I’m working on a short story, A Journey’s End, with help from my friend Laz (and anyone who would like to help edit). As I complete each chapter, I’ll post it up here. Keep in mind, that chapters posted on my blog have not been edited, and the final version may change. Also, as a courtesy, I would ask that you notify me if you do see any errors that need to be addressed. I hope that this story will bless your life and draw you closer to God.
Chapter 5: Spirek – Teenage Angst at Sixty-Something
Startday evening, just over a year ago
The three young elven men ate quietly, at the ornate table, with their father. Seated in order of their age, from oldest to youngest, each could feel the tension rising. Spirek, who sat between his older brother, Purchian, the crown prince, and his younger sibling, Ithias, began to worry that others might hear him chew. While the dining hall’s size alone would seem to swallow up any and all sound, the acoustics actually magnified and echoed most noises. Every clanging of the silverware against the plates reverberated through the ancient halls.
Finally, Spirek could stand it no longer.
“Father, I would ask to speak.” The blue eyes of the young elf showed a certain fire and determination.
His graying father, looked up from his plate, wearily. “If you must.”
The younger brother shot a glance to the eldest, communicating a silent “Here we go, again.”
If Spirek or his father intercepted the message, they did not show it.
“Father, I heard the report from the captain. The front lines won’t hold. They need reinforcements. They need leadership. Father, send me. I can help. I can make a difference!”
The graying patriarch continue to chew his food slowly. For a moment, Spirek could not discern whether he was deep in thought, or ignoring his plea. Finally, the old man put his fork down and looked up from underneath his bushy eyebrows.
After a heavy sigh, the old man replied, “I told you before, the answer is no. First, you are too young. Second, you seek only to bolster your growing pride. Third, I have lost my wife. I will not lose one of our sons to the assaults of the goblins and trolls.”
Spirek had heard all of this before. At six months from his 70th year, Spirek technically fell below the traditional age for military work. However, others had left for the front lines as early as their 64th birthday in times of crisis. And, certainly, this war qualified. As far as his ego, well, his father has a point there. With his older brother being trained to rule, as the next in line for the crown, and his brother receiving extra attention as his father’s favorite, Spirek felt his ego and pride suffering with each day spent in the kingdom’s capital. He needed someway to stand out and earn the praise of his father and their people. If he could focus that energy and desire in a way that benefited the kingdom in a time of peril, he could see no reason significant enough to deter him.
And that is where his father’s third concern came in. Nearly a year ago, his mother, the queen, met her end when a group of ogres ambushed her caravan as it returned from a diplomatic meeting with the leaders in Silvermoon. One of the horsemen managed to escape to share the details. His relayed that her highness, along with with the footmen, fought bravely, but were overwhelmed. His mother handled a sword as well as any in the kingdom. In fact, she trained Spirek with not only that weapon, but the bow, as well.
Of course, his father worried that he would share her fate if he joined the front lines. However, Spirek trained hard. He knew how to defend himself well. And, unlike his mother, he would not allow himself to be ambushed. No, he would take the fight to the enemy!
“Father, if we do not do something,” he paused, “if *I* do not do something, our city may come under attack directly from these barbaric creatures. You are the king, and Purchian is next in line for the crown. I understand that you cannot leave the people. You must lead from the throne. But, I am not needed here. Father, allow me to lead our men in the fight. Send me with a contingent of foot soldiers to reinforce the lines. We will beat back the hordes and reclaim the forests lost!”
“You are unskilled…”
“I have trained for nearly two decades! Mother, herself, taught me! Father…”
The old man suddenly came to life. “Enough!” his voice boomed, echoing through the chamber. “My decision if final, Spirek. You will stay here, with your brothers! The war is my concern, not yours. You would do well to remember that.”
Ithias, the red headed, younger sibling, winced at the rejection. He had heard it before, but each time the responses came with a bit less patience and a bit more anger behind them. Spirek’s eyes widened a bit before narrowing in anger.
The king sighed. “I understand your desire to help, son. I shall speak with the sergeant in arms. Perhaps you can assist him in training the next batch of recruits.”
He stood up. “I am weary. I wish to retire. Good night, my boys.” The king turned around, his deep purple cloak of majesty contrasting with his golden crown.
Spirek stared forward for a moment, as his father left. After swallowing his next bite hard, he spoke to his elder brother in a quiet tone. “You know I’m right. You know they need me there.”
Purchian shot a glance to the left, as if to insure his father was out of earshot. “Yeah. I heard the report, too. But, I think you give yourself too much credit. The way they keep pulling back the lines, one more unit won’t make much of a difference, even if you lead it. There seems to be no end to their reinforcements.”
“Maybe,” Spirek replied. “But, it’s better than sitting here and doing nothing!”
“I will tell you what I think,” the youngest chipped in. “Goblins and trolls are cunning, but typically do not know how to organize on a large scale. Someone is behind them, pulling the strings and directing them. I would love to know who that is. At this point I agree that another group of men added will not push back the line. We are holding our own, for now, but only because we’ve been pushed back to the forest, where we have the advantage.”
Spirek thought about that. At 63 years old, his younger brother’s opinion usually counted for little, but Spirek learned years ago that Ithias sometimes understood matters well beyond his years. In fact, he would wager that what he just heard would be something his mother would have said under the circumstances. Yet, his father never shared such insights and strategies.
“It does not matter what any of us think,” the eldest prince responded. “We have to follow the directions and plans our father has laid before us. He is the king of the land, after all.”
But, in Spirek’s mind, a plan of his own began to form.
Next: Chapter 6: You Know Better Than I