Not even death
Rough draft and incomplete, feel free to leave me comments/suggestions. Hope you enjoy what I have so far
You would have thought the sky was on fire with the shades of orange and red that flashed as far as the eye could see. Clouds streaked the sky canvas, painting the heavens with dazzling shapes and colors. A brilliant sight to anyone, save the two young lovers. They stood on the sandy beach, hopelessly lost in their own world.
The man brushed the hair back from her face, stroking her cheek. Kissing her forehead, he pulled her closer. She smiled, burrowing into his chest. He squeezed tightly, feeling her crush into him, as if trying to make them one being. He exhaled deeply, leaned in, and whispered, “I’ve missed you, my love.”
The soldier flipped up the Visor on his helmet. Sweat dripped down his brow, stinging his eyes. He wiped them with his red and yellow surcoat. Dirty though it was, the stinging subsided. He looked up at the battlements, the blue flour de leis banners still rippled in the wind. French archers sent volleys of arrows down at the English invaders who scurried up ladders. Smoke still wafted from the failed siege ram, set alight by the boiling pitch. A foothold had yet to be won on any portion of the walls, a testament to the resolve of it’s defenders. He slid the whet stone down the head of his hand ax, as much for the sharpness as to keep his mind busy. The mind has a way of fighting battles before the real ones even begin. He studied the edge, confident in it’s edge, he slid it into his belt loop.
A distant horn sounded. The men around him gathered up their weapons, falling into formation. He sighed, “Just one more charge”. Flipping his visor down, the soldier drew his sword, pointing at the walls “Give me glory or give me death!” Battle cries and roars erupted around him, his men buzzing, they marched.
They held their shields high, forming a turtle shell as the arrows rained down on them. A few of the men went down, screams echoing around him, some arrows finding their mark. He finally reached a ladder and turned toward his men. “See you at the top”. He laughed at his own joke. Shield held above his head, sure footed and nimble, he climbed the rung . Nearing the top, he slowed, almost bumping into the man in front of him. Suddenly, the man in front of him screamed, a spear jutting out of his back. He pitched backwards, falling towards him. The soldier swung himself off the side of the ladder, holding on with one hand as the man plummeted down the tall ladder, knocking off others before crashing to the earth. He recovered his position, shield held high and determined, he continued his climb. At the top of ladder now, he drew a hand ax from his belt. A defender loomed in front of him, spear outstretched. The man thrust the spear toward him, narrowly missing as he swayed his head to the side. The soldier grabbed the haft of the spear, pulling the spearman closer. He thrust his head forward into the crown of his foes unprotected head, sending a crimson spray of blood as the mans nose shattered. Dropping the spear, he vaulted over the parapet and onto the wall. He raised his shield, charging the spearman into the wall. A sickening crack sounded as they hit the wall. The spearman slid to the ground, his skull leaving a trail of blood on the wall.
The soldier dropped his shield and drew his sword. Joined now by some of his comrades that had found purchase on the wall, he saw their chance. Caution to the wind, he rushed into the fray, sword and ax cleaving into flesh and bone, felling men all around him. He was in a berserkers rage, battle lust pushing all thoughts of pain and fatigue aside. Head tilted back and arms spread wide, he roared. ” to the death!” and charged into the defenders with his comrades at his side. The defense was faltering, they were losing ground now. The effect the soldier had on his enemies and his men had turned the tide. His ferocity only increased as men streamed up the ladders now, unimpeded by defenders.
He was barely aware of his surroundings, cutting and stabbing with both hands, sending men to their ruin. A sword ripped into his side, breaking through the chain-mail. Pain enveloped him but was quickly replaced by rage as he launched a riposte into the attackers face, his sword going through the mans mouth and out of his neck. He hurled his hand ax into a bowman who was notching an arrow. The bowman fell like a sack, not knowing what hit him.
The castle walls had been won, the remaining defenders retreated back into the keep, barring the doors. It would take some time to clear them out, but for now, the men lay down their arms for a moment of respite.
The soldier sat slumped against the wall, exhausted beyond belief. Bloodlust had warn off and he was keenly aware of his body now. His arms ached from the many blows thrown, jarred on metal and flesh. Blood seeped out of a score of wounds, the gash on his side bled profusely. His helmet had long been discarded, lost at some point in the battle to an errant mace blow. Lifting a water flask to his lips, he sipped the water,reflecting on the day. A hooded field aid wandered up to him and began dressing his wounds. He winced as the aids cloth dabbed at his wounds. “Hold still now warrior, this will only hurt a little longer.” He presses a cloth to his side, it stung. “The men are speaking of your valor, sir…they say you won the battle single handedly”. He smiled at this, shaking his head “Relax, close your eyes… rest…You’ve earned it”. Said the aid. The soldier stared off. He thought of her, that last night, weeks ago. He wished she were here, if only for a moment. His eyes closed.
“I don’t want you to go”! She yelled. He stared at her, long blonde hair cascaded down her back. Sheer as it was, her night gown left little to the imagination.Even with her features locked in an angry scowl, she was beautiful. Her full lips kept moving, but the soldier just stared at her, the words lost to him in his revery. Suddenly he held his hand up. “Enough… Tonight I want to forget ourselves…I want to be lost with you, let tomorrow worry about itself…This night, this moment.” Her shoulders slumped, exhaling. Smiling at her He held her cheek, kissing her full lips. He swooped her into his arms effortlessly, and carried her to the bedside. “Wait. I want you to promise me that you’ll come back to me. I need you, the thought of losing you, I couldn’t bare it. Say it, say that you will come back.” She said. “Nothing on this earth can keep me from you. I will return to you, my love. Not even death and certainly not the French could keep us apart.” She smiled. They fell onto the satin sheets, lost to the world as their bodies joined.
“A messenger for you milady!” Rushing down the steps, she could barely contain her joy. News from the last battle had reached them, the English army had overwhelmed the French defenders and they had taken the castle. She had been waiting every day since for word of his return. Reaching the doorway, she stopped. “Milady” said the grim faced messenger, bowing. Snatching the scroll from his hands, she broke the wax seal and unraveled it. Quickly scanning the parchment, her hand raised to her mouth. The paper fell to the floor. She bolted up the stairs, tears streaming from her face. Her door slammed, echoing down the stone hallway. She threw herself onto the bed, burying her face into a pillow.
Later in the evening, candles flickered in the room. Her face was pale and drawn with a grim expression. She had stopped crying, resolve had set in. Taking a quill from the desk, she dipped it into the ink well and hastily scrawled an apology onto the parchment. Setting the quill down, she walked to the window, opening the latch. Pushing them open, she stepped onto the ledge, looking down at the crashing waves below. The height was dizzying, she swooned. Steadying herself, she caught her breath, and closed her eyes. “Not even death” she whispered.
A thick haze covered the great road. He could barely see a few feet in front of him as he was guided by the small figure in front of him.
The little boy held the soldiers hand, though there were no distinguishable landmarks, he seemed to know exactly where to go. It wasn’t long before they came to a massive wooden hall. The soldier had never seen the like, it was bigger even than the great cathedral at Canterbury. Using his wooden sword, the boy rapped on the massive oaken doors and shouted “Værge,åbent! The doors swung open, allowing entry. They walked through entrance and into the hall.
The room was packed. Various drink filled the mugs of the gathered warriors. A samurai touched his small ornate cup to the foaming mugs of a giant man wearing a horned helmet and another bearded warrior wearing a conical helm.”Kanpai! Skål! Za zdorovje!” All around the hall similar scenes played out; feasting, drinking, arm wrestling, knife throwing, wrestling, all forms of manhood being tested.
Looking down at the small boy he asked “What is this place?” The boy spread his arms wide and replied “Its Valhalla! Resting place of the honored dead. Come, let us get you something to fill your belly and spirits to fill your cup.” He motioned toward the stacks of barrels containing ale and wine and the tables overflowing with all sorts of roast game. Flustered, he shook his head. “No. Where is she? Take me to my love.” He said. The boy shifted nervously, “But sir, she is in another place. This is a hall for the greatest heroes, only the noblest of warriors belong here. There is no better place for a man to rest.” Said the boy. “Valhalla be damned!” Roared the man. “There is no rest without her, we belong together!” Turning towards the door, he rushed towards it. “I will not stay another moment in this God forsaken place!” Warriors all around glanced up, interrupted from their revery. A moment passed and they quickly resumed their feasting and drinking. The boy was crestfallen as the soldier stormed out of the mead hall, slamming the great oaken doors as he left.
The lady shuffled along the misty road with the others. She had no recollection of how she had gotten there, but she was compelled to follow. One foot followed the other, methodically onward, destination unknown. Curious. She couldn’t hear the sound of her own footsteps.
His opponent was good, his strikes fast and precise. They parried back and forth, the swords clanging together loudly. He ducked under a wide sweeping strike, his hair rustled as the blow passed, narrowly missing. Recovering quickly, he thrust his sword forward, his opponents eyes widening as he leapt backwards. Both breathing heavily, he smiled, and switched his sword to the other hand. His opponent visibly shaken by the turn of events, he pressed the attack now, his strong arm prodding, jabbing for an opening. He lifted his knee as if to kick, drawing his opponents eyes towards his feet while his sword arm swung in a mighty sweep. The blow connected with the side of the wooden dummy, ending the “duel”.
Sheathing the wooden sword into his belt, he ran back into the house. His father was sitting at the table, whittling a piece of wood. “What are you making pop”? He asked. “I’m finished, here, it’s yours”. He held out the small wooden figure of a knight, sword and shield in hand. The boy grabbed it, hugging his father tightly. “Thanks, pop! I love it”. A moment passed as he stared at it in wonder. He thought for a moment.”Pop, do you think mom sees me from heaven? I miss her, I her to see me become a knight.” His father looked away. “I don’t know, son”. It had been a month since the plague had taken her. His father had been grief stricken, staring into the distance and saying very little to anyone. He had lost so much weight, his skin sunken on his face. Not knowing what to do, he walked into his room. He set the wooden knight on his bedside table, next to the other carvings of soldiers and knights. He lay down on his bed, rolling to his side. He reached behind him feeling for the lump that had steadily gotten bigger in the last few days. It ached dully, but he brushed the thought away. The sound of his mothers melodious laughter echoed in his mind. He missed her. Closing his eyes, he quickly fell asleep.
He was completely lost. After leaving the hall, anger drove him mindlessly onward. The problem was, everything looked the same on the road. The perpetual mist made seeing just a few feet in front of him difficult.
*The more I do in life the less bothered I am with dying. I think that those that grow old and look back with regret have a hard time coming to terms with it. Others that jumped at every opportunity and really lived life to the fullest seem to find a certain peace that I envy. Here’s hoping to finding the road less traveled and answering the door when opportunity knocks. To the death!