Requiem for the Lost
The Wind had come borne on the wings of Fallen angels, memories of blood and dust filled the thoughts of Knight General Charles Griststone as he looked out to the terrible carnage below. On the stairs could be heard the running feet of men. THOOM! The door gave a little as something heavy hit it.

It had begun only yesterday. Following the East wind came the army of the Duchy of Dartmoor. Once an ally , now only another enemy. Did it matter why they had betrayed his kingdom. Greed, what else. What truly mattered was that they were intent upon the taking of Styreth tower. Styreth had long been a symbol of inspiration to the people of Rillanon. For it was the site of Loridan, "the great sword of heaven's" victory against the Thar. Loridan had, as the stories said, then arisen to heaven to take his place with the gods. Loridan was the god Griststone worshiped as did most warriors of the Kingdom of Rillanon.

Yesterday... yesterday the wind had come borne on the wings of fallen angels. Following the wind had been the sounds of war drums as well as marching feet. For Styreth tower it was a herald of doom. The general had watched as the front lines of the enemy became visible. The banners of Dartmoor could be seen as well as the heads of the seventh cavalry, which now adorned the tops of the pikes. Those heads had once been his friends. Now they...they sat at the warriors hall, Griststone reminded himself.

The defenders murmured nervously to one another as the ranks of Dartmoor marched on and on. The were outnumbered ten to one at least. Not good odds, Griststone thought, they'll walk over us as if we didn't exist, unless we are granted some miracle. Loridan if this place means anything to you give us that miracle.

"Sir," a young voice said breaking the generals thoughts,"I have a message from Colonel Alaric."
The general turned and looked at the boy. He was about twelve winters old. A page used for running errands.
"What is it?"

The boy licked his lips,"He says, May your blade sing with the glory of battle until the cold hand of death grasps you to take you to the great hall of the sky."

The general allowed himself a small smile. He and Alaric had fought many campaigns together, it was only fitting that they die together.

"Tell Colonel Alaric this, May your death follow only the deaths of many enemies. Also tell him to fortify the south wall. We are lacking in man power there."

The General watched as the boy ran from the turret and across the battlements. The tower was surrounded by a wall, at each corner was a smaller turret or tower. Griststone had chosen the one between the North and west walls for his observation post. Here, he could observe the approach of the army and still participate in the battle.

The General scanned the army which had now stopped their march and was preparing for the assault. They seemed to have no heavy siege weaponry or any archers. Manpower alone would be relied upon for the taking of Styreth. They had plenty of that. The bulk of their force was made up of under-dwellers. Under-dwellers averaged four and a half feet in hight, had a yellowy green skin color, yellow eyes and were thoroughly ruthless. The rest were make up of crack Dartmoor dog soldiers. Men bred for battle. though they lacked the honor of knights their discipline made them excellent soldiers.

General Griststone looked at his men. Their faces showed a grim resolve, an acceptance of death that Griststone had never before seen. Each man stood calm and quiet with an intensity reflected in their eyes. Was it the holy significance of the tower that held them so, personal honor, the promise of the great hall? Griststone was not sure but he didn't share it. He, for the first time in a long while was afraid. He had lived a long time and had grown to love life too much to give it up now.

The Generals discipline as a leader took over and he returned his attention to the enemy, they had taken up positions a hundred yards from the western wall and were preparing to charge with ladders. Griststone looked down the battlements checking to see that all was in order. It was, there was nothing left to do but wait for...A cry went up from the under-dwellers as they made their dash towards the walls.

The ladders went up and defenders with spears waited for the proper moment to push the ladders from the walls dropping the enemy to the ground below.

A ladder came up near the general. He drew his sword and waited. The yellow-green head of an under-dweller appeared looking at him with those slanted yellow eyes and an animal-like snarl. Griststone cleaved the creatures head in with his sword, then placing the heel of his boot against the top rung of the ladder he pushed it away from the wall sending the three other under-dwellers that were on the ladder crashing to the earth.

A yell went up from the north wall, Griststone turned to see that a half-dozen under-dwellers had make it onto the wall. The General without so much as a second thought leapt from the tower to the battlements ten feet below. He landed with a crash. His feet hit first then his knees then his chin. He pulled himself to his feet. Standing over him was an under-dweller with a blood soaked sword. The General turned aside the creatures attack with his blade and then lobed off it's head, a crimson shower erupting from it's neck. He kicked the body aside and struck down another under-dweller with his sword. Fighting automatically from years of experience, the General lost his sense of time.
"General Griststone, sir!"
The General turned to look into the face of a soldier he did not recognize. It was dusk. The Dartmoor forces had withdrawn for the night. He sat down shakily. The soldier offered him a flask of water. Griststone took it and putting it to his mouth drunk deeply.

"Here you are."
He looked up to see Alaric. Standing as not to reveal to Alaric any weakness, Griststone spoke,"What's our situation?"

"We have ninety men left, out of those fifteen are too wounded to fight. Of the eighty-five about half have minor wounds. The rest are unwounded."
"Only sixty men lost,"Griststone mused as he walked to his observation post, Alaric following behind,"We may have a chance left."
They climbed the stair that took them to the top of the turret. There he took advantage of the fleeting light surveying as much of the carnage as possible.

"We must have killed 300 of the enemy, yet their horde looks barely depleted." he turned to Alaric who was cleaning some blood off his dagger, "What would you do with an army of a thousand?"
Alaric chuckled,"I'd probably take styreth tower."
Griststone nodded grimly,"Have you set up the roster for the watch commander.
"Yes, just before I came to you."
"Good,"said Griststone looking after the setting sun,"I know where we can find some good brandy."

The two climbed down off the walls and make their way to the uppermost room of Styreth tower. Here they had an even better view than before and could see the dozens of campfires burning outside the tower walls. Griststone turned away from the window and poured out some brandy for Alaric and himself.
"It was a good day for dying,"Alaric said sitting down crosslegged on some pillows.
"May tomorrow be just as good,"the General replied doing the same.
"If not better,"said Alaric taking a drink of brandy.
"Indeed,"Griststone said looking solemnly into his glass.
"Well, Charles,"Alaric said lifting his glass in toast,"to Styreth tower."

Griststone lifted his glass,"To Styreth, long may she stand."
"And her loyal General,"Alaric added.
"I wouldn't count on that," replied Griststone taking a big drink from his glass.
"You don't suppose any poets will write about us in their Sagas?"Alaric asked stretching out and propping himself up on one elbow.
"The only poets that will sing of this battle will be those of Dartmoor and they will sing only of their glorious victory, not our glorious defeat."
"That is if we don't win," Alaric said with a sly grin.

The General chuckled and took a drink of brandy,"If we win then they will surely not sing of our glorious defeat. Then they will sing of the miracle that saved Styreth tower."
"That sounds good,"replied Alaric.
"Still counting on a miracle?"
"Not really,"said Alaric,"but..."
There was a silence for a time.
"Me too."The General said looking out into the night,"Me too."
Griststone could hear them coming up the stair, the end was near at hand. Soon he would be in the great hall with Alaric and the others. He had still had hope, even when he woke in the morning there had still been hope. The dawn had awakened him with it's gentle caress as it always did when he was on campaign. Ten of the fifteen wounded had died during the night. The General had slowly strapped on his armor while listening to the report of the watch commander.

Later, arriving on the wall the General surveyed his men. They were tired. The night had been restful for none of them, himself included. But they were young. The general felt his age weighing down on him. It had been thirty-five years since he first began training with a sword. the light blue and gold banner of Styreth fluttered in the rays of dawn contrasting sharply to the midnight blue an silver of the Dartmoor banners.

With a scream the under-dwellers began their charge. The ladders hit the walls and the under-dwellers began to scramble up them. As before, the defenders pushed them down. The General only observed looking for ways to bolster their defenses.

He turned to look at the squire.
"General, the under-dwellers have come up through the floor."

Damn, Griststone thought, they're not called under-dwellers for nought. They must have spent all of last night tunnelling under the tower perhaps from some already existing tunnels of just from the Dartmoor camp. It didn't matter, they had to be stopped.

The General ran down the stairs into the courtyard motioning for several men to follow him. With each step he felt a rising desperation and sense of dread.

Bursting through the door, the General found himself facing several dozen under-dwellers. His sword whistled as he swung it killing two before they could react. Several under-dwellers rushed him from the side forcing him away from the door. He swung desperately with his sword and then sprinted for the stairway to the upper levels of the tower.

The press of the under-dwellers forced him and the half-dozen men with him up the stairs. On one of the landings they made their stand. A solder fell dead next to the General. He cleaved the creatures arm off as it tried to remove it's weapon. With a second swing of his sword he ended the creatures life. A second stepped up but Griststone brought his sword down splitting it from skull to chin. He looked about him, four of his men lay dead along with eight under-dwellers.

Griststone motioned for the other two to follow, then headed up the stairs. At the upper most level, where he and Alaric had shared their drinks only the night before were four frightened pages looking up at them with wide eyes.

"Bar the door,"he said stepping over to the window. He looked out confirming his worst fears. The courtyard was completely overrun. He looked about and was able to pick out the body of Colonel Alaric. The General bowed his head.

"Charles,"Alaric called.
Griststone looked up to see a younger Alaric in an age now long gone.

"We've won."
The two men embraced. Around them were the bodies of many. It had been a hard won fight. They had spent many nights carousing at various Inns after that. The both of them very nearly being charged with desertion.

Griststone turned away from the memories and looked directly into the face of a young boy. The wide eyes displayed a variety of emotions. There was fear of course but much more, there was a courage there that belied his age. A mastery over fear that usually came only to veterans. The Generals battle hardened heat softened as he looked at this boy. The very same boy who had brought him the message from Alaric the day before. A boy who would never live to be a man.

What is your name boy?" the General asked.
"James, sir,"replied the boy fidgeting just a bit.

Griststone crouched down in front of him,"Do you know what is going to happen next?"
"We are going to die,"James said, a little quaver creeping into his voice. Tears welled in the Generals eyes. So young, he thought. He hadn't even held a sword until he was fifteen winters, this boy was only twelve.
"Yes James, we are going to die. But that wouldn't be too bad. We will be able to take our place in the great hall. Surely you will be the youngest to earn a seat. There will be great honor in that. Some people must fight a long time to earn a place in the warriors hall."

The General straightened up and looked at his men. Four small boys and two young soldiers. Each met his eyes with a look of fierce defiance. They were going to fight.

Sounds came from outside the door. It wouldn't be long.
"James...May your blade sing with the glory of battle until the cold hand of death grasps you to take you to the great hall of the sky."
"May your death follow only the deaths of many enemies, "James replied. With that, the door broke apart and their death rushed in.