The Legend of the Quiggle Runner
"Here, take this. It needs to be delivered to General Jeran's Seventh Troop. They're near the river, waiting for these exact orders. Don't get caught and don't delay. May Fyora smile upon you," came the gruff voice of the Ixi, the tactical command of the Meridellian armies. The Quiggle had a grainy scroll pushed roughly into his hands. It was small, bound tightly with a taut knot.
"Yes, sir, the Seventh Troop. Seven clicks east of our current location," said the red Quiggle, saluting smartly and turning abruptly. He stuffed the tatty parchment into his satchel, fastening it firmly, tugging on the buckle to make sure it was secure. He bent down and tied up his sandals, more buckles, the best in Meridell. Ensuring his dagger was firmly attached, he took a deep breath.
"Okay. Seven Clicks, that's probably twenty minutes at a full run," he muttered to himself. "Take into account the necessary ducking and avoidance Darigan forces, we're looking at twenty-five to thirty minutes. I guess that's why they call me the Quiggle Runner."
He lifted the flap of the red and gold painted tent, and took a step outside. The battle beyond, in the distant fields of Meridell, was carried through on the wind, snatches of the clinking and clashing of armour and swords could be heard. Taking a careful line through the camp, he made his way to the edge of the battle field, and crept behind the line of the 4th Battalion of Shoyru Archers, who were practising their skills ahead of the incoming attack.
"Ready," the Shoyru Leader commanded. "Take aim. Fire!"
A flurry of arrows were loosed, but the Quiggle Runner ignored them, continuing his delivery. Reaching the end of the line, where several barricades indicated the final secure cover before the wide open field before him, he pulled out his compass from beneath his neck. It was solid, wooden and reliable. He held it up, scrutinising it carefully. The needle quivered, then reluctantly pointed north. East was across the fields.
"Just what I thought," said the Quiggle, "Right in the middle of the Darigan forces, no better place for an ambush."
The Quiggle Runner was a native of Meridell, and had known the landscape like the back of his hand. But the terrible war machines of Darigan had torn and sullied the fields before him, rendering them almost unrecognisable. The broken remains, those that had been successfully disabled by the forces of King Skarl, were the only cover between his current position and his target. He snapped the compass shut.
"Here we go,"
He composed himself, and began to run, easily settling into a loping stride. The ground beneath was broken, as if the till had just run over the soil. His steps leapt over hefty stones, broken armour glinted amongst the earth beneath his feet. He headed to the nearest machine. It looked to be in almost working order, apart from the broken wheels barring the vehicle from movement. As he neared, he saw a Meridellian soldier emerge from inside. His chainmail looked grubby and smeared from battle, his helmet looked worn, but sturdy. The soldier, a Kacheek, waved him over.
"Are you the Quiggle Runner?" he queried, jumping down from the machine, sweaty palm extended.
"That's what they call me," said the Quiggle smartly shaking the proffered hand. "I hope you don't mind, but I've an urgent message to deliver."
"Of course, of course," the Kacheek admonished himself, "but before you dash off, just a couple words of advice. We've cleared most of these machines, but we've yet to completely disable them, so Darigan Troops may still be hanging around to salvage what they can. I'd advise caution when approaching. Just in case. "
"Thanks," said the Quiggle gratefully."Any intelligence is always helpful."
"Don't worry about it," said the Kacheek. "If you happen to see my brother en-route, please let him know I'm okay. He's with the Seventh and looks just like me. My names Cary by the way."
"Will do," the Runner replied, "Good luck."
"To you too. You'll need it in this dismal war."
The Kacheek hopped back inside, all was silence once more. The Quiggles heartbeat settled as his made his way along the great wheels of the machine. The dark shadow cast by the tracks kept him well hidden as he scanned the horizon ahead. The reinforcements of Kass' Army could be seen in the far distance, kicking up clouds of dust as they approached.
He had some time. It was the quiet before the storm, but there wasn't a moment to waste. He leapt forward and began to run again. The wind whipped his clothes as he struggled through the mire of dust and mud. It clung to his feet as he ran, slurring his motions and hindering his path. He struggled onwards, faltering less as his legs got used to the heavy pounding rhythm of his stride. The Runner kept his body as low to the ground as he could, less he be spotted amongst in the clear field. Luckily there was a low mist, keeping him from sight. His clothes helped as well, a muddy green, which blended in perfectly with the ground beneath his feet. He was getting closer to the river; he could feel it in his pores.
Suddenly the Quiggle tensed. He sensed movement nearby, the nearest cover, another War Machine, was just ahead. Keeping low, he broke his run, and crept towards the relative safety of the machine. This one was in a worse state, it looked as though it had been picked clean apart by the technicians of Meridell. There was a scraping noise inside. The Runner backed up to the machine slowly and pressed his ear to the cool metal on the outside.
"Look," the hoarse voice of a Eyrie Guard emanated from the inside, "I've got to gather these supplies as quick as I can, you just get yourself up onto the turret. If you see any curious Meridell troops. Well. You have a bow and a full quiver, do what needs to be done. We'll be here some time..."
"Yes, boss," squeaked another. More scraping sounds could be heard as the second body made their way up the innards of the machine. The Quiggle breathed out. This was problematic; the Runner needed to get the message delivered as quickly as possible, he would have to risk the arrows of the archer. Moreover, the troops of Darigan were approaching ever closer. It was nearly too late. He unbuckled his sandals, stepping out of them. They would only weigh him down during the final dash. He opened the satchel and clutched the scroll in his right hand. It felt safer there.
He sneaked around the side of the machine. He could see the trees lining the river, indicating the location of the awaiting Seventh Troop. He steadied his resolve and crouched down one last time, readying himself for the sprint.
"Why does it always have to have a dramatic end," wondered the Quiggle. "I can never seem to have an eventless courier delivery. I have to make this."
He sprang up, beginning his run, fleeing as quickly as he could towards the relative safety of the trees.
"Halt! Stop right there" cried the second voice from the War Machine. The Runner paid no heed to this; he felt an arrow thud into the ground just behind him. Not faltering for a second he continued running, the dust in the air whipped into his eyes, causing them to water. Another arrow flew past, close enough to hear. Close enough to concern. He felt his tunic rip as another arrow pierced it. The Runner didn't dare glance behind. The trees loomed ahead he was nearly there. He made one final leap, ending in a heap behind the shadow of tree.
He felt wary eyes and trained weapons upon him. Before him were a band of Meridellian troops, lying close to the earth. At the front was Jeran, the knight of Meridell, clutching his sword.
"A delivery for you, sir," managed the Quiggle blithely. "Fresh from the pen of Tactical Command himself."
"Well done, young runner," said the Knight, taking the scroll from the quivering hand of the Quiggle. "Right, men! Our Orders are here! CHARGE!!!"
There was a roaring as the Seventh Troop all rose as one, charging out of the cover of the river, towards the unsuspecting Darigan troops, who were soon overwhelmed. Without a single sword unsheathed, they surrendered. Cheers surrounded the Soldiers as they bound the Darigan forces securely leading them back across the field to Meridell Castle.
A Kacheek approached the Runner.
"Nice delivery, old chap." He grinned. The Kacheek looked just like Cary from earlier.
"Thanks." The Runner began to sway. "By the way, your brother says hello."
"Ahh, nice to hear he's still okay," replied the Kacheek. He further mused. "You know, I've never seen a swift Quiggle."
"You've never had an arrow in your back," was all the Quiggle managed before he collapsed with the exertion.