On time this week is my entry to last week’s Turn-a-trope challenge: “Resigned to the Call”
Did you take part in the Turn-a-trope challenge? Reply with a link to your story in the comments below!
Just under a thousand words, here is, “To Heed the Call.”
“You don’t want me for this.”
Galyon sighed, his lips a tight line of resolve.
“We have no choice,” Galyon rumbled, his voice deep and graveled and as scarred as his body. “There is no one else who can face the coming threat of Eldinia and her minions. Already, they overrun the outer territories. Soon, they will reach the Realm.”
Hethian stared into his cup, swirling the dregs that remained slowly, thinking. He was a hard man, and his visage showed it. Sharp angles creased his face, hard muscles worked beneath his thin tunic. Unconsciously, he rolled the shoulder of his sword arm, feeling it crack and pop. He was getting too old, too worn, to be the hero.
“I say again,” Hethian muttered, “That you don’t want me for this. Are there no others you can ask?”
“Who remains?” Galyon asked, desperation causing his grumble to crack. “All our greatest warriors are gone. Dead from previous campaigns, or lost to mad adventures. There are none, Hethian, to heed the call of the King Felrick. Will you deny it as well?”
Hethian’s eyes burned, narrowed. He stood, and even Galyon, no stranger to combat, gasped. Hethian was a giant of a man, towering at least two heads above even the tallest man Galyon had ever known. The mass of angry muscle stalked towards a trunk at the end of the room. He flipped the lid, gazed inside a moment, then reached down. Gently, almost as if cradling a child, he raised a long package wrapped in old blankets. He unfolded a corner, and looked at the gleaming steel within. The blade caught the fire within his eye, and glinted. A very slight smile formed on the warrior’s face.
Galyon did not care nor question why Hethian had hung up his sword. The wars had been hard, the losses great on both sides. He knew only that the great warrior had returned to the capital, walked up to the king, and resigned his commission, forfeiting all titles and rewards his service had granted him. He was stripped of all; land, uniform, titles. The king, though, granted him his sword. The war had been hell, yes. King Felrick understood that, and though law may require the rest, the king could still grant him the right to bear arms.
“When have I ever denied the call of the king?” Hethian said, almost in a whisper. The blanket fell away, revealing the massive blade beneath. Hethian slung it over his back, adjusting the leather belts that secured it to his heavily muscled torso.
“Very well. You have asked me. I have tried to deny you, but you will not have it. I will go and meet Eldinia on the field.”
Galyon breathed a sigh of relief.
The kingdom was shattered, the forces of King Falrick, routed. Galyon, his face bloodied, his body weak from wounds deep and soon, deadly, lay propped near the throne. Falrick himself lay beside it, his eyes staring emptily towards the ceiling.
Eldinia approached. She wore no armour, no protections. He clothes, cut scandalously, hugged her curvy frame and swayed as she walked. In the distance, the sounds of screams and clashing swords grew less and less vivid. The battle would be over soon, entirely. The kingdom was lost. Behind her, a heavily armoured warrior kept step.
She paused, looking down at Falrick, and for a moment, Galyon saw a hint of sadness fleet across her face. It made his stomach churn. Don’t, he thought. Don’t pity him.
She turned, as if she had heard his very thoughts.
“Ah, you must be the noble Galyon. Seneschal to the King, steward of his hall.”
She looked about, gestured to the bodies fallen within.
“I fear we’ve made a bit of a mess…but do not worry. I do not think your position will last much longer.”
“Shut your mouth, witch!” Galyon roared, summoning the last of his reserves. “We have not fallen yet! Hethian remains! He will find you and avenge us, if nothing more! He will see your corpse rot beside our own!”
Her face softened. She kneeled, coming closer to the dying man.
“Sweet Galyon. Have you not heard?”
She gestured towards the armoured beast behind her. The man approached, his hands raising to unclasp the straps that held his helmet, his breastplate. As they fell away, Galyon sobbed. Hethian stood there, his face, stony.
“Hethian,” he sobbed, “Why? You were our greatest…”
The warrior held up a hand, stopping him.
“I was never yours,” he said, bluntly. “Never once. Did no one ever question how I survived when all other heroes fell? Did no one ever wonder why those who remained sought out dangerous quests from which they did not return? It was I, Galyon. I whispered in their ears about treasures to be found, powerful artifacts to save the realm. One by one, I ensured that every hero fell…till I alone remained.”
Hethian reached back, unstrapping his great sword.
“I did find pity for you. I tried to resign. Tried to remove myself from a position of power. But in the end, you came back to me. You begged me. You insisted that I must fulfill my destiny.”
The sword hissed softly as it slid from the metal rings that bound it.
“I tried to resist, Galyon. I tried to back out. You brought this. You brought me.”
The sword swung. The seneschal, to his credit, did not make a sound. Hethian dropped the heavy blade, and turned.
“It is over, my love,” he said, sorrow heavy in his voice. “The kingdom is yours.”
Eldinia smiled, took his face into her hands, and kissed him.