Posted: April 11, 2011 in Fiction, Gaming

From the moment I was awakened, I knew my name. I knew why I lived. Civilians were never so lucky as me in that respect. They called me golem, or sometimes construct. Always, I would correct them. From the moment the pulleys hoisted me out of the dank cavern in the earth, I was feared. The sigils carved into my skin told a story. They marked me as a conduit for a dark power. That never mattered. A weapon would always be a weapon. I would always be a weapon.

I was pressed into the service of the empire as an instrument of war. This did not concern me. I was created for warfare. Comrades trained me to be better at things that were already in my nature. My composite body made me tough, but I learned to walk untouched through a battlefield. The markings on my mithril hide showed I had power; I learned to unleash that power. I was the empire’s favorite war machine. Soldiers came and went. Some feared me. Some hated me. Most gave me as much thought as they gave a sword or a shield. When an ally was in danger, I was everyone’s favored companion.

As is the way of all things, an invader came with overwhelming numbers. My comrades fought valiantly. As it became clear that our forces wouldn’t be enough, a retreat was ordered. I was ordered away from the front. That was the place I could do the most good, but command had other ideas. I was to escort fleeing nobility. No one told them that a refugee with a crown was still just a refugee. I strode alongside the carriage. No sense wearing out a horse for a tireless construct.

We ran for days through wooded lands. The invaders pursued. It didn’t matter why. On the fifth day, they caught us. Our forces were few. Excluding the civilians, our forces were limited to two swordsmen, an archer, a caster, and me. Our foes came in much greater numbers. My comrades and I hung back as the carriage sped away. I knew that trying to delay a force that size would be futile. My commanders were failing me.

We waited in the trees. The woods had fallen silent, as though even the birds knew of the battle to come. I could see the swordsmen holding gauntleted fists over mouths to scatter the steam of their breathing. Our archer had wrapped a scarf across his face. The caster had followed suit. I have never taken a breath. A twig snapped, shattering the tranquility. All eyes scoured the forest for the source of the sound. Soon, they appeared. Riders, ten strong, led by a tracker and a dog. We watched as they passed beneath us. The tracker had failed them. Our caster began his work. His hands wove out an intricate pattern, and he uttered a word in a language I did not know.

Spiders’ webs erupted from the trees around the horsemen. Chargers whinnied and bucked. The hound brayed. The tracker escaped the webs, but the rest were caught to a man. Our swordsmen dropped from the trees with sounds like a kitchen cart thrown down stairs. The archer loosed his first arrow at the tracker. Haste ruined his aim, and the tracker took cover. The caster stayed hidden, as did I. Our swordsmen stalked forward, intent on crippling those they could reach inside the webs. The first cut into the flank of a horse. He was a fool. The beast kicked, and caved in his helmet. The swordsman fell backward. The second hesitated at seeing this. We were at an impasse. The caster signaled me. It was time to free them from the web. I sent a blast of eldritch fire clawing toward the tangled enemies.

The web burned away enthusiastically, freeing our foes. The fire burned them as well, for fire has no friends. The second swordsman attacked. He delivered an overhand chop to the thigh of one rider that sank in to the bone. The rider screamed. The swordsman screamed too. The enemy tracker had stepped out and loosed an arrow. It blossomed from the visor of the swordsman like a flower. He keeled over backward. I looked to the caster and the archer. The caster called for the attack. Idiot. I dropped from my perch, spraying ice from my palms. Hellish cold slammed into another rider and ice crackled across his torso. The remaining eight were wheeling horses about to attack. The archer took a breath so deep I could hear it, and shot again. The arrow streaked through the air and grazed the tracker. The tracker returned fire, but at me. His arrow struck home, but the head crumpled on my armored form. The shaft burst to splinters.

The caster finally finished another incantation from his concealed spot in the trees. The only hint anyone had at what he had done came in the form of a massive eruption of fire in the midst of the riders coming in from my left. Battle-cries turned to screams. The stench of burning hair and flesh filled the air. The first of the riders on my right closed, and swung a scimitar at me. The blade rung like a bell as I backhanded it aside with one hand. With the other, I unleashed a blast of ravaging cold into the man. A second rider had come behind him, and hacked at me as he rode past. His sword carved a furrow into my back. I turned on him, and an arrow point blossomed from my chest. The tracker had shot me. I heard the twang of a bowstring as the archer returned fire.

Another rider closed on me, but instead of swinging at me, he simply bowled me over with his horse. I could see the caster, and then I couldn’t. He vanished in a puff of smoke. I blinked my magical senses on, and found that the caster hadn’t just disappeared. He had fled. I called out to the archer as the next horseman closed on me. “To ground!” I roared. It was the signal to retreat. There was nothing to gain by sacrificing his life. The rider dismounted and leveled a magicked sword at me. I kicked his legs out from under him. As he fell, another took his place and jammed his own enhanced blade into me. I did not bleed, but the sound of metal on metal was upsetting anyway.

The man pulled his sword out, and I immediately wrapped myself in magical energy. They might have seen me flicker in and out of existence, but it never mattered. Space folded and deposited me in the trees some yards away, while an image of the construct they were bent on destroying lay in my place. I waited a moment, and did the trick again. I jumped from treetop to treetop, never touching the ground, until I could no longer perceive them. I did not return to the ground that day.

* * *

I walked into a small town. It had been a month since I had seen a living thing. The town guard was quickly summoned. They came clattering out. Not one looked like they’d seen a fight in a long time. The captain took point. Had I intended to fight, that would be a huge tactical blunder. As it was, the man raised a shaky sword at me. “Halt, construct!” If I breathed, I would sigh. There would always be far too many people in command who should not be there.

“I have a name.” The man looked startled. He wasn’t ready for me to talk. Few ever were. “You may call me Radiant.”

I’ve been sick. I’m getting better now, finally.

I was drinking a whole lot for a little while. I know it’s bad, and I’ve stopped again. No need to worry. It was kind of nice just floating along in the booze haze for a little while. I won’t blame decisions I made on the booze, but it felt good to let go and just allow bad judgment and hedonism kind of run the show. It’s time to get back to reality though. My car needs a tire repair, I haven’t worked in almost a month, and I need to clean the bathroom. And I need to get back to both sleeping and writing on a schedule!


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