The Tragedy - A Short Story
I've been out in the freezing rain so long I can't feel my skin. I'm bleeding from a thousand wounds and gripping my sword tight. I can't see my enemies, but I can feel them stalking in the shadows, a thousand battle-hardened foes descending on me, a hundred laying dead by my blade already.
I pull myself inward and think of her eyes and suddenly it becomes crystal clear.
The first wave comes, I stand amidst a throng of enemies. I trade blows with my opponents while dodging silent arrows betrayed only by the glint of moonlight on their polished tips. I cut them down, my movements aren't calculated by the mind but driven by the heart. Cold, unblinking, instinct plots out every swing and every block until my foes fall dead around me. My breath hangs in the air, chest heaving, eyes fixed on more shadows as they move toward me on the battlefield.
I know the waves of enemies will take me under. I can only stand for so long.
I pull myself inward, and think of her.
A new cloud of enemies draws in around me, I hold them back, cutting down a few, holding back the others. But for each enemy I knock down, three stand up to replace him. And for every hundred strikes I make one of theirs hits home.
My arms are covered with gashes. Blood runs from a new cut on my cheek, the warmth lost on the icy surface of my skin. I feel nothing. No pain, no sadness, no fear, no mercy. My blade cuts through their armor like paper, and tears their flesh apart like leaves scattering before the wind. The ground around me is thick with blood, some mine, most theirs.
But I cannot allow the true odds to hit me, I cannot afford to think. I pull myself inward and think of the only thing that matters. Getting back to her.
The animal within me takes over, a mighty roar sends shivers through my enemies as they approach. I am not afraid. A massive opponent approaches me, he seems ten feet tall, shoulders broad. A beard hangs down to his chest, he is old. A necklace of skulls adorns his neck, he is a champion. He carries a broad battle axe with a head as wide as a normal man, he must be extremely strong. I have sized him up, he will not last long.
I close my eyes and grip my sword with both hands. I hear his feet shifting, hear the leather of his chin strap shifting, the bastard is smiling. I hear his fist as it swings toward me, arrogant fool, up my blade comes, the sharp tip plunges through his wrist catching his hand in mid-strike. Out my legs go to crush his feet, this gives me time to extract the blade. Out it comes, he's lifting his axe, but with one hand crippled he is slow. My sword pierces through his arm-pit under his lifted arms, one of the only places his torso was vulnerable. I hear the splashing of many feet across the watery blood soaked battle ground, his friends are already on the way.
They won't last long.
I open my eyes and watch the shadows racing toward me. I block a few blows, swords, hammers, a mace, all miss or are blocked. I retaliate. All my strikes hit hard. Those still coming toward me watch the bodies of their allies fall dead among at least a hundred others. But they, like their giant friend, are arrogant, and with hardly a moment's hesitation they race forward towards me, towards death.
Lightning splits the sky, for a moment blinding all on the battlefield, but I have no need for eyes. Another group of enemies falls to my blade. I nod silent thanks to Zeus as the next group descends upon me.
The archers have been moving closer, they have taken up positions in a few trees that dot the battlefield on every side. As I hold back my melee enemies I dodge arrows, some are too close for comfort. Just one arrow could end my life, one lapse of judgment. So I leave nothing to judgment, and everything to instinct. I sink within myself and regain my center and for a moment I can feel her heart beating. I will not be lost to her. I will not let the darkness swallow me up and steal me away from my only reason for breathing.
Breathing. I feel not breath. So cold.
My sword digs into another enemy, but I have no time to finish him, for dozens more are on the way with weapons drawn. So I throw him, I send him flying towards his friends, only to be impaled by their upraised swords and spears, finished on friendly blades. My foes hate me for it. I can feel their hatred with each breath. A sword comes in, it is deflected. An arrow soars, so close the sound seems deafening as it flies past.
A spear tip comes in, and more swords, and more arrows. I feel not. Soon enough they all lie dead, but as I dealt with my adversaries I let an arrow by. It had cut through the arm one of my own opponents but still had the momentum to plunge itself into my shoulder. The wound is deep. I can’t tell if it hurts but as I pull it from my flesh I fall to the bloody earth below and scream out in anger into the darkness. My muscles shake from the pain as I wretch the arrow out and tie a piece of cloth quickly over the wound. It will do. I have no time for weakness or wounds, already the archers are letting forth another volley. Already more dark forms lurk with blades all eager to pierce my heart.
I stand, pain sends tremors through my body, but I STAND. I think of her eyes, the soft deep light, like a sea of stars in an endless cosmos. I think of her, and I stand.
There is no fear within me as I continue to cut down my opponents. They think I am weak because it was my right shoulder that was hurt. Poor arrogant fools. A dozen more fall to my sword, then two dozen, then three. I begin to lose count, I have to move to a new patch of ground, the bodies are so thick it is impossible to get footing.
The horror my hands have wrought, the pain upon my foolish foes. What darkness must be in a man’s heart to fight and kill his brothers? And yet I did nothing to provoke this violence, I am defending myself against insurmountable odds. But as I cut the life from another enemy, and hear him cry out to his god, I wonder if even self defense can justify this. I think of her, will I be able to face her eyes if, WHEN, I see her again? Or will guilt crush my heart?
I cast out my doubts, they are slowing me down, my enemies are scoring more blows. Only scratches, but they are adding up.
The archers have out stayed their welcome, I race to the trees, their arrows increasing in frequency and fervor as I draw closer. Up into a tree I climb and tear the archer from his perch. He falls to the ground below but before he can draw his side-arm, a kris, I have dropped down onto him and my blade has found his heart.
There are others in this copse of trees, I can see arrows flying in only to pierce into the bark of the trees. I wait for a lull, their quivers must be empty. I close my eyes.
I hear the branches break, and the wet ground splash, as the archers, out of arrows, drop out of their trees to attempt surprise. They have sent a few other archers, splashing and making obvious sounds, running the opposite way, a distraction.
The damp ground beneath the trees has offered them the advantage, my ears can barely make out their footfalls through the forest. Under this tree the rain has stopped hitting me at full force, the feeling is returning to my skin, the pain is returning. I run.
I run out onto the plain, and draw the archers onto flooded ground. They charge now, their ruse failed, but from behind me I hear more soldiers. My skin grows icy again and against all odds I stand firm.
I turn and cut apart the archers, they are less skilled than their other brethren in the art of hand-to-hand combat. I spin, the other warriors are upon me in a flash, I get cut on my upper leg but to my enemy’s dismay I do not go down on one knee as he has predicted. Hell, I don’t even flinch. In my sword comes, to cut his throat from him. Spluttering and dying he falls to the ground. His companions don’t fare much better.
The arrow wound in my arm is joining my other wounds, its becoming numb, a new wave of adrenaline coursing through me helps steal my pain away. I pick up one of my fallen foe’s weapons, a flail, and practice some swings with my injured right arm. This will extend my range, if my injured arm is up to the challenge.
And it had better be, I count more than a hundred foes moving in, and likely more lurking in the shadows beyond my sight. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, almost an army. But I have the light in her eyes, the fire in her touch, the love in her voice. I have the blade of her words. I have armored myself with her love, and a flame that can never be extinguished drives me on like an irrepressible engine.
My thoughts turn back to the odds I face, perhaps if I cut a line through their ranks I can run. I cast the idea out. They would likely follow me all the way back home. Back to her. Standing, fighting, is the only way out. Either every enemy will lie dead at my feet and I will be free to return to her, or I shall die fighting. Fighting just so that I can get back to her, see her, and be at peace.
Peace has no place on this battle field.
Out flies my flail, the spiked ball at the end clangs against the plate armor of one of my foes, the kinetic energy hits him back, he staggers, his lungs search for air just before they meet the end of my sword cutting into him. I spin, my flail comes around and knocks the sword from the grasp of an enemy soldier, he runs at me as through to tackle me, but my sword cuts him aside. I lay another three dozen enemies at my feet and scream out into the eerie black, the thunder that crashes afterward seems to answer me.
Do these fools not know who they are dealing with? Three hundred enemies, perhaps more, lay dead at my hand, and yet they keep coming. What dark motivation grips their hearts, or have they given their allegiances so fully over to their leaders that they need only orders to follow? Automatons. Cogs in a gargantuan wheel of war. But now they stand against an army the likes of which they’ve never faced.
Another group moves in. I drop my flail, my right arm is too tired and the exertion has my wound bleeding again. My head feels dizzy, my mind is not getting the proper air, it’s a good thing my mind is not what is guiding me. Instinct leads me to another victory, nine foes, I landed thirteen strikes, and they land but one, a cut just below the knee. It’s not bad, but when paired with the dozens of other scratches and cuts…
The fire in her eyes ignites my courage. I race toward my enemies this time, toward their lines where at least fifty of them stand preparing to move in. At first they seem to be preparing, but as I draw closer, as I grow faster, many of them begin to scatter. I can hear their panic, their fear, as some of them turn and run. Others stay put. I hit their line, my sword slices through a few of them in the first few moments.
Initially it seems my move has paid off, enemies fall quickly, but slowly their number begins to build and surround me. Suddenly I find myself in a sea of foes. And what’s worse, the thunderous charge I made toward them has tired me. I find my reactions weaker, my attacks slower.
My blade staves off many of their attacks, it cuts into their flesh. But more and more blows of theirs are landing, more and more of my blood is running from an ever-growing amount of wounds.
Their blades are finding my flesh, I fear. For the first time, I fear.
I cry out,
But the gods are silent.
I cry out,
But no ally stands beside me in my fight.
I cry out,
But in the rain my tears are washed away without consequence.
I cry out,
I wrap myself in the thought of her as the blade reaches my heart. As my last frozen breath catches the light of the moon I think of her eyes and then, darkness takes me.