A sharp knock came at the old sergeant’s door. The was odd. No one ever knocked. Sure, sometimes a young buck would barge in, usually to demand the answer to some question or other. Simple questions, ones that were hardly worth his time. He’d answer, dutifully, and they’d leave again. Leave him, alone in the dark room.
Wearily, he answered the door. It was not one of the young bucks, not at all. It was him.
The golden boy. The new favorite. The warrior-poet.
“What is it?” the sergeant asked.
“How have you been?” the poet asked. Always the small talk with this one. Always the words.
“Been?” The sergeant chuckled, mirthlessly. “Been sitting here. No challenge worthy of me.”
“Not since Essaity?” The poet’s eyebrow went up.
“Essaity!” The sergeant’s heart raced just at hearing the name. “Now that was glory! That– you and I, leading at either flank!”
“Indeed. You were in fine form that day. Almost perfect.”
“Almost,” the sergeant said ruefully. He had taken one wound that day, just one. And it was minor, save the damage to his pride. He had been lauded by all when the day was won, though he knew that injury had been a mistake of pure carelessness. “Since then, though, you haven’t needed my prowess, have you?”
“No, sir,” the poet said. “The battles we’ve fought since, they haven’t been worthy of your skills.”
“The few skirmishes I was called out for were pitiful excuses. Barely worth my time.”
“The battles of late have been very different from the kind you specialized in, old friend.”
“But I was the best!” the sergeant roared. “I was the champion! We were going to blaze through every challenger who came before me!”
“We were,” the poet said. “But it got too easy for you, didn’t it. You heart hadn’t been in it. Even long before Essaity.”
The old sergeant sunk to the floor. “You’re right. I had given up long before you ascended to your exalted position.”
“I need you now, though, old friend. We are launching a new campaign, but there is a beast guarding the road to where we are going.”
“A beast? Of what sort?”
“It is the Jeearie.”
“The Jeearie!” The three-headed beast was legendary. “I had thought it had passed us by. We would never face it.”
“We thought we’d never take this campaign. But now… we have to face it.”
“I… I haven’t fought in so long… to face such a creature. I’m not prepared.”
“You must, my old friend. I can handle two of the heads. I am certain of it. But the third head…”
“That must be me.” The old sergeant smiled.
“There is no one else who can face it.”
“I will probably fall before it, you know. And you will be the one crowned with honors.”
“This isn’t about my honors,” the poet said. “It is about us, facing what approaches. Like we always did.”
“But what lies down the road, past the beast… this campaign is for you.”
“It is,” the poet admitted. “But right now, I need you.”
“I carried you at Essaity, you know.”
“And many battles before that,” the poet said warmly. “So, you’ll come?”
The old sergeant nodded. “One last fight. Yes, I think I have that in me.” He laughed, like he hadn’t laughed in years.
He would face the Jeearie. And he would beat it, or die trying.