A to Z Challenge 2013

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Cutting A Swath

Peter tightened his grip on the haft, narrowed eyes scanning the open field for his adversary. Seeing nothing, he stepped carefully over the crumbling rock wall, his footing as unsure as his belief that the path forward was safe. He examined the ground ahead, looking for clear signs but finding mass chaos instead. The pale wild grass had been stomped down in all directions, both from cavalry as well as foot soldiers, and he could not make out a distinct track to follow. Peter knew there was still a foe here however, because they had fought just a while ago and he had wounded the man.

To his right, he could hear a soft groan - a fellow soldier lying somewhere nearby. Moving quietly, he made his way over to the poor soul, his eyes still scanning in all directions. The soldier's short blonde hair was matted on one side with fresh blood, the head wound oozing slightly. A battered helm lay a few feet away, sporting a deep dent from an unlucky hit by a maul. Peter glanced down, crouching a bit lower to examine the man. He knew him well - this was his brother-in-law Tomas.

Turning fully, Peter leaned down and whispered for Tomas to be quiet. The man didn't acknowledge his words however, his eyes closed in pain. There was an additional wound Peter could see below his rib cage, a long slice that cut through mail, cloth, and the whitening skin beneath. Without immediate aid, Tomas would die. Peter knew that, knew it in his soul. He also knew there was no help to be had. His sister's husband would not be returning today, nor any day after.

Suddenly from behind him, a savage bestial roar erupted. Peter whirled, jumping back quickly to avoid the axe blow aimed to cleave him in two. The massive blade struck the ground between Tomas' outstretched legs instead, missing both men by inches. Peter began to circle to the right, intending to lead his foe away from Tomas; the enemy too often killed the wounded on sight out of disgust apparently.

Sizing his opponent up, he could see the man towered over him by at least a foot. This beastman was a mass of battle scars, his biceps bulging as he ripped the axe free and hefted it once more. His limp was more pronounced now - a lucky stab Peter had managed to get in before retreating. Peter was no coward, but this foe was a monster. He'd needed to regroup, and he knew the bastard would chase him down eventually. The thirst for battle this beast's kind shared was unquenchable, which left only one alternative; Peter would have to kill him, even if it meant doing so piece by piece.

He assumed his usual battle stance, muscles tense but relaxed at the same time. His sword was held low, the point inches from the ground out in front of him. With a grunt, the beastman began to limp in his direction, ignoring the wounded Tomas for a moment. Peter counted silently, watching the man's stride and timing his strike. In a rush, the limp became a charge as the man swung the axe for his head. Peter ducked quickly, the stroke brushing past his close-cropped hair, and his sword found its mark in the brute's right side.

A scream of fury and pain erupted from the warrior as he lurched backward, pulling himself off the slim blade. He stood unsteadily on his feet however, gathering what strength remained.

"Die, you god-forsaken demon!", Peter yelled viciously. He stood back once more, waiting for the charge and yet wondering how the man could remain upright. Only hellspawn could possibly survive this long. Judging the moment to be right, he feinted to the right and danced to his left. His blade moved like a hornet, stinging deeply into the brute's uncovered neck. A bright torrent began to flow, and finally the invader fell forward to slam heavily on the muddy earth.

Without making sure he was dead, Peter rushed back to Tomas' side, praying that there was a possibility of saving him somehow. Tomas lay there gasping and gurgling, blood flowing freely from the wound in his side. After a short moment, Peter stood regretfully and closed his eyes.

"Save a place for me brother", he breathed as he plunged his blade into the man's heart. A tear slid down his cheek slowly, followed by a twin on the other side. He gazed out over the battlefield, not really seeing the dead lying haphazardly here and there. All he could see was his sister's careworn face, and with a muffled sob, he lowered to one knee to pray.

"God forgive me, and grant me the grace to help her live without your servant Tomas." It was long moments before he finally stood, sheathing his sword quietly as he started for home.

This was actually supposed to be a post about me cutting out 10K words from my WIP, but as with all my writing, it took on a life of its own. I had to cut a bunch from my WIP, because I had an epiphany. I had been searching and trying to craft an antagonist for my story, trying to create an external force for my MC to overcome. What I realized however - mostly because I can be blind sometimes - is that she already had her own personal antagonist to overcome. She has all the personal demons that put her in the position she is in, and this was really the story I wanted to tell in the first place. I'm glad I figured this out, and now I can begin anew telling that aspect of her story. I hope you enjoyed this meandering anyway though.

1 comment:

ElanaJ said...

Isn't it funny how blind we are sometimes? Thanks for sharing! :)