The Thoughts of a Sentry

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  I thought I’d put up an early work of mine in the sword-and-sorcery genre.

The Thoughts of a Sentry

             Guard duty.  I hate guard duty but I have little choice since I was commanded to be here.  I really don’t mind standing watch over the treasure vault’s only door.  I’d prefer it to have a bit more light and a nice fire would be appreciated.  Lately all I’ve felt is cold, a bone chilling feeling from being down here in this frigid place.  The chill seems to stay with me all the time, I can’t remember the last time I felt warm. 

            The alcove I have to stand in is mirrored by another across the room.  I just barely see the other sentry there quietly absorbed in his duty.  What a stubborn bastard this guy is!  He refuses to talk just to pass away the time.  I don’t even know the son-of-a-bitch’s name!  It’s not like we’re watching the front gates to the city, our jobs are so boring and uneventful I can’t see why he should take it so seriously.  But there he stands like a damn statue holding his longsword in one hand and his plain steel buckler in his other.  I can see the gleam of his chain mail from the flickering light of the torches in the nearby sconces.  An unadorned helm covers his head with the goggle-like face plate obscuring his features.  A long horsehair plume hangs over the right side of his helm easily touching his shoulder.  He is ready for anything, like there’s been any action for us.  Not even a hint of one.  The last assault on Lord Baguta’s prizes was reportedly took place three centuries ago. 

            Flicking my gaze to the only entrance to this antechamber I spy the only way into the room.  The entranceway stands wide open and door-less.  I can see the light of the other torches that march their way down the long corridor that leading to our position.  There is a dripping sound of water as it leaks from the ceiling stones and puddles in the corner just to my right.  The liquid dribbling is the only other sound I hear since we are so far below the ground.  While I being prepard for sentry duty someone told me the treasure trove of Lord Baguta’s mansion had been delved almost a quarter mile beneath Iberia’s surface.  It’s the depth that worries me as well  Even though I know that the dwarves and the rest of the dirt-dwelling creatures live farther down than this  I’m a bit nervous since I’ve never been this deep underground before.  Having never met the a dwarf or even a lone deep-elf I wonder how they stand it.  I’ve heard their tales about living underground.  Even in the last smoky tavern I visite a bard sang some of their epic poems.  Bright and shiny were those ditties filling me with wonder and awe but that’s something I’ll ever experience in my current occupation as a guard. 

            The floor, ceiling, and walls of this room are made up of tightly packed gray field stone of a very unremarkable quality.  This is a bit odd since my employer is a very rich man with very expensive tastes.   I’m not sure what he does exactly but I only care about the color of his gold it doesn’t matter.  Speaking of of the shiny metal the only fancy work that was done here is the solid gold door that is carved with arcane symbols and warnings about disturbing the vault’s contents.  The sconces which hold the torches, the only other features worth mentioning are black iron-wrought and very sturdy looking affairs.  They burn in flickering sputters giving giving off a bad smell and throw off a pale, sickly and yellow light.  The illumination, although poor, is more than enough as my eyes since they have become accustomed to the darkness.  Since I started here I have had ample opportunity to fine tune my other senses.  Take my hearing for example.  It has gotten quite keen after the first few months of standing down here.  I can now ascertain the difference between the tread of the feet, how many are approaching and if they belong to those coming down here legally.  However the occasional odd servants who are ordered down to our position still confuse me.  It is impossible to tell them from a stranger’s footfalls.  If it wasn’t for the password they titter just before entering they would be cut down by me and my companion before they could defend themselves.  There are other noises I detect since my hearing improved.  Besides the water dripping to my right I can hear the scuttling and scurrying of rats who live, prowl and die down in these tunnels.  The rodents spend all their lives scrambling for the odd bit of food or lapping at the brackish water.

            Wait, there seems to be someone approaching!  Listening I clearly hear the tread of more than one person striding down the long hallway towards the antechamber.  Oh these are bold steps, the person making them is not even attempting to be subtle.  A figure draws neare and no password is uttered.  Drawing my sword I look over to see my fellow guard shift in his stance as he prepares for the fray.  Yes, I can tell that they are intruders since they are using additional torches to light the path ahead of them.  None of my employer’s other servants do this.   In fact, it is expressly forbidden to do so since my benefactor is a frugal man and wishes to not waste good gold.  I tilt my head and try to loosen up my stiff neck that has only just begun to ache.  Standing in the cold dark with a heavy helmet on is bound to give anyone such pains.  I twist my head again I cannot let this hinder me now. 

            I see the intruders clearly now!  They are standing just beyond the threshold of the antechamber, only a few meager feet from actually entering.  They are talking in low tones and muttering about any traps that might be on the treasure vault’s door.  They begin to enter.  There is a smaller one leading their group, obviously a sneak-thief or someone trained in the art of breaking-and-entering.  Behind him is a duo of large warriors and a slightly built, robed figure stands in the very back of the party.  With a nod from my compatriot across the room we wait for the skinny fellow to get to the center of the chamber before we attack.  I leap from my alcove and bury my sword deep into the intruder’s side.  I am pleased to see an arc of blood shoot from his mouth and paint the floor with its scarlet hue.  My comrade hacks into the first warrior just beyond my opponent and is rewarded with a solid hit.  The sharp edge of his sword shears the big man’s mail just above his right elbow and spills forth more of the crimson fluid onto the cold flagstones.  The intruders begin to shout but I ignore their words and step up to block a warhammer wielded by another of the more brawny interlopers.  The heavy thunk of his weapon vibrates my shield arm and pushes the rim of my buckler into my sword arm.  Out of the corner of my eye I see that the other guard has begun fencing with his wounded opponent.  Their blows rain down and are caught and deflected by shield or sword.  As I slash the shield of my foe with the hammer I hear an unexpected crash to my left.  My attack has only scored the steel of his buckler and I am pushed back once more by the heavy blow of his weapon.  I dare a glance to my left and see my compatriot lying still on the floor, his skull cleft in twain.  It is now four-to-one and I know in my heart that I cannot withstand the intruders unless I force them to come at me one at a time.  I retreat to my alcove blocking the blows of the warhammer as I step backwards.  There is a flash of sudden light, an explosion of color, and my left arm is ripped away!  There is no pain.  I hear my shield clattering on the gray stones of the floor.  Raising my sword to block his next attack I await for the agony of my wound to overwhelm me.  It doesn’t happen I must have gone numb and into shock.  In horror I watch as my sword shatters as the head of the hammer smashes into it.  Fragments of my blade clatter all around me as I grip the useless hilt.  Staggering back groping for my belted dirk while my progress is stopped by the wall behind me.  I see the return strike from my opponent swinging my way!  I’ll never move in time, I can’t get clear!  I’m doomed!!

****

           The combat has ended as quickly and abrupt as it started.  I send a thankful, but silent prayer to the Elven Goddess for giving me the foresight to have prepared a quick spell before we came into the antechamber.  Looking at my companions I noticed one lay still upon the cold stone floor.  Lincoln is hurt.  His arm is dripping blood and he’s trying to staunch the flow of it but it runs off his shiny chain mail and splatters onto the flagstones.  He’s holding a rag to his bleeding right arm.  His mail shines in the faint light and he turns to his brother, a concerned look spreading across his features.

           “Nasty fight, eh Henry?” he scoffs.  

            “Hey Lincoln, how’s Paul?” Henry said, checking his war-hammer for damage.

            The other warrior stands up from our fallen comrade.

            “Dead I’m afraid,” the other warrior remarked.  “Got stuck right in the ribs, probably skewered his heart with the first thrust, unlucky for him.  I didn’t seem them coming, did you?”

            “No, Lincoln I didn’t.  Damn creepy of them to come at us without uttering a sound.”

            A doff my hood as Henry turns to me.  Moving into the room with all my elven grace I watch the warriors go through their post-battle rituals.

            “Thanks for the arcane bolt spell, Aurelia,” he says.  “It came just in time to help me finish the job.”

            Stopping in the center of the room I examine the carnage.

     “I’ll tell you what,” I smile.  “I’ve never seen skeletons fight so hard and so quickly.  This treasure vault was well guarded, I must admit.  I hope Paul’s death is worth it.”

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