Ben looked out the window of the palace. So peaceful, so still, he thought contentedly. “Is it not so unlike the turmoil of the courts, Master Badroth?” The young boy’s teacher looked up in his direction, identifying the cause of the boy’s remarks.
“Ahh, yes, it is indeed a most wonderful sight to behold,” Badroth responded in a grave tone.
“Perhaps I might take a stroll through the streets after my lesson this afternoon?” His teacher paused, stroking his goatee, considering the request amidst the boy’s eager look.
“Yes.” he paused, filling his vast lungs, “but first you must explain to me in one word what they are doing in the courts today.” The master waited patiently for his student’s reply.
“Babbling.” He looked up from his book, “They are babbling. For they go to their seats all day and at the end of it, they come away, having accomplished nothing.”
“Ah, you learn quickly young one, perhaps one day you will rise to the throne of Ashkalar and exceed the wisdom of even the greatest kings before you.” The young prince looked up at his teacher with profound respect and a new sense of aspiration.
“Do you really think so?”
“Yes,” he said, leaning in closer, “but only if you remember one thing.”
“What is that Master Badroth?”
“It is this: An earthly king is only so great as the people he leads, and so also, it is of the people’s own will that a ruler stands uncontested. So too, remember that it is not of your own authority that you are great but of those you lead. You are not their King but their servant. Remember this always, that humility in leadership is the way to wisdom and peace, and you shall stand the test of time as a revered and loved ruler. “
“I will master, I promise.”
“AH!” Ben yelled as he drove his sword into an enemy soldier. The two armies clashed against each other as a violent storm raged above, sending rain down, turning the hillsides into slick mud as lightning struck down, striking soldiers clad in metal armor, burning them.
“My liege!” The now twenty-year-old looked over at a scout running over to him, breathing heavily.
“What is it?”
“General Scarto—he is surrounded—His right flank was overwhelmed by a battalion of—spearmen!” the young warrior spoke in between gasps of air.
“Does Colonel Riday still hold the left flank?” the scout nodded, laboring for air, Ben looked him over, noticing the scout’s side was covered in blood.
“Thank you for your message, now, go get medical attention at the back of the line.” The scout made no attempt to argue as he headed towards help.
Ben pulled out his horn, blowing three shrill notes then two deep ones. It was the signal for Riday to send his troops up and around the enemy’s right flank. Ben hoped the diversion would be enough to relieve General Scarto so he could regroup and charge the line, pushing back. It was hard fighting, but he could see the tide beginning to change. At last, they had gained the upper ground. With the green hills turning into thick mud, it would be easy enough to push down on top of the Red Hand’s forces—as his adversary was called.
Ben looked down toward his general, his mouth dropping. A Walzug Chaser was charging the tiny circle of men around him. A great beast with short stalky limbs and a mouth so big it could put a crocodile to shame, a walzug was a terrifying monster in its own right. A walzug mounted with a rider, able to control it, was an abomination from hell. Ben tried shouting, but above the clanking noise of battle Scarto would never hear him. He tried blowing his horn, but it was too late. Ben watched helpless, as his general was rammed by the rider, his body crippled, lying face down in the mud. Ben screamed, burning with fury.
He tooted a few notes on his horn, rallying men in immediate proximity around him, and then rushed toward the chaser, intent on only one thing, destroying the beast and avenging the death of a dear friend.