The Commander and the Beast

Category C: Highly Commended  (2016) Monash Short Story Writing Competition

Author: Olivia Oh

Title: The Commander and the Beast

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 As an army commander, I stood on top of the hill for my early morning patrol. The sun kissed and lingered on my face, but the heat had never bothered me. If anything, I felt more energized.

A gentle breeze whisked past leaving the smell of fresh pine leaves in the air and red dirt swirling around me.

Loud thundering steps echoed from a distance and the thumping rang in my ears. I saw the shadow come first, spreading across the land like wildfire.

Giant footsteps pounded closer. A beast with wild hair and a wicked grin was fast approaching.

I always knew this day would come.

*

My heart pounded as I sprinted back towards my kingdom. A few workers were building our castle, casually going about their day. They had no idea their lives were about to change. I could have warned them, but my first priority was to protect the queen. I raced towards her headquarters, noting two guards at the entrance.

‘Lord Commander,’ one greeted me with a small bow.

‘I need to speak to the queen.’

‘Her Majesty told us she is not to be disturbed.’

‘This is a call to arms. Unless you want to lose your head, step aside.’ I pushed past them. I didn’t have time for this.

Inside the chamber, the queen and her son were in deep conversation. There had been talks about forming an allegiance with another kingdom, and this was the subject under discussion. She always spoke with such quiet power that made anyone pay attention.

‘Your Majesty.’ I bowed.

‘I gave strict instructions not to be interrupted.’ She scowled at me.

 ‘Red Alert!’

Her expression changed and she motioned towards her son. ‘You may leave.’ He sighed, bowed, and left immediately. The queen turned to me. ‘You have my attention.’

‘A beast from the south is invading our lands, Your Majesty.’

‘What manner of a beast, Commander?’

 I shook my head. ‘I’ve never seen a creature like it.’

‘Are you sure there is danger? We are located in the safest and most isolated place across the lands.’

‘Indeed. Yet we have been found.’

‘How far off is this beast?’

‘It is nigh.’

‘Then do what we’ve been training for. I’ll speak with the emissaries of the other kingdoms.’

I bowed and left the queen’s headquarters for the barracks where I sounded the alarums.

The troops were beside me within seconds.

‘We are going to war.’

*

Agonizing screams pierced the air. Everybody ran in different directions.

‘Run to your homes,’ I commanded the people and they fled.

It was a fruitless effort. The beast had arrived. Its enormous feet kicked the kingdom, letting it crumble into ruins.

‘Come out, come out wherever you are!’ It grabbed one of the workers I saw earlier and crushed her

The worker’s mother wailed, shaking uncontrollably.

‘Leave,’ I said to her.

Tears streamed down her face.

‘Go!’ I said again.

She hiccupped and sprinted away.

‘Get into position,’ I said to my army.

‘Yes sir!’ they replied.

We marched in unison towards the evil creature. No one dared to breathe. We have been through horrific battles in our time, but none was ever like this.

‘For the queen!’ I yelled.

‘For the queen!’ they repeated.

We charged but it didn’t make a difference. The beast annihilated the front line soldiers without even flinching. They died in silence.

Soldiers around me lay injured, their bodies smashed into the ground.

This was no battle. It was a slaughter.

*

My queen arrived on the battlefield with thousands more soldiers. I smiled at the sight of our fearless leader doing what she does best; ruling and leading by example.

The morning light glowed around her.

‘Attack!’ she cried.

The soldiers roared and ran towards the gruesome beast.

It picked up one soldier and dangled him over its mouth. My comrade’s end was a most horrible sound that I’ll never forget.

I felt my face flush with anger. This is my home. These are my people.

I ran, dodging the dead bodies around me. Body parts lay scattered everywhere. I stabbed the beast’s foot, but it didn’t even notice.

Its attention was on the queen.

*

I froze. It stood hovering around the queen. She stood high, standing her ground.

‘Protect your queen,’ I ordered.

I made my way to stand in front of her, attempting to provide a shield. There were not many of us now.

To my horror, I saw the beast pick her up and look at her curiously.

‘I have the queen,’ it snarled.

*

Without thinking, I grabbed onto the queen’s legs. Wherever she goes I go, I reminded myself.

 

*

‘Mummy, Mummy! Look what I’ve got!’ The child waved a container excitedly.

‘That’s nice darling. You caught a big one to add to your collection.’ She ruffled his hair. ‘Put it away. Breakfast is ready.’

As the child ran to his room, ants could be seen scurrying around in the container.

One still held onto his queen.

 

 

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Last updated: 16 September 2016