Chapter 7: Red Generals
Mcgrath didn’t wake until late the next morning. Sitting up, he stared blearily about his new quarters taking in the red velvet drapes, the curvaceous red chaise, the oak furniture and the four poster bed he had crashed into. Someone had removed his boots, perhaps Malval last night, Mcgrath couldn’t remember or possibly the pretty maid that Mcgrath vaguely remembered placed a tray of now cold food beside his bed and opened the drapes.
The fat had congealed on the meat so Mcgrath just ate the crusty bread but couldn’t bring himself to drink the cold tea. The castle stood silent as Mcgrath slipped into the hallway. He didn’t remember much of the night before, he had been so tired that everything seemed surreal and hazy. The hallways were well decorated with thick carpet, enormous ceramic pots decorated in unusual patterns and many paintings depicting everything to hunting scenes to fine blooded horses and warriors. There were also many doors with names engraved in gold into the timber. Mcgrath passed these wondering who Justin, Amos, Martin, Ma’k’a and so on were and why their names were engraved into the doors.
Mcgrath passed down a flight of stairs and entered a room in which an enormous round table stood encircled by fourteen high backed oak chairs. Once again scarlet seemed to be the common colour in the room from the heavy drapes that were pulled back over the windows, to the banners featuring a sword encircled in cloth to the candles that burned from gold candelabras. Mcgrath spotted Malval by the window, the bright sunshine pouring through the open window.
The Emperor looked across at Mcgrath, head held high with his gold crown twisted in its gothic patterns studded with rubies perched on his greying hair. From his shoulders swept a scarlet cloak, the ruff that rose around his neck made from a lions mane and the ceremonial Red Guard sword hung around his waist. He looked every bit the Red Emperor. Malval motioned for Mcgrath to come over with a relaxed smile.
“I thought you were going to sleep right through the day,” he grinned.
Mcgrath shook his head. “The maid woke me opening the blinds.”
Malval chuckled and motioned out the window. “Behold, the Red Guard Army.”
Mcgrath stared wide-eyed through the window at the moving sea of red below him. Soldiers marched to a fro, some sparred, others wheeled their horses through drills, smoke curled from the barracks huts and dust rose from the steeds hooves. Archers fired arrows at targets, other men seemed to building catapults, others chopped wood, all moving below him like thousands of red ants not a single one motionless. All were dressed in scarlet uniforms embroidered in gold, some carrying the banner of a sword wrapped in cloth. This was the banner of the Red Guards, depicting the Silent death Malval explained. Mcgrath had only seen a few Red Guards here and there but suddenly the whole Army spanned out before him.
“There’s millions! And they are all yours!” Mcgrath gasped.
Malval chuckled. “Well not quite. Every man down there is his own boss, they all came to me of their own accord. I value every single one of them and their contribution. I merely lead them by example and they choose to follow. Every single one of them is a tiny cog in a massive machine, and without them I would just be a nutcase who wears a crown. Many have left their countries armies because of this philosophy.”
“Emperor Malval,” a voice piped up behind them.
The soldier that had spoken was dressed in the same scarlet red uniform but with a sweeping red cloak adorned in Celtic like patterns embroidered in gold thread. He had icicle blue eyes set into a wide face and short cropped, dark blonde hair betraying a strong Nordic influence. He reminded Mcgrath of the war horses below, stocky and the heavy armour he wore accentuated this. He had an unflappable look about him, like anything could happen but he would remain calm and handle it with ease.
“Ah General Malis, glad to see you,” Malval grinned. “This is Mcgrath, the young protégé I was telling you about.”
Malis raised his eyebrows and shook Mcgrath’s outstretched hand. “Good to meet you lad.”
“Malis here will be training you over the coming months. He is an Imperial Paladin so he will do a much better job that I would,” Malval explained. “Now if you will excuse me, I will leave you in his capable hands.”
“You’re a Paladin?” Mcgrath asked wide-eyed as Malval strode off.
Malis nodded, sweeping his cloak over his shoulders and holding it open so Mcgrath could examine the intricate patterns. “I am from the Land of the Mist so there for I have the large pattern in the centre of the Mountain Goddess, Da chich Annan. As I am an commander I have the symbol of torque at the top and because I am an Imperial Paladin its embroidered in gold.”
Mcgrath examined the patterns eagerly. “Why did you leave the Paladins?”
Malis shifted nervously as he replaced the cloak around his shoulders. “Long story. Malval offered me a better chance so I took it.”
Mcgrath followed Malis outside into the glaring sunshine. Soldiers nodded at Malis as they marched or rode past as Malis led Mcgrath towards the barracks that stood away from the castle. Mcgrath looked back at the castle which rose up black against the clear blue sky, the banners of the Red Guards fluttering from the flagpoles. Mcgrath looked back ahead at the stables where a platoon of soldiers stood at attention ready for the days training.
“Ok you see those two blonde, squat brothers stood over there?” Malis pointed out.
Mcgrath nodded, watching as they clearly shared a private joke about something before bursting into laughter. “That’s Generals Amos and Fester. Amos is in charge of two battalions that are known as the Tacticians. They are highly skilled warriors that can climb vertical surfaces like geckos. His brother Fester has three Corps under his control, the Elite Red Guard Cavalry and some infantry which are trained to work alongside the cavalry.”
“Ok I will remember that,” Mcgrath nodded.
Malis led Mcgrath over to a scarlet coloured tent and stepped into the interior. The sun bled through the red cloth forming an unnatural red glow in the interior. A tall figure was bent over a table muttering darkly, his large hands rifling through a trunk on the table. He had plumy steel grey hair but unlike the generals, he didn’t dress in armour instead a red shirt and black pants.
“The philistines!” he declared with a refined accent throwing his hands up.
“Whose a philistine?” Malis enquired.
“Those philistines have been pilfering through my belongings again,” he grumbled angrily.
Malis looked at Mcgrath. “Mcgrath this is General Hyssop the Army’s doctor.”
General Hyssop shook Mcgrath’s hand cocking eyebrow as he stared down his broad nose at Mcgrath as if analysing him. “Pleased I’m sure. Now listen Malis, something must be done to curb the shenanigans of those larks. They must cease and desist, or at least leave my supplies alone. Understood?”
Malis nodded as Mcgrath tried to make sense of what Hyssop had just said. “I will try.”
Malis led Mcgrath from the tent towards some of the fixed buildings. “Hyssop is one of the best doctors in the land, if it weren’t for him many Red Guards would have died. You will learn to nod and smile at what he says then find the nearest dictionary and make sense of what he just said.”
Mcgrath laughed as Malis pointed at the walls where three more Generals stood having a serious discussion about something. Even from here, Mcgrath could sense resentment towards the shorter General with his sharp moustache and darting eyes. “That’s General Falmer, when Malval steps down or heaven forbid gets killed he will take over. He has two theatre Armies under his command half of it is infantry and the other is cavalry,” Malis explained. “The other two are Generals Justin and Noah, they are cousins and married two sisters. Between Noah has the largest amount of men in all of the army under his command, five theatre Armies that have a mixture of Calvary, infantry and archery.”
“Wow!” Mcgrath said impressed.
Malis nodded. “Justin on the other hand has two theatre Armies, mostly cavalry but with some infantry as well.”