A Meager Start, Douglas' Story Chapter 1, 827 FC
he Tale of Douglas, written in 827 FC, by the titular Douglas. Preserved and copied by the Historians of The High Library.
A Meager Start
No one ever talks about those that come before. They didn’t make enough of a mark, and therefore deserve to be forgotten. Frankly, that is horseshit, but I guess I am one of the lucky few that managed to make their mark. My name is Douglas. I am a commoner, someone without a powerful family name backing them, one of the unwashed masses. There were many ways that the nobles phrased it to show us as lesser, but in reality, we are all equal. Not in our starting abilities, but in potential. Humans have the greatest aptitude to become anything that you can dream about, but many never reach their full potential due to things holding them back, be they external or internal.
I suppose that I should start my story at the beginning, which is why of course you picked up this book, my book. Feels weird to write that, but I suppose it is better than letting the flowery words of a historian cloud my life. Make no mistake, I have done great things, things that forever changed the course of this nation, but just because they are great does not mean they are not terrible. Not to me, or you, or even your cousin who lives in the next village over, but my actions were my own, and you can judge me yourself when we get there.
My life wasn’t easy, born into a farming household in Riverwatch, northernmost settlement before The Golden North. I had been up there once in my youth, to visit Nystimir for a festival with my father, who drove a wagon train of grain for a delivery. I suppose this was what started me on my path. We were attacked by a group of bandits hiding in the rolling grass of the plains. Even at 14, I could tell that these men were starved, and driven mad by it. Instead of asking if we could spare anything, they sought to take it by force. The train had guards of course, but it was light, and they were many. My father had taught me a thing or two about using the sword, and he had even provided me one before we began this very trip.
No one ever mentions the panic you feel when you are being charged at. I suppose those that feel it the worst never make it out of their first battle. Two men charged my father and myself, in the front wagon, and my father barely blinked at them. He leapt down, drawing his sword as he went, and was stabbed for his actions. The crazed men had knives of rusted metal, but they were more than sharp enough to punch through his leather jerkin. My father collapsed to the ground in a heap, and I, a terrified 14-year-old, had exactly no clue what to do. So, I did as my father had taught me, and drew my sword before taking a ready stance. I don’t know what I must have looked like, but I can vividly remember crying the whole time, not knowing if my father was even still alive.
The lead bandit, the one who had stabbed my father, rushed me first. He looked a bit less starved than the second, but not by much. As soon as he got within range, I struck first, my slice going wide of where I wanted, but still splitting the man open, stomach to shoulder. I about threw up right there, because the smell was awful. I had nicked his intestines in the process, and the result was less than ideal for the bandit. He collapsed with a look of surprise more than anything, probably at the fact that one so young managed to bring him low. There wasn’t much time to do anything, because the second man was a step behind the first, and he looked more enraged than any other emotion I could discern in that split second.
The only reason I am able to continue is because I trip on a rock in the road, and he lands on top of me, his emaciated body still having more than enough weight and force behind it to drive it down on the sword I just barely managed to bring in front of me. My face, hands, chest, everything, get spattered by blood, and I imagine that I looked not too far from death myself, and yet the only injury I have is a bruise on my ass from where it landed in the dirt. The rest of the guards had already dispatched the rest of the bandits, and it seemed my father had actually received the worst injury on our side of this conflict. By the time the rest of the guards and wagon drivers were running our way, I had crawled out from under the second bandit, and into the grass at the side of the road, disgorging what feels like everything that I have ever ate.
Taking a life is not something that should ever come easy. The burden does lighten with time, but a life cut short is not something to be celebrated, ever. If you are reading my story for an epic tale, you might find what you are looking for, but you are more likely to find grim reality.
My father pulled through, though with one less kidney after the fact. The first blow was a lucky hit, punching straight through, and rendering him unconscious from the pain. He was revived quickly enough, after being bandaged, but he complained about every bump in the road for years to come. He consoled me of the worst of the feelings before we reached Nystimir, but I don’t think I will ever forget the first time I took a life, and neither should it ever be forgotten. Those men didn’t deserve to die any more than anyone else. The law of nature was observed, and those without fought to try and obtain what they needed to survive but were stopped by those trying to protect their own means of survival. I don’t blame the men for their hunger, I just wished that they still had any reason. I know that we had more than enough to share a few meals with them, and many in the caravan would have been happy to do so. They may have chosen their path, but it was not solely through their own actions. No one ever did know why they went starving, it may have been because they didn’t plan well enough, or that their crops withered in their fields, or even that they were robbed themselves, but managed to walk away with their lives. No one will ever truly know.
This was my starting point down a path that no one should tread, and yet it wasn’t out of some built in malignant ideas, it was out of self-preservation. I hope that you can learn something from my story, and if nothing else, be a better man than I was.