The Good Soldier
The Good Soldier
The Commander – Part 1
A sea of soldiers stood at attention atop a barren plateau, each fit for battle. Their various armor was colored a deep, glossy black that faintly reflected the full moon's light. One man stood apart from the others; he was tall and muscular, his short black beard barely distinguishable from his charcoal black skin. The man held an expressionless stair toward a small unattended altar erected at the edge of the plateau. The flat-red painted shoulder guard of his armor was the only distinguishing difference between him and the army.
A thick cloud passed over the moon, and for a moment, all was concealed in a veil of darkness. Everything around them fell to silence; not even the wind dared to lift its voice. Moments later, the cloud wisped away. In its wake, a pillar of shadow lingered, completely obscuring the altar from view. The clash of a thousand armored fists hitting the ground echoed through the stale air, as the once glimmering sea of moonlight transformed into a blanket of darkness. The black silk cloaks of the soldiers mimicked the night sky as every warrior bowed toward the pillar.
The man in front lifted his head toward the pillar of darkness. He rose to his feet, leaving his black helmet on the ground.
"I have done as thou desired; I led this legion into battle and slaughtered the rebels." The man's voice echoed loudly across the mountainside, unchallenged by even the slightest noise. Several of the soldiers behind him shuffled uneasily as the silence continued to drag on.
The man's unfaltering voice broke the silence as he called toward the pillar again. "I come before you with a desire of my own, a promotion, and a mission. I vanquished my challenger and his army without losing a single man."
A soft but defining boom vibrated through the air, causing a small ledge at the plateau's edge to break away and fall down the mountain. The man and all the soldiers were bushed backward as the pillar erupted into wisps of black smoke. The smoke then gathered back towards the altar; it twisted in on itself, condensing into a solid form. The silhouette of a human nearly seven feet tall stood before the army of men. The soldiers' eyes glazed over at the sight of the creature, their empty stares trailing to the invisible horizon.
The man who had spoken cringed as his hair stood on end. He stepped back from the creature, his heart racing as a voice slithered through him, vibrating every fiber of his being.
"You did defeat your foes, but do you suppose this settles your debt to Agapios? You performed as expected. Never the less, you shall have your pleasure. It happens that our god's empire requires a new general. As such, your next mission shall be a test" The creature's voice calmed as he spoke, taking on a more mischievous tone. "You shall be sent on a scouting mission through The Dragon Fang Mountains. Our Lord desires an outpost between his empire and the lands beyond. The Black Pass is too far from the enemy, and there are no other safe ways through the mountain. You will go to the foot of the mountains near Rabanath and find safe passage and a suitable location for an outpost between the enemy and us."
A feeling rose in the man, something foreign, not fear, for he had felt that before. Just as quickly as it had come, it was gone, wiped away by the voice of the figure before him.
"Do not question your orders!" The man's skin crawled as a wave of dark energy flowed over him. "You are to take a force of one-hundred and find a suitable location. If you return, but with one man, you will have your reward. . .You will become a general in Agapios' Empire; a shadow warrior."
No sooner had the voice stopped than the first rays of the sunrise peaked over the plateau. The man opened his eyes, looking around at his men. Life was beginning to return to them as they turned to one another, whispering about the events that had just transpired.
"Men!" the man called. "It is not ours to question the holy messenger, nor the commandments of our god Agapios, which he delivers.
The commander donned his helmet and marched toward the narrow path leading down the mountain and to their camp.
"Commander," called a man, as he walked up beside the man with the red shoulder guard. "If you would, what has the great Agapios asked of us?"
"We are to travel to Rabanath, and from there, find a suitable outpost location in The Dragon Fang Mountains."
The man stopped at this news, whispering, "But that is dragon territory."
"It is not ours to question. He has commanded it, and so we shall do." The commander walked casually as they neared the camp.
"Yes, so we shall do," exclaimed the man, as though all his past misgivings were forgotten.
To Be Continued…
UP NEXT - From The Eyes Of A Dragon, introducing the backstory of Vakinari, a young dragon who will play a major role in the series
Tales From Albrene
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