flASH fiction: Volume 5: Dusk (19)

Jason Pere

The collective of Lance Commanders sat around the table in the middle of General Braveway’s tent like a kettle that was on the verge of boiling. The group of distinguished men and women had hundreds of years of formidable Rayward military discipline between them and that was about the only thing that managed to keep the decorum at the table a relatively mild matter. A few of the seasoned leaders winced and subtlety turned their heads to grimace in disapproval but not one audible grunt or scoff was to be heard nor did any of the Lance Commanders squirm in irritation as the General laid out his plan.

One the General had finished speaking the tense atmosphere at his table seemed to grow. The ensuing silence that plagued the tent was like a spreading sickness, pressing the Lance Commanders to call out their collective concerns. It was a great act of selfless mercy on the part of Lance Commander William Highgate that allowed all of the other knights around the table to take in a breath of relief. “I beg your pardon General sir but we only just barely received the last pledge from the other cities. Surely it will take some time for all their forces to arrive. That is to say nothing of how long it will take to organize proper chain of command once they are gathered. Perhaps pressing the attack now is a little premature?” said Lance Commander Highgate with practiced tact but with enough trepidation in his voice to fully carry to concern of the other men and women who sat beside him.

General Braveway looked at the silver haired Lance Commander with a domineering gaze. The rest of the Rayward officers at the table radiated their discomfort for the singled out, Sir William in the form of breath that was held until it was stale in their lungs but each one of them kept a calm quality reflected in their eyes. Plainly, as much as the other Lance Commanders felt for Sir William’s plight, they were all delighted not to have to personally endure the hard stare of the General. The leader of the Rayward army did not dare offer the man a smile or similar expression of levity but he softened his piercing gaze after several lengthy moments of subjecting Lace Commander William Highgate to a silent and unsettling judgment.

“I know it may seem careless and cavalier to move on the outpost at Sun’s Pass before the other cities have sent their troops. Tell me Lance Commander Highgate, how many fortifications do the dragoon hold between our camp and the Red Sanctuary?” asked the General with a confident lilt in his voice.

“Just the one at Sun’s Pass,” responded Sir William with a speedy and direct manor.

“So this is the final opportunity to test our mettle against the dragoon before we set in for the siege of the Red Sanctuary,” said the General. As he spoke he slowed his pace so he could appreciate the dawning looks of comprehension gracing their faces of the various Lance Commanders.

“Yes, General sir,” said Lance Commander Highgate. While the General had not seemed to address him directly with his previous statements it was clear to see that the seasoned Rayward solder felt pressured to respond to the General in some capacity.

General Braveway felt like her had the heart of each and every one of the men and women sat around his table in the palm of his hand. The sensation of power and control over other people of flesh and blood had never fully lost its appeal to him. He was far from addicted to the rush that came when wielding the fate of another human being in his grasp but he had to acknowledge the pleasant sensation that accompanied being the dominant force in most any room he walked into. He allowed the moment to endure for several measures more as he partook in a deep sip of water from the goblet at his place at the table. After he had finished downing a refreshing gulp of chilled water he cleared his throat and prepared his voice to speak with empathy and just a hint of condescension. “It is true that the dragoon are on their last legs. Their time in this world is drawing to an end and it will be this army that wipes them from the face of Argaia. With that said though, the siege of the Red Sanctuary will be unlike any offensive that any man or woman in this army has undertaken. You have all studied the field reports, have you not?” he asked. This time he lifted his chin and spoke so that his voice was not solely directed at the lone Lance Commander and instead fell on the ears of each and every one of his subordinates in equal capacity.

The collective of decorated officers all responded in a series of affirmative nods and swift words. The General’s leading question seemed to pull them back into the conversation that had been rapidly turning into a singular inquisition of Sir William. As soon as the last of the Rayward officers had finished speaking, it looked as though their chorus of confirmation lightened the weight that was starting to press down on Lance Commander Highgate’s shoulders. The aged officer began to breathe easier and sit ever so slightly more relaxed as he was reminded that he was not alone in this moment.

“In fact I can not find a single instance of a similar maneuver in any recorded text. The fact is that the Red Statuary is unique and taking it will be something that is unprecedented in all of military history, human or dragoon. The scale of the obstacle that lays before this army can not be overstated,” said General Braveway. He was addressing the group gathered before him but his words were a personal confession of sorts more than an instructive matter. He had to stop for a few heartbeats just to let the moment wash over him. He had known the size of the task that lay in his soon to be future but hearing it aloud, even from his own mouth, gave him pause. “So taking the outpost at Sun’s Pass may seem like a trivial matter but I assure you it is not. I will see no opportunity to push this army to its fullest performance squandered. After Sun’s Pass falls, the real fighting will begin and I demand that everyone in my camp is ready when that happens,” he continued as he stood from the table. As he rose to his feet so did all of the Lance Commanders who proceeded to stand at full attention. “That is all for now. You are all dismissed to your duties.”

The procession of Lance Commanders filed out of the General’s tent after the ceremonial exchange of salutes and bows. General Braveway pulled at the edge of his breastplate as it dug into his neck. His armor felt like t had begun to constrict him as the conclusion of the generations long crusade against the dragons and their children was rapidly approaching. He went to the flap of his tent and looked to the horizon. In the distance he could see the faintest traces of Sun’s Pass’s spire peaking above the mountainous range. He looked at the little far off speck and reveled in his hatred of it. Seeing it razed to the ground would give his spirit the much needed boost in order to march directly on the Red Sanctuary. He let the flap of his tent fall back into place and proceeded to return to his goblet. This time he filled the vessel with bitter red wine instead of water and he proceeded to drink.