The Battle Won

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
I really hate this piece. In fact, I'd like to delete it altogether, but because I try not to do things I may regret on whim, I'll post it. My creative writing teacher made me submit it to a contest and I'm afraid to know what the judges might think of it. If you have some idea, I'd love to know.
(sorry about my lousy formatting. I'm having technical difficulties.)

Submitted: April 14, 2008

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Submitted: April 14, 2008

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Surrounding him was the sour smell of victory. The tang of sun baked, drying blood was so strong he could taste it. A thick cloud of dust shrouded the bodies laid waste across the nightmarish, barren landscape. Whether they had been adversaries or comrades was blurred, and no longer of consequence. He and less than 100 of his men were all that remained alive here. They had won, but only by a hair's breadth, and still, the only way he could believe it was to see the mangled corpse of Sigourney \"the Venerable\" lying before him. Like all men sanctioned by God, he had been far too confidant of his invincibility, and it had led to a quite brutal, if close, defeat by the dark horse rebel forces. Still, the cottages had been ransacked, their unlucky inhabitants slaughtered. The men were all burned and the women and children had been buried alive in a supposed attempt to salvage their muddled souls. By preaching mad tales of an afterlife of eternal agony, verses one of unending peace an prosperity, Sigourney had gotten most of the villagers nearly diving into the pits and pyres on their own. Only an inkling of instinctual self-preservation had remained to hinder them in their final seconds. nonetheless victory was theirs, was his. had been the battle to officially begin a war, but genocide had been slowly tearing through the isolated farming towns of his country for nigh a year. Suddenly, an altered reality had arisen, and no one knew what to do, now that every aspect of life as they'd known it no longer existed. Kadin, who had led his men to this uncharted frontier was completely lost in the unfamiliarity of it. As he stood perfectly still, he worked to plot out his next move in this all too intricate and deadly game of chess. Unfortunately, he found it nearly impossible to steer his his mind away from a particular line of thought. What would be the result of all this? What have we, if not our militia? Why, then, even dismiss them when there will be no homes to return to? Would it not just make our losses that much more real? That is, if we ever were to overcome the \"Divine\". With his mind so set on this course of thought, he could find no appropriate command for his men. It was his insatiable thirst that finally reared up and made his decision for him. With a final scan over what was left of the Divine Ranks, Kadin addressed his remaining forces. We have victory,\" he said. \"And though our losses currently far outweigh our bloody gains, this gives us, at least a chance. We must trudge on, all our lives depend on it. We all need food and rest above anything else. Therefore we will head to the well, scavenge the remains of the town for food, and make camp for tonight. Tomorrow, we must set out to regroup. Hopefully, Vanig is still intact and has able men to spare.\"All of the men nodded their weary agreement, that is with the exception of one. He stood out from the mass of tired makeshift warriors, wearing a sardonic smile and holding his head high. Sir,\" sneered Andreas \"Do you not think we should find survivors among our enemies, to be sure there are none left to follow us?\" His eyes were bitingly cold, though his smirk remained. Kadin found it difficult to refrain from knocking the look right off the fool's face. Andreas had been nothing but trouble from the beginning. He'd never met a man more in love with contradiction. Who was he to think he knew how to lead a militia? A man with less tact or wit than a hyena hardly deserved to even fight under him. There is no doubt at all, Andreas,\" he said, carefully controlling his tone. \"That we will be tracked, and soon, but the bodies strewn about are the least of our worries. The queen will be awaiting word from Sigourney, and when it doesn't come she'll send the wrath of her entire army, no doubt. The sooner we are gone, the better chance we have to find reinforcements before we are slaughtered.\" He saw the men all cringe, and wished he's not been quite so frank. , on the other hand, was just scowling. He tromped off toward what used to be their village. The rest of the men waited for Kadin to walk ahead of them, before heading in the same general direction. There was a thirsty mob around the well for nigh a half hour before all the men had drunk. One by one, they drifted away until only a single thin, blonde boy was left gazing down the well. His countenance was neither grim nor pensive, though it had aspects of both. Kadin found him reflective detachment puzzling. Approaching slowly, Kadin asked, \"What troubles you, friend?\" trying to pull Lucien Gently from his gloomy contemplation. Lucien glanced up at Kadin. \" 'Friend,' you call me? I suppose we have been through much together, but you think you can call me a friend? What do we know of each other, besides our shared capability to murder?\" With that, Lucien dropped his eyes back to the well, looking exactly as he had before. Kadin looked downward, kicking up a puff of dust.vHe understood Lucien's sentiment too well, but there was scarce room for such contemplation with potential enemies just beyond the horizon, particularly if one wished to live long. \"Unfortunately, there is no time to contemplate the answers to such questions... Perhaps when this is all over.\" They were both keenly aware that in all likeliness, this meant a time after both of their lives were over. It created a bitter and empty silence. Again, Kadin regretted his words, and began to regret approaching the sullen young man in the first place. In a sudden, and somehow unnatural manner, Lucien's mouth began to curl into a smile, though his eyes had not changed. \"You are right. Our lives depend on our ability to ignore such thoughts. We cannot waste thought on the insignificant matters of our hearts.\" With that, his expression faded back into a deep frown. Kadin could think of no worthy response, so he returned reluctantly to the nearest of three large bonfires. Despite his best efforts to relax and prepare mentally for the impending hardships of their flight, Kadin could not Lucien's lament out of his mind. He began to hear the anguished cries of dying men and the animalistic calls of those dispatching them. He would flash a tentative look over his shoulder, ready to see a blade sailing toward him followed by a man who had the deadly perseverance of one whose life depends on his victory. He saw the man's face glaze over as he was pierced, or slashed, or bludgeoned down. It was trying not to wince, and the scene became more disturbing each time it played out in his mind. It was crucial, however, for him to maintain confidence and morale. After all, if he could not be sanguine, who could expect his men to maintain any semblance of hope? They would be lost without him to lead them. For the next hours his mind ran with this idea. Before he knew it, the sun had dipped below the horizon, and the men allowed the fires to smolder down to twinkling coals. Kadin watched as slowly the coals faded to black and his men drifted off to sleep. He found it surprising that only one man began to cry out at some unseen terror in his dreams. After all the bloodshed and loss, all but one somehow laid peacefully in the arms of sleep. Only Andreas tossed and turned every now and then, and mumbled angry, but incomprehensible words. Eventually, Kadin did find a shallow sleep, but not long before dawn. He woke to find most of the men still unconcious. The area was quiet, though when he tried to return to his weak rest, he could tell it would no longer have him. Upon scanning the area more thoroughly, he noticed Andreas was up chatting with Sanjeet. They appeared to be the only two awake, until he remembered Lucien. Kadin returned to the well. As he had feared, there sat Lucien red-eyed but his expression was changed. Now, he was cradling a bucket, which, Kadin realized, he'd cut from its rope above the well. \"Kadin,\" said Lucien, hardly averting his gaze. \"How nice it is to see you.\" Kadin kneeled to inspect the troubled young man closer. He did not at all look well. His face had an unnatural pallor, and his hands trembled sending ripples through an inch of water still left in the bucket. \"Lucien... you look tired.\" He mumbled. \"Ah, it is true. I have not been able to sleep... But it is only that stench. As soon as I can find some place where this stench is not...\" Lucien's voice faded out. \"I don't smell anything.\" Kadin said, \"What is it like?\" \"Why of course you do!\" Lucien exclaimed, laughing before he went on. \"It's the smell of cold, I think. Cold hearts, cold corpses, cold steel... It seems to be everywhere now, but I think it is not so strong here, by this well. Stay, sit with me. I think it will be easier to ignore with company.\" All this time, he was gazing into the bucket, holding it almost like a young child. Kadin, despite his better judgement, took a seat as Lucien did, but was careful to keep a safe distance from him. He was quite worried about the boy's state of mind. After a moment of silence, Kadin heard footsteps behind him. Sanjeet, Andreas,\" called Lucien. \"Have you also come to escape the smell?\" \"Shut up fool,\" snarled Andreas. Sanjeet hurried to explain. \"We've just come for some water. What have you done with the bucket, Lucien?\" The boy flinched back, and looked up at Sanjeet. \"What bucket?\" He asked. Sanjeet looked puzzled. \"Why, the one you're holding. You've cut it from the well...\" ,br/> Now, it was Lucien who seemed utterly confused. \"Bucket? This is my sister, Julia.\" He rocked it gently, looking back into the inch of sloshing water. Andreas cut in now, hissing, \"You lunatic, you're absolutely mad, aren't you?\" However, he offered not a single second for Lucien to reply. In one swift movement, Andreas had drawn a concealed short sword and lunged. &nbspLucien had just opened his mouth in protest as his throat was slit, all but severing his head. Now, it was Kadin who took on a look of maniacal anger. Sanjeet's eyes were wide in horror as he fled as fast as he found it possible. \"You dog!\" Kadin spat. Andreas was grinning, guiltless and defiant, until Kadin drew his own weapon. \"One of your own men... You're out of control.\" \"But... Sir...\" He muttered fearfully. \"You could see it in his eyes... He'd gone insane. He was a danger to us all.\" Kadin laughed. \"He, a danger? Mad or not, he was just a boy. You are the danger. I don't care where to, but you are leaving now. A treacherous animal such as yourself deserves worse, but I pity your soul.\" This was more castigation than Andreas' pride could bear. Despite his fear, he dived at Kadin, blade extended fully, but the soldier dodged easily, and struck right through Andreas' chest. This blow was both military punishment and vengeance. Kadin left his sword in Andreas' gaping wound. He ignored the last curses of the man he'd killed, went to the slouched corpse of Lucien, and wept as just-woken spectators began to gather 'round.


© Copyright 2017 Helene Lepee. All rights reserved.

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