The summer heat was sweltering and it was only midday. I slowly trudged out the door of my uncle’s cabin, pack on my back, reluctant to start the task at hand. My uncle had been my caretaker ever since my parents both died during one of the many uprisings against the king. I was too young to remember any of it happening, and my uncle refused to tell me about any of it, citing his weak heart as the reason. He raised me at the foot of the great Mount Hubris, aptly named after Lord Davis and his forces were subdued on its peak. Every now and then loyalists to the crown, historians, or curious tourists would pay my uncle a fair sum to guide them up the mountain. It wasn’t much money, but that and the food we grew on our own was enough for the both of us. My uncle had told me that morning that we would be guiding an old friend, who had grown blind in his later years, and could no longer make the journey on his own. My uncle looked impatiently at me as I shuffled towards the gate to his cabin.
“Hurry, our client is not somebody we should keep waiting.”
I grimaced, “Sorry, it hasn’t been this hot in years.”
My uncle smirked at me and took off towards the meeting point at a pace brisk for someone as old as him. Although I had never directly asked my uncle his age, he had to be somewhere in his late fifties. Yet, on this day where the sun poured molten waves of heat on one’s skin, he had seemed more agile then myself at seventeen years of age.
“It’s been years since I’ve seen Eddie,” he looked back at me struggling to keep up. “Hell maybe even decades!”
Uncle seemed genuinely excited, more than I’ve seen in years. As we approached the small stone bench were Eddie was seated, my uncle began to tense up a little bit. He slowly walked up to Eddie and extended his hand,
“It’s been too long friend.”
Eddie looked up at where he supposed my uncle would be. His face was old, weathered, and beaten, but somehow still maintained some spark of youth. I almost fainted when I saw he was wearing a thick mail of shiny metal and some fancy looking greaves underneath that. I was surprised he had not collapsed from heat exhaustion. As he looked up at my uncle, his expression began to change from one of contentment to one of mild disgust.
“Even after all these years, your terrible sense of humor has not changed Daniel,” Eddie scolded as he pushed my uncles had away. “Extending your hand to a blind man might top the list of bad jokes you’ve made over the decades.” He began to chuckle, as did my uncle who sat next to him on the hot stone bench.
“What kind of madman parades in their old uniform on a day like this Eddie? And during a journey like this one, you must really miss being on the field.” My uncle patted some dirt off Eddie’s shoulder.
Eddie stood up and started to wander, poking at various things with an old oak cane he carried.
“I don’t miss the field as much as I miss those who fought alongside us Daniel.” My uncles face grow solemn, “Come now, lead an old blind man to the top of this mountain.” He pointed his cane directly at me. This startled me a bit, but I none the less took the pack off my back, and removed some rope which I tied to myself, my uncle, and Eddie in that order.
“Come non now, I thought only louts and losers used ropes on this hike,” chuckled Eddie. My uncle looked back with a grin on his face. “Aye. Louts, losers, and now old men.”
At the end of the day we were all exhausted, and we had not even reached the most treacherous part of the journey yet. My uncle started to build a campfire has I prepared the tents. Old Eddie sat in the dirt and took a pipe out from his pack, loaded it with a neon purple herb. My uncle looked concerned “I can’t believe you still smoke that garbage.” Eddie sparked the bowl by snapping his fingers. “Witches and wizards know how to have the most fun, do not let Daniel tell you otherwise.” It had been a couple years since I had last seen magic. My uncle found the stuff to be abhorrent and unnatural. Although Eddie’s magic seemed tame, my uncle still seemed perturbed by it. “No nephew of mine will spend his time with those charlatans. I haven’t spent the past eighteen years of my life training him with a sword and shield, just so he can go and learn some fancy tricks.” Everyone fell silent as Eddie continued to blow a shimmering purple dust out of his lungs. A few minutes of this silence fluttered by, until Eddie finished his pipe.
“You never called Elyse a charlatan when she mended your broken spine.”
My uncle, who was collecting stick around the camp at the time, stopped dead in his tracks.
“Let’s just get this meal ready, I’m sure we’re all hungry.” He muttered.
My uncle had no kids, and never brought any ladies to the cabin, at least not while I was there. He did once mention a woman he knew back during the War of the Lords. His stories never went on for too long though, as he worried his heart would give in from the pain of remembering.
The fire had started, and my uncle was boiling some venison stew in a small cauldron. It was a beautiful night out. The owls, crickets, and wind all sung in unison, creating a blissful melody. Eddie pulled a small lute from his pack, and began to strum along with nature. “Reminisce with me, Daniel.” My uncle smiled from the side of his mouth, “I think I’ll pass, dinners ready anyhow.”
We all slurped our stew furiously. Uncle decided it would be best if he went to bed early. It wasn’t long before we heard snores coming from his tent. Now it was just Eddie and I, sitting next to the dying fire. As I swallowed a chunky piece of venison, I noticed Eddie staring at me blankly. “I hope that you are more willing to entertain an old man who wants to recount his glory days.” I wasn’t tired enough for sleep yet, so I nodded and got comfortable.
“Good! Would you rather hear about when your uncle and myself were stranded on an island of cannibalistic women, or the Battle at Fredrickstead?” He stiffened up with excitement.
I had heard bits and pieces of the story of the battle. My uncle claims to have killed thirty two men in one day. While it interested me, who would miss an opportunity to hear about cannibalistic women? Before I could express my interest in the former tale, Eddie started.
“Fredrickstead was a small little hamlet south of the capital, but not as far south as Mount Hubris. No more than eleven lived there at the time I believe. Lord David’s forces had routed our men underneath the Dreary Peaks, so we fled under the mountains’ shadow towards the south. Five hundred, give or take, tired and beaten soldiers all stopped and rested in the tiny hamlet of Fredrickstead. It was almost too much for the town elder to comprehend. She had not seen war since her childhood, and was mortified at the thought of one coming to her home. With General Bergus slain under the Peaks, no one was willing to step forward and make a decision. Some spoke of fleeing, others cried for their mothers, and a good number darted for the hills. By the next morning less than three hundred and fifty soldiers remained. To make matters worse, your uncle had taken a couple scouts to see if Lord David had caught up. He was a days march away. Panic gripped those who remained, and the hamlet’s elder, Maxine, begged us to leave. Daniel, our friends Gerald and Elyse, and myself decided to take action. We gather the men and the towns folk and devised a plan. It was soon discovered that the main function of Fredrickstead was stone carving. The people of the Hamlet would take massive slabs of stone from the surrounding hills, and create works of stone from them. Their most popular export being the millstone gave me an idea. After generations of carving the hills around the hamlet, Fredrickstead was at the base of a rather sizable valley. We would lure David’s men to the center of this Hamlet, set it on fire, and as they fled up the hills we would crush them with millstones we rolled down. The remaining men should be no issue, considering they would be fighting an uphill battle. The villagers protested, one even going as far as to try and kill Gerald. After being subdued, they accepted their fate. Daniel gave them the option to join our cause and receive reparations after the war, or flee south to safety. Only two remained, and alongside the army, we all prepared for the battle to come.”
To be continued on 3/4/16