Tbt: Sacrifice

A little short story I wrote recently. Feeling it. Sometimes I think about how many people died at the end of a blade and trip out.

One

    In a small and simple farming village of Zigdan, citizens did what they always did, farmed and survived. It was a simple life but one that many of the residents there loved. The farmers of the fertile flood plane near a mighty river didn’t often complain about their lot. There was something comforting in farming. Every day the people of Zigdan awoke to tend to their crops, feed their animals and manage their homes. Mostly the men did the hard labor in the fields while the women ground grains for meal, prepared food for their children and cared for them while they were at it. It was simple but fulfilling.

    The village was composed of a dozen main families but they were each large and the children and grandchildren of each continued to farm around the initial homesteads. There was plenty of land for each member of the family to start their own homestead and so the village spread a little each year. Normal conflicts aside, the community was harmonious and peaceful. They could not predict the storm that headed their way.

    Far off in the distance a plume of dust appeared. It seemed small at first but grew on the horizon like a sun rising in the morning. Initially, the farmers who spotted the approaching cloud assumed it was a dust storm which wasn’t entirely uncommon. They began to order their families to get animals inside and take cover in their homes. For a while they assumed they were safe.

    One of the young men of the town was out hunter for rabbits and came running from the direction of the cloud yelling.

    “Rozkol!” He screamed.

    The word rang through the air like a curse.

    “Rozkol are coming this way,” the boy repeated.

    The message sent a shock wave through the village and sent some of its citizens racing to warn the rest. Soon all were aware that a hoard was coming their way and the only question that remained was what to do about it.

    The patriarchs of the town gathered in an small inn maintained by one of the families. There were twelve of them in all. Each man had a long and cold look on his face. They shifted in their seats and were too afraid to ask the obvious question.  

    A tall bearded man, and the owner of the inn stood, gripped a pitch fork in his hands and addressed the rest.

    “You all know the news already,” he began. “There is a hoard of Rozkol riders heading our way. They will be here before nightfall I imagine.”

    He paused a long minute and looked off as though searching for some strength, then continued, “What should we do about it?” He asked.

    “I say we fight!” A man shouted.

    “That’s suicide,” another responded, “There’s no way we can defeat a group of riders from Rozkol. We’re farmers, not warriors.”

    “Then what should we do if we don’t fight?”

    “Run!”

    “Where to? Our whole lives are here. We have nothing but our farms and our community. Where would we go? There is not another town within a day’s ride.”

    The arguments swirled around the room as tempers and nerves were tested. Threats were made and desperate solutions floated. After many wasteful minutes, several of the men decided they would indeed fight. One of the men, Griss, agreed with his brethren then rushed to his farm where his family was huddled. He burst through the door and slammed it shut. Griss’ wife ran to him and hugged him tightly.

    “What is going on?” She cried.

    The strong farmer broke and fell to the ground clutching his woman and started to sob. Their three children ran to them and they all held each other on the floor of their homestead, each knowing that whatever was about to happen, it was not going to be good.

    “Many of the men want to fight,” he whispered. “We will all die. There is no winning. Death is coming for us.” His eyes were red with tears and fear and the whole family sobbed together.

    “What do we do?” Olina, his wife asked.

    Her husband grit his teeth to stop the tears and groaned, “Take the kids. Take the horses. Run. Just run. They will likely stop here after they destroy our village. It will give you a chance to get away. Follow the river. Head to Junatum.”

“No!” Olina shouted. “We need to stay together. We won’t leave you.”

”Olina!” Griss yelled gripping his wife by the shoulders and shaking the fear from her for a moment. “We only have two horses. You and the kids can ride them. I would need one for just me and then we couldn’t get away. Don’t argue with me. If I survive I will head to Junatum. Run. Run. Now!”

Olina leapt to her feet and gripped the kids then ran to the stable with them. They were scrambling to get the blankets and saddles for the animals while Griss slowly and calmly gathered some food and supplies for his family. The farmer held a sack open and slowly dropped bread and some vegetables into it. Tears filled his eyes and he filled the sack that might keep his family alive long enough to find safety. If that was even possible any more. He slowly walked to their well and filled some water skins, keeping none for himself. With food and water in hand he stepped to the stables where his children hurriedly readied their horses with sobs and whimpers.

When Griss reached his family, they were ready to mount and ride. Olina and the kids froze when they saw him. They felt in their hearts that they were looking upon their father for the last time but none of them had the courage to say it. The farmer reached for his smallest child, a son of five years old and held him tightly to his chest, kissed him and then lifted him onto the first horse. He gripped his oldest child, another son, and began to cry and he held him before kissing his head and whispering, “Take care of your mother and siblings.” The boy nodded then mounted the horse behind his smaller brother.

Griss kissed his middle child, his only daughter, and she began to cry uncontrollably and refused to let go. “Please,” he begged, “Please go. Live.”

Finally, the girl let go of her father and mounted the second horse. Griss turned to his wife.

Both husband and wife broke down and started sobbing as their bodies shook and the held each other as if clinging to life.

“I love you Olina,” Griss whispered, barely audible. “I will see you again. I will be with you always. Take care of our children. As long as they live, part of me lives as well.”

The woman could not respond except through tears and kisses as she wept. The children were all crying now and though they knew they needed to leave, they were clinging to the moment. At last she kissed her husband one last time and climbed onto the horse with her daughter behind her. Griss handed to sack with supplies to his oldest son and then smacked the horse firmly on the flank to get it to lung forward and start on its way. Olina kicked her horse and together the pair. Fled the farm with Griss watching his family until he could not see them any longer.

With his family fleeing the approaching hoard, Griss turned to his home and slowly walked into the cabin he built with his own hands. It was the home he built for his wife. The home in which she birthed their three children. It was constructed with love and commitment. It was a good place to die. It would be his coffin.

With wings I fly

Can’t keep me on the ground

With wings I fly!

Can’t cage me all year round

With wings I fly!

You laugh straight in my face

With wings I fly!

You say I lost the race?

With wings I fly!

You’re weighted down with fear

With wings I fly!

For me you never shed a tear

With wings I fly!

You always doubted me

With wings I fly!

So blind you cannot see

With wings I fly!

I leave you all behind

With wings I fly!

Without a care in mind

With wings I fly!

From: The Sureshot Rises

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Another dream developed as Durbar slumbered. It was not unlike the one he experienced only weeks earlier. This time the image of the arena was clear to him. It was the very place in Harmon where they held melee competitions that day. He could see crowds of people cheering loudly all around. At one end, he saw his mother and father again, both dressed in armor and armed with swords. He found himself in the center of the ring also armed and armored. He called out to his parents, “Father! Mother! What are you doing here?”

His father answered, “We are here to watch you son. We are only here to watch.”

“But why? Why didn’t you tell me you were a soldier? What were you protecting me from? I don’t understand.”

Before his father could explain anything, he exclaimed, “Look out behind you, Son!” Durbar turned around and the knight he fought in his previous dream returned. Again, he wielded a huge axe and flail, and he charged the confused dreamer. Durbar began to flee, but his father called out to him, “Don’t run, Son! Turn and fight. It is the only way you will survive!”

“But I can’t win, Father. He is too strong,” he returned.

“Turn and stand, Son!” Adar advised. So, his son turned around and prepared to defend himself. He held his shield up to protect his left side and pulled his sword arm back, ready to strike. The knight reached him in only a few seconds and swung his axe hard into Durbar who blocked the blow with his shield. The weapon splintered the top of the shield and sent Durbar to the ground. He scrambled to his feet in time to see the ball of the flail coming down on him. This time he rolled to his right to avoid the shot and swung his sword clumsily at the man. His attack was easily parried with the axe and then countered with the same weapon. The mighty axe struck directly into Durbar’s breast, splitting his armor.

The Master’s Plan

Several men and women met in a conference room in a building a hundred floors up, like a tower overlooking the peasants below. Few knew what was transpiring in the magical tower and few cared. On the paved streets below, people shuffled about through their lives hoping to escape the monotony and claiming to have dreams but not seeking them in any way. Those souls were the subject of the meeting. They formed the mortar that built the foundation of the tower.

With light streaming in from the many windows that overlooked the world below, one man dressed in a sharply lined blue suit with crisp white shirt and yellow tie stood at the end of the table and addressed the room. He had a common name, but he was known as master for he was in the business of enslaving.

“Thank you all for coming,” Master began, voice calm but strong. “I wanted to congratulate everyone on the job well done this year. Our algorithms suggest that we have more influence and control than ever. I believe we are ready for the final stage. We are ready to wage war on our opponents to grow in market share and influence.” Master leaned over the table as he spoke the last words and grinned slightly like a general in the war room who has what he believes is a winning strategy.

“We began this years ago, as you all know,” Master began as he started to pace slightly recounting the past. “When we began we had no idea that we would be where we are today. At the time, all we wanted was to provide a product we felt people wanted. They demanded our phones and our technology greatly. Better and bigger and more useful all the time.

“What we found was that our phones, our devices were like a bright light attracting gnats in the dark. They were drawn to them and could hardly pull themselves away as we continue to feed their desires and train their minds to hold our phones and make them an indispensable part of life. We captured their eyes.

“Then we took it a step further. We created devices they could place directly in their ears. Music, podcasts, videos, and yes, even phone calls,” master had to pause as many in the room laughed at the inclusion of the phone conversations. “Now their ears belong to us as well. We stole two of their senses, or rather, they surrendered them to us willingly. But make no mistake,” master let the words hang in the air. “Their eyes and ears belong to us. We show them what we want and we tell them what we want. Just like the classic Japanese proverb of ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil,’ controlling what a person sees and hears will directly influence what a person says. In other words, if we control sight and sound, we control thought. Their minds belong to us. They are exactly like the monkeys or apes typically use to illustrate that adage. They gave us their eyes. They gave us their ears. They gave us their minds.

“And what are we going to do with them?” Master let the group wonder for a moment. “Well, we can do whatever we want. Obviously, first and foremost, we will continue to cultivate loyalty to our products and brand and dependence on our media to feed their mailable minds. We will keep them enslaved to us.

“After that the sky is the limit. For the first time in human history, people have been enslaved without even knowing it. Their minds are not their own; they belong to us. That means we can shape their values and morals to suit our needs. We can promote or persecute causes and movements that benefit us. We can manipulate voting patterns and political support to affect entire governments and societies. We will generate billions in profits to feed our growing media monster who will dominate the world over, living above and beyond control of any law and by any leader.

“We are the new deity. We are god. And our customers are our acolytes. They worship our products and they are enslaved to our will. Congratulations, everyone. We have more power than any mortals who lived before us and we will live the lives of demigods.

“We will now break into our focused groups to work on upcoming projects. I am excited about how we will use virtual reality to literally create new worlds in a digital reality. I’m looking forward to how we will continue to use our social media platform to shape social interactions and change the way in which people interact with one another. I’m especially excited about the creation of our own currency. How much more money can we make when we make our own money?” The question caused the room to erupt in laughter. In fact, it took a long minute for it to quiet down again.

Finally, Master concluded, “With that we adjourn this meeting. Never forget the amount of power we possess and never stop seeking new ways to increase it.” Master sat down and the executives present began standing and leaving like warriors to the battlefield equipped with a plan sure to slaughter the enemy.

Ode to the Last Dragon Slayer

Have a seat and fill your flaggons
The world was once filled with dragons

They flew the skies and lived in caves
Sending many to early graves

Some breathed fire others poison
Melted some left others frozen

Came in many shapes and sizes
Most have met their own demises

The Dragon Slayer killed them all
Avenged the slain and freed the thrall
The Dragon Slayer killed them all
Avenged the slain and freed the thrall

They say that he went on a quest
But was defeated like the rest

Like so many held in bondage
Just another slave is hostage

Kept for years a dragon’s captive
By an ice drake cold and massive

In a frozen cave far away
He just waited for the right day

The Dragon Slayer killed them all
Avenged the slain and freed the thrall
The Dragon Slayer killed them all
Avenged the slain and freed the thrall

At last he knew his chance had come
To slay the beast the battle won

Sprung his cage no longer interred
He found an enchanted halberd

Stalked his captor found him sleeping
His eyes closed with frozen breathing

The weapon thrust deep in his hide
The battle raged the dragon died

The Dragon Slayer killed them all
Avenged the slain and freed the thrall
The Dragon Slayer killed them all
Avenged the slain and freed the thrall