The Ordinary Hero

by Chip Dunning

Julian wasn’t a perfectly sculpted hero from the legends nor was he one of the plumed officers that moved in front of the ranks commanding each man to do his duty under the watchful eye of Vayne. The officers promised that the gods and Lord Nicholas would both smite any cowards that sought to flee before the enemy. While he stood in line with his neighbors the spear in his hand seemed to grow heavier with each passing moment.

With a mouth as dry as the high summer creeks, Julian was wishing he remembered to bring his waterskin. As these and other thoughts were tumbling in front of him, the beat of the drummers drove the first battleline forward. As the dark shafts of longbowmen filled the air, the first ranks changed from a walk to a trot and finally just yards from the enemy into a full run. With their spears lowered the Dakarian line crashed into what seemed to be an unending number of orcish warriors.

As the first line faltered, orcs began to break through and charge towards Julian’s line. While the first few fell to well-placed slingers it wouldn’t be long before the first line collapsed entirely. Before that could happen the drummers called for Julian’s line to form ranks.

As with the first line the drummers changed the beat from a walk to a trot, then just seven yards from the last of the first line into a charge. Screaming at the top of his voice, Julian lowered his spear and rushed headlong into the swirling chaos.

As he entered the melee, Julian stabbed at two orcs before his spear was ripped from his hands by an orc that just wouldn’t die. Grabbing the axe from his belt Julian closed with the beast. Huntsman’s axe and Warrior’s blade crashed as Julian fought for his own life. With each unsteady step backwards Julian neared his own death. Just as he slipped in the gore of some unlucky human, the orc was felled from behind by an officer on horseback. All around him Julian could see that the calvary had been brought into the battle and added their weight to the rapidly diminishing ranks of the militia.

Julian grabbed his fallen axe and moved to the officer’s left side. Acting has a temporary shieldman, Julian followed the officer and slashed at any orc that sought to reach his blind side. Julian was never sure how much time had passed, but his axe was dripping with the black blood of their enemy.

It had looked the tide was turning when the officer that saved Julian’s life was pulled from his saddle. Heedless of his own risks, Julian ducked under the barrel of the horse and surprised the three orcs that were slashing at the helpless calvaryman. His first blow tore the jaw off one of the orcs and just three quick strikes later the second orc fell. The last orc dropped the officer, who began to crawl towards his horse, and slashed repeatedly at Julian.

Now on the defensive and with no hope of anyone coming to his rescue, Julian fought with a determined savagery. His axe was dull and slick with the blood of orcs as he continued to retreat and beat away the orc’s sword. Still he was losing blood from his own wounds causing his arm to slowly weaken. With a impossibly strong backhand the orc finally ripped the axe from Julian’s and and leaped upon him for the kill.

Without even thinking Julian grabbed his small eating knife as the two fell to the ground in a heap. With the knife in hand Julian stabbed into the side of the orc again and again while pinning the orc to his chest with the diminishing strength of his left arm. Unable to bring his sword around, the orcs sliced open Julian’s chest with his tusks and tore at his flesh with his teeth. But with Julian’s knife still stabbing the life finally left the orc’s eyes.

With only determination keeping him alive, Julian rolled the orc off of him and crawled to the officer. Julian strained and finally lifted the officer over his saddle. Using the leather thong he tied his own wrist to the saddle then smacked the horse’s rump. As the animal fled back towards their lines carrying the officer Julian finally passed out from exhaustion and bloodloss.

Julian awoke to the hard bouncing of a wagon. Turning his head from side to side he saw he was packed in with other militia too wounded to walk. His wounds had been treated and rags used the herbs in place. Tucked into his belt was a cavalryman’s sword. Vaguely Julian could remember the young officer he saved giving him the sword and thanks for saving his life. He said that Julian would be sung about in legends surrounding the battle and would be an inspiration for those that followed.

All Julian cared about was that he was going home alive and in a few months could probably again work the fields and put food on his family’s table. He would keep the sword, for such a gift was worth more than anything else in his house, but let the officers be the heroes sung about in the legends — Julian just wanted to go home.

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