One of the Many

Prompt: “You aren’t a great Hero or a mighty Mage, you’re not the Chosen One, Hell, you’re not even one of their beloved Companions. You’re just one of thousands of nameless footsoldiers just trying to survive the final battle.”

The life of an adventurer was never one I would willingly choose. Although it looks like a glamorous life of saving villagers, slaying monsters, and drowning in gold and riches, that is the exception, not the rule. You only hear about the majestic heroes who save the world and slay the evil, but for every one of those, there are a hundred would-be heroes that go off and die before saving a single princess.

I’m not kidding. We hear stories all the time about people who think they would be great heroes going off into the woods and being eaten by wolves or killed by bandits. Some parties will leave with five or six members and if they are lucky, one will return to tell the story of his fallen comrades. It’s really quite sad. The way these adventuring guilds act, it’s almost criminal.

Ok maybe that’s too harsh. But as a member of the town guard, we hear all the things adventuring guilds will say to recruit new members. They talk about the gold and glory, but not why they are always recruiting. It’s quite dangerous.

Now the town guard can also be dangerous. We protect the town from outside forces like wandering beasts or factions of warmongering barbarians as well as internal forces. We crack down on crime within the city and keep the villagers safe. Of course adventurers will also claim they are keeping the villagers safe, but town guard aren’t the one messing with cursed artifacts or awakening ancient evils. That is way above my pay grade.

So how did I get here?

I stand among my fellow brethren of town guard, armed to the teeth with armor and weapons. Flanking our group are groups of the army. You can tell they are official military because their weapons and armor are shinier and much nicer than ours. I don’t mind. I have a trusty sword and shield I’ve used for over ten years of service to the town. But standing here I wish my shield was a little bigger and my sword radiated some sort of magic.

That’s one thing that heroes will always have that town guard don’t. Magic. Magic is like fame or wealth. It opens doors that you never could imagine. If someone in town develops magic or has a talent of learning magic, they are fast tracked into becoming a hero. Even the weakest mage or warlock can do things that I could never hope to. Summon fire? Yup. Disguise yourself? Yup. Fly through the air? Yup. Here am I, sword and shield while these heroes wield lightning, ice, and light like it’s just another day.

But it’s not another day. Today is a day I hoped would never come.

We stand here in rows, readying for battle. A battle I feared none of us would survive.

“Listen up,” A voice shouts.

I look up ahead of me and there sits on of the world’s most popular heroes. A mighty paladin with shining, heavy armor, a shield as big as my body, and a lance which shines like the brightest lantern I’ve ever seen.

“Today the forces of evil are on our doorstep. They have decided to come here to challenge us,” He said with a hearty laughed, but no one joined him. “They bring monsters and creatures that we can only describe as nightmares.”

The crowd of people shuffled unconfortably.

“But today we will not fail. We will be a wall of light that drives out the darkness. We will drive back the evil and vanquish it!”

He gave a large smile and he looked out from the crowd. There was an awkward pause as he looked for support from the army and the town guard.

There was a small smattering of applause, the loudest of which came from the paladin’s companion who stood beside him. Well actually she sat beside him. She sat side-saddled on a magical horse which had a large horn and large white wings. Both her and the horse sparkled with magic. She was some sort of mage able to unleash an untold amount of power from her staff.

“Thank you,” The paladin smiled.

The man on the Paladin’s right rolled his eyes. He was one I didn’t recognize, but he had an intimidating presence. He wore dark armor and had two long swords strapped to his back. I’m pretty sure he was some sort of mercenary or assassin. If he wasn’t a hero, we’d probably be throwing him in jail.

“Let’s just get this over with,” The assassin said.

“Right,” The Paladin said as he turned back toward the crowd. “Today we fight hell, but we shall dine in heaven’s light!”

He raised his lance and a beam of light shot up into the sky like a beacon.

Again there was a few groups of claps, but most stayed silent as they got into the position.

The plan was to form lines of people and attack in waves. Heavy units would go in first, then a wave of medium units like sword fighters, and then finally a group of archers and siege equipment in the back. I wish I pulled siege duty since I would be farthest back from the battle, but instead I was a part of the second wave.

The Paladin climbed up on his steed and made his way toward the front of the army. The mage and the assassin followed.

That’s one good thing about heroes. They are usually brave or stupid. Either way they stand at the front and lead the charge into the danger.

My eyes followed the Paladin until my eyesight hit the horizon. There I saw a hint of what was to come. The air was filled with a dark smoke, but there were some glowing creatures that stood out against the blackness. Even from this far away, I could tell that this would not be your usual battle. I saw some winged creatures flying in the sky as well as large beasts resembling things of nightmares. It was almost like someone took a random group of animal parts, tails, wings, horns, and claws and mixed them with a large human. One nightmare I could see from here had the upper torso of a large man with goat hooves, bat wings, and a scorpion tail. Not your normal type of thing you deal with as a town guard.

“Army! Get ready!” The Paladin shouted, using magic to amplify his voice. “And charge!”

He yelled as his large steed took off toward the cloud of black death. The mage took to the air on her winged horse and began waving her staff. Flashes of rainbow colors were released from the staff and flew into the cloud. There were some large explosions sending creatures flying into the air. The Assassin also ran forward, moving almost as fast as the people on horseback. He unsheathed his blades with a blinding quickness and disappeared into the smog.

The army charged forward and there was a low rumble of yells and footfalls as they moved forward.

“Second wave, charge,” An army captain shouted and I began running forward toward the oncoming army.

The adrenaline pumped through my body and for a moment I felt invincible. That feeling didn’t last long.

I charged alongside my fellow town guard and a small portion of the army. Large boulders were flung over my head from the siege weapons which disappeared into the black clouds. I didn’t know if they actually knew where the enemy was or if they were just giving it their best shot. Either way, I hoped the rocks crushed as many monsters as possible.

It wasn’t long until I saw the carnage of the fight. I only made it a hundred yards or so before I saw the bodies tossed around. Most were just bloody scraps of people or demons with deep red pools of blood. Others were just charred corpses, black to the bone. Bodies were laying everywhere and it made it difficult to move forward.

I tried my best to move around the dead bodies as quickly as possible. There was still a third wave of people behind me as well as my fellow town guard trying to charge into battle. I made it closer to the black cloud and I could barely comprehend what I was seeing.

It was like literal hell on earth. The ground was burnt and blackened and the sky was full of dark gray ash and suffocating smog. Flying demons with burning red eyes swooped down and attacked the soldiers on the ground. They seemed to have fondness to go for the eyes, ripping them from people’s eye sockets with their claws.

Other large beasts breathed clouds of acid as the crowd or attacked with weapons made from black flame. They carved through the army like they were made from parchment. The army had some victories as they slashed at incoming flying demons or cut down some of the ground troops, but every victory cost dozens of people.

I looked around for any semblance of our remaining army. Most people were scattered and fighting enemies on all sides. The only people who seemed to be doing well was the three heroes. The Paladin was swinging his lance around unleashing blasts of light energy which just ripped through the demons. His radiance seemed to repel them and keep them at bay as he killed them with his lance. The mage flew through the air effortlessly, unleashing a barrage of magic. She managed to take out whole flocks of flying demons with lightning bolts and coat the ground with magic ice which froze some demons in place. The Assassin was a blur which dashed from enemy to enemy using his two blades to slice the demons into piles of guts and gore. He would attack with his blades and move before a single demon could attack back. It was like a strange dance.

As for me, I stood almost frozen in place. I felt nauseous and like I was about to pass out. All of this was so overwhelming. I didn’t know what to do.

A nearby town guard picked up on my hesitation and got my attention by banging his sword against his shield. I turned to look at him, but things seemed to be moving in slow motion.

“With me,” He yelled over the sounds of battle.

He pointed his sword forward and pointed at a giant monster which towered over the battlefield. As I focused my eyes, I saw that it was some sort of large fire and stone golem which unleashed a torrent of lava from its mouth. It stepped forward and crushed a small group of town guard underneath its feet.

“Charge!” The town guard yelled as he ran forward, but he only made it a few feet forward.

I tried to yell out to him, but it was too late.

As he focused on the giant lava golem, he missed the scorpion demon. It stepped out from behind a plume of black smoke and attack with its tail. The scorpion stinger plunged through the main’s chest, impaling him and killing him instantly.

Then the scorpion demon turned its head toward me. It smiled with a cruel, toothy smile as its eyes flared.

I raised my shield in anticipation and readied my sword.

I was not a hero wielding some shiny weapon or a mage with powerful magic. I was just a man. A man who loved his town and was loyal to its people. I never wanted to be an adventurer or monster slayer, but here I was face to face with a monster. I wasn’t sure what the next few moments would hold, but I knew for one thing I wasn’t going down without a fight. I was determined to kill these demons, save my people, and become a hero in my own right.

I let out a deep breath and charged the demon, swinging my sword with everything I could manage.

Header Photo Credit to History QA

Writing Prompt submitted to r/WritingPrompts by u/Psycloptic

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