Lord Adelstead stands over the rows of dead, his dead, being given their last rites as the peasants bury his men into the earth. Now the low-born clansmen armed with spear and bow, the King’s own chosen soldiers, the Ogres and the Lord’s own cousin are now equal. Adelstead’s father called death “the great leveler” before he passed on and left his land to his son.
Adelstead looks up and sees the vultures and various carrion-eaters descend upon the bodies of the beast-men. They care nothing for their dead. Just another reminder of what the Men of the West must defend their homes from.
The King’s Champion, Konor, a veteran of over 50 battles and man who has fought for coin, kings and survival since Lord Adelstead was just a dream in his father’s eye, looks over the scene. Nothing. He feels nothing. We lived. That’s all that matters.
Konor heads over to the Adelstead… Adelstead doesn’t look up. “Is this the part where you tell me that we won a glorious victory and I should be happy?” A silent monk throws dirt on the face of Adelstead’s cousin, who died by his Lord’s side in the battle.
“Victory? We bought time. Nothing more. Do you see the Beast-Lord’s head set on a pike, his Minotaur spawn being paraded around the streets like trained bears?” The old mercenary tosses his dented helmet into the grave. “He’ll run back to his headstone and spin tales about how the man-things defended a land of great treasure with blood. He’ll be back with more.”
“It sounds like you’ve had this happen before.” Adelstead responded, still not looking at Konor. “I don’t know if you noticed, but we have a lack of fighting men to stop this further threat… So, unless you have something constructive to say, leave me to my penance.”
Konor smiled. Adelstead did not like Konor’s smile. That man had seen too many battles, his blood-lust was something that belonged to the wild men of the Black Forest across the Great River. “Aye. they have a headstone, we have glory. You tell people about how we beat back the beast-men, alone, men will come from all over to devour your glory… Do that and we’ll have enough men when the Beast-Lord returns.”
“Who will ask the King for forgiveness for his lost men and ask for more? Who will grovel and beg the assorted knights and seasoned men-at arms to come here? Who will empty the quays and bars, looking for mercenaries to fill our ranks?” Adelstead asked. “Who? Who can we make abject themselves to such a degree?”
Konor points at the hills… Towards the bloodied wizard Aethelstan, the survivor of the Dread Desert, dragging the corpse of his assistant back towards the camp. For the first time Adelstead smiled… for who indeed shall abject himself if not the outcast wizard. Konor smiles again “After he’s done scraping the ground and apologizing for the dead, he’ll wish he was resting in a harpy’s belly.”
"Agreed…. Get the paper and ink ready. It’s time to call the forces…” Adelstead states to his servants…