Krohl Bankunk’s knees ached with every step he took up the stairs that led to the top of the watchtower. The air still held a crispness of the fading winter. Frost still formed on the stairs but easily gave way under the weight of Krohl’s footsteps. Today marked his fifteenth year of ascending and descending the 100 foot spiral staircase set in the middle of the tower.
Most days he climbed the hundred feet without the help of the handrail, but today was not one of those days. Too much ale and too little sleep made the last 10 feet of the climb seem like 100. Despite the chill, beads of sweat formed on his forehead as he completed his arduous trek to the top of the watchtower.
He took a brief pause to catch his breath once he had reached the landing that led to the door of the lookout balcony. With his left hand he removed his slightly dented metal bowl-like helmet and wiped the sweat from his forehead with the right sleeve of his faded green shirt. He took the leather necklace from around his neck and set his helmet back on his head.
He walked to the door. Before he opened it, he carefully looked through the peepholes on either side of the door and the one in the middle of the door. Seeing no one ready to charge in, he unlocked the door with the iron key that dangled from his necklace.
When Krohl heard the loud clanking noise made by the lock, he pulled the eight-foot-tall, four-foot-wide and six-inch-thick wooden door open. As soon as the door was opened wide enough, he pushed it wide open. He kicked the door stop wedge in to place and relaxed his already tiring muscles.
Krohl stood in the doorway and took in a deep breath. As he exhaled, his body gave a slight shiver.
“That’ll clear out the cob webs,” he said out loud to himself.
Krohl opened the tinder box that sat just to the right of the door opening and pulled out a handful of twigs and leaves. He placed the tinder in the belly of the black metal stove that stood to the left of the doorway. He took his striker box out of his well-worn tan leather vest pocket and struck sparks into the stove until the tinder started to flame. He lifted the flat lid off the stove and put two precisely cut pieces of wood into the flaming tinder. It wasn’t long until the tinder had the desired effect on the dried wood.
Krohl left the stove’s lid lid off and the door open to shed some light across the balcony. He walked across the balcony and unlocked the wooden box that held a large spyglass. He let out an audible grunt as he lifted the spyglass and placed it in its cradle on top of the balcony’s chest- high wall. He would leave the lens caps on until the first light. He walked back to the stove and closed the door and placed the flat lid into its place.
Krohl took the pan that hung on the wall next to the stove off its hook and placed it on the quickly warming lid. The water from his canteen hissed as it hit the hot pan. He filled it halfway and when the water started to boil he took a small cloth bag filled with crushed Macca bean power out of another vest pocket and placed it into the bubbling fluid.
Krohl turned his attention towards the sea. He watched as the night reluctantly gave way to the dawn. He inhaled deeply taking in the crispness of the air filled with the aroma of his brew. He stood in silence letting all of his senses enjoy his favorite time of the day. Krohl let out a satisfied sigh then turned his attention back to his bubbling brew.
He filled his earthenware cup full of the coffee-like drink and took a careful sip.
“Wow,” he said shaking his head after he swallowed the strong brew. “This’ll make a dead man walk.” He took another sip then placed the cup on the ledge of the balcony wall.
Krohl carefully took the lens caps off both ends of the spyglass and put them on a shelf under its base. He took a soft blue cloth off the shelf and meticulously cleaned the lenses. He picked up his cup, let out a satisfied sigh and waited for the sunrise.
* * *
Krohl’s meditation was interrupted by a voice below him.
“Yo to the tower,” it was his younger brother by four years, Restlin. “You awake up there old man?”
Krohl leaned over the wall. “Oh look, it’s a talking horse,” he said in an irritated tone. “Oh my mistake, it’s just the horse’s ass talking.”
Both men laughed.
“Is the mud brewing?” Restlin yelled up to Krohl.
“Hot and strong,” Krohl yelled back.
“I’ll be up.”
“I’ll be here.”
The sun was crowning the horizon when Restlin entered the door. He poured himself a cup.
“Wow,” he exclaimed. “This could wake a dead man from his grave.”
Krohl chuckled as he peered through the spyglass.
“Yes, it’s a little-what the -“
“What my brother,” Restlin said.
“They’re back,” Krohl yelled.
“The Danions, they’re back,” Krohl yelled.
“That’s impossible,” Restlin said.
“It’s them.” Krohl said exclaimed not moving his eye from the spyglass. “Get to the king NOW and I’ll ring the damn bell.”
Restlin through down his cup and ran down the stairs.
Krohl ran to the warning bell and pulled the cord as hard and fast as he could. His heart pounded twice its normal beat. What he saw through the spyglass was not supposed to be. Danion ships were in the harbor.
The Danions were back.
His mind spun as he tried to put the facts together. The war last year was the “War to end shore life on our Island.”
Krohl pulled the cord hard in disbelief and the bell rang loud. He still carried scars from the last war.
The Danions were wiped out. Krohl thought. It was ugly as a war could be, no humanity, just kill or be killed. Scars on the mind no person could understand unless they were there. He pulled as hard as his arms would allow. Sweat crept into his eyes. Harder and harder he pulled as dread filled his heart.
He ran back to the spyglass. His mind was steeped in disbelief as he peered out at the ships in the harbor. The pains in his hands returned at the thought of last year’s battles and of those to come. Images of Danion bodies strewn everywhere on the battlefield flashed into his head and the evil smiles of the yellow capped infantry became hauntingly clear again. The carnage brought on by the white helmeted archers as they fired sky darkening amounts of arrows towards the shoreline brought a chill to his spine. His stomach churned acid at the thought of smelling their milky white blood again. Krohl had hoped never to see such battles, to hear the cries and moans of battle and to raise his sword in anger again. He stepped away from the spyglass and sighed.
And that’s how my war with the dandelions started this spring.