A Brief Uplifting Tale from the Land of Northreach
This morning, my wife asked me to tell her a story. This is what came out.
On a farm in Northreach, a child was playing alone behind the barn. His carved wooden soldiers were crude and simple, but he loved them anyway. His father had carved some of them, but some – the boy’s favorites – had been made by his father’s father, and despite the wood being worn from two generations of loving handling, those three figures were always the heroes and kings and generals, whatever the story in the boy’s head needed them to be. The day was cold, since winter was not long passed, but much of the snow was gone and behind the barn the ground was dry and free from the mud that seemed to be the main component of the farm during early spring.
The boy happily played, forging a saga in whispered words and the fiery colors of his mind. Distantly he could hear the harness of the mule creaking and the voices of his father and the three farmhands as they scoured the muddy field for the rocks and stones that seemed to grow out every spring, despite their efforts every year to remove them, and prepare the field for plowing. The boy took those sounds and wove them subconsciously into his story. The creaking of the harness and wagon became the sounds of the tack of warhorses as they surged into battle, the words turned to commands and the easy banter of the soldiers as they rode forth to fight the Evil Prince. The dusty patch behind the barn was a battlefield, and the boy was a god, his favor alone deciding which way the battle would turn. To be fair, the boy always seemed to favor those facing the Evil Prince, but that was only just and right.
The din of battle in his head became filled with shouts as battle was joined, and voices screamed in pain and terror and anger as men fell with terrible wounds and grimaces of pain. As always, through the mass of combat, the youngest warrior rode through the ranks of the Evil Prince’s forces, his sword implacable as he carved a path of righteous fury through the soldiers protecting the Prince. His mother had always told him that Ban favored the young, and that his blessing was upon them to keep them safe from harm. The words she used to soothe the boy at night when the wind screamed through the cracks of their simple farmhouse and the shadows made fearsome creatures became the young warrior’s armor, protecting him as he fought, keeping the blades of the wicked men away from him.
Despite the young warrior’s prowess, the din of battle was loud and near-overwhelming, as men fell and screamed and the terrible thud of blows falling on shields and men filled the boy’s head. The fight was thick and hot but the young warrior was unstoppable with Ban – and the boy – on his side. He fought his way through the mass of men, ever-falling but ever-replenished anew, but the guard of the Prince drew near, and the young warrior would soon stand alone before them, issuing a challenge that the Evil Prince would be too cowardly to meet.
The young warrior roared his challenge and was rebuffed as the Prince cowered behind his men, and the young warrior was forced to cut his way through the men making their desperate last stand to no avail, for the blade of the young warrior was a flash of lightning and held the impact of thunder, and wave after wave of men fell screaming. The young warrior and the Evil Prince stood alone, and as the youth screamed out the name of the Prince it was the boy’s name, and it never was the boy’s name, but the sound was unmistakable, and the young warrior faltered to a halt, forced into a stalemate before the Evil Prince.
Troubled, the boy that once was a god overwatching a thousand fields of battle turned to gaze out on the fields where his father worked. He could see men moving across it, more men than were on the farm, and before them was his father, bloodied and limping, screaming the boy’s name as the men behind slowly drew closer to him. The boy watched as a pair of the men dragged his father into the mud, and the screams from the battle rang again in his ears, only it was his father’s voice again. Other men moved past his father, towards the boy, and he could see their ragged clothes and the stains from battle all over them, as if they’d fought through the massed armies of the Evil Prince and were about to confront him and challenge him and overthrow him.