Author Archives: Paul Conover

Midterm Review

Lindner Citadel

[Disclaimer: The ending of this will disappoint you. I ran out of steam, and therefore this story has the weakest ending of any story in history. You can’t say I didn’t warn you.]

“Very well, lads. Let’s take a walk!”

This was the line we had been dreading for weeks, and it was the last time I ever heard our captain speak.

We had set up camp some distance away from the fortress, but a short walk brought us within eyesight of it. The location was perfect for a fortress. With a steep slope on one side, and the other backed up against an enormous block of stone, there was only one real front open to attack. Yet that was our task, as it always was. Our outfit was called Mjolnir because of our skill at swiftly crippling enemy defense systems, and it was a title well-earned. We were the best.

This particular stronghold, however, had had us concerned since the beginning of the war. These walls had never been penetrated by enemy forces. This castle had never fallen. It had, in fact, been considered to be blessed by the gods by many of the storytellers back home – the same storytellers, I might add, who had so viciously opposed the war. Legends aside, this fortress posed a real challenge because it was so different from any other we had seen before. Its strength did not lie within the thickness or its walls or even its accessibility, as both were almost bizarrely unchallenging. Rather its strength was in its unusual shape and its countless windows which allowed for every method of defensive attack imaginable. At any given moment and from any given angle, hundreds of archers at a time could fire at enemy forces – and the archers of Lindner were famous for their lethal accuracy. The fortress itself was enormously tall, with sheer stone walls and, unusually, a defensive roof over the whole complex. This roof complicated things further, because it it inhibited the use of most of our projectile weapons. But we were the best for a reason, and we had a plan.

We prepared everything for battle like we normally did, but with a strange uneasiness. We hadn’t faced anything like this before, and our new tactics were unfamiliar. Someone tried to break the tension with a joke about picking out fortress curtains. Nobody laughed. We walked in anxious silence toward Lindner, knowing that many of us would not be walking back. If only the weather were nicer. It was a gloomy morning with low-hanging clouds and a persistent drizzle. After some time, the Lindner Citadel appeared through the mist, looking grayer and more intimidating than ever before. Even from far away, it towered above us, advancing our uneasiness.

We had previously determined that the bastion’s only weakness was at its base. Our usual tactics – which earned us the Mjolnir title – would be useless here. Today was all about stealth. It was obvious that finding a weak spot, even at the base of the fortress, would be extremely difficult to find and even more difficult to exploit. We were encouraged, however, by the sight of normal activity happening around the fortress. The didn’t know we were coming.

We split up into smaller groups and surrounded the castle. Not only would this make it easier to examine the fortress for weaknesses, but it would also spread out the defensive forces. We drew straws for attack points, and as luck would have it, I got the short stick. I had to lead a group of men right towards the front of the impenetrable fortress, where the defense would be stoutest and where the chances of survival were slimmest. Being an honorable man I proudly accepted my charge.

Things were going unusually well. At two hundred yards away, everything at the castle was carrying on normally. But then a group of fifteen men approaching the gates was hardly anything to fuss about. Then, at a hundred yards out, I became aware of two things. First, I realized how to get inside of the fortress. Second, I noticed that about half of the people who were working outside the gates had disappeared, and the other half were standing with weapons drawn. As I turned to look at my men, I saw that our other groups were already attacking – and losing badly. Some had made it to the wall, but had nowhere else to go. The fortress was too strong. Our plan had fallen apart. My eyes fell back to our destination and a wave of fear struck me. I was going to die. We were all going to die, and we knew it.

Luckily I trained my men to spring into action before thinking – a characteristic which makes them both lethal and loyal soldiers, if rather dumb. They were already taking formation for a fight, forcing me to leave my considerations of death to some other time. We had a battle to fight. But slowly my men fell, having made little progress towards the fortress. It wasn’t until I saw my best swordsman go down that I remembered my revelation. I knew how to breach the wall. Knowing my men would follow me, I took off straight towards the wall. We would go under it.

Upon reaching the wall, my hope was confirmed. There was a large crack in the base which extended into the ground, and as luck would have it, the many days of rain had made the ground soft for excavation. Within minutes, we were under the massive construction. As it turned out, the crack I had seen wasn’t a crack at all, but rather a long-forgotten (or purposefully blocked) passage. It was an eerie place. Diffused daylight was still streaming in, but another strange light was coming from the other end of the tunnel. We moved along with extreme caution until suddenly the strange light exploded into our eyes, momentarily blinding us.

When our sight returned to us, we understood immediately that we had traveled through time and space. Certainly this was not Lindner Citadel! Not a single stone was visible here, and by all appearances we had stepped into the sky. Were we dead? Was this heaven? I saw a great red ribbon flying over my head issuing people into the clouds above. Nobody was talking to each other, but rather walking swiftly and with unwavering purpose. Everything was bathed in a light that could not possibly be coming through the protective roof of Lindner Citadel, and yet I got the feeling that I was still inside. Overcome by curiosity, I took a walk around.  Everything was shining with the light from above, and the higher I climbed, the lighter I felt. Then, all of a sudden, I began floating.

After that, I knew nothing more.

A Regular Shakespeare

Very well, let’s take a walk. Is it a walk you will survive? Your friends are falling all about you, pierced by enemy arrows. The fortress looms ahead, towering and grim. Yet you press on. At your wit’s end. A tunnel! It is the bastion’s only weakness. You plunge recklessly through the battlements and when you finally locate yourself, dismay grips you. A prisoner of death – for surely you no longer belong to the gloomy life of seconds ago. A monumental gemstone now surrounds you, gleaming in sunlight which was until now unnoticed. Bathed in light, you accept your fate. You ascend.

“Very well, let’s take a walk,” he said, “The usual route?”

“Of course. Where else would we go? We’ve been walking this way for years.”

“Just checking.” After a pause, “I’m just in the mood for doing something spontaneous.”

“Sp-… Spontaneous? Darling, no offense but you’re about as spontaneous as a wristwatch.”

“That’s not true! Watch this!”

“What are you doing? Where are you going? The gas station? … A lottery ticket??¬†That’s your idea of spontaneous? Why are you looking at me like that? Honey, what’s the matter? Let me see that… Oh!”

“I’m glad I went in there.”

Very well, let’s take a walk. Actually, no. Let’s stay here. We only summited 10 minutes ago, why would we leave now? Don’t you remember how just last week we stood down there and fantasized about the view from here? Well here we are now, so let’s enjoy it. We lost a couple good men on the way here. Let’s stay here for them. Is it what you expected when you looked up here? It certainly is a lot brighter. Remember when we had to stop halfway up? It was quite an adventure we had. There isn’t really a bad view is there? We were skeptical at first, but once we committed to doing this, we had no regrets. What a journey…. Very well, let’s take a walk.