Morbid thoughts of death have constantly traveled through my head as of recently. Combatting these thoughts is my desire for redemption, for reformation from the heartless man I once was capable of being to the approachable, if slightly intimidating in my seriousness at times, man who is now called a friend to many and considers many his friends. If I was still in the business, these would be weaknesses. I, however, am obviously getting off track and shall return to why I pen these words now. If death shall find me, I shall not let it find me unprepared. One thing to prepare is my legacy. Barring children, a wife, or family of which I have none, I pen these words to leave behind, if ever I should perish. This is the story… of my life. Whoever deigns to read these words, I warn you that it is not some romanticized, fantasy tale of the life of some adventurer, but the actual events of my life.
I begin with my earliest memories, in my father's estate nestled within a secluded valley in the Alterac mountains. The days were warm, the nights cold, the seasons extreme. As a youth, I did not worry much over things like the weather, availability of water and food, and general well being of my home. Not only was my father's estate not much more than a manor, surrounded by a village, but it was dreadfully bland and unexciting. The only excitement came from forays into the lands surrounding us, attacks on local troll populations to keep them in control. We were attacked every so often, despite our efforts. I barely remember the raids from the times before I defended against them. Warning cries issued from militia posted at gates. Though wooden, they were sturdy and formidable enough. Men mounted the walls when the cries rang out and drew bow and arrow and fired upon any groups of trolls approaching. This tended to dissuade them, but sometimes, during harsh winters and summers, they would recklessly charge in great numbers.
Great melees occurred at those times, and as a lad, I remember watching the gleaming steel of swords fall upon the Trolls with abandon and revel in the excitement. I look back on those thoughts, those urges with disgust now. However, my hindsight, while revealing my current disposition, is not my concern here. In my youth, I began training, as all young men did there. As soon as I had weathered my sixteenth season, I was learned in slender blades, bows, and maces. I could chop wood for hours before tiring and stand watch with the militia when needed. My aim was unerring in those days as I pretended to fire arrow after arrow into the ranks of the Troll parties. I never missed, in my head. Soon, I was put to the real test of skill.
A drought had settled over the land, times were hard for us and the people grew gaunt and slim. Hunger was common in those days, though food had been stored and was rationed for such an occasion. Signs pointed to a break in the drought soon. but the Troll population was breaking. Parties had been settling as close to the walls of our village, gathering and the numbers grew. The men were getting antsy, and I was with them. A youth, barely seventeen seasons old. My father mounted the wooden wall, giving hope to the militia and improving morale. They knew that the Trolls were going to advance soon, and every man capable of bearing arms was roused and prepared. Such numbers had not been seen in many, many years and people were scared. In my youth, I was excited. A chance to spill blood, prove myself a man. Bring me my path to glory, I thought. I was invincible. I look up to my father, Beren. He is coaching Davak, my brother, in a last minute attempt to prepare him for the coming battle. My mother, Kirelle, was stone faced and ushering children and women into the sturdy structure of my father's 'manor'.
Soon, I heard drumming and grinned, looking around for the bard who was trying to lighten the mood. As I gazed along the line of men, I realized that there were no drums. That was the sound of the Trollish feet hitting the earth as they charged. And for the first time in my life, I knew fear.
My body was paralyzed, and I thought that I could feel my insides pull out through my navel. The disruption was unbalancing, and I would have fallen flat on my back had I not been rooted in place by the fear. I cannot say that I have ever felt this way since, either because I have grown accustomed to the feeling of fear or because nothing I have faced in my mortal life has approached, even closely, to the stampeding hordes of Trolls that day. The men around me, some older and many younger than I had the same look cross their face. I felt like I was in a labyrinth of mirrors, my own fear reflected back to me no matter which way I looked. Beren manned the walls, the veteran soldiers surrounding him spreading along the section of the wall.
Beren glared, angrily, over the gathered men and shouted loudly, "The Trolls outnumber us, my brothers, it is true! We may fall this day, but we will not give up! Your families, your livelihoods, your HOMES are here! You are armed and armored, and are the fist of vengeance. We will fight these Trolls, we -will- kill these trolls, and we will survive! With our might of arms, we will remind these Trolls that we are not afraid of them, that they should fear us! Drought, or no drought, we will stand against them! With me, men!" Beren brandished his sword above his head, the serpent pommel shining in the light and let out a roar that drowned out the drumming of Trollish feet on the ground.
Men came to their senses, breaking from their trances as quickly as they had succumbed to it. I gazed proudly at my father, nodding to myself and feeling control of my body return to me. I quickly looked around, over the walls, and leaned my swords against the wall, drawing a bow and pulling back the bowstring, lining up an arrow for the Troll forces. I released the string, and did not care to watch the flight of the arrow. I pulled another back and let loose. I repeated this, again and again, as did many of the militiamen. There simply were not enough arrows for the Trolls there. It was barely a hundred men, and only twenty of them veterans with fighting experience, against at least ten times that number. Whereas the men were armored in gleaming metal, with swords and shields of steel, the Trolls wore hides of animals, sometimes cured and often times, crude and untreated. The weapons were stones, chipped and sharpened, attached and fastened by twine, into axes and spears. Though inefficient and nowhere near as keen as a forged blade, the weapons more than made up for it with power and brutality.
Trolls were dropping, arrows protruding out of chests, skulls, arms, and legs. Arrows continued to rain upon the mass of Trolls scrambling towards the walls. I gazed around once more, and grabbed a few men I had trained with. I saluted to my father, and ran off around the hills to our west. I hoped to be able to get around them fast enough to attack the Trolls from behind, and give them an easier target and lure them away. I did not think I would ever return home, but I knew that it was worth it. The men I had around me wore grimaces on their face and as we got to the other side of the hill, I could hear the pounding of Troll weapons against the walls. While sturdy, they would not last long, I knew. There were fifteen of us, we had grown up together in the village and I knew these men well. Thom, Garm, Brion, Vincent, Cam, Richard, Trisphin, Belros, Nero, Samm, Liam, Francis, Boros, Hurin, and myself. I will remember their names until I die, if I do not speak of them much if at all. I have kept my past hidden from many people, and will continue to do so until I am slain.
We rounded the hillside and I spied a path headed higher into the hills. I motioned for Nero, Boros, Garm, Hurin, and Thom to follow me. I was accurate with a bow, but Hurin put me to shame. The others were adept as well. The rest of the men continued on. We crested a rise, with a sharp drop beyond us and I knelt down at the edge of the drop off and eyed the field below. I could make out men on the wall, stabbing down with halberds and firing bows into the mass. My father stood at the center, ready to leap down to fend off any breach in the wall or gates. I saw my men, my friends, come up from the valley, behind the Trolls. I fired from the drop off, as did the men with me. Arrows fell into the mass of Trolls, surprising them as their allies dropped around them. Many turned and saw my friends on the valley floor and a large amount of the Trolls broke off, swinging around and bearing down on them. These Trolls were bloodthirsty and manic. There was no peaceful resolution to this, and I wanted none. Suddenly, Garm was pulled over the side of the drop off. It was only around thirty feet down, but we had not seen the Trolls that had begun to scale the rock in front of us. The Trolls were among us, and we drew our blades. They were not a challenge to dispatch, one on one, because they had recklessly abandoned their weapons at the bottom of the wall of rock. Their hands were bloodied, and they swung their fists like wild clubs. A swing took me in the head, laying me low and knocking me unconscious.
Darkness surrounded me as I fell. I do not know how I survived the fall, but I know that I should not have. Out of the fifteen, I was the only one to make it.
Death is part of life, they say. I would understand that when I woke up. Death, Life, they constantly vie for control over the mortal races, and each individual.
I awoke several hours later. Night had fallen, and I could tell that I needed to get back to the village before I caught some illness and died. Being unconcious during the fall may have saved my life, or I may have hit something on the way down. Every inch of my body was screaming in agony, but the only injury I sustained seemed to be a broken wrist. I managed to stand, and tucked my injured hand close to my body as I blindly stumbled towards the village. The silhouettes of militia still manned the walls in places, but the wall had gaping holes in areas. I had to slow down at this point, dead bodies becoming deadly obstacles in the dark night.
The militia saw me, heard me, something. A call went out and I could hear men running towards me. I lost consciousness once more, and the next time I awoke I was in my own bed, bandaged and with my wrist splinted. I looked around, and there was my mother. Kirelle stood in the doorway, worry evident on her face as if carved into it by a knife. I could not manage above a hoarse whisper.
"Mother… Davak, father… are they safe?" It pained me greatly to speak at all, and my breaths were hurried and hoarse. I could see tears in her eyes, and she rushed to my bedside and sobbed over me. While the pressure of her hurt my chest, I said nothing and closed my eyes. I fell asleep again, before I received an answer. The next time I opened my eyes, Davak was in the doorway and he grinned.
"Mother is still crying, jackass."He walked over and looked me up and down. I could barely manage a smile to him with a nod, "I do not…doubt it, brother." I laid there and smiled before Davak locked eyes with me and sighed. "What?" I asked, my breathing still ragged.
"Father was wounded in the battle. He… he took a hit from a Troll's wicked axe and it severed his left arm right below the shoulder. He smote the Troll, killing it with his remaining arm before he retreated to the healers. They bandaged him up and sealed the wound with healing magic, but none were strong enough to bring the arm back. He rests as well, but is better than you are doing, brother."
I chuckled up at my brother and winced in pain, continuing to laugh as I hurt. My brother looked at me quizzically and tears came to my eyes as I laughed. "I guess… from now on… he'll win every battle… single handedly." I laughed again and looked up at Davak. He looked about ready to hit me, but stayed his hand at the last second chuckling at the jest.
A few uneventful days of rest followed, and I learned that the distraction worked, but no one else had returned from my friends. All in all, counting those fourteen men with me, thirty-seven men were killed in the battle, and everyone was injured in some way, but we rebuilt. The toughest part of this time was keeping hopeful, never giving up.
The lesson I took with me from this part of life was to never abandon my humour, and I can say that I have not. I may be serious, but I still make jests and have a good laugh with others.