was cut clean across his mouth. Joy seemed to flow through Garth at the fact that he had extinguished a life, it wasn’t like when he killed a sick calf but this man was an intelligent creature he wanted to do it again to have power over an intelligent being. Unbeknownst to him Marten had been drag away by one of the keep’s guard toward the door into the central tower. The guard called out to others on the inside over the roar of the battle telling them he had the boy. With that the doors opened quickly letting them than was shut and locked with a resounding click. Other loyalist men in the rear noticed this now knowing that their only way of retreat was gone they began to panic abandoning their ranks and began banging on their own castle door to be let in. Garth didn’t notice the panic over the door nor did he care all he focused on was jabbing at any rebel troop he could set his sights on. Form this over examination of his front he didn’t notice when another rebel came around him the slicing him in the back going right through his gut. Garth tumbled to the ground feeling as if he had just eaten bad porridge he looked up to his attacker to see a boy just as old as he was he raised his own sword for the final blow on Garth when the entire bridge began to shake. His attacker lost his balance falling down himself this victory was short lived as the floor gave beneath him with the rest of bridge Keith following. Time itself seemed to slow as he fell giving him time to look at his surroundings, he saw the soldiers who fell with him the bulk of which were like him young men who didn’t understand what they were fighting for or who they were fight against. They had all had been swept up in such patriotic fever that they couldn’t see their enemy as human, perhaps they were right and a republic should be formed, maybe things should just stay the same or everyone may be wrong and they deserved their fate. Looking below he spotted his home nestled between the meadows where the cows grazed it was a peaceful sight the valley seemed to be untouched by the war just by looking at the valley one would believe there was no war. He turned his head back toward his little cottage and for one fleeting moment he could have sworn he saw his wife with an infant in hand at for once in his life he was not worried for her, himself or anyone he was just glad that she was alive the baby was alive. Garth’s head struck the ground killing him instantly.
The digital clock on the bedside table showed 10:53 p.m. Wednesday was always a late night for Coach Andrew Sanford in his two-story house in Palo Alto, California. He always dedicated this day of the week to watching their game film over and over preparing for the upcoming game. Basketball in the San Francisco Bay area is nothing to take lightly. Being the coach of Palo Alto High School in the middle of San Francisco, there was not much he did without it being basketball related. All he could think about was keeping up the good season that he was working on, in hopes of moving his way up in the ranks and making a name for himself
As he prepared to turn the television off for the night, the phone began to ring. Coach Sanford muted the screen and quickly checked the caller ID on the phone. It read “unknown caller.” He decided that it was too late and let the phone ring as he made his way up the stairs. He could not help but wonder who was calling him at such a late hour. He fell asleep, just thinking who it was.
The next morning, Coach woke up before his alarm went off. It was his phone ringing and displaying the “unknown caller” on the ID. Since he had a little time before his day started, he decided to answer it.
“Hey Andrew, it’s Chris Perkins, the athletic director down at St. Anthony Prep. How’re you doing?” the man asked.
“I’m doing just fine how’re you?” Coach responded. He began to wonder what such a prestigious school like St. Anthony was doing calling him. They were undefeated and ranked number one in the state. Palo Alto was ranked a little bit behind at number twenty-two. Was this the call he had been waiting on?
“I’m great, thanks. Listen, I wanted to talk to you about a coaching job over here at St. Anthony’s. Our head coach just left to go coach at some fancy college and we thought you’d be the perfect person to come on down here and fill the gap,” Chris said
At first, Coach Sanford did not know how to react. Of course, he had always wanted this but now that it was here, was this the right thing to do. He thought about his team, his players, all of his progress this season. And he would be throwing it away for what? Only a few ranks higher? But on the other hand, he thought, maybe the same thing that happened their old coach could happen to me.
It felt like ten hours had passed since the question had been asked. “Chris, I…I don’t know what to say. I appreciate the offer, I really do. But I have to be at practice in about thirty minutes so I’ll have to get back to you on that.”
“Hey, no pressure Andrew. You just give it some thought and get back to me as soon as you can,” Mr. Perkins responded. Somehow, this laid-back response only made Coach’s heart race faster and his stomach began to hurt.
“All right well you take care,” Coach said.
“I will. You as well,” Chris said right before hanging up the phone, leaving coach in silence.
The first thing that popped into Coach’s head after he hung-up the phone was the money. If he was able to lead Palo Alto this far into the season, just think about how good he would do if he had the players down at St. Anthony’s. There would be championships, press conferences, college offers, all of the spotlight you could think of. He came to the conclusion that he would call back Chris Perkins tonight after practice and tell him the good news, that he had decided to take the offer.
Coach Andrew arrived at 8:45 a.m. for 10 a.m. practice like he always did. As he set up drills for the day, he was surprised to see two players already shooting around on the far basket, farthest from the door. The players there were the best on the team. One of them was their point guard, Harrison Solich, who was a 5’11 160-pound senior who had just moved to California a couple of months before the season started. The dark, mop-like hair that sat on top of his head drooped down into his eyes, causing him to be constantly flipping it to the side. He worked harder than anyone Coach had ever seen. Then there was Landon. He was only a couple of inches taller than Harrison but probably had thirty-five pounds on him. The teams star shooting-guard, he had blonde hair with long, lengthy arms and hands that looked like they could palm an exercise ball. Another thing, he and Harrison were best friends, on and off the court.
“What’s up boys?” Coach asked.
“Just getting some shots in before practice,” Harrison answered.
“Alright well, I’m not going to stop you guys just yet. You keep going,” Coach said.
As the boys got back to work, Coach Sanford began to grab the cones out of his bag. These boys are always working. I wish the whole team worked as hard as they do, Coach thought to himself, as he stopped to take it all in. They are up and done with their workouts before most guys get out of bed on some days. He began to wonder if he had ever seen two people that were more hard-working than Harrison and Landon. He hadn’t.
The clock hit 9:30 a.m. as coach finished setting up his last drill. More and more players from the team began to sprinkle in the gymnasium doors.
“What’s this, you guys?” Coach asked the players.
Landon stepped in this time. “We thought we would have everyone come in a little early and go over some plays and work on some things for tomorrow night.”
Coach got to thinking again. Not only are they the two hardest workers I have ever seen, but it is rubbing off on the rest of the team.
“You don’t say,” Coach said right back. “I like that Landon. You keep doing what you’re doing.”
“Thanks, Coach,” Landon responded, as he huddled everyone up to talk about what they were planning to work on.
That night, Coach sat at home on the couch, relaxing after a long morning. He remembered that he was supposed to call back Mr. Perkins and give him his answer on whether he was going to stay, or leave. That was probably the last thing he wanted to do. With what he had seen at practice, he was not sure if he still wanted to leave. He still thinks about the money and the fame but he also thinks about this own team. How they had gone to practice early and were doing extra work on their own without being told. That was what being a coach was all about. Not just working at the scheduled practices, but the need to rub off on your players and have them be working all the time.
The clock next to the couch said 9:45 p.m.. Coach Sanford decided that night that he would not be finalizing his decisions to leave or stay. Instead, he called one the oldest, best coaches he’d ever worked with. Coach Richard Valiant was the head coach at Coach Sanders first coaching job as an assistant at Westmont High School down in San Jose. The guy had to be at least seventy-five years old now. But he and Coach Sanford had always kept in touch, texting each other every so often just to see how the other person was doing. He dialed the number.
He answered, “Hey how are you doing Andrew? Good to hear from you, what’s going on?”
“I was just calling to see how you’re doing. I Got something I needed to talk to you about,” Coach Sanford said.
“I’m doing great, what’s on your mind?” Coach Valiant said.
“I just got a call from St. Anthony’s and they want me to be their new coach. But I would have to switch in the middle of the season.”
“Well, that’s a tough decision…” Coach Valiant said.
Coach Valiant told him about why he became a coach. “I did not do it because of the money or the championships or the recognition. The winning was just a bonus if I was able to accomplish my original goal. And that was working with kids to help them improve to the best of their ability. Not bouncing around from school to school looking for the better paying job or the higher ranked team,” He said.
Immediately after the call ended with Coach Valiant, Coach Sanford began to think about his team. They were not the best team around and the definitely did not have the best players. But they were the hardest working team he had ever seen. He thought that if he could help just one player move on to the next level, all of his years of coaching would be worth it. It also popped into his mind that he would be abandoning Harrison and Landon. He could not just leave them behind, could he?
After sitting alone in the silence of his home, he decided to sleep on it. As he made his way up the stairs, he almost felt relieved that he had not made the mistake of locking in his decision that night. That night, he sat in his bed thinking about what he would be giving up. Losing his successful season, his reputation and the idea of letting down his players made his stomach feel like it had just dropped. But he also began to think about all of the opportunities, the money, and the prestige that would come with taking the job. It felt as if he had fallen asleep the moment that his head hit the pillow.
The next morning when he awoke, Coach jumped right into his game-day routine. He went right down to the kitchen and immediately began making his personal breakfast of champions: eggs, hash browns and bacon with a single biscuit. The time between breakfast and game time always seems to fly by when Coach does all of his last chance preparations. It was not until he walked into the locker room and saw all of the players lacing up their shoes that he began to start thinking about the coaching offer.
After the game had ended and the post-game locker room meeting had come to a close, he went into his office. The had smashed the other team 76-41 and they obviously could have run the score up, but Coach Andrew never let his team do that, no matter who they played against. When Harrison and Landon walked past the door to his office, he called after them.
“Hey boys! Get in here for a second,” he said.
“Hey coach, what’s up?” Harrison asked first.
“Yeah what can we do for you?” added Landon
“What I just saw out there, is that something you two can make a habit of? Do you think you boys can have that kind of effort every game we play from here on out?” When he said this, he expected a modest response or something along the lines of “We’ll try.” But what he got was completely different.
Both of them looked at each other, then back at Coach, “Absolutely,” they both said.
Coach reflected back on his conversation with Coach Valiant and everything that he told him. “Thanks, guys. Good to hear. You guys are free to go.” he said to them.
“No problem, Coach thanks.” Harrison said before making his way towards the door to leave.
“Hey son,” Coach said, “you played a hell of a game.” It was at that moment that Coach knew with absolute certainty, he did not want to go anywhere else.
Landon looked back, “Thanks, Dad.”