WARNING: Gore and poor fight scene. Heed my words when I say this chapter is not for children or those who have strong imagination but are afraid of blood and/or depictions of death and decapitation.
Year of Xibus, Century of Mal Amagoir
Disarm, hack, slash, laugh - that is all I ever did for as long as I can remember and presently, I will have to do it again. I grip the pommel of my sword, loosely planting my feet into a sticky river of red that seems to suck others in when they fall. Blood rushes to my ears, blocking all sounds except for a dull buzz that sounds very much like those flies lingering around fresh corpses. Speaking of dead bodies, the man I face at the moment has been screaming so aggressively that the veins in his neck seem to jump from beneath his skin. I can’t hear him over clashing shrieks and cries. When will he finally make a move?
We are at the heart of a battlefield, watched over by the disappointed sun who beats us with her rays. Sweat drips from my forehead and underarms, possibly creating a suitable environment for infections to fester. This is life as a warrior - suffering under heavy armour to serve a country that will not care whether we die or return as victors. My thumb rubs against smooth obsidian as I crouch in wait. Will he ever move?
Honey-coloured eyes stare at me through a golden helmet that closely resembles the face of an owl. These eyes, I’ve seen them many times before and I must admit they are always beautiful. Those eyes, full of hatred and burning with the passion to kill, betraying all plans to me. Around us, the same eyes move frantically to find missing comrades and opponents. Though, I think more of their boys should be watching their backs. In this world, we play dirty games in wars.
Honour has never existed during life and death situations so why wouldn’t my intelligent boys strike from behind? It gets the job done and we would rather mow down men rather than dance with them. However, the other team likes using their gleaming armour as much as possible so we play along. This battle is also the last battle for Cithen and I am sure of this because I am the general commanding Vales’ most elite militia. Why Emperor Utar sent ten thousand of my men to fight Krasea’s mere fifteen thousand, I have no clue.
Alas, while the brave lad in ravishing gold attempts to shake me with threats, I decide it is time to move so the show may go on. I only have to take a breath to appear behind him by using my infamous magic called Dark Blood Magic. Of course, this startles the soldier and as he turns to find me, I ram the blade of my beautiful inky sword into his side, breathing heavily. It is exactly like carving a squash except the mess is more bothersome. I enjoy smelling an ocean of blood and flesh but the thought of dragging armoured bodies and burning them - that drains my energy slightly.
Wide eyes lock with mine and while the man from Krasea feels his soul depart, he attempts to open his mouth. Two hands touch mine as if to make me pull my sword out of his body but I will only grin and move closer. I see another thing in his eyes...hope? The croak may have been a laugh but it will be his last. I duck to hear a blade sing above my head, then I watch a Krasean sword slice and something falls like a boulder. It's here, at my feet. I must say, I admire the clean cut made by the arm full of rippling muscles.
Blood sprays onto my face and what else can I do but lick the drops that touch my lips? I am done with the Krasean so I remove my sword and let the body fall, hearing a splash before more blood cake my calves. Ah, I should not have traded my boots with sandals. I scuttle from under the bright sword, looking up briefly to check time. The sun is still high in the sky so perhaps it is noon. It is too stuffy inside black armour and red clothes so while I strike the shocked man standing behind me, I lift my breastplate with a free hand. I’m the army's general. I cannot see why I absolutely need to wear something that will only hinder me.
Krasea’s soldier drops to his knees, allowing thick blood to coat his wheat-coloured gauntlets and drench white skirts. He grabs his friend’s body, moving to collect the expressive sphere just a bit away from where they are. Carefully, he takes his friend’s head with both hands and attempts to keep it in the place where it should be. He wails louder than a newborn, full of energy. Of course, his friend’s death prompts him to jump back to his feet. They are ironclad, digging into wet soil like a gardener’s shovel.
“You made me kill my friend!” Bloodshot eyes focus on me, barely. The man sporting a gash across his chest raises his arm, holding his weapon with both hands. What terrible form he has! I can see one push and he will go down, which happens right now. One of my boys has been backing up with his own opponent and jumps over mine as the fallen soldier’s comrade attempts to stab my boy after leaping into the air. “Wait!”
I wheeze when two pairs of eyes widen, oozing pure horror. I will spare some pity for these lads. If I were to die by my own men’s hands, I expect it to not be an accident but for Krasea’s hopeless fighters, it is always a misstep. How entertaining it is for me to watch the 'beheader' be ‘speared’ like a fish fallen victim to fishermen jabbing sharpened sticks into a ravine! I clap my brother’s heavily armoured back and send him back into the fray before he becomes impatient, beaming while he fights with grace.
The man who stabbed downward leaves his weapon embedded in his comrade’s back and his face contort, twisted by pain. He falls with the man but makes sure to hook his hands under the dying man’s arms. Grimacing, he sits on damp mud. Without hesitation, shaking arms wrap around a plated torso and while frantic hands remove armour, I erect a special barrier in case one of my boys spots them. I would like to see their last interaction. Both men are choking on tears as they remove each other’s protective shells.
I flick my nose and chuckle to myself, throwing my hand back to stab another Krasean man. At least this one learns that attacking from behind is acceptable in this battle. I hear a low grunt before the soldier’s body makes a splash. I wonder where I have struck him to make him go down so quickly but something more interesting unfolds before my eyes. The two men sitting in chaos, staring in shock at each other while touching each other’s bare chests and arms. The man sitting is cradling the one with a glowing blade peeking through his abdomen.
They both have the features of an average Krasean: chestnut brown hair streaked with strands of gold whenever the sun dances on their head, sharp jaws, thin lips, tan skin and thin eyebrows. I would have mistook them as brothers if it is not for the matching bands on their fingers that seem to be drawn to each other. Metal crashes against metal and no matter how much the men try to pull away, the rings are relentless. The Kreasens’ intentions are not to leave each other. That much I can see.
I accidentally step on a severed hand but am so fixated on the two men that I cock my head like a curious chicken. They are whispering to each other and as time wears on, their panic rises. I cannot guess who has longer to live and neither do they. The man who is uninjured starts to pull his sword from the other. The look in their eye is so different, what is it? It is a mix of complete trust, sorrow, regret and love. I cannot hear anything when the sitting man brushes his thumb across the prostrate man’s lips. Then, it all dawns on me like a splash of water on this scorching day.
Right at the heart of the battlefield that will seal Krasea’s future, a passionate kiss is shared between two Krasean men who fear departing from each other more than death. Krasea is not very open to these kinds of relationships so I can only imagine what those two had to overcome to find each other and wear those rings. It is a pity they are warriors for every man who uses a sword does not know whether he will exist the next day. The fear radiating from them empowers me as their last moments drag and their last breaths approach.
The man struck by his lover’s sword smiles into the kiss, gripping one arm until his partner’s skin turns as white as the clouds above us. A beam of light from the blue dome above illuminates their area but it vanishes as quickly as it came so I may be hallucinating from seeing red for the past eighty moons. Despite the large gash in his body, he tries to use as much energy he has left to reach for his sobbing partner’s face. He has hope in his eyes until they glaze over with the look of death.
Looking down, the other man attempts to reach for his significant other’s wrists with his only free hand - the one wielding a sword. He is too slow so as his partner’s body goes limp, his hands fall like a waterfall against a cliff. I saw that the dead man’s fingertips was a needle’s breadth away from touching the alive man’s chin. This missed opportunity sends the one left behind into a frozen state. Disbelief flashes across his face but the sword in his hand reminds him of a warrior’s reality.
He looks absolutely pathetic but of course, who can look dignified in this situation? Well, besides my army who will be the victor of this battle. I look up to see clouds slide over the sun, casting shade over the field outside of Krasea’s walls. Krasea, the capital of Cithen, our loving neighbour. No one could have foreseen this war after the seven thousand years of friendship between Vales and Cithen. It was only when my emperor’s kingdom spanned half of our world when Cithen decided to strike. Clearly, that was a senseless move.
The war is almost over so I sink my sword’s black blade into soil painted red. I watch the man in silence. He searches the field to find he may be the last Krasean left to defend the city before us. With two fingers, he closes his partner’s eyes while looking at all his opponent’s with a blaze that is harmless to us all. He pointed a finger at me and bellowed yet no word was said. The shout was the cry of a soldier who lost it all and knew of the end. Yet, something in his eyes say ‘Marik Valerius, what a wretched man you are’. Light brown hair that reaches his gleaming shoulders fall over his face, sticking to wet skin with the help of sweat and blood.
I clasp my hands together, excitement rising from the pits of my stomach, intoxicating me more than anything ever could. It is morally wrong to gloat at a time like this but alas, my moral compass has been broken ever since I was born. Some say no one is born evil but sometimes, I highly doubt I fit the narrative. Killing comes so easy to me. My sword is my biggest pride, an extension of my body. My job is to plunder, slaughter and conquer. My men do the same for money and prestige but I? I do it because of my instincts. I cannot imagine being anyone else but Vales’ leading general.
“Marik Valerius, I swear to my gods that the world will see you fall by the hands of someone you love. You will feel the same rage as parents whose children you stole, spouses whose partner was killed,” he chokes as energy ebbs from his body the longer his partner’s body weighed on his arms. He coughs, mortified to see his own blood splatter onto his dead partner’s neck. “You may have defeated us today. Go ahead, take our women and children. Go, kill our elderly and enslave our men. But I will promise you-”
He sweeps sticky hair from his eyes, staring straight at me with eyes without pupils, just a large hazel iris. I stumble backwards, shuddering when what I believe to be a nose brushes against my ankle. My loyal men cannot stand hearing the last Krasean insult and threaten me so they start circling around him like a pride of lions surrounding their next meal. That is, until one young kid is thrown off his feet upon contact with the barrier I set up. I raise a hand to stop them, not very interested in what the last warrior has to say but I let him speak.
“You will die by the hands of someone you hold dear. Our gods have sent someone with the greatest mission and our king still lives to get his revenge. He made sure the last man will deliver these promises to you. Marik Valerius, Elite Warriors of Vales, go to Eternal Damnation!” Ouch, that isn’t a nice thing to say before someone dies but what has been said has been said. As fast as lightning, the Krasean bends to kiss his lover once more and as soon as my barrier is lifted, my boys pounce. A pair of dull eyes stare at me while a smirk remains on his face.
Smiling at me? What a dimwit.