[Bastion. Rank 4. He’s a younger man, in his late 20's. He sits across from me on a stump, wiping his dirty hands on his pants. He is a broad-shouldered man, round face looking tired, his brown and bushy beard disheveled. His sword rests on the ground by his right foot, shield on his back.]
Thank you for your time. I’m sorry to pull you from your duties. Your help is greatly appreciated.
Hey, no problem. I could always use a break from [he looks out at the field of bodies] well, you know.
Yes, I do. I’ll try not to hold you up for long.
Whatever you need. I’m in no hurry.
You’ve been a part of this whole mess from the very beginning, correct?
The beginning? You mean before the war? Before the plague?
That was a long time ago. Yes, I was there. I’m probably one of the few people you’ll find that was.
Could you tell me about it?
Probably, yes. Let me see here.
[he stares off at the field, running his hand through his beard]
This whole thing started just a few years ago. At the time, I lived in a city called Westfall, on the north-west end of the Zel’hitian kingdom. I had just reached the age of maturity and was deciding what to do with my life. I was apprenticed as a blacksmith by my father and he really wanted me to continue my training and possibly take over the shop. There was only one other blacksmith in the city, and plenty of work for us, so I could have settled down indefinitely. But I think a part of me really wanted to take my chances with the military. I had heard that blacksmiths were valuable to the Zel’hitian army, and that had a certain appeal to me.
[he gives me a sad smile]
I think things would have played out a lot differently if I had made that decision, I think. Anyways. I remember the day that everything changed like it was yesterday. I know that sounds a little cliche, but it’s true. Thunder and I…
Do you have any information about Thunder in that book of yours?
Not yet. Please, feel free to talk about him.
Oh, sure. Well, Thunder’s real name is Carac Drake.
Hold on. We don’t talk about our real names, remember?
[he gives me a flat look]
I’m not worried about it. But for the sake of it, I’ll stick with calling him Thunder. Is that fair?
Great. Thunder and I grew up together, many years ago. His father was an innkeeper and lived just down the road from my family. Our fathers became quick friends because Mr. Drake always needed supplies for his inn. In return for discounted supplies, he offered my father discounted drinks at the tavern section of the inn. They started to spend a lot of time with each other, when they could get away from work for a time. It wasn’t long before our two families became good friends, Thunder and I most of all. We were both apprenticed to our fathers, roughly the same age, and had the same interests.
As we grew older, we started to get assigned more tasks. My father was preparing me to take over the shop, which meant that I spent much of my time working. Thunder on the other hand got assigned to sit in on the city council as a scribe, which took him away from most of his inn-keeping duties. City councils aren’t very common in the Zel’hitian kingdom, mind you. We had a lord of the city, of course. But Westfall was special because the nobleman enjoyed playing politics even more than most of the other cities. Our nobleman weren’t satisfied with balls and courts, so they demanded to form a city council. This gave them more of a chance to help direct the city, taking and giving power from each other. The lord didn’t care either way, so he allowed it to happen.
The nobleman had a special respect for Thunder’s father, going as far as asking him to sit in on some of the council meetings. I can’t tell you a hundred percent why they took a special interest in him. Maybe it was because he was one of the most powerful merchants in the city. Or maybe it was because he offered some of the best wine and beer in the immediate area. Either way, they accepted him. Thunder’s father decided to take advantage of some of this influence by asking the council if they would allow Thunder to scribe for them. They decided to allow it, and so Thunder started doing council duty.
I’m sorry. I’m getting really side-tracked. A lot on my mind, I guess.
Don’t apologize. Please, continue.
Thanks. My point is that Thunder and I became very busy, but we still had opportunities to meet up on occasion to catch up with each other. We had this nice little spot outside of town, on a small hill, that gave us a pretty good view of the valley that Westfall was nestled in. It was during one of these meetups that the world changed for us.