The Old Sergeant
by Mat Nastos
Synopsis: Broderick Longbarrel has served in the Royal Army of Caerllyth as a marksman for more than 30 years. Once a powerful warrior and soldier, Longbarrel has grown weary of war. On the final mission of his career, the grizzled veteran must face an over-powering enemy, a commanding officer with a sinister agenda and his own failing abilities if he is to survive.
“The Old Sergeant,” an 8300 word short story set in the exciting fantasy-punk world of the Aegisteel Empire, is great for fans of high fantasy, steampunk, World of Warcraft or Battle-Chasters.
Review: “The fresh descriptive writing and unique story thrust you immediately into a world that you have never seen before – and when you get to the end, you’ll be wishing for more.” –the EBook Apothecary
The Northern Isles were green and alive with the sort of beauty and perfection that almost always guaranteed that someone powerful somewhere would covet them. Before being annexed by the neighboring kingdom of Caerllyth to the south, the hundreds of islands that made up the Northern Isles had been home to the mystical Faellyn race since time immemorial.
Thirty years prior, when the Faellyn abandoned their ancestors, the half-human Ae’Shee, to cross the Great Sea in search of a new home far from the wars of humanity, the Iron King of Caerllyth, Leonid Stelvyn, took it upon himself to declare the now-weakened Northern Isles, ruled by a loose council of Ae’Shee clans, would be brought under his stewardship. Keeping the territory from falling to the then-growing Theln Empire was the widely espoused reason for the invasion by Caerllyth royalty who rushed to claim land there.
Dominated by the Iron King’s forces from the south and constantly repelling attacks from the Theln Empire looming hungrily on the mainland to the east, the Northern Isles had been a land in pain ever since.
Today, from a tiny advance scout’s dugout, set high in the cliffs of Inverneer, largest of the Northern Isles, and surrounded by groves of ancient oaks, lightning-scarred willows and tall, magnificent pines, the pain of the land was shared by a short, stout soldier by the name of Broderick Longbarrel.
A veteran sharpshooter and scout in the Third Infantry Brigade of the Royal Caerllyth Army, Longbarrel had been sent out from nearby Fort Talog to investigate rumors of a band of Theln reavers terrorizing the Ae’Shee natives of the area. The short, stocky iron-sighter stood five-feet three-inches in height and was nearly as wide at the shoulders as he was tall.
By no stretch of the imagination was Longbarrel a pretty man – far from it, in fact. The lack of facial beauty was one of the reasons the powerfully built man took so much pride in his bushy mustache and beard. Hair covered nearly every inch of his face, except for his chin, which had been bare due to a scarring accident involving an exploding musket when he was a fresh recruit in the sharpshooter corps. Some said his face had a lot of ‘character,’ others called him an ugly bastard, although neither opinion carried much weight with Broderick Longbarrel…especially not while he was stuck in an uncomfortably little hole in a foreign land countless leagues from home.
Standing to work out a cramp in his calves from hours of squatting, Longbarrel stretched out his back and, placing one hand on his chin and the other on the side of his head, cracked his neck with a sound disturbingly similar to that of a gunshot.
A mildly annoyed grunt slipped from his lips at the sound his neck had made. His commanding officer had ordered ‘quiet’ in the hole and the veteran was convinced the creaking of his joints would surely have given their position away were any enemies within earshot. Longbarrel was positive he could still hear that last crack from his neck echoing back across the fifteen leagues of stormy seas between their location on the coast of Inverneer and the larger Caerllyth island to the south. <end excerpt>