From his camp, deep in the great plains, Sir G33k of Leet can hear the faint echo of voices raised in anger. A palm to the ground, his senses reaching deep, reveals to him the marching of many booted feet.
Battle has been joined.
Not stopping to contemplate his actions, he quickly packs his gear and douses the fire. He reviews a terrain map he’s pieced together in his head of the area, marking in his mind a destination. Not bothering to hide the signs of his camp and passing, he strides out into the darkness and is soon sprinting across a sea of grass, vast as it is empty.
Through the remaining night he runs, and too the next morning. He runs for thirty days before his breath starts to labor, another forty before he breaks a sweat. It’s not until the seventy-eighth day that Sir G33k of Leet reaches the top of the only hill amidst an otherwise indifferent landscape. He slows his steps, and finally stops altogether.
Below him sit the lines of battle, clearly drawn. Commanders walk up and down their ranks, grasping the shoulders of familiar comrades, nodding confidently to the young (and confused) faces. Each commander is marked clearly by his or her colour, their standards raised above them in rich hues and simple shapes, snapping wildly on a maple staff.
Sir G33k has seen enough of war to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of each force arrayed before him. Some soldiers stand too close, some too far. Others are looking in the wrong direction, unsure which enemy they are soon to engage. He marks formations quickly in his mind, envisioning where they might fit into the coming battle. Even now, a token force rushes the line of the army directly below him, but suddenly veers off and smashes into the front ranks of another, before retreating back to their brothers-in-arms. A feint. Misdirection is ever the meat of battle.
A dissonant hum permeates the air, sharpened by coarse shouts and the haranguing of men and women in their bloodlust. Here and there, the wails of a weeping babe or soldier unmanned pierce the cacophony. These sounds follow all battles, he knows from experience.
But then there is no sound, a painful silence descends upon the battlefield.
Recognizing the moment for what it is, Sir G33k of Leet readies himself. He sees the commanders of each army raise their hands above their heads, helmeted in iron and gold. Signalling the call to battle, arms and sound descend as one, and the people crash together in a great melee. Battle lines dissolve instantly, each soldier fighting for the space around them. Commands are lost in the noise, and standards fall, never to rise again.
It is time. Sir G33k commits himself to the idea of battle, drawing sword and readying his spells of slaying. As he enters the fray, he realizes he does not know whose side he is fighting on, only that he has a part to play in this great drama, ordained by a power larger than himself. He lays about him with steel and molten death, viciously defending the right to his space against all who would seek to enter it.
The Battle of Vote rages on all day.
Sir G33k climbs wearily to the top of the hill once more. He has slain many this day, his sword arm and magic all but exhausted. Reaching the top, he turns back to survey the scene below him, and marvels at what he sees. Without their colours to define them, each soldier is the same. Their war chants are intermingled, creating a single wordless voice. Every warrior appears to fight for themselves, much as Sir G33k. He sees children and the destitute forgotten in the mud, picking through the dross for some trinket or coin. He realizes then that these were never armies marching in solidarity, but mercenaries fighting for plunder.
Through a press of limbs and smoke, Sir G33k catches a glimpse of the army commanders, silently observing what they had wrought. Their coloured standards no longer in evidence, trampled beneath one set of boots or another, they appear pleased. Gathering their closest retainers about them, the commanders begin to leave the battlefield in a stately fashion, singing songs of victory and brave deeds. Almost as an afterthought, one of the commanders reaches down and grasps a forgotten battle standard, it doesn’t appear to matter the colour. Raising it above their heads, the commanders cheer and slam their swords, unused this day, against their shields raucously, and withdraw from the field.
Sir G33k of Leet thrusts his sword into the scabbard at his hip, and calls back the mighty spells he has unleashed. Turning away from the battle below him, he too leaves the field. Above him a lone falcon rides the wind above the plains, offering some small hope of redemption. Perhaps it is enough. Without looking back, he steps once more onto the endless plain, leaving all thoughts of battle behind him.
His stride remains long, if not so sure as it once was.
The Battle of Vote was a turning point in the life of Sir G33k. It was here that his zest for battle was tempered by the realization that we are the ones who pay for the mistakes of our leaders.
—Milton Fakeman, Archivist