A Chapter by Peter Rogerson

Forces for both good and evil are on the march...


King Jasper was furious.

He was absolutely convinced that he had an army of a thousand strong men, all fighting-fit and capable of cleaving a dozen heads each, and a count this first morning at dawn revealed he had less than seven hundred left. A host had melted away into the pitch dark of night.

At first he’d put a positive spin on things.

“Better to have seven hundred fit and willing soldiers than a thousand weaklings,” he mumbled to his sergeant.

“It would be if that’s what you’ve got,” replied that sergeant darkly.

“What do you mean?” frowned the king.

“There are seven hundredish bodies here, sir, but as for the fit and willing and soldiers bit, I fear you’re down to twelve less than a dozen,” muttered the sergeant reluctantly because he had witnessed too many heads being amputated when the mouths on them had provided unsavoury news to the king, and he had no intention of joining that number.

“How come?” snapped the King, starting to draw his sword.

But it had to be said. The King was the king after all, and he deserved to know the truth or he might blunder his way into disaster. “Most are untrained in military activities, some are just boys, all are half-starved and under-nourished and there are quite a few with rickets. Sir.”

“Now you tell me!” snapped the king, “I ordered you to round up a thousand fit and healthy soldiers, not this motley brigade of weaklings and pre-pubescent juveniles!” he snapped.

“I did round up the best in your kingdom, sire, and these are they,” said the sergeant, suspecting he might have taken a step too close to infuriating the infamous King Jasper.

And he had.

Within the time it took for him to blink for a last terrified time his head was detached from his body and slowly rolling to a standstill on the muddy turves of the clearing.

“That’s what happens to all who gainsay me!” roared a furious King Jasper.

But he had just despatched the only true soldier in his army, and of the rest a good half were vomiting what little they had in their stomachs when it crossed their minds that they had just witnessed an image of what might well come to them sooner rather than later.

“In ranks of two, and march,” bellowed the king, forgetting that he was, to all intents and purposes, now alone in a scarily unfamiliar forest with a useless herd at his back.

Forming ranks of two proved impossible for some, and it took a seeming age before the army was ready to march.



Jackiss was feeling disillusioned.

It had all been quite clear in his head. A large area of the kingdom was his. There could be no doubt about it: the king had given it to him and the king owned all the land. And because that large area was now his, he could do with it what he chose. He could clear the forest �" he hated forest and all those nasty trees that seemed to get in the way of a traveller attempting to go in a straight line. Or he could evict the peasants who lived there, which had been his original idea until it crossed his mind that he needed a few serfs to work the land for him. After all, what was the point of owning land if it wasn’t worked and profited from?

But what had been quite clear was becoming alarmingly fuzzy. In fact, it was becoming quite unclear when the lovely Queen Amyheart (who he had to force himself to remember wasn’t a queen any longer) had asked him how he’d feel if he was one of the peasants on the land.

“I hadn’t thought of that,” he said, and then, “but peasants are different, aren’t they? Like dogs are different from cats or cows from pigs?”

“Or Queens from milk-maids?” she had asked, and that had rattled around in his head when he remembered one particular milkmaid he had tupped once, a gorgeous fresh-faced delight with mischief in her eyes and a bosom he would quite happily have gone close to dying for. That milkmaid had entered his head and even though it had been years ago she was still there, in corners of his memory when he wanted to contemplate the better things in life and misery got in the way.

But she had been a milkmaid and not a queen. And the unpalatable truth was he’d had a queen on her own for one night, bedded her, she’d been King Jasper’s spare, and during the darkness he’d made quite violent love to her, no, not quite, very, and she had died almost but not quite in his arms.

There must have been something wrong with her, for her to have died like that.

There had been absolutely nothing wrong with the milkmaid and she still lived on, pretty as ever he was sure, in a village a few short miles from the castle. And he knew, he’d heard, he’d actually asked whenever she crossed his mind, that she was the smiling mother of a smiling tribe of youngsters.

So what was troubling him was to do with the order of things and his right to upset what might be a better order than what existed in the castle.

“Tell me, friend,” he asked Mirelin as they trudged along with darkness showing signs of falling and Queen Amyheart plodding along stolidly, as if she had been made for trudging, “tell me about the people in these villages.

They were approaching a village, almost sneakily because news of trouble abroad seemed to have reached every corner of the kingdom and as strangers they were looked on with suspicion, especially him with an arm missing. That gap where his right arm should be must mean something. Something nasty.

“Tell you what, darling?” asked Mirelin. He was feeling the strain and could think of nothing better than getting his head down for the night, and trying to regain some strength in sleep. He was as unused to this exercise as he was for many things that oppress the dignity of the poorer man.

“Tell me about people,” asked Jackiss. “What is the order of things and how come we’re where we are.”

“We’re here because we’re following you,” Mirelin told him frankly, “and at odd moments I wish I was anywhere else but here.”

“But the order of things?” persisted Jackiss.

“Well, that’s easy enough,” replied the wizard, “the order of things was established by our king’s ancestor, who came to this land, saw that it was good, claimed it for himself and has fought off all who would challenge his right to own it in a series of bloody conflicts that have marred our history right from the beginning. And Jasper is still doing it.”

“But he gave me some land!” Jackiss reminded him.

“Oh that,” smiled Mirelin, “it was only ever going to be temporary. He had a problem and you solved it by reducing his second wife to a corpse. Her father was all for demanding recompense for the loss of a daughter when she died and he was able to say he didn’t like the idea of paying for faulty goods, and the Princess Zinga was as faulty as they come if she couldn’t stand a man’s passion for a single night!”

“There’ll still be war over it, though,” put in Amyheart. “I know there will. There always has been between the line of Jasper and that of King Osworm and his golden throne. And there’s no doubt: the golden throne will win. Jasper knows that, which is why he’s passing his anger down to the little people who can’t do much about it except die.”

“And those little people? What of them?” asked Jackiss.

She smiled at him, a slightly callous smile. “They’ll be killed. Their women raped, their children turned by skilled cooks into crispy nuggets to feed the king’s favourites. And life will go on as it was, but there’ll be a golden throne in the castle and a fat foreign arse sitting on it. It’s what happens. It always has and it always will. Ordinary folk are the fodder killed in wars fought by kings. It’s their lot, unhappily.”

© Peter Rogerson 29.11.18

© 2018 Peter Rogerson

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Added on November 29, 2018
Last Updated on November 29, 2018
Tags: King, anger, weak army, untrained militia, wizard, queen, populations


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 76 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..