Woke up this morning with a pounding headache. Lifting my head from the comfort of my pillow, i could feel the room begin to swirl all around me. I had drunk far too much last night, and now I was feeling the full effects of withdrawal from that wretched poison. Normally I wouldn’t mind so much, in fact, i’d become accustomed to waking up with this feeling, but today was different. Today i needed my full wits about me, instead I was stuck in this bed, cradling my head in my hands, spending far too much time concerning myself with this damn headache.
I’d stayed up until the early hours of the morning with my closest friends and advisors, scheming and planning. We had gone through every possible outcome from the events that would transpire later this very day. It wasn’t long before I’d cracked open the first bottle of wine. It helped me think, helped me plan, or at least that was what I would tell myself. The truth was, I was petrified. There were so many things that could, and would, go wrong. Like they say, even the best laid plans only lasted until that first sword was swung. There was no way I could let any of them see how terrified I really was. That would only breed doubt. The others were scared enough as it was. Instead I dove into the drink, used it as a mask to hide behind, and it had worked. They had all left thinking we could actually win, while I still believed it was folly. What fools they were. But then, maybe I was the fool for doubting us.
My thoughts wandered back to the present, where they should have been all along. Damn this headache. I managed to force my body up to a sitting position, letting out a low groan as i did. It was only then that I realised how bad I really felt. looking around the sparsely decorated tent where I slept, I desperately searched for a cure for my pain. Then I saw it. Sitting on a small table on the far side of the tent was a half empty bottle of wine. There was no better cure for my head than the sweet nectar that had been forgotten during the early hours of the morning. Now all I needed to do was fins a way to magically transport it from the table to my hand.
“Randall, get in here now!”
The flap to the tent immediately opened, and a tall, slim man stepped inside.
“How can I be of service, sir?”
“You can start by fetching me that bottle,” I said, pointing to the table across the tent.
“Of course, sir.”
I eagerly watched as Randall walked over to the table and picked up the wine. He examined the contents for a brief moment, making sure it was still fit for consumption, then walked over to the side of the bed and handed it to me. Without hesitating, I took a long swig of the wine, wiping away the small trickle that had managed to escape my parched lips.
“Do you need me to call your attendants in to get you ready, sir? It’s almost time.”
I grunted in response. Randall left the tent, leaving me to take a few more gulps of the wine. I could already feel the alcohol taking effect. By the time Randall returned with the two attendants in tow, the tension from my head had begun to ease away.
The attendants got to work without a word, rifling through my trunk to find some clothing. They placed a linen shirt, trousers, and doublet at the foot of my bed for me to begin dressing. I pushed myself out of the bed and stumbled towards the tall mirror beside it. While they prepared my armour, I pulled the linen shirt over my head and started to put on the trousers. By the time I had finished putting on my trousers and doublet, the attendants had prepared my armour for fitting. They handed me the chainmail which I put over my doublet while they began the arduous task of fixing the armour in place. They started by lifting my legs and forcing the Sabatons onto my feet. Working their way up my legs they attached the Greaves, Poleyns, and finally the Cuisses. Once the Cuisses were firmly in place, they moved onto my arms, linking the Besagues to the chainmail to protect my vulnerable armpits. The Rerebraces, and Vambraces were then fastened to my arms, before guiding my hands into the Gauntlets. The Breastplate and backplate were then fastened to the rest of the armour and chainmail. The attendants finished off their work by tying the faulds to the breastplate and handing me the helmet. Placing the helmet under my arm I waved the attendants away. They immediately retreated from the tent, leaving Randall and I alone.
“Are you ready to go, Sir?” asked Randall
“As ready as I can ever be,” I said, finishing off the rest of the bottle. “You have served me well, Randall, these past years. You have helped guide me through both the good, and the bad. You have been with me for a very long time, and for that I would like to show my appreciation.”
I walked over to the large chest at the foot of my bed, and removing one of the gauntlets, opened it. Rummaging around for a few moments, I found what I had been looking for. I pulled out a small scroll, bound by a thin red ribbon, and handed it to Randall. Randall looked down at the scroll in his calloused hands and I could see a smile form on his lips. He looked back up at me from the scroll with single tear now running down his face. I knew he would not even need to open the scroll to know that it granted him his freedom.
“Sir, this is too much. I never dreamed this day would ever come. I really cannot accept this.”
“Nonsense, Randall. You have earned this thrice over. If I am to be totally honest, I should have given this to you a long time ago, but my selfishness got the better of me. I couldn’t let you go and leave me to deal with all this mess on my own.”
“Thank you sir. No matter what the outcome of today day, I will gladly remain by your side until my last breath. You have always treated me well, and I would call you friend, if you would allow me.”
“As would I, old friend. Now enough of this sentimental rubbish, I have work to do. I am entrusting you with the camp.”
Turning to the entrance of the tent I said “Are the preparations ready?”
“Yes, sir. The troops are already in formation, and ready to march on the enemy army,” said Randall.
“Then for now, this is goodbye,” I said as I walked towards the tent flap.
Leaving the tent, I emerged into a large clearing outside the walls of Adras, the capital of Roviel. My army lay before me, exhausted and frightened, but ready to lay down their lives to protect their homes and families. I could see the determination on their faces, a belief born from the confidence I had displayed to my commanders the night before. They stared out across the plains towards the immense army they now faced, the likes of which had not been seen for a millennia. The army was made up of foul Daemons and other monstrosities, raised in preparation for the battle by the Deathwalkers, a group of Necromancers who were hell bent on destroying Roviel. Maybe the men were right to be confident. Maybe there was a way we could really win this fight. I mean, not all that long ago I was a nobody. Just a mercenary roaming from one fight to another. Now I was about to lead an army into a battle that would decide the fate of millions of people. I guess anything was possible.