Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Av Hjerter og Menn (Of Hearts and Men)


“They are ready, Captain.”

“How many?”

“45, new recruits.”

“Excellent...”

I am Feggi.

I am a man.

Every year they come from all corners of the North to fight for the Bargainers. I am the one to decide their fate, for I am their Captain of War. Aye, it's a strange thing to call it that, seein' how the game is played. I myself know a thing or two about the early days, back when the title meant something. No one dies any more. So what's the importance of calling it a war then?

“I've seen better men fall out of drunk women covered in birthing slime!” I shout at them like weak dogs. I have no pity for them and their misplaced hubris. Damn wretches! Climbed out of their hovels with delusions, and I am the one to settle their foolishness? “I would thank you all for coming, but seein' how you all are wasting my time I will stay my tongue.”

My eye catches one, shivering in his boots. He was made a fool by making the journey. Today he saw the spire with virgin eyes and fear broke his will.

“Who are you? Why are you shaking?” He doesn't say a word. Maybe he isn't as stupid as I thought. “What did you come here to do, boy? This is a man's game. Did you not expect to see the spire burning when you came? Did you think yourself lucky enough to escape death? Castle is not a game to be played lightly...”

“I came for honor,” he shouts back in reply, “for glory.”

What a stupid thing to say.

“Is there glory in Castle? I did not know this. You all here fight for renown, for applause, I fight for honor. For there was a day when men died in the arena for those cries and worship. You undeserving whelp!”

My fist crashes down upon him, breaking his jaw. I can feel the crunch of his teeth against my gauntlets. It is so satisfying. Wordlessly two scribes come from behind me to carry the insect away.

“If you all are finished with your insolence I shall tell you all, for you, why you are here. You are here to play Castle, a most brutal sport this end of the Sognefjord. You are here to be chosen, to be culled from the masses to be Bargainers, to don proudly our colors and take victory to the glory of the area. You will support the city with your insatiable lust for violence as heroes do! And I myself will watch in the shadows as your master.”

“There are two teams in Castle in opposition, numbering with each a single runner. Under fire, the runner must route the enemy to score, and you will do all that is in your power to stop them. This construct rifle will aid you. Your team members will aid you. All shall be well in the event of success, and in failure I shall see to it that you are severely punished for your actions before I cast you out of my presence.”

They stand tall and stalwart still. I hoped to have broken them, but they are still deluded. My scribe brings me my construct rifle. Thumbing the trigger I shoot a volley into the crowd. Some duck, but I am too quick for the rest. Three men are hit, and thrown to the ground writhing in agony.

“How many of your ribs are broken?” I call out to them. “Two? Three? Pathetic... That was at 5. Matches play at 10... Bring them to the medics, you two.”

Castle is no game for the weak of heart. Before me, the captain who trained me did the same, but I stood proudly and asked for another.

“Today will mark the beginning of your life. All that you knew before is irrelevant. You will learn how to shoot, how to move quickly, and how to absorb incredible pain hencefourth. Do these things well, and you will succeed. Let the games begin. Game Runners, I Salute you!”

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