He looked around for a moment, wondering why they were all so tensed. All eight of his companions, standing there, almost frozen. He heard a clanging, turning around to look at one of the little ones, frozen next to a well. He had what looked like a skeletal finger, clutched in his grasp, as his face took on the sheepish look of one who knew that he had made a mistake. The tallest of their party, the one with the long beard and the longer hair, strode over to him purposefully, grabbing the hat that the little one had clutched in his tiny hand.
“Fool of a Took! Throw yourself next time and rid us of your stupidity!”
And in that moment, as silence hung heavy in the air, they heard it.
He turned slowly. “Drums, in the deep.” Echoing the words that they had read in a book that now lay, forgotten, on the floor, he looked around at them.
“They are coming.”
He turned, smooth as a bird in flight, pulling an arrow from his quiver and nocking it to the bow in his other hand. He stopped, aiming straight for the tiny crack in the door. He knew that none of the others could see it, but he could spy the orc peering through the crack. He released the arrow, watching it intently as it flew toward the foul creature. The orc’s eyes widened as he saw the arrow, a split second before….
The roar of the crowd hit him like a physical thing, something that could slap him in the face and punch him in the stomach. He looked around, blinking at the intensely bright lights that seemed to be burning holes into his retinas.
“Hey motherfucker, keep up!”
He glanced around, straight into the scowling face of a large man. He took in the uniform that the man was wearing, understanding almost immediately who he was. He turned around once more, raising one leg before planting it firmly into the ground, his sticks banging out a steady rhythm against the drum strapped to his chest. He followed the lead of the girl in front of him, turning right at the exact second when he was supposed to. He laughed, throwing his head back and sticking his tongue out, the sheer joy of playing overcoming him.
Slowly, the people in the crowd started to notice his antics. They cheered even more loudly for him, the flashbulbs in the crowd going off even more frequently. He could hear the maniacal laughter of the man behind him as the feral roar of the crowd grew louder and louder, the support for the marching band rivaled only by the support for the team itself.
“Hey man, look left. She’s flashing you!”
He turned, his head swiveling even as his arms kept perfect time with the band. He spotted the girl in the crowd, his eyes traveling from her grinning face down to her….
His spear shuddered as he thrust it, with an almighty roar, into the chest of the foe before him. He paused for a second, taking in the scene around him, but quickly realised that pausing on a battlefield was always a terrible idea. The red capes of his brothers fluttered in the wind around him as the phalanx moved forward, one inexorable step at a time. Their spears thrust metal into the bodies of the men before them even as the sight of them thrust fear into their hearts. He looked to his left, his eyes widening as he recognised the plume of feathers that decorated the helmet of the Spartan next to him.
King Leonidas turned to him, a smile dancing on his lips as blood spattered his helmet.
“Steady, son”, he grinned, even as his spear claimed its next victim.
With a great shout, his king burst out of the phalanx, his weapon a shimmering blur as he struck down foe after foe. His strikes were graceful, a dance, almost in time to the battle drums of the Arcadians standing behind the phalanx. If the king was leading by example, who was he to refuse?
He turned, straightening from the tight formation, looking at the men with drums standing behind them.
He turned, a joyful smile painting his features as he leapt forward, straight into the heart of the fight. He joined his king, slashing left and right, before he flung his spear at an enemy running toward them. He drew his sword, fixing his sight on the commander of the legions. Seated on a horse, he was a dozen yards away, galloping toward him and the king.
He struck down a soldier, glancing at the man as he went down to one knee. He turned, taking two steps back, before breaking into a run. He dropped his shield, knowing that keeping it would only slow him down. He stepped onto the man’s back, pushing off, his leap taking him far into the air. Both his hands closed around the weapon as he brought it down in a killing arc, his target’s eyes widening as the blade….
He got up, knowing that they would be punished if the masters found out. But here, so far from home, having been dragged to this strange land forcefully, against their will, what more did they have to lose?
He threw his arms into the air, the thudding of the drums acting as a guiding force for his body. He threw himself this way and that, sweat dripping from his body as he danced in the way of his people. Even as the sweat ran from his pores, the tears began to flow from his eyes. He remembered his father, holding his arms and patiently teaching him this dance. He remembered the day of his wedding, the joy with which his father had hurled himself around the fire, celebrating the love of his first born.
He remembered the day the white man came, and the way his father’s skull had been crushed under their boots.
He felt a hand on his shoulder and he turned, seeing his beautiful wife there with him. She reached out and wiped the tears from his face, before leaning forward to kiss his cheek softly. He smiled at her, at her simple beauty, at the radiance that she always managed to have, no matter how dark the night.
She got down to her knees, placing a small drum in the dirt in front of her. The rhythm she struck up was fast, thudding, furious. The others stopped dancing, knowing that there was only one man that could keep up with her.
He grinned, stomping his foot on the ground even as he jumped…
In the end, it was always the others that brought him back. He opened his eyes, the sight of a thousand screaming fans taking him almost by surprise. His long hair was flying everywhere, and he could feel himself smiling as his sticks crashed into the drums and the cymbals, and his feet pummeled the bass set kept at his feet.
Who said only books could take you places?