For the Terribleminds Song Shuffle Part II, Winamp suggested a song by Nigel Godrich from the score to Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.
Sweat had suctioned the cloth of his underclothes to his skin. The plates and rings of metal that composed his armor felt especially heavy. He leaned on his sword, shield dangling from the strap around his forearm, trying to catch his breath. He lifted his eyes and then, after a moment, the visor of his helm.
The field was covered in bodies. Rivers of red ran between them into the ground between the rises where the armies had gathered. Banners still whipped in the wind at the end of pikes here and there, but lines and order had long been forgotten. Once the melee had begun, there had been no more questions on why they were here or what they were fighting for. There was only blood and terror and survival.
He looked down at his shield. The heraldry of his family was clear despite the spatters of gore and the massive dent. He had ridden in with the cavalry, heavy horse meant to cut off retreats and trample down the enemy numbers. It was butcher’s work, his axe rising and falling until it stuck in some pikeman’s head. The warhammer that unsaddled him belonged to an old rival, a large man whose beard extended beyond the helm he wore. The challenge required no words. The rival had waited, hammer at the ready, until the knight was on his feet with sword in hand.
Are you satisfied now? Is honor satisfied? What place did our arguments have in this field of death?
He moved his eyes from his shield to his sword. It was still in the chest of his rival, a long gash left through tabard, hauberk, skin, and muscle. He didn’t need to remove the man’s helmet to know he was dead. He was already laying in his own piss and shit. The quivering had stopped. Questions of the knight’s worthiness, his honor, no longer mattered, with this tongue at the end of his blade stilled forever.
Around him, compatriots picked their way through the corpses, looking for comrades, looting enemies, and putting the mortally wounded out of their misery. The stink of it made him want to gag. He tore his eyes from the carnage to find his horse, not far away, stepping carefully between bodies as she made her way back to him. The mare had seen battle before and was unruffled by the sight of so much death. He couldn’t have asked for a more loyal companion.
He grunted as he pulled his sword free of his rival’s chest. He had no desire for the man’s money or possessions. Besides, the honorable thing would be to allow his body to be carried back home in as complete a state as possible so the family could give it a proper burial.
The knight wiped the blade of his sword on the blood-stained end of his own tabard and sheathed it, quietly scoffing at the notion of honor. It made for good tales and songs, to be sure, but when the battle actually began you never really thought about it. You prayed your sword-arm would be true and that you wouldn’t miss anything, because one moment’s hesitation or a blow you didn’t expect could end it all in an instant.
The knight wondered, as he swung up into his saddle, if they’d sing songs of his rivalry. Would they paint his foe as some snarling villain, thirsty for blood? Could compelling verse be made of how he got unhorsed at the start of it all? Did any bard possess the wherewithal to realize how scared the knight had been?
He lowered his visor to try and abate the stink. His heels tapped the flanks of his steed. The fight was over, and he would not need a cart to get home. He had to wonder, though, if the woman whose hand he sought would still be with him. He had, after all, just killed her brother.
March 5, 2012 at 4:31 pm
Nice twist at the end. The lead up very descriptive.
March 5, 2012 at 10:08 pm
Wow. I want to read more about this knight and his lady. This kind of reminds me (in a very good way) of something that could belong in a Game-of-Thrones type story.
March 8, 2012 at 10:29 pm
Nicely done. The story begins where the battle has ended. It felt real.
March 9, 2012 at 6:54 pm
March 11, 2012 at 10:51 am
Very real, and a good comment on war.