Seimon looked out over the battlefield below, taking in everything. The smell of blood, tinny on the wind, mingling with the stink of fear, sweat and far worse muck. The sight of hundreds, possibly thousands of bodies, most dead, all interlinked with ally and foe alike. The sound of pitiful cries from the few remaining wounded, crying out for help that would likely not be in time, and almost certainly not enough. But nothing matched the feeling inside. A feeling of guilt, mixed with relief.
He had been conscripted to a unit of spearmen in the second reserve for Lord Stackpole’s army- reluctantly of course. The unit had been given a few days drilling practice before the long march into Kriils. It was on the grasslands a few miles short of the border town of Graycott the army finally halted, weapons distributed and units fed. After a short rest the call to order had run through the assembled troops and Seimon had taken his place to march again. But as the army crested the hill above the town a terrifying sight was revealed. Lord Stanlow, rival of Lord Stackpole for the vacant throne, was waiting with a host far in excess of Lord Stackpole’s.
Rushed orders had the invading force take position whilst Stackpole’s honour guard accompanied him to the parley. From his position towards the back of the force Seimon could see little, but murmurings and rumours made it back to them eventually- this was an unbeatable force, outnumbered five to one, some rumours suggested far more. As the honour guard returned a flag was raised and the first troops began to advance, swordsman and militia moving to engage the advance elements of Lord Stanlow’s host. Seimon’s fellow spearmen moved forward on commands to take up the vacant space ahead and a cold feeling of dread entered the stomach of every man in the unit.
An hour after the first advance, nobody had details of the initial contact, but as wave after wave of soldiers were pressed forward, and the entire first reserve was committed to battle, the second reserve finally advance to a position in which they could see the massacre below. It was clear casualties had been heavy on both sides, but the steady stream of units advancing from this side of the plain was dwarfed by the numbers across the battlefield. It was at this point a cavalry force arrived on the East of the field, a mix of light and heavy horse advancing at a gallop into the flank of Lord Stackpole’s infantry. Lacking heavy cavalry of his own Lord Stackpole had immediately ordered his light horse to reinforce and waved the second reserve onto the field.
The reserve began to trudge down the field, swords ahead with spears following up. The light cavalry ahead reached the reinforcing cavalry of Lord Stanlow and was quickly repulsed. Unfortunately the line of retreat was blocked by the advancing swordsmen. Confusion hit the combined units as the cavalry of the enemy charged them. At this point men from Seimons unit faltered, some dropping their weapons and retreating, whilst others merely hesitated, unsure what to do. As the line became stretched, it was clear to Seimon the heavy cavalry would be upon them shortly. Throwing down his spear he quickly turned and joined his fellow recruits in fleeing.
As he reached his armies lines Seimon could see a furious Lord Stackpole hacking fiercely around him with his longsword, cutting down conscripts as the fled past him. One, clearly more travelled than the rest, dodged a swing from the mighty sword and planted a knife through a gap in Lord Stackpole’s armour, leaving it up to the hilt under his armpit. Caught by surprise Lord Stackpole sank to his knees as more men ran past to the safety of the trees behind. Seimon stopped ahead of his Lord, feeling no duty to him, instead feeling a raw anger as the potential for death dawned on him. He reached down to lift the greatsword, only to discover it’s weight was beyond his ability to swing. Abandoning the idea he instead reached for the knife- still embedded inside Lord Stackpole- and twisted, before tearing it out and pushing the man to the ground with his boots.
A cheer rose from around him as he moved into the trees, pocketing the knife as he went.
Now, some time later he watched with barely a hundred men as the victorious troops of Lord Stanlow looted the battlefield. The guilt at his murder of Lord Stackpole- aided of course by another whom he’s not seen since- combined with relief at surviving the battle. The relief was cooled by the knowledge it could only be a matter of time before the soldiers stripping corpses ahead were reformed and sent for the survivors. A fast retreat home seemed pointless given the lack of horses. Some men had left, but the majority held on, seemingly looking to Seimon for leadership or at least guidance since his killing of their former master. Seimon offered nothing, being no more than a farmer presented with an opportunity to slaughter a weakened man, he had no experience to draw on. No plan, no idea what to do next. Stackpole’s honour guard had remained with the group, offering no threat to Seimon, despite their role being that of protection, a role in which they had clearly failed.
“He was a Hero, mum.”
“No, son listen to me…”
“I don’t have to listen, I know. Ok. I know. He was a Hero. My dad was a hero.”
Actually in a quite literal sense that’s exactly what he was. My dad was a Hero, a Superhero in fact. You’ll know the name, The Masked Avenger, Hero of this city. A real life Superhero. Nobody knows the details but he started as a vigilante, seeking revenge for something, before an accident turned his will for revenge into something far more powerful. All kinds of abilities have been witnessed over the years as he’s stopped numerous criminals and villains.
But that was all over.
He was gone.
Dead, The Masked Avenger. My Dad apparently, now gone. And Mum was trying to tell me he wasn’t a Hero;
“I know this is hard to understand, and I know it’s a lot to take in at once, but he was no hero.”
“Mum, he saved lives, stopped criminals, saved the city- probably the world- loads of times, how is he not a hero?”
“What is heroism, Jacob?”
My name. She used my name. She never uses my name unless I’m in trouble, or like now, she’s trying to get through to me.
“Heroism is exactly that Mum, saving lives, stopping the bad guys…”
“No, it isn’t. It’s really not. Do you not see? Being a hero is selfish, caring nothing for anyone else around you. It’s running blindly into danger because the safety of a stranger on the street is more important than the wellbeing of your family. Because jumping in the way of a bullet comes before earning a decent wage to pay the bills.”
“Is this about money Mum? Iv told you, I’ll postpone my uni application and get a job until the insurance money comes through.”
“Insurance money?” She scoffed, “what insurance company do you think pays out on a masked maniac being torn apart by another masked maniac?”
“Um..” I had nothing, my mind couldn’t conjure so much as a pun right now.
Back to her pet name for me now, as a child I’d had a mop of hair that looked gold in the sun. It was long darkened now but the name had stuck, for Mum anyway.
“I’m sorry, but there’s no money coming, he’s gone. And he’s left us with nothing.”
Hours later, I’m sat in his corner, where he sat every night. Had sat every night. Reading his books, painting little metal soldiers. There was a time I’d sat with him doing the same, but girls had put paid to that a few years back. He’d always say there after dinner, and now I sat here, mulling over everything Mum had said. Surely he was a hero. He saved countless lives, stopped so many disasters. I hadn’t known of course, to me he’d always been that boring dad painting his toys, but apparently once I was in bed he’d pull on his dark mask and head into the city. These extra curricular activities had also made him completely unemployable. Apparently employers didn’t look kindly on their staff rushing off to stop the latest madman trying to take over the planet. There were debts, the ordinary everyday debts, alongside a whole load of weird Internet orders for mysterious equipment.
Leaning back in the chair a glint at the desk caught my eye. A tin soldier coated in thick garish paint. I smiled, remembering the look on my dads face as I’d painted my first model. God it was awful, all detail morphed into a rainbow blob. I reached for it, feeling the heft in my hand before a grating noise dragged me from my reverie. The chair was sinking into the floor, too fast to get off, too slow for me not to tut- a secret entrance to your lair Dad, really? The chair stopped its descent and the light above slowly disappeared as a panel closed off the entrance. Strip lights clicked and flickered into life and the disappointingly sparse basement came into view.
With a laugh I stepped out of the chair and stepped towards the door back upstairs when something made me turn, a ‘feeling’ perhaps, though likely just a draught. The wall behind the chair was missing, revealing another room. Not the basement, but still not particularly impressive. It occurred to me that without a huge personal fortune the setting up of a secret base was really dependent on what you could scrape together, and now I could see where those debts Dad had left had come from.
A large desk sat against the far wall of the roughly carved room, a fairly expensive, but not top range, computer sat on the desk ahead of a wall of surveillance pictures of various villains I remembered from the news. Aside from the the room was empty. Dragging the chair into the room I sat at the desk and looked at the screen. A single flashing dot bleeped at me, an insistent pulse demanding my attention. Hitting enter brought up the standard ‘ENTER LOGIN‘ menu, so I typed in ‘BELGIUM.’ Predictable dad, his favourite place, and the location of so many very dull holidays as a child. The screen flickered and shut down and a light behind me cast my shadow against it. Turning I jumped, momentarily convinced I was under attack. But it wasn’t a man. It was the Suit. The Masked Avengers costume. My Dads evening wear.
Looking up at the navy and black body armour everything mum had said to me came back, conflicting with my childhood worship of a man I wished my dad could be. If only I’d known then, I had so many questions. And surely it would have stopped so many assumptions regarding my boring Dad.
Reaching up my hand passes through a light, the screen behind me flickering back into life and Dads voice echoing from the speakers.
“Jacob, my boy. You found it. I always knew you would. Presumably I’m not in the house or I’d have got to you before you set this recording off. Right now I’m getting the notification you’ve found your way into my modest lair and I’m on the way back to explain a few things.”
The recording stopped and Dads face hovered on the screen. No not stopped, he was just still. Watching? Waiting?
Time passed, the recent loss preventing me from looking away, glad for the opportunity to see his face one last time, I jumped as he began to speak again.
“I’m dead, Jacob. Of course, I don’t know that yet, but if I haven’t made it back here to see you then I’m gone. No doubt your mother has told you I’m no hero, just a lazy layabout with delusions of grandeur, piling on the debts and helping all but the people who matter. And I can’t disagree, she’s right. She always has been. But right now you need to make a decision, is it heroism or selfishness? Things are bad. Evil forces move against good and if I’m dead that’s one man less to stop them.”
A pause again, I glance back at the suit, I can’t visualise my dad inside it, but I guess that would be too easy.
“You can help, Jacob. But it has to be your choice. Put everything out of your mind. Your mums opinions, mine, everyone but your own. You have two options, YES or NO. Will you take up my mantle, don my mask?”
I glance down as two keys on the keyboard light up, the Y and the N.
“Take your time son, but make sure it’s your own decision, only you can make it and only you can deal with the consequences. Hit yes and you’ll begin a journey to replace me and save the world. Hit no and all this will go away, you can go back to your life and no doubt your mum will be happier.”
His face disappeared, the screen dark now. It seemed as though the only lights came from those two buttons infront of me. Warring emotions beat me up inside, pushing me one way and the other. I reached forward, finger hovering. As I tapped my choice the screen lit up again.
“My Son, I understand this will have been a hard decision, but believe me you’ve made the right one. The same choice I made. The majority matter more than the few. You must leave the house now, a cab will be waiting outside for you in a moment.”
At that the screen went dark again and I turned to find the suit off its rack, folded into a small package. Lifting it I exited the room, passing through the basement up to the kitchen and out the front. I didn’t stop to tell Mum where I was going, that conversation could wait.
I don’t know how, but the Taxi was indeed waiting for me, I got in the back with the package and the car pulled away. I took what felt like my first breath in an age, absorbing the smell of leather and cheap aftershave.
“Mr Jacob,” the driver interrupted my moment, ” a message for you sir.”
Taking an object from him I saw it was a recording device. I hit play and my fathers voice once again was heard
“Thank you son. Thank you for making the choice that serves the greater good. The driver will escort you to my real base of operations where you will find all you need. Please understand that your mother was always right, she always will be. Personal connections were my major weakness. You will be stronger than that given time. I’m sorry son.”
The recording clicked off as an explosion sounded behind me, my home detonating as my ride drove on…
Apologies if this had been posted previously.
Awareness slowly returned to Sarah, low noises sounding simultaneously close by and far away, a dull grey glow seeping through her closed eyelids and a smell, not burning, but something previously burned seeped into her nostrils, reminding her of BBQs as a carefree young woman.
Where was she?
Where has she been?
Her toes tingled, pins and needles preventing any comfortable movement, the same in her fingers now. Her eyelids gently opened, morphing the grey glow into a dirty beige glow directly ahead. Lying on her back, unable to move, memory evading her grasp.
An itch on her thigh, fingers not reaching to relieve the discomfort.
Where am I?
How did I get here?
A slight flash of memory there, bright lights, burning sun, dust.
Yes, desert dust. She’d been on manoeuvres. That’s right, manoeuvres through the desert with her squad.
The pins and needles easing in her feet, she tries to shift, struggling to raise her body. Giving up, she lifted her head slightly to look around, the dirty beige was a constant on the ceiling and the walls, broken only by a nondescript brown door. In the corner sat a green chair, the cover torn, foam squeezing out like a fungus.
More flashes of memory began to return as she lowered her head again, walking in the heat. Sharing a joke with a squadmate. A click.
The door had opened and someone had entered, a tired looking suit matching tired eyes and drawn features, “Awake Miss Turner” he uttered, no emotion evident, “we’ve been waiting some time for you to regain consciousness.”
Her attempt to reply was cut off by her dry mouths unwillingness to utter anymore than a scratchy cough,
“I would rest your voice Miss Turner, the damage coupled with the morphine will limit your conversations for a while yet”
Damage? Morphine? What had happened?
Memories again drifted just out of reach, agonisingly close but nothing.
“Wha…” She attempted to scrape something out.
“Do not concern yourself with the details Miss Turner, they aren’t important just now.” Again, the flat emotionless tone, but something in her pleading eyes must have prompted him to give her some information, “you were on an afternoon patrol when one of your colleagues triggered an explosive mine, you were amongst those caught in the blast.”
A mine? Blast?
The door opened again, but Sarah was too busy reeling from the information she’d received to see who entered, hushed voices followed by the door closing again dragged her from her distraction.
“So, Miss Turner, I will leave you to your rest and return later.” The man exited the room leaving her alone, tears welling in her eyes as beige turned to grey before darkness closed in.
It was several days since Sarah had first woken up in that dingy room to discover she’d been injured in an explosion. The days hadn’t been easy, as she had discovered the blast had cost her both legs and an arm, with the second arm also severely damaged. She’d spent her time mostly in a daze, not able or willing to consider what this would mean for her future.
The man who’d visited on the first day had not given her any information on her squadmates, or indeed on anything beyond her physical self. Nor had he ever enquired as to her wellbeing, physical or mental. In fact, come to think of it he’d exchanged very few words, all directed to her without emotion before disappearing. Two other men visited twice daily, once to carry her out of her room to a very similar room, and again later to put her back.
Some time later, it could have been days, weeks or months a new visitor appeared.
“Well Miss Turner,” his voice carrying enough emotion to bring tears to her eyes, “how are you fitting in?”
That stopped the tears. Fitting in?
“Is that a joke?” She snapped back, “fitting in? How can I be fitting in, I’m dragged between two rooms with no news and no company. How do you think I’m ‘fitting in?'”
Tears returned to her eyes as the frustration of not being able to raise her arms to form inverted commas making sure of that.
“Now, Miss Turner, there’s no need for that, I simply meant to the current location,” his soft tone caught her attention, “in fact, we feel it’s time to move you on.”
“Home? I can go home?” Hope kindled
“Oh, Miss Turner, I must apologise. Mr Brown can be a little uncommunicative of the details. I’m afraid you aren’t returning home. Or rather.” He paused, long enough for hope to turn to despair, “you are home. You’ll be joining us now.”
Sarah launched herself out of her chair, he legs powering her across the room at this man, fists raised to strike him when her brain caught up with her body.
“Wh..where am I?”
“Come with me Miss Turner, you’re ready for the next stage…”
The open hand reached for Sarah’s, it’s touch tingling through her new limb and darkness fell once more.
So, I’m currently sorting through junk in the garage and came across a book I compiled over several years (I’ll get some extracts up).
I found this charming gem I wrote one night working for tesco
Three in one
It’s gets us all,
So have your fun.
Smoke it hard
Drag it deep
In that time my solace keep
You have killed me
I feel the bite
My lungs are tight
Well isn’t that just lovely.
My apologies for the darker previous post, normal service shall be resumed shortly.
I’ve let the blog lapse as real life took over and limited my opportunities, whilst I simultaneously reached a point in the personal posts that I couldn’t get past. Well, it’s a new year and this one I intend to be better, so posts will be going live soon.
On a personal level, I intend to look back at some defining moments in my life, whilst also revisiting my largely failed six month plan from previously.
Hobby posts will continue, I’ve been playing a whole load of guildball in the last few months and want to get more posts up about that. The new Wild West expdus Kickstarter is due to start shipping sometime very soon so no doubt I’ll be playing that for a bit too. I also intend to play some frostgrave soon, as well as the ever growing piles of board games I’m hoarding. And salutes bound to throw up a few curve balls. I also have a few tournaments lined up for the year ahead so expect write ups of them too.
The book and film posts I dropped for the most part. I was getting through a lot of dull stuff and the posts weren’t bringing anything useful to the Internet. If something especially grabs me I may bring it back.
Writings I have a few ideas for, with a few sketched out plans. It would be nice to finish something, so who knows.
beyond that there’s not much to say for now, except keep your eyes peeled for future posts, they are coming.
Today has not been a good day for me.
All day I’ve had an itch to write here but the knowledge my brains been clouded and in a dark place has stayed my hand. You may or may not notice I have forgone my usual starter of ‘So,’ the reason being I didn’t know how to start it, and my brain couldn’t navigate an opening line.
For a little background, I suffer from anxiety, which occasionally manifests into depression. I have good days and bad days, mostly good but easily overwhelmed and then things get harder. My vision blurs, brain fogs and I sink into an emotionless malaise that I can’t just shake. For eighteen months I was on medication, varying doses based on whichever doctor I’d most recently seen, and then three consecutive doctors told me I ‘don’t present as a typical depressed patient.’ The ridiculous notion that everyone’s the same aside, there’s a good reason for this. It’s not constant, it fluctuates. I can’t plan a bad day to see them and sitting for half an hour in a waiting room is a good way of putting your life in order and restoring some calm, enough at least that when the doctors asks how you’ve been, “fine” springs to your lips without a moments hesitation. It’s then not easy to convince them there’s a problem.
Nearly a year ago this happened, due to my inability to express the extent of my anxiety I wrote a list. It wasn’t exhaustive, just bits that came to mind in the run up to the appointment, so when the time came I sat down, responded to the “how are you?” With “I wrote a list” and put it into his hands. He scanned it, and immediately suggested that due to my ability to compile a list I clearly wasn’t that depressed. Hmm, ok. He went on to suggest the medication clearly wasn’t needed and/or needed and so I should look to come off it.
And I did. I weaned myself off the medication, which in all honesty had no impact on my mood (a few days of odd side effects aside), and I stayed away from the docs, ‘knowing’ they thought I was fine. In the run up to Christmas I went back with a new list, extended this time to include a few physical niggles. Anxiety was discussed, to which the doc suggests I was clearly dealing very well with it. This as aside from the fact I don’t feel fine. At all.
I’ve tried to take positive steps. I’m exercising more, I’ve lost weight, I’m eating better, I’m looking to get back to work soon, I’m trying to be more proactive and productive (not always successfully) and aside from being overwhelmed when the kids are screaming around me I felt I was moving in a positive direction. I was even considering referring myself to talking therapy- even if it does sound awful. And then today happened.
I’m not going to go into details, you don’t care and my brain hasn’t taken them in (a sure sign somethings affecting it). But I woke up knowing it was going to be a difficult day, I could feel the slight detachment I usually feel on a bad day and the kids fighting was digging particularly deeply into my patience. Rox was up late poking after the girl so aside from a quick mention to her that I wasn’t right today I left it, getting on with breakfast, albeit clumsily and a little dazed (bad days see, to affect my coordination and focus). Through the morning the kids were in bad form, fighting, screaming refusing to do as they were asked, this drained my already exhausted patience. Simultaneously, every time Rox spoke to me it felt that she was telling me off or criticising the things I was doing or the way I was doing them. I’m sure that wasn’t her intention, but a tired northern Irish girl can be quite abrupt.
By lunch I was ready to shut down, the fog descended and my tunnel vision pretty narrow. Unfortunately it was about this point the boys refusal to behave pushed Rox past her infinite reserves of patience (?) she went for a sleep and I spent the afternoon watching two kids who used to love each other fight and scream at each other.
Reading back through it doesn’t doing all that tough to deal with, but the fact is I’ve had one of the darkest days I can remember having, even now wishy the kids in ned and some peace in scrabbling for a grip on my usual place,I still feel detached and my emotions are conspicuously absent. The knowledge tomorrow’s a different day and likely not to start the same way isn’t a relief, this hasn’t been a good day for me at all.