If sleep took him now, he was doomed.
Gort stirred in his seat. For a moment his body protested against the movement, but eventually gave enough ground for his senses to awaken. The clamour of the force headquarters came into focus, conversations battling with the sharp retorts of steel on steel and the smell of stew and ale. Comforts all, indulgences that Gort had found himself leaning on whenever he was guarding the place instead of fighting on the battlefield. Which was most of the time these days.
The old dwarf rose to his feet and stretched, the crack of his bones slicing through the warm, muggy air. Gort grunted. He should probably pay one of the healers a visit at some point—that Gong fellow, maybe. The younger ones worried about him too much, forcing him into promises of taking it easy. Gort would almost consider keeping those promises if their pleading wasn’t at odds with the veneration they showed him and his past glories. What was the point with being considered a legend while you were still breathing? Gort wasn’t dead yet—his body might have to pay a greater toll to the healers each time he visited, but at least he returned from their care. Plenty didn’t.
His hand reached for the axe resting against the table. The weight of it was reassuring, as were the cracks and grooves in the shaft. Gort gripped it tighter, feeling those grooves nestle into the ones in his hands. It was the only healer he needed right now.
Stepping out of the low light of the dining hall, Gort drifted like a ghost towards the sound of combat. It was an illusion of course; even before he arrived at the training hall Gort knew that. Luke and Ken were the only occupants, and their duel was fought with smiles and quips as much as blades. Gort felt something heavy and cold settle on his chest as he watched them. The dwarf and centaur were darting and parrying with a speed blessed by youth, but their technique was sloppy and wanting; even from a minute’s observation Gort had identified ten, maybe fifteen openings either of them could have exploited—and which would be exploited by an opponent who didn’t smile or quip.
The chill crept along his veins. They both had so much to learn, yet they treated what time they had to learn it with so lightly. Wasting their youth. Gort narrowed his eyes. These days they felt like the only parts of his body that listened. They too had been stripped of their sharpness, but at least compensated Gort in being able to read combat—to allow him to see all the permutations and outcomes before they happened.
The Gods were malicious though—what was the point in seeing if the rest of him was too slow to take advantage?
“Hey, Gort! Are you looking to spar too?”
The old dwarf blinked. Ken was watching him, the spear draped casually across his shoulders. The centaur’s eyes were practically sparkling with admiration. Gort wasn’t sure what annoyed him more.
“Aye, ‘course he is. Ol’ Gort didn’t lead the Band of Warriors without havin’ to train like a devil every day, ain’t that right, Gort?”
Gort turned to Luke and stared at him for what felt like a lifetime. Even his younger kith lacked wisdom it seemed. Luke’s eyes were filled with the same admiration, his brow soaked from his exertions. Despite his anger, the sight made Gort’s axe feel heavier.
“Aye,” he replied at last, hefting the weapon up to his shoulder. “Reckon I’ve got a moment or two to put you youngsters in your places.”
Luke laughed, tossing Gort one of the wooden guards used for training. “You just wait,” he said to Ken. “You’ll never learn like you do when trainin’ with ol’ Gort.”
Gort looked at the wooden guard, then dropped it to the dirt floor. “Lesson one,” he growled. “Fear the blade.”
He wasn’t stupid, he knew when the Gods were trying to cut him a deal. As they spirited away his vigor, they gave him wisdom. He couldn’t fight, but he could teach.
He took a breath, his muscles straining to keep his axe from betraying him.
Gort didn’t want to teach. He wanted to fight.
Gort is a character in Shining Force. A dwarf warrior, veteran of countless battles, he is somewhat reluctant to join the Force to begin with, preferring to drink away the memories of war. Nevertheless, he begins to find value in fighting for a cause again.
I branched a little further down that path, having Gort grow concerned and frustrated at losing the one ability he has to make a difference.