My piece for the tales from the sidelines blogfest, all about those huge battles that sometimes show up in a certain sort of fantasy literature.
Out on the Plains of Utter Desolation, the armies of Light and Darkness struggled like two ballroom dancers in hobnailed boots. At least, some bits of them did. At the centre, heroes clashed, great magics were worked, and people tried to work out exactly what you were supposed to do when faced with opponents consisting of little more than shadowy cloaks. Hang them up somewhere, presumably.
Of to the sides, things were a little more sedate. Orc sergeant Grunnash leant on his pike, took a drag on his cigarette, and then offered it to a nearby Elven Paladin of Light. The elf accepted it gratefully.
‘It’s always like this,’ Grunnash said. ‘Always the heroes at the centre. The likes of you and me don’t get a look in.’
The elf nodded. ‘Hardly worth us showing up really. I mean, either one of our heroes will succeed in killing your boss, or that evil wizard of yours will turn them all into assorted amphibians. Either way, battle over.’
‘Right.’ Grunnash nodded, then adjusted his spiky black armour as the helm slipped forward. ‘I don’t know why we’re even here.’
‘I suppose it adds something to the ambiance,’ a nearby goblin suggested, holding out a paper bag. ‘Boiled sweet, anyone?’
Grunnash sucked his thoughtfully. ‘I don’t know about you, but I didn’t go through ten years in the training Pit to be on the sidelines. I mean,’ he nodded to the elf, ‘why did you get into the whole paladin-ing business? Probably wanted to make the world a better place, right?’
‘Um… actually, it had more to do with my name.’
‘What’s that then?’
‘Flowerfriend Moonshine.’ The elf winced as he said it. Grunnash patted him on the shoulder. A name like that, and you probably would want to make sure you took a job where you got to carry a damn great sword around with you. It said a lot about elven war hosts in general, really.
‘Still, I bet you didn’t sign up to stand around doing nothing. I mean, what are we supposed to do while we wait? It’s not like they let you bring a book along to read.’
‘Talking of books,’ the goblin said, ‘I can offer you some very good odds on a Light side victory.’
Grunnash thought about it, then shook his head. ‘Nah. I mean, if they win, there’s not going to be much of me left to collect, is… hang on, I think they’re coming this way.’
As the heroes’ melee took itself past the spot where Grunnash and the elf stood, they sprang into action, slashing and cutting. After all, it wouldn’t do to be spotted lazing about. At least, not when the people doing the spotting could probably disintegrate them for it.
As the melee moved on, the soldiers around them settled back into something approaching normality. The elf gave a yelp of pain.
‘Ow! My ear! You’ve gone and had my bloody ear off, you oaf!’
‘Now there’s no need to be like that,’ Grunnash said, ‘I’m sure I have some gaffer tape of healing around here somewhere.’
‘Gaffer tape? I’ll give you gaffer tape!’
Afterwards, the bards would write with some perplexity of the role a late surge from one corner of the Light army’s forces that had largely been overlooked played in deciding the battle. They poured over it, checked the replays, and then decided that they would all much rather be covering the football, and got on with that instead.