Monday, July 23, 2012

Unsung Heroes: Jason Dundrum Part 1


            The continent was a noisy place. With no strong central government, the city-states were constantly fighting each other, vying for position and material wealth. It had existed this way for hundreds of years, and people had grown used to it. It was in way a democratic system, rather nobles ruled like kings over the cities, each with his own army to do war against the others. The common man simply did as he was told by the noble that ruled over him. Those on the outskirts of the cities’ territories would sometimes change hands several times a year, but it didn’t affect their lives. They prepared, planted, and harvested the same no matter who owned them. This way of life was very familiar to the people, but it was all about to change.
            In the year 1339, an ambitious noble named Michael Sultana raised an army with the intent to expand his territory. His campaign seemed to be typical, squabbling with his immediate neighbors about their territory lines. After all, he didn’t have the means to raise an army big enough to capture a single city much less a lot of them, but he had found an unusual and extremely helpful ally, a wizard with a knack for creating and corrupting creatures. Michael bolstered the thin ranks of his army with werewolves, goblins, and many other abominations and set out on his conquest with an army ten times the size of any other around.
            The army of Michael Sultana blazed across the continent like a wildfire, killing or capturing everything in its way. In three months, they had captured all of the cities in the known civilized world. To the common man, the conditions were no worse than before. They still prepared, planted, harvested, paid their taxes and did their military service time. The lives of the nobles, on the other hand, had been changed greatly. Their status had gone from one of supreme ruler of their lands to simple pawns used by Sultana. They met in secret on an island in the middle of Lake Caplin and so the rebellion was born. This is the story of the rebellion and the unlikely hero that brought the people to victory against Michael Sultana

******

            Jason Dundrum was the last person that you’d want to have your back in a fight. He was eighteen years old, though anyone who didn’t know him would laugh at that. He looked to be about fourteen or fifteen because of his slight build. Standing 5’10” tall and weighing in at 100 lbs, he was the smallest adult around. Not surprisingly, his small size caused him to get picked on by everyone his age and even those younger than him. In a society where might made right, Jason Dundrum was the lowest man on the totem pole.
            Jason’s mother had died two minutes before he was born and he never knew who his father was. He lived his whole life as an orphan, a situation that didn’t help his problem with bullies. His only relief from the cruelty and happiness in life came from his best friend Brandon Draitton, another orphan. In direct contrast to Jason, Brandon was as big a person as you could have without him keeling over from a heart attack. He stood 6’3” tall and weighed at least 350 lbs, all of it muscle. He had a face that only a mother could love, and so received his share of bullying, though not as much as Jason due to his size. Together, Jason and Brandon hobbled through life, trying to be as unnoticeable as possible until the year 1345. On the first day of Spring, a message came to their city that changed their lives forever.

******

            “Throw me that hoe,” Brandon called to Jason. The smaller man picked up the tool and pitched it to his friend. It fell about two feet short, but Brandon didn’t say anything as he retrieved the tool and continued to work. Because both men were orphans, they had not inherited anything and had to work the local baron’s land to make enough to live on. Together, they made a phenomenal team, preparing, planting, and harvesting twice as much as any other team of field workers.
            “Sure is hot today,” Jason said as he straightened and leaned on a shovel. He wiped the sweat off of his face and took a drought of water from his canteen.
            “No argument there,” Brandon concurred as he looked back at the quarter mile of ground that they had already worked today. He took a long drink of water and leaned on his hoe as he looked at the surrounding land. As he sometimes did, he tried to imagine that he was not dirt poor but that he owned all of the land that he could see. Not for the first time, he found that he couldn’t imagine it. He had never owned anything in his life except for the food that he ate and the clothes on his back, and he found that his mind just couldn’t fathom owning so much. With a sigh, he turned back to the dirt beneath him. He was good for nothing but to work another man’s land and give up most of the produce.
            “Is that what I think it is?” Jason asked, causing Brandon to look up. About a mile away, a cloud of dust could be seen, indicating that a horseman was approaching at a rapid pace. It was a messenger almost certainly, and the speed with which he was traveling indicated that the message was very important.
            “If you think that it’s a messenger, then probably yes,” Brandon said and returned to his hoeing. “Not for us, of course. No doubt for someone who is very rich.”
            “Probably right,” Jason agreed and returned to work, though he kept one eye on the horseman until he entered the city walls.
            Jason and Brandon continued working until the sun was almost directly overhead. By this time, their canteens were empty and they were tired, so they collected their tools and headed back to the city. They would eat lunch and wait out the hottest hours of the day, returning in the afternoon to continue their work until nightfall. It might not have been the best existence, but it was one and they would take whatever they could get. At least they usually had food and enough money to buy a new set of clothes every year and to repair and replace their broken tools. It was better than most men had it.
            “So, who do you think the messenger was for?” Jason asked as he and Brandon walked back to the city with their tools slung over their shoulders. Brandon gave Jason a look of exasperation.
            “What has got you stuck on this messenger?” he asked. “We know that it’s not for us, so what do we care who he was taking it to? It’s not like it’s going to affect us. Besides, he’s leaving already.”
            Brandon and Jason stepped off of the road to make way for the wild rider as he tore down the dusty road past them, kicking up a cloud big enough to choke them. Jason tucked his nose and mouth down into his shirt to filter the air. It took several minutes for the dust to settle so the men could continue walking.
            “Probably some nobleman’s son,” Brandon surmised ruefully. “Doesn’t have a bit of manners; probably doesn’t even consider us people to be considerate to.”
            As it happened, the messenger was indeed a nobleman’s son as Brandon had surmised, but he was dead wrong when he said that the message had nothing to do with them. It would change both of their lives for forever.

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