Lieutenant Verene slashed this way and that, felling hobgoblin after hobgoblin with the famed brutality of a Son of Scorn. Or a daughter, in this case. One of Malleus’ favorite soldiers, Verene’s mercilessness in combat earned her the nickname of The Silencer, and Flynn Flashwood noted with some fear that The Silent would be just as apt a moniker. Her mouth remained tightly shut, her eyes unblinking, her face a statue, as she cleaved through the enemy ranks with frightening precision.
The fight had lasted near an hour. Almost one hour had passed since Verene’s unit fell to an ambush orchestrated by Duth’Sarut, a chieftain much loathed by the Sons for a year of wicked attacks. Flynn was not cut out for any of this. He had fallen in with the Sons of Scorn as a quick way to make money. Soldiers craved entertainment like any other, and Flynn’s ability with a lute, not to mention tales of macabre heroism, seemed to please Malleus’ people tremendously. He was simply providing some light melodies for a routine journey when the hobgoblins fell upon them. Now he was hiding under a caravan, watching a woman with a greatsword carve through chunks of orange flesh with the calmly rehearsed perfection of a dancer.
Most of the unit had been slain. A few soldiers were scattered into the greater wooded area. If there were others nearby, Flynn couldn’t see them. He saw only Verene cut down the last of the hobgoblins…
… almost the last.
He strode out with a hate in his eyes that Flynn had not witnessed before nor since. A boiling, bubbling, seething hatred that Flynn was sure could kill with a single glare. While the bard cowered, however, the Lieutenant met his gaze and did not break. Duth’Sarut, deftly wielding a halberd with one hand as if it were a rapier, walked at a pace most men would call running. Sparks flew as their blades kissed, a clanging of steel so loud it drowned the noise of men and hobgoblins dying among the trees. She ducked a sideways swing, he kicked away a thrust with an armored knee. Flynn watched in both terror and admiration as the battle unfolded. The violence was matched only by the beauty of it all, a deadly poetry between artists of slaughter.
It was over all too quickly.
The speartip of Duth’s halberd found its way through Verene’s armor, and at last her statue cracked. Bewilderment, absolute surprise, only a trace of pain, flickered on the soldier’s face, as her head shakily turned to regard the now smirking face of her slayer. Then anger. A sudden roar of rage as she pulled herself back and swung her greatsword, painting a silver arc through the air that sliced through the sinewy neck of the feared hobgoblin chieftain. Her final effort spent, the sword flew from Verene’s hands and landed with a clatter onto the body parts of her prior victims. Both she and her opponent fell to their knees in unison, one without a head. Then they both lay still in the dirt.
Flynn wasn’t sure when it became truly silent, but it was growing dark when he finally crawled from under the wagon, trembling and stumbling. He staggered toward Verene, her face returned to that same calm it wore in life, now perfectly framed in death. He’d never seen her so far from her sword. That wouldn’t do. She would become a part of history for this, and history should not say she died without her beloved greatsword.
The weapon was almost too heavy for the musician, and he struggled with both hands to raise it from the ground. Resting it against his shoulder, he trudged back to the corpse of the Lieutenant, prepared to lay it next to her body, and then maybe find his own way back to some city. No more of this soldiering life, he thought. No more hobgoblins.
That’s when Malleus’ company arrived, to see him with Verene’s bloody sword in his hand, and a headless hobgoblin chief at his feet.
In the months since Flynn thought back to that day, he could never work out why he stayed silent. Why, when soldiers congratulated him for avenging their beloved Verene, he allowed them to think so. Perhaps he allowed shame at his own cowardice to silence him. Maybe he was just too shellshocked to process what had happened, and it eventually became too late for the truth. Or perhaps he just loved the adoration, and went with it.
The Legend of Flynn Flashwood. A lie. A sham. And also Flynn’s ticket to whatever city in the empire he wanted.
He’d make up for it somehow, he thought to himself. Maybe if he could live up to the legend, if he could make the lies real, then it would all be okay.
And he’d immortalize Verene in song. He’d get around to it. Definitely.