This partial journal piece was discovered near a village that was the site of a bloody battle. It was recovered by a Vandregon Scout and turned in to the local commander’s fighting unit.
that we captured today. Our policy has been to take no prisoners, nor show mercy to the blasphemous infidels of the Penitent. Sir Elswich will not let us take her life, however. Giles says he thinks our lord must know her from somewhere, for there was a heavy sadness in the knight’s eyes when we found her, and he has been distracted and ineffective as a commander ever since. We have made no raids, nor have we marched. We sit, idle, and wait for nothing. Most of the work has fallen to the yeomanry and much of the decision making has been made by Squire Ablebrook. The Squire has been at least taking the initiative to send out short patrols, but they don’t really accomplish anything except that they occasionally get ambushed by cowardly rebels who hit and run, but won’t engage us honorably. The longer we sit here, the more isolated we feel, and the more vulnerable to the attacks of the actual Undead Army. We desperately need to link up with the Baron and the rest of the 5th Regiment. Sir Elswich is the only one who can order the Company to march, though, and for some reason he refuses to.
After seeing the atrocities carried out by the hands of the so called “Penitent” cult, my fear was quickly replaced by anger, and my desire to get out of here alive seems less important than revenge. I talked to Chaplain Bors about the darkness in my heart. He explained to me the same virtues of chivalry that I have had pounded into my head over and over again ever since I joined up. One of those, of course, being righteous anger. He says that it is virtuous to want to defend the weak and to carry out justice, but then he talked about the danger of a monster hunter becoming a monster themselves if they revel in the dark aspect of their duties more than the sacred aspect.
The war changed today. I was talking to Giles earlier, and we realized that neither of us knew what day it was. How could we forget? The counting of days is the most important thing in the world to a Soldier while away on campaign, for it is in the numbers that we find the salvation of our hope and morale. More so than even our faith in the gods, do Soldiers place their hopes and dreams upon the march home at the end of a tour. We have forgotten. How can this be? Crane thinks that it is an omen that none of us will make it home.
I was assigned a shift of guard duty with the infidel today. She rants and raves, and from what I can tell, has deep conversations with the grime beneath her fingernails. I did my best to distract myself from the unpleasant smell and wretched noises she makes. Sir Elswich came into the tent this afternoon and ordered me to leave so he could interrogate the prisoner. As I stood watch outside, the Chaplain approached me. He seemed angry. He went into the tent and got into an argument with Sir Elswich. For all his talk about how Soldiers like me need to control our anger, he wanted to kill the cultist right then and there. They did not. I had to deal with her ranting and cackling for another three hours before my shift was over.
I was sent on a perimeter patrol today. We stopped in the Village of Ipsdale to refill our water from the well. Giles drew water for the Lord’s hounds, but they refused to drink, despite the blistering heat. Maybe if we weren’t so hot and miserable we would have been more astute and seen the danger. It was too late for Giles, Crane, and Brumley. They were all dead within 15 minutes of drinking the water.
When we returned, the Squire sent me straight to prisoner detail. I didn’t even get to eat anything first. I tried to take a nap in the tent, since the prisoner was actually being quiet for once. I turned the brim of my helmet down over my eyes, but I couldn’t sleep. I could feel her damned eyes upon me. I couldn’t ignore her. Out of nowhere, she started talking to me. We aren’t supposed to talk with her, so I did the best I could to keep my mouth shut and hide beneath the brim of my helmet.
“Too bad about Brumley.” she said, “He was healthy and strong. He had a better chance of making Squire someday than any of the rest of you.”
I didn’t say anything, but I silently wondered by what witchcraft she knew of Brumley’s demise. Perhaps she was just guessing since I was working his guard shift rotation? Surely that’s all. She is as clever as she is treacherous.
“A silly aspiration, however,” she said, “in the grand scheme of things. Soldiers, yeomen, squires, knights, and nobles are nothing but cog pegs in a pointlessly toiling mill. Sure, the nobility might think that they make up a more important part, like an axle, but the world never revolved around them. Even an axle would just be another component. Do you know what Brumley was? He was a cog peg. A simple wooden cog peg. Easily broken off of the gear wheel. Easily replaced. Just like you. Wars happen, and you get broken off and replaced all the time. Maybe even a new axle gets installed. This is different, though. The stream that turns the wheel itself will soon trickle to a halt, and the mill will grind its last. Everything will be dismantled. Do you know what that makes you?
I didn’t answer her
“Spare parts, for an obsolete machine. A simple wooden cog peg, with no other use besides what it was carved for. Maybe you might find yourself shoring up the wobbly end of a piece of furniture, or something. Sooner or later, though, you will burn in someone’s fire.”
I stood to sound the alarm, but then thought better of it. What was I to tell the other guards? That she was creeping me out? Instead I sat back down. She kept talking, but I was able to tune much of it out by silently reciting the virtues of chivalry over and over in my head, and praying for strength against the temptation to split her skull right then and there.
Had to guard her again today. She was quieter. I actually fell asleep on duty, in fact, because she was so quiet. I woke up to find her kneeling and staring unblinking into the roof of the tent with her arms outstretched. She was perfectly immobile for quite some time. I found it unsettling. I thought maybe she was in a trance or something, so I tossed a clod of dirt at her.
“Don’t do that, please.” she said, still unblinking, “I am trying to pray for you.”
She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and went back to her meditation.
As the warm afternoon sunlight bled through the canvas roof of the tent, it gave the edges of her face, chin, and nose a certain softness that I had never noticed before. She is actually quite beautiful.
I got to sit with her again, today. I asked her what she meant when she said that she was praying for me, and she just smiled. We talked quite a bit, actually. She is so smart. She must have a lot of education.
I brought her a bucket of warm water today. I know that others have splashed her with cold water through the bars of her cage before, under pretense of cleaning and basic hygiene, but in actuality just to be mean to the poor girl. I rounded up a cake of soap as well, and placed them inside her cage so that she could properly bathe and wash her hair. She began to disrobe, and I immediately felt ashamed. I averted my eyes and turned my back to her so that she could have some privacy. The temptation to watch her was overwhelming, and I fell to my knees in prayer.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
I told her that I was praying to resist the temptation to gaze upon her in her nakedness.
She laughed at me. The sound of her laughter brought me great pleasure, and I found myself closing my eyes and envisioning her flesh.
“Why would you pray for such a thing?” She asked, “Do you really think so little of your god that you believe him to have time to fret over something so trivial as how you use the eyes with which he has gifted you? Or do you think me unpleasant to look at?”
“I most certainly do not!” I protested, “I think you…”
I stopped myself before I said it.
“Well, then,” she said, “get control of yourself, turn around, and do your duty, Guard. You are supposed to be watching me, are you not.”
“Of course, ma’am.” I replied.
I turned and did as she told. At first, I hid beneath the brim of my helmet, but eventually I gave in and watched her bathe.
“You do realize how silly it is to pray for such things as strength against temptation, do you not?” she said, “You are a creature of free will, are you not? Why then, would you ask your god to be your puppeteer? Doesn’t he have better things to do, like keep your faithful brethren from being raised as the Undead?”
I found myself taken aback by the bluntness of the statement. I would have said something in protest of her blasphemy, but I felt as though I couldn’t get any air.
“Of course,” she said, “that is in itself a silly notion as well, is it not? Your god won’t stop you from coming back as a walking corpse any more than he will stop you from using your own eyes to see the naked truth.”
I tried to tear my eyes away, but found myself unable to. She rinsed her hair.
“The truth?” I asked.
“Yes, the truth.” she said.
“Tell me the truth.” I said, “Please.”
“The truth is that you have been deceived your entire life. You have been manipulated. These people brainwash you into thinking that you have to act a certain way, and threaten you with the notion of having to face the afterlife based on your obedience or disobedience. The truth, however, is that you don’t have to fear the after life. You don’t even have to face it. You can choose not to go.”
I was beginning to understand.
“I have told you the truth of the Penitent. You’re the one in a cage,” she said, “not me. But now the door is open. It is up to you whether you stay, or whether you leave.”
She dried herself off, and was about to get dressed when she noticed how filthy her clothes were.
“Go wash these for me.” she said, wrapping herself in her blanket, instead.
As I hurried off with her clothes she called after me.
“Thank you, dear. You are my favorite Guard.”
I got in trouble for leaving the prisoner unattended the other day while I did her laundry. The Squire wanted me whipped, but Sir Elswich refused to sentence me. He is especially distracted and distant the last couple days because we have learned that a May’Kar Paladin is coming to our camp along with another contingent from Vandregon. The rumor is that our Lord is to be relieved of his duties, and that it was the Chaplain who sent for the Paladin.
The May’Kar Paladin and his troops rode into camp this morning. The sun was still coming up, and their horses were weary, so they must have rode all night. The troops that were with him were not militia from the Army of Vandregon, though. They were fully armored men with kite shields bearing the Lion rampant. There was a lot of confusion as the men at the gate had already let them in, but then Sir Elswich started ordering everyone to take up arms. He was in his full plate, and wearing his great helm when he confronted the Paladin and ordered him to leave. The Paladin presented him with written orders to stand down and to transfer both his command and the custody of his prisoner. The next thing we knew, all chaos had broken loose. Sir Elswich’s great-sword flashed in the dawning light, and the front legs of the Paladin’s beautiful grey horse suddenly tumbled away from its body as it pitched forward, rolling on top of the holy warrior and crushing his left leg beneath its girth. The sound that the animal made was one of the most terrifying things I have ever heard in my life. The Lions of Arnath moved in to protect the fallen Paladin, and suddenly everyone was fighting. The men of Vandregon were split. Some of my comrades attacked the intruders, other attacked their brothers in arms. Through the swirling melee, I saw the Chaplain grab a weapon and run through the battle, towards the tent where my love was being held prisoner.
I did what I had to do. It doesn’t matter, anyway. He wasn’t my Chaplain anymore, for my love has shown me that I never had need of that god anyway. The truth has set me free.
I was quite proud of my ingenuity today. The wooden splints are nailed straight into the bones, and the stiffened boiled leather wraps and glue keep everything together. The grey horse walks again, thanks to my handiwork and the magic of my true love. She says that the more raw flesh the night-mare consumes, the more the mare will heal. Eventually, our hardy red-eyed mount won’t even need the splint hardware anymore. This is the glory and the miracle of our merciful Death! It is not a punishment, but a release! My eyes are open.
In the Army of Vandregon, I was but a cog-peg. I was going nowhere. Now, here I am, my dreams fulfilled! Riding triumphantly into the rising moon on a grey steed, be-decked in the finest plate mail, with a beautiful noblewoman hugging me around the waist, my eyes open and my heart swelling with joy and courage. Into battle I will ride, like the knights of song and poetry, and my glorious fall in battle will be my errand of knighthood, for I shall embrace, rather than fear, my surrender of the flesh. I will be resurrected. I will be an immortal Knight. I have seen the miracle first hand, for the DeathKnight Sir Elswich rides ahead of me, finally leading the march back toward the 5th Regiment.