DargonZine 8, Issue 1

The Evening After …

Yule 22, 1014


Three times today I should have died.

 

I owe my life to three different men. Well, actually two, since the third is dead.

 

Tired. I’m tired and I want to sleep. I can’t.

 

There’s no real memory of the battle. There are pictures in my head, but they all run together like the blood in the rain.

 

I killed my first opponent today.

 

He screamed as he fell to the ground. There he sobbed once, gasped, and died.

 

There is no honor in killing. There is no honor in dying. Honor exists for its own sake.

 

I try to roll over, but my body refuses.

 

I got my first wounds today. Bruises on my legs and sides, a nasty gash across my shoulder, and a lump on my head.

 

I hurt.

 

Three times today I should have died.

 

Apart from those who stood, and fell, before me, I remember Sir Luthias and Michiya . Like two demonic reapers in the devil’s own field, they swung and chopped and cut, harvesting a macabre crop of souls to be sent back to wherever those souls came from.

 

Why can’t I fall asleep?

 

Sir Luthias saved me by knocking me to the ground while simultaneously parrying the swing that would have separated my head from my shoulders.

 

***

 

The mud was already salty with blood. It splashed into my face as I fell, and when I cleared it from my eyes and spat it from my mouth, my assailant was dead on the ground and Sir Luthias was already on to his next combat.

 

My shoulder hurts; the deep, throbbing pain of a joint begging for rest.

 

I fought beside Sir Luthias.

 

They didn’t seem to know how to counter one of the tricks that Sir Luthias taught me. Again and again I used it. Swing, counter, swing, twist, thrust; and my sword would bite a shoulder or a neck. Once, my sword caught as a man went down. As I reached for it, another man stepped in and swung. I dodged, but I was open for his next strike. Michiya , without changing his rhythm, caught my opponent with a backhand slash to the head, then continued to fight his own battle. The dead man almost landed on me as he fell…

 

Never have I heard so much pain. Screaming. Moaning. Sobbing. There was a constant sound. It was the sound of the dying. I never knew death had a voice.

 

During a lull, Sir Luthias complimented my ability and “tenacity”, a word which I had him explain. I didn’t tell him that I was afraid; that I fought for my life. He already knew.

 

I just want to sleep. I try to roll over again.

 

It is the eyes, most of all, that I see when I close my own. The sightless, fixed stare of the dead. My mistake was to look into those eyes. Just once. I saw death’s face.

 

There is no honor in killing.

 

I was struck in the shoulder by a man that I didn’t see. I fell, my sword falling from my fingers as my arm screamed out in pain. I tried to crawl back from the fighting, but he came at me, a terrible smile spreading across his face. A man from the company that I had traveled with stepped between us and swung. I rose from the mud and tried once again take up my sword. My arm screamed again, so I switched hands. The man who saved me fell. His killer moved on to another fight, perhaps forgetting me. I looked at my shoulder, and saw the blood pouring forth. I turned from the fighting to find a healer.

 

My head throbs to a slower rhythm now, but it still throbs. It throbs with every beat of my heart. It throbs because I still live. For that, I am grateful. Still, I wish I could sleep.

 

There is no honor in dying.

 

I tripped over a body while running back to the line. The Beinison man lived, but his pain…

 

“Kill me.” he cried. “Please, I beg you.”

 

I shook my head. I showed him the sign for healer, then turned to run and find one.

 

He cursed me. “I am defeated!” he cried. “To live with defeat is worse than death. I will NOT live in dishonor!”

 

I fetched the healers, but he was dead when we returned.

 

The eyes. Those cursed eyes. How can I sleep when every time I close my eyes I see theirs.

 

Honor exists for its own sake.

 

***

 

The tent flap moved and Sir Luthias entered, followed by Michiya and a man in dirty white robes who I thought was a healer. Luthias looked at me and asked “How are you doing?”

 

*I* *Live* I manage to keep my injured arm quiet.

 

He nodded. “You will fight again.”

 

*Fight* *Yes* *Sleep* *No.*

 

Again, he nodded. I think that he understood. The healer moved to me and handed me a small bottle. “Drink this.”

 

I did, and almost instantly felt my eyes begin to close, as if they were too heavy to hold open.

 

*Question* *I* *Dream.*

 

Sir Luthias’ voice sounded distant and vaguely sorrowful.

 

“I hope not.”

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