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Captain of the Guard: An Ending and a Beginning

August 21, 2019

Ro was a hero, which was why he was able to deftly avoid the first arrow. He was also able to avoid, with a little effort, the second arrow as well. The third arrow grazed his arm. If it had only been three archers, he would have bested them easily and been on his way.

Unfortunately for him, this was not the case.

Ninety-six other archers found their mark. It would have been ninety seven to make it a round one hundred, but the string on one bow snapped. The sound had alerted Ro at just the right time for him to react, though it was in vain.

This was not an unusual way for a hero to die.

In fact almost all heroes died in battle when their good luck ran out, and the bad luck that had propelled them through one exciting, or desperate depending on the heroes particular mindset, event after another finally won out.

Those heroes that didn’t die in battle were invariably murdered, often by kin.

Philosophers may debate about whether dying in battle is murder, but most combatants have little choice in the matter because the other guy is trying to kill them. The last choice they usually made was to join up, unless they were conscripted. Murder implies a choice. Battle, for the man on the field at least, is a kind of aggressive self-defense.

A ruler may have a choice in whether to declare war on a neighboring sovereign, but then again economic reasons often compel them to act, usually on the subterfuge of some moral principle violated by the other party. It is generally agreed upon that it is better for a ruler’s popularity to declare war because you disagree philosophically with another culture, then to do so out of economic necessity.

None of this mattered to Ro anymore.

He had died and, in keeping with tradition, in a rather spectacular fashion against impossible odds. There were so many arrows in his body, that it never touched the ground, resembling some sort of giant sea urchin left high and dry above the sea.

It was in this condition that Cedric, the Captain of the Guard, found the hero.

He was not happy.

Cedric had been sent, with a small contingent of men, to find the wayward hero and bring Ro back to his betrothed, the Princess Hilenia who was often described as the most beautiful woman in the kingdom, if not the western half of the continent.

This hyperbole was greatly overstated.

Her paleness was less milky, and more like the underbelly of a cave fish, her sparkling blue eyes were more than slightly cross-eyed and less a sparkly sapphire, then a lackluster sea green, her voice was tuneless instead of musical, and her buoyant alabaster breasts were neither buoyant nor alabaster nor really worth commenting upon at all since they were as nonexistent as a young, if somewhat heavyset boy’s.

She was extremely attractive for many of the usual reasons: she was rich, the sole heir of the second largest kingdom in the known world, free of communicable diseases and sexually inexperienced.

That last was very important to many men because she would have no direct way of judging a man’s prowess relative to an earlier lover. And, with a little luck, if a man had certain special needs that needed taking care of, she would be none the wiser that such a request was not necessary to the act of reproduction.

Cedric did not spend a lot of time thinking about those things. He was of middle years, heavy set, the male equivalent of being big boned, and although perhaps not as cunning as a member of nobility, or as learned an adviser as a wizard, he was fairly wise in his judgment and well respected, although he would scoff if anyone said so.

A lesser man may have grumbled a bit about fetching a man that was probably in his cups at one tavern or another for a besotted woman, not that said woman wouldn’t be wroth if her intended had in fact missed their picnic lunch because he was too busy imbibing.

Cedric had long made it a practice to be stoic in these circumstances. If he spent too much time considering the whims of the people he was serving he would have to recognize how ridiculous his situation often was and that would make it difficult to maintain his quiet dignity.

He did take ten men with him. He had enough experience with heroes, and Ro in particular, to know that they often found trouble even when they weren’t actively looking for it, the way a suspicious wife can find a golden hair on her man. That trouble often being of the sort that involves other bar patrons, but by the time the tale reached the castle would be filled with brigands and perhaps an Ogre or two.

Cedric did not like bar fights, his nose was slightly crooked from one he had gotten into when he was a lad, really he didn’t like fights at all and if he was heading into one, he made sure that the odds were in his favor and he thought ten men would be sufficient.

That would turn out to be mistake.

Among the ten men he had brought with him was Sergeant Whisper. Whisper was said to have some elf in his ancestry, which explained his ferret like features. The children of humans and Alfar tended to have the worst features of both races. It was unwise to call a member of the Alfar an elf, because they find it derogatory, nonetheless when humans were not in mixed company that was the term they always used, unless of course the human in question was a scholar, at which point he was too learned a man to utter such an offensive term.

Why the inhumanly beautiful, at least by human standards, Alfar would fornicate with a human was the cause of some speculation by learned men and women everywhere. Some believed it was because of love.

Those that held to that theory were often scoffed at by well-educated individuals for being naïve, common or lacking in understanding of the true nature of humans and Alfar, which tells you something about the nature of academia, these are the same types of individuals that capitalize Alfar but not human.

Others believed the occasion relationship between an elf and human resulted from the elf’s, pejorative intended, low self-esteem. A small minority believed it was because the Alfar had a perverse sense of humor, for once a human had an elf, so to speak, he or she never again could find comfort in the arms of one of their own. The elf had a similar problem, not due to longing, but because of social stigma since they viewed this kind of thing as akin to bestiality.

Whatever the reason, the Alfar never tell. Some of the great tales of love and redemption among humans involve the love of an elf and a human. The same tales are told among the Alfar, but they call them tragedies.

Whether or not Whisper had some elf blood, was cause for some speculation. He never confirmed it, but he never denied it either. Although Whisper was younger than Cedric, his hair had gone prematurely gray. People said that it was the silver color of the fey, but it only resembled that from a distance, when the light was just right and the sun was shining in your eyes.

He wasn’t a half elf, or even a quarter elf, everyone was sure of that and the general sentiment was that he was probably somewhere around one eighteenth elf. For those that have a head for math or genetics, the reason it was thought around an eighteenth was because elves never did anything the straight or logical way that humans do.

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