Polymath Redux Annex
Chapter 10 – A wall that stands taller than any tower
“Holy Chivalric Order…? I’ve not heard of such an organization,” the leader of the enemy knights spoke. ‘Of course you haven’t,’ Mordred confirmed in his mind. This false organization was one he had just thought up of as a convenient cover up. If any of this country’s soldiers come to investigate the matter then they’d just be chasing after a legend. “Though, I cannot deny those exorbitant pieces of equipment your men adorn,” the leader shook his head. “It would be quite the problem if we made enemies of such a horrifying order…”
Mordred leaned over the enemy captain’s shoulder, not for discretion but in an attempt at intimidation. Through the one hole on his mask, the red glare of a demon shone through and petrified the horrified captain. He whispered, though still at a level audible for everyone else, “Yes… it would be ‘quite’ the problem. However, we can make that ‘not’ a problem. More specifically, we can make that not a problem for ‘you’ and your remaining men.”
“What do you mean…?” the captain asked hesitantly. Sweat rolling down the sides of his face. His wrinkled face- the face of an aged commander that had served loyally to the empire- now finally on the verge of tears like a child.
Yet Mordred shook his head, “before that, why don’t you properly introduce yourself? It’d be much easier to speak if I knew your name.” He retracted from the leaning position and turned his back, though still that one red eye was glancing back through a half-turned head.
The captain sighed. “We hail from the Baliazoural Empire, as you probably guessed. My name is… well, that’s really no longer important, but if you must know it’s ‘Sergey Dragonov’.”
Mordred nodded as if he understood, “I see, the ‘empire’. Unfortunately, I cannot say that I’ve heard too many great things about the empire.” That had been a lie, but was safe assumption if they were performing such raids like this.
“We… we had no choice,” the enemy captain tried to justify his actions. However, even his voice sounded rather unconvinced, “our two nations are at war… and high command instructed us to perform these raids to drop Xagontetita’s morale!”
Mordred remained silent. More the pragmatist than a moralist, he could understand the intentions and reasoning behind this kind of movement. Certainly, if a country was being attacked where it was most vulnerable then there would be a backlash toward the government and subsequently morale would drop. If they took advantage of this then the Empire could come in without much resistance and decimate a demoralized force. ‘Ethics be dammed in war,’ he recited in his mind.
“That’s your reason?!” suddenly an elderly man stained in blood stepped forward and shouted. “You people…! My home…! All for the sake of this blasted war that no one wanted?!” his tortured words also resonated with Mordred. It wasn’t as though he had been devoid of moral; to the people most involved this would be seen as a horrific injustice.
The soldiers reluctantly used as an instrument of catastrophe and tragedy. The powerless civilians caught in the crossfire. ‘This is why morals are bullshit.’ That said, Mordred implored to the elderly man, “please, allow me to handle this matter.” At his words, the old man calmed down, although the spite through his aged grey eyes was painful even to him.
“Incidentally, what is your rank within the empire?” Mordred asked, no longer exerting the same murderous hostility in his voice but intrigue.
“My rank? I’m but a low-level lieutenant; it’d be no good even if you took someone like me for ransom. The Empire has already thrown us away the moment we lost this fight.” He shook his head as he let out a defeated and self-mocking laugh, “haha… all I have are mundane connections and the whereabouts to the best taverns in my home city of ‘Xelgrad’. All of whom, no doubt, would now want to cut ties with me once they hear about this blunder. Even the taverns.”
“I see… then in that case you’re all free to go.”
An eerie silence crept over the scene as no one could fathom what had just happened. Even the elderly man who had been so filled with rage stood in silence with his eyes wide open. That these righteous paladins would let go of the obvious villains in this situation was so far from what they expected, no one could do anything.
“W… huh? What? Did you say we were free to go?” most of all, it was Sergey himself that did not understand what Mordred had just told him. “Did I hear that correctly?”
“Wait, you cannot just…!” one of the villagers tried to intercept the deal. However, he was promptly stopped by one of the paladins who stepped forward with his physically larger frame.
“Stop,” Mordred commanded. “I understand your pain; however you must forgive these knights. They are merely the instruments of their nation just as you all are. Devotion to nation even through excessive cruelty is something I believe should be admired.”
“What… no… you can’t just…” the village fell to her knees as she embraced herself. Unable to confront the enemy nor the paladins, she most likely felt lost and hopeless.
“If… you’re willing to let us go then that is cause for joy… but can I ask, why?” Sergey asked with a confused expression. Even though he knew he had been pushing Mordred’s patience and fleeting mercy, his eyes spoke for his reason. He needed to know. How could someone show this much mercy even after this massacre?
“I suppose you could call it a gamble on fate,” Mordred replied with a deliberately vague answer. “If you are dead, then you cannot be of any use to anyone ever. Even if I am not the one who requires your help. I’m willing to gamble on the chance that perhaps you’ve learnt a valuable lesson in today’s event. Enough that you would extend your own hand for someone else as I had done today.” Mordred took a couple of steps forward and back. “After all, if you are still alive, then it’s possible to paint a brighter future.”
The silence continued. Though they were unable take revenge on this horrific tragedy, perhaps they would be able to properly process their misery. Sergey and his men stood humbled and disgusted with their own actions reflected across the shiny plates of these paladins. In an instant their jingoism washed away, replaced by the virtues of paladin justice.
“I… I do not know what to say,” Sergey replied hesitantly. Without any more words he ordered his men to retreat.
Before he faded from the scene, Mordred stopped him one last time. “Lieutenant Dragonov, one last thing.”
Sergey halted his men and turned back. Mordred threw at him a small white stone with a magical circle engraved in red as though blood. “Command Daltress… this is?”
“Trust, my friend,” Mordred replied. “Actually, it’s an item known as a ‘spell stone’. As the name implies it contains a single-usage magic spell. That in particular has a potent summoning spell that will allow you to summon me to come to your aid.”
“… This is,” Sergey paused. “Are you sure? If I were to use this to summon you in the middle of our stronghold, you’d be…”
“Which is why I said it was ‘trust’,” Mordred then took out another white stone with the same engravement on it, “of course, it works both ways. Should I require your assistance, I expect that you will have my back?”
Without hesitation, Sergey offered a salute. “Without a doubt! Someday… Someday, I will pay back your mercy and guidance in full!"