Story for the Day: An Airing of Grievance - Part 2
The story of Bryeison and the wanton cern who foolishly challenged his authority will be the next novella put out by the Frewyn Herald for our patrons on Patreon. Pledge HERE to receive the digital novella at the end of the month, and enjoy the small excerpt below. Poor Saunters the Cern. He has no idea what he's done.
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Bryeison neared, salutes were sharply cast off, stances straightened and eye gawped absently at the far wall, giving neither the cern nor their commander direct attention. An ominous sensation succeeded, the rote of panicked reparations and rising pulses drowned out the cern and his speech, and as the cern was ending his great performance with flailing arms and righteous indignation, calling out, “We should demand that a superior officer be brought in to oversee training exercises, if that overgrown landmass of a commander is going to have us cleaning all day!”, every other heart seized.
A cloud passed overhead, the breathing of twenty gathered soldiers abated, a crow cried out in wicked hilarity, time ceased progressing, the echo of the cern’s last professions caromed through the yard. A shadow fell heavy on the cern and his congregation, and the brontide of nearing footfalls silenced all other sound. Knees trembled and soft whimpers of defeat ebbed out from quivering lips, glances fell and hearts beat with feverish alacrity as an enormous presence prevailed. It loomed over the yard, approaching the cern’s back and presiding over the whole of the congregation with violent tranquility. No one moved, the sun bowed and died away, and when the cern realized no one was listening to him any longer, the cern turned to find himself standing in the shadow of a wall.
“And what superior officer would that be?” the wall rumbled.
The sonorous reboation rippled through the crowd, and the gathered men suddenly found the ground uncommonly interesting, their eyes following the outline of a monstrous shadow making its gradual approach.
The cern, curious as to why everyone was suddenly staring at their boots, looked up to find a mountain in place of where the sun once was. The mountain leaned down and bellowed, “Do you have a superior officer other than me?”
Pointedly and composedly it was said, but the complacence, the assuredness which accompanied it recommended how short the cern’s life was likely to be. The mountain, lurching in terrific delitessence, shifted, and the sunlight peering through a crack in the wall, illuminated the cern’s own features in a plate of burnished steel. A moment passed before he realized he was gawping at himself, his own feartures warped along the bend of a breastplate. The wall breathed, the breastplate rose and fell, and the cern stepped back to garner a more comprehensive look at the summit. His eye followed a mass of leather and steel, the peak of which gave way to a familiar aspect: it was Commander Bryeison, the same countenance, the same equanimity, the same half-simper of whose patience was never tried, but the employment of it, the simulacrum of private glee that introduced it, was not the same as before. He seemed somehow more imposing, though he was only standing with chest high and shoulders back, but his confidence betrayed a supremacy even the cern must acknowledge. The giant exhaled, and the ground bellowed in agony under his feet. A sickening dread pervaded the yard, a dread that every recruit felt at his heart, a dread that the cern was determined to surmount.
He had to crane his neck to glare at Bryeison, but the commander, standing at his full height, was far above where the cern’s eye could reach. He only caught view of Byreison’s shrouded expression, one that bore down on him with a mirthless and curious grin.
“I meant someone who will actually teach us how to fight,” the cern demanded.
Bryeison seemed almost amused. “I thought you came here to learn how to serve the kingdom.”
“I came here to learn how to protect the king, not how to scrub the floors!”
The cern kicked the besom toward the garrison. It skittered across the ground and stopped near the entrance to the barracks, where Brigdan and Vyrdin were standing.
“Oh, Gods…” Brigdan breathed, staring at the cern. “He is dead, isn’t he?”
Vyrdin leaned back against one of the casks, folded his hands in his lap, and smiled in glorious anticipation.
Brigdan was still gaping. “What do you think Commander Bryeison will do to him?”
“Whatever it is,” said Vyrdin, in a blithesome accent, “I’m going to enjoy it.”
“Sometimes, Vyrdin, I really do believe you would marry violence.”
“He does deserve what Bryeison is going to do to him.” Vyrdin shirked a shoulder. “I’m just watching so I can learn by example.”
Brigdan sidled his friend and felt somewhat ashamed of himself. “I don’t know that I take particular joy in watching.”
“I do,” Vyrdin growled, the glint in his eye dancing about.
“However,” said Brigdan, trying to reason with himself, “I cannot deny that he does deserve whatever is about to happen.” He paused and grew nervous. “What is about to happen?”
“Bryeison will probably launch him over the arena wall.”
“Has the Commander done that before?”
“He’s done worse to those who oppose his authority. You should ask him about the time he broke the latrine.”
Before Brigdan could ask whether the event had been truly horrible, a bucket rolled past his feet. It had been flung from the other side of the yard, where the cern was now stomping his feet in furious anger.
“I’m not here to clean your latrine!” the cern shouted, clenching his fists.
“Well, you can’t be. I broke that one,” was Bryeison’s instinctive reply, but every other instinct, every other answer from the congregation was quietly entreating the cern to be quiet.
“No, I won’t be quiet,” the cern sibilated.”I’m going to tell this stupid excuse of a commander exactly what I think.”
Bryeison raised a brow and folded his arms. “And what exactly do you think?”
“That I refuse to do anymore scrubbing and washing. I’m not here to be your chambermaid.”
“There’s noble work in being a chambermaid.”
“If you think so, then you can play around with brooms while we handle swords.”
A wave of whispered “Sirs” rippled through the crowd, begging the cern to address the commander with a small semblance of respect, but the surrusation was soon silenced by the purl of Bryeison’s sword being loosed from its sheath. The six-foot blade glimmering triumphant under the governance of the sun blinded its admirers with the light glancing off its edge. Bryison tightened his grip around the hilt, the leather around the grip cracked under his his might, and every eye followed the steel slab as Bryeison brought it to his side.
“How long have you been here?” said Bryeison, in a deadly calm.
The cern huffed and looked offended. “Long enough to know I’m not learning anything.”
“Really. If you were paying attention, I taught you something just now.”
“That for someone who claims to be worthy of a weapon, I’m the only one between us who has one.”
The cern narrowed his gaze, his anger beginning to froth, and Bryeison was all hardy complacence.
“Look around you,” said Bryeison, gesturing to the soliders gathered behind the cern. “How many other men are here?”
“What does this have to do with—“
“Count,” Bryeison bellowed, his eyes blazing in sudden fury.
The cern glanced over the crowd and murmured, “About twenty.”
“How many bunks are there in the barracks?”
The cern rolled his eyes. “Probably around the same number.”
“And now many swords are in the garrison?”
“About twice that much.”
“Are you alone here?”
The cern glowered. “Obviously not.”
“Obviously,” Bryeison repeated, humphing. “A moment ago it was not obvious to you. I’ve been looking at two regiments of men this whole time. You’ve only been looking at me.”
An exibilation ran through the crowd, and the cern grew angry.
“Your point?” he sneered.
“My point,” said Bryeison, “is that you have your back to those who have been protecting yours.”
The congregants all glanced at one another, and the cern pursed his lips in seething rage.
“You share the barracks with twenty other men,” Bryeison continued. “We’re not teaching you how to clean floors and wash linens. We’re teaching you to respect one another. The barracks is your home,” addressing the regiments. “Keeping yourselves teaches you how to honour the space and how to look after each other. It teaches you discipline and to appreciate your allowances. Looking after your sword or your armour is not work. It’s part of what it means to be a soldier. Your weapon and your armour is an extention of you. If you want to earn your own set of armour, you must learn how to care for it. If you want to wield a sword, you must learn how to maintain it. Would you be complaining about sharpening a sword if it was your only means of defense on a battlefield?”
“Well, sharpening a sword I can understand,” the cern huffed. “I don’t see what scrubbing washing basin has to do with being a soldier.”
“Really,” Bryeison simpered. “So you think we’ll be taking a laundress and a scullery maid with us on away missions?”
Vrydin let out a dry “Heh,” and Brigdan looked on in astonishment.
“I admit I’m shocked Commander Bryeison hasn’t dismembered him yet,” said Brigdan quietly.
Vyrdin smiled. “It’s coming.”
“I suppose someone his size can drag out a punishment for as long as he likes. It isn’t as though anyone else would challenge him.” And then, with a chary look, Brigdan added, “…Would they?”
Vyrdin sincerely hoped so.