As a military historian and combat veteran I have a hard time watching fantasy movies or television shows. Not that I don’t enjoy them, I do- immensely- but the utter lack of realism associated with these movies activates my training and experience. Lets take the wonderful adaptation of the Lord of the Rings. (I remember going to see the animated version back in the late 70s and was hooked after that.)
Peter Jackson makes good movies, though I debate whether he knows how to actually end one, but that’s not the point. In the Two Towers we see the battle of Helms Deep. Different from the books, but that’s law. Jackson makes a quality scene but the loss of life is absolutely appalling. Here is a man with no clear sense of tactics. Any commander worth his salt does everything possible to mitigate friendly casualties. Jackson plows through everyone and we can only assume that every single elf who joined the fight wound up dead. But that’s only fair, right? I mean they fired one, maybe two volleys into the advancing Uruk Hai and most died with another twenty shafts in their quivers. Ummmm…
Anyway, that brings us to this week’s installment of the Northern Crusade. A Whisper After Midnight. My approach to fantasy is to use modern tactics combined with medieval style warfare and occasionally real life battles thrown into a fantasy setting. Good guys don’t always survive and sometimes the bad guys win. Read below for a little peak, and as always, read on, my friends. Read on.
Cold winter winds kissed the broken mountaintops. This part of northern Malweir was a wicked and cruel place; filled with nightmares despair, the perfect place for the Hags to roost. The three harpies were sisters, wretched and cunning. They claimed the broken peaks and forced away smaller animals and other predatory birds. Men seldom came this far north without truly understanding the perils in the mountains. Only a tribe of Giants occupied the valley at the top of the mountains; Venheim, the fabled forge of Giants. It was here the Hags chose to maintain their watch. And wait.
Freina flexed her clawed feet, tilting her head back to enjoy the breeze. Her dark eyes watched the mountain pass far below, focused on the small band of travelers with their wagon. She was surprised they had made it this far with all of the odds thrown against them. Amar Kit’han and the Dae’shan seemed intent on killing them all but one yet nothing they had done worked. Freina attributed that to the wizard, Anienam Keiss. The last of his kind, his magics came from deep in the earth and were stronger than anything she remembered encountering before. The wizard made her and her sisters cautious, perhaps overly so. The Hags bristled at their defeats.
Brom crooned, a strange combination of pain and impatience. “We should not have agreed to help the devils.”
Freina spread her wings, dark feathers tipped with frost. “These choices are not ours to make. Our kind swore an oath and we are honor bound to adhere. Do not question my decisions, sister.”
“She speaks what we all feel, Freina,” Garelda snipped. Smaller than Freina, Garelda’s heart bled with hatred. “This is not our war.”
“Men are weak,” Freina countered swiftly. “The Dae’shan herald the coming age of the dark gods. It is wise to serve them now so that we are remembered when the proper time arrives.”
“At what cost?”
Freina cocked her head. “Explain your question.”
“Our kind has exhausted itself to near extinction following the corrupt orders of the Dae’shan. So few of us remain it is impossible to rebuild. We are dying, sister, and your blind obedience will see us put in the ground as well. It is time to break away from the dark gods and find our own path.”
Brom jerked back, shocked by her sister’s boldness. Freina clenched her fists, claws digging into the calloused flesh of her palms. “We serve as our ancestors did. There is no greater cause than that given to us by our birth. To do less would be blasphemy.”
“Against what? We do not worship the dark gods, Freina. Is it not time to reclaim our lives and rebuild the great aeries?”
Freina seemed to consider the wisdom behind Garelda’s comment. The thought of building a nest, a place to raise children and become queen of her race enticed her, but not to the point of abandoning her oaths. Honor spoke otherwise. They were Harpies, as ancient and venerable as the great Dwarven kings of old.
“Our kind has never worshipped the gods. We are sisters of sky and mountain, yet we have sworn commitments. The Dae’shan command us now.”
“The Dae’shan will see us all brought to ruin before this ends,” Garelda countered.
“What say you, Brom?”
The larger Hag puffed out her chest, dark feathers glimmering in the moonlight. “The winds have changed. We are not the owners of our lives. Difficult decisions must be made, but all for the better of our kind.”
Freina waved her claws dismissively. “Everything I do is for our kind. There is no personal motive, sister.”
“I have doubts,” and Brom fell silent.
Too much had happened since Amar Kit’han first ordered them to follow the Delrananian princess. They’d been given free rein to kill as many of her protectors as necessary, but had yet to come close enough to make this a reality. The desire to sink her claws into human flesh was becoming overpowering. She needed to feel the thrill of a kill; the taste of flesh and warm blood filling her belly. The Hags hadn’t killed in so very long, giving her pause to believe this lay at the center of their discord.
Turning to her sisters, Freina said, “We have much to do if our charge is to be fulfilled, but we obey on empty stomachs. Too long has passed since our claws enjoyed ripping flesh. There is a small Man village at the base of the mountains. Let us go and fill our bellies and relieve this tension.”
The prospect of hunting again stole away seditious thoughts, for the moment at least. Brom nodded and took flight first. Garelda, ever distrusting of her sister’s true intentions, followed suit, leaving the frigid elder sister along on the small outcropping with dark thoughts coursing through her mind. The past remained unchangeable, but the future was locked in doubt. She very much wanted to see her sisters free again but lacked the foresight to discover how. With heavy sigh she launched into the midnight sky and hurried after her sisters.
Far below, the wagon rambled on, unaware of the forces gathering against them. Only the Hags watched their passing.