By now, the sleepy Fort Varen is alive with a flurry of activities. Armors are being donned, weapons are being handed out. Horses are being prepared so that messengers could ride out inland and warn the other forts and also the capital.
Military combatants and personals are now streaming out of the fort and assuming battle positions. Archers will try to take out as many people from the invading forces as possible. The responsibility falls on them to weaken and slow the enemy down before they reach any potential landing site. Next, soldiers with shields and long spears will try to use their terrain advantage and defend the eastern river banks for as long as possible. If they are in danger of being overrun, the swordsmen will take over and try to delay the enemy while they all retreat into the fort to hunker down and prepare for a siege.
While arranging his men and assigning various duties to them, Marven’s mind is still running battle stimulation. Best case scenario? The enemy will focus their attention trying to take over Fort Varen before proceeding inland. Worst case scenario? The enemy will ignore them completely and proceed inland immediately.
Marven really hoped the Alvian Kingdom would try to take over Fort Varen. Soldiers defending a fort or a castle during a siege rarely survive, due to enemy forces not taking it too kindly being forced to work hard trying to take over said fort or castle, and having their compatriots die in the process. Marven doesn’t mind dying, because the alternative is much worse. If the enemy ignores them, the first village they’ll run into will be his wife’s, and Marven is not too sure his family will survive unscathed.
His family is his life. Losing them would be the same as having a knife pierce his heart. Marven has been alive for 41 years, but he has only known true peace for 15. Sure, his childhood was relatively war-free, and the time he spent at the Whiteford Academy training to become a knight could be considered as blissful. But it was the time he spent with Ardeth and their children that Marven felt truly alive for the first time in a long time.
For all the chaos I’ve started. For all the deaths I’ve created. Do I really deserve to live? That was the question that kept gnawing at the back of Maven’s mind throughout his young adult life. So he kept diving into battles, hoping that he won’t come out. But he was a survivor. Even if he tried his damnedest to get himself killed, the thoughts of those that gave their lives so that he may live kept kicking his survival instinct into gear and forced him to fight back.
His superiors kept mistaking his suicidal urges for valor, and continued praising his achievements and rewarding him for his victories. Marven did not care for medals or accolades. They were worthless trinkets and hold no value to his eyes, just like his own life. What’s worse is that that those useless things were drawing more and more attention to him, which was the last thing he wanted. The reason why he immersed himself in battle after battle in the first place was to lose his old self, not to have someone shine a light on his background and questioning his past.
Blood can’t wash away blood, but it’s pretty good at hiding old scars. Scars that if normal people saw will reveal him as a fraud to the world and show them what he really is; an impostor. A “monster” masquerading in another man’s identity. But Ardeth did not turn her face or run away when she saw them. She accepted him and embraced him despite of those horrible “things”. She even called them beautiful. That girl is a saint, and Marven is willing to die a death from a thousand weapons first before letting any harm fall on her or their children.
“What the hell is taking them so long?” Marven’s second-in-command mutters impatiently. Marven lets a smile creep to his face. Deek’s heart is in the right place but the man needs to get his priorities straight.
“Don’t be so enthusiastic to rush into battle. The enemy and Death will come soon enough.” replies Marven. Deek grunts something as a form of a reply. Marven has served with the man for many years now and it’s still hard for him to tell the difference between Deek’s grunts of approval and disapproval.
That being said, what the hell is taking them so long? Marvin wondered too. But he would never say such thoughts aloud. As a leader to his small group of men, saying such things would give the impression that he was eager and ready to throw away the lives of the people under his command. A good leader should not view his followers as chess pieces to be sacrificed to win a game but as swords and shields. To be used as tools to win wars and prevent them. Okay maybe declaring his men as tools isn’t as flattering as it sounds in his head, and he should probably avoid saying that word to describe them. But I get what I’m trying to say, right?
Marven stifles his chuckle, amused at his own private jokes. Unbeknownst to him, his men has seen him grinning and are in the process of trying to repress their own growing horrors. For some, this will be their first time going into battle. Although Marven has proven himself to be a competent leader and a likable guy, they know next to nothing about this man, except he used to be a big shot back in the days before he had to retire early to this backwater place because of a severe injury or something. Marven’s men begin praying to the Gods hoping he won’t lead them recklessly into battle in a vain bid to relive his past glory or trying to regain his lost reputation.
Luckily, Marven’s men stop letting their doubts play tricks on their minds because their attention is needed somewhere else at the moment. Something is finally happening across the Grand River of Kartank on the shores that are occupied by the Alvian Kingdom for the past 120 years. Marven decides to calm his men by giving a little speech.
“Relax men, remember to breath. You’ve trained for this. You have trained all your life for this. All your efforts, every drop of blood and sweat and tears that you shed during training will boil down to these next few moments. Remember your training and you will survive. Those Alvian bastards will get their ass handed to them today because they have lost two important things before going into battle with us. The first thing they’ve lost is the element of surprise. They've given us enough time to prepare. Now men, what’s the second thing those Alvian dogs has lost?”
Marven looks into the eyes of each of his men before giving his answer.
“They’ve lost their godsdamn mind if they think we’re giving another inch of land to them again.”
“Huwwah!” all his men and the surrounding soldiers scream together.
“Huwwah.” Marven says softly. His throat is really parched from all that shouting and he could really use a drink. But there is no time for that. The Alvian Kingdom’s forces are getting closer and he could almost make out the details of their…
“What the hell is going on?” Marven shouts the words that he would never have used if he is calmer and more composed. But his shouts echo the thoughts that are running across the mind of every soldiers standing on the eastern bank of the Grand River of Kartank.
Without missing a beat, Deek (his supposedly loyal second-in-command) turns to Marven and says “Sir, I think those Alvian dogs have regained the element of surprise.”