The Stand Of Polydereas

This is a piece I wrote at the age of fourteen, as part of a story I was experimenting with, and have since discarded. The piece lacks originality and is no masterpiece; the structure, style and language could certainly be improved. I was trying to recreate the anticipation of a battle - something which I imagine has been overdone on this site. Nevertheless, I have posted this first in an attempt to highlight the improvements I have hopefully made to my writing style over the last three years.

The Stand of Polydereas

The drums sounded. It had begun. They were coming.

Dark masses of black clad warriors appeared across the horizon, pouring down the flowered meadows as one, dark, poisonous flood, unhindered and threatening to destroy all in their path.

Polydereas stood in that path, along with four hundred other men, who formed a vanguard for the King of Liguria and his retreating army.

Upon the sight of the vast horde, Polydereas’ knees became uncontrollably weak and his stomach heaved and turned with anxiousness and dread. Unexpectedly, his blood ran cold as if a winter frost had taken hold of the many tributaries and canals of his veins. As this final realisation of the approach of death dawned upon the young corporal’s frantic mind, reality shifted, and time itself seemed to stop. It was as if his body was trying desperately to procrastinate this inevitable and imminent end; all at once, the tremendous thunder of ten thousand pairs of boots faded to a dull murmur. The ear-splitting screeches of enemy war cries and the rhythmic crash of a hundred drums fell to a merged lull in noise. Polydereas felt like crying or screaming or running and fleeing. But he couldn’t. His vision swam and blurred as he realised that his throat had swollen in fear and the soles of his iron shod boots were rooted firmly to the soft grassy hill. Oddly, the young officer had one simple desire- to curl up on the ground, then and there, and close his eyes until it was over.

But as he stood there in a state of unquestionable fear, he caught a glance of the faces of his fifty men. Pale and drawn in terror, confused and all turned towards him for guidance.  It was in this moment, when all hope had faded, that Polydereas found a great well of strength and courage from within the deepest reaches of his being; not for himself, but for the men who held him in such reverence after all their years of travelling and training; soldiers, to whom he felt a sudden and fiercely protective loyalty. He stood tall, and allowed the power and fires of his inner strength to melt the ice in his veins, and tear through the restraints that the previously mind-numbing fear had tethered him with. Polydereas filled his lungs with air and bellowed out with unwavering confidence.

“Brothers! Long and hard we have trained, laboured even, to perfect the arts of soldiering; but always for one reason- to protect our King, our Country and our People. YOUR families! Today we face the greatest threat to this nation since the invasion of Agrias the Great, except now it falls to us, to stem this relentless tide long enough for the King to prepare to break it at Drenora! ” He paused for breath. “Join me here, now, for one final but critical trial, through which your bravery will echo down the centuries. When you are judged before the Gods themselves, you can hold your head up high and be proud to have met death with a sword, and with purpose, and with the knowledge that you never knew old age or uselessness.” He was no great orator, but the corporal smiled as he saw the new found determination that his words had summoned to the men’s faces.  “Now, let us see how many of these spineless, potbellied, goat worshipping bastards we can take with us and drown before they can pay the ferryman!” The deafening roar that followed roused him to fearlessness. It pushed back the bile rising in his throat and held back the urge to release his full bladder. In that moment, he felt immortal, regardless that the first elements of the Emperor’s fanatics were close enough for their blood hungry faces to be clearly visible. Polydereas drew his father’s sword and stabbed it into the air, an action which was repeated by all fifty of his men. Along the line, other corporals finished their speeches and their men drew steel and braced themselves for the impact of the enemy charge.

At last, the ocean of black warriors crashed against the curved, solid wall of defenders with a ring of steel and a clash of shields.

The drumming stopped. The battle was joined. They were here.

The End

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