Never Go to Battle Without Polishing Thy Brooches
“What in Bog’s name is an Illurhög, anyway?” a soldier asked his sergeant.
The Illurhög had been laying waste to the lande for many weeks, and word of the beast’s wrath had finally reached the Royal Ears. The Archchairsitters of the Royal Army had kept the badde news from The King for fear it would cost them their jobs. When He finally did hear the news, The King promptly had them executed for treason and began preparing His Army for war. The beast had already destroyed the entire Rumpish Province and soon would threaten the borders of the Kingdom proper.
“‘Tis the thing we’re going to slay,” the sergeant said. They were sitting in the armory cleaning their spears. They were already clean, but there’s not much else for soldiers to do when there’s not a battle going on.
“But they say 'tis taller than the castle keep, with fangs the size of broadswords,” said the soldier.
“Well, then it’ll make us one fyne trophy, it will,” said the sergeant.
“I thoughts takin’ war trophies was...what’s the word...I...Ill…”
“Illegal?” Said the sergeant.
“Nay, thou’s thinkin’ about the rules for regular war,” said the sergeant, showing off the knowledge he learned in many battles fought over ten years in the Regiment. “Theys don’t apply to pillages, plunders, raids, or battles with ancient immortal beasts. We’s can take all the loot we wants, ‘cause I figure this one falleth into the last category.”
“Oh,” said the soldier. They moved on to cleaning their helmets for a while.
“I d’nno. Maybe we’s goin’ about this all wrong,” said the soldier, breaking the silence. “Maybe swords and spears isn’t the way to slay this here beast. Maybe we needs to… needs to… aww, what’s the word for it?”
“Think?” Said the sergeant.
“Yea! That’s it. Maybe we needs to think. You know, use clevery and tricks and such. Ma’ pap served in the Regiment ‘is whole lyfe, and he always said war was a thinkin’ man’s game.”
Actually, his pap, who was quite intelligent but was never allowed to put it to use as a soldier and thus over the course of his career became a fyne connoisseur of turnipwine, always said,
“Why bother thinkin’
when thou couldst be drinkin’?”
“We ain’t bein’ paid to think. We’s bein’ paid to clean our spears and, King willing, use ‘em,” said the sergeant. They continued cleaning in silence for a few more hours, then neatly laid out their gear to be inspected by the Lord Commander of the Regiment. The soldier still had a feeling their time could have been better spent “thinking” than polishing the same spots on their helmets over and over again, but he at least figured the higher ups were doing the thinking. (They weren’t.)
“Ten, hut!” shouted a voice from down the hall.
The Lord Commander of the Regiment, in full dress regalia and followed by his retinue of squires, entered triumphantly to conduct his inspection. His cloak bore the symbol of the Royal Asse and Crowne and his chest displayed many awards he had earned for valiantly ordering other people to do things. For the most part, he walked straight ahead, his nose raised in the air, whilst his squires did the inspecting. Such things as “inspecting” and “work” were below an officer of his stature. But something caught his eye as he passed by our soldier, and he did a sharp left face to address him.
“Soldier! What beeth this mark I see on thy helmet? Hast thou not been cleaning?!” Shouted the Lord Commander. “Dost thou desireth to be kilt in battle by the Illurhög on account of thy dirty helmet? Clean this immediately!”
“Yessir, M’Lord, but thou sees, that spot ‘tis where I was struck in the head by an arrow during the last battle, and ‘tis quite impossible to cl...” his sergeant nudged him sharply in the guts to shut up. “Yessir, M’Lord. I will clean it immediately.”
The Lord Commander let out a huff from his nostrils, did a sharp right face, and continued his inspection.
"You's must be outta yer mind speakin' to the Lord Commander like that!" the sergeant scolded him once the inspection was over. "You say 'Yessir' and 'Nossir' and 'Aye, aye, Sir' when you's speakin' to him. That's it!"
"Yes, sergeant," said the soldier. "I was just thinkin' that because..."
"That's yer problem," said the sergeant. "Too much thinkin'."
Perhaps ironically, it was the Lord Commander of the Regiment who would later be killed on account of his clean gear. Whilst cowering in terror behind a Boilbog tree during the battle, a glint of light would shimmer off his perfectly polished silver and diamond cloak brooch (which, of course, was polished by a squire, not by the Lord Commander himself; the Lord Commander employed a number of squires specifically for the polishing of brooches), giving his position away to the enemy.
Perhaps even more ironically, the soldier’s “dirty” gear would be the thing that would save his life, for, prior to the battle, the Lord Commander once again inspected his troops and noticed the same mark on the soldier’s helmet. Being thus disgusted by this lack of military bearing—again, this was not a dirt spot on his helmet but rather a hole where an arrow punctured it in an earlier battle, an incident which the soldier miraculously survived—he ordered the soldier to be sent back to the Castle in shame.
Only soldiers with clean helmets were allowed to experience the glory of combat.
It wasn’t just the Lord Commander who perished in the battle. The entire Regiment was destroyed. As the Regiment’s lone survivor, the soldier was afterwards promoted to Lord Commander, and from then on he used his mysterious powers of “thinking” to the great benefit of The King and His troops.