Written by Addie Barnett
Art by Alex Konstad
The Soldiers of the Sun are a legendary battalion. Stories talk of beings clothed in shining armour of gold, their stallions neighing softly…but they do not have any heads. There are rumours that the Soldiers ride in the company of golden giants wielding swords that can touch the sky. The Soldiers of the Sun were immortal, said to have delivered the land from ghouls that would feast on every creature brave enough to step out into the sun. Their only weakness – gold. That’s why everything the soldier’s carried, from their weapons to their gear, and even their headless horses, were made of gold.
Or at least that’s what my grandfather told me.
I swore under my breath when the giant leaned over me, its pointed helmet so close I could almost touch it. They weren’t real. They couldn’t be real. My grandfather had been speaking of them for years, but I had dismissed every story as the fantastical tales of a wandering mind.
After all, there were days when he barely remembered my name.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck.” I grabbed the horn with trembling hands, looking at the village behind me.
There was no way the farmers hadn’t seen the giant soldiers making their way towards them, but it was my duty to alert them against any possible threat. I pressed the horn to my lips, but didn’t get to blow. A golden soldier dropped from the sky, landing beside me with a soft thud. My breath froze inside my chest. His armor clinked softly as he moved to grab my horn. He pressed an armored finger to the place his lips would have been, had they not been hidden behind his crested helmet.
I dropped to my knees in front of him. “Please.” Tears streamed down my cheeks. “Please don’t kill us. We did nothing wrong.”
Except for the fact that the farmers were skimming on the taxes, but that was hardly a crime that would have beckoned a legendary battalion to come. I shook my head, taking my thoughts off all the tiny transgressions that had accumulated over the years.
“We’re not here to impart judgement.”
My head swiveled up so fast, the back of my neck crunched.
He shook his head and grabbed my arm, pulling me up.
“Then why are you here?”
“We have been made aware one of our own is in your midst.”
I stared at him, unsure if I had heard him correctly. “That’s impossible.”
The soldier crossed his arms on his broad chest. The gold chafed with his very movement, reminding me that I had no armour of myself. He could cut me down at any moment if he wanted to.
“His name is Ygor.”
“Ygor?” I scratched the back of my neck, thinking of all the people in the village and comparing them against him.
There was no way any of them were a legendary warrior in hiding.
“I have no idea who you’re talking about.”
The soldier shifted from one foot or the other; even without seeing the eyes, I could feel the weight of his gaze.
“Do not lie to me, human. I know he is here.”
I gaped at him. “I am not lying to you-”
“Bertan. You may call me Bertan.”
“I am not lying to you, Bertan.”
The soldier unsheathed a dagger and placed it in my hands. “This belonged to him. He was my captain, but was wounded badly in the last fight; the war against the ghouls.”
Ghouls? He couldn’t not be-
I started. Of course he could be.
“He might be using another name.” Bertan tapped the hilt of the blade.
Letters formed underneath his touch, but I couldn’t recognize the alphabet.
“It’s our language – you cannot read it. But this,” Bertan pointed to one of the words, “is the name he is hiding under. It means gold.”
“How do you read it?” I asked, my blood stilling in my veins.
I already knew the answer. How could I not?
Grandpa Vos had told me all about his friends.
But it couldn’t be.
He was crazy.
That’s what every doctor who had seen my grandpa had said. Lost his mind, he has. No hope for him.
“You know him?” Bertan asked, sensing my hesitation.
I nodded. “He’s my grandfather.”