A sequel to Blood for Giraffes
The battle had been hard fought, though swiftly over. Twenty-three good lads had fallen to the enemy spears before their thin shieldwall broke and the massacre began. Nearly a hundred killed and only three or four escaped into the mountains, their homelands, where we had no desire to pursue. It should have been a worthy first victory for our young lord, but instead of feasting in his greathall, the young Lord Mok, age twenty-five, is lying on his deathbed, a deep puncture wound in his thigh, the bones in his legs smashed to pieces. Groaning in pain he shifts on the surgeons table, as the small man in priestly robes shakes his head. He had no remedy for this gruesome wound. No magic nimble enough to repair the terrible damage.
I, Sir Galdur Rune, was responsible for his safety. I am to blame for this travesty. The old lord on his deathbed had made me vow to protect his son, making sure he grew to rule with honesty and charity, as a noble man of the ancient House of Bensel would. But those hopes for his greatness drained out upon the flood in front of me as we watched helpless.
I had stood at my lord’s right in battle, so that my shield would guard his unprotected sword arm. As we marched up the hillside, we beat our wicked swords and battle axes upon our iron-rimmed shields, chanting an ancient war hymn, sung first by our father eons ago when the y first entered this land to claim it for their own,
“We come on Wind, We come with Rain, Forstora’s Wrath brings endless Pain,
For all we ask, Is all we have, Forever lasting, Weather’s Vain”
The meaning of the riddle lost to the ages, leaving us with a memory of sadness.
Our opponents were not as heavily armed as we, most of them lightly armored and carrying pine shields and thin spears intended for throwing. Only six or seven held true civilized weapons, swords and axes, probably stolen from farms they raided as they made their way across the countryside. Lord Mok had word of their movements as soon as they crossed the border out of the mountains. Wanting to avenge his people’s suffering, he sought to strike out immediately with what force was available to hunt them down. Thankfully he listened to my council. I advised the young lord to send out scouts to ascertain their movements and intent, while sending messengers to his liegemen informing them of the threat and calling them to gather. With a definitive target and sufficient forces we set out to intercept the barbarian marauders.
The crescendo of our battle-chant came just before we surged forward for impact. Screaming in ecstasy our warriors met their flimsy shieldwall as a crashing wave. Cries of death and elation filled the air. The sun’s light reflected off polished helms of our trained soldiers. Our steel weapons tore through hide and flesh, as our oaken shields battered them to the muddy ground.
Side by side, we made swift work of several enemy warriors. Fighting, as I had taught him, together, using each other’s shields to protect us as we extended to make a slash or thrust with our swords. In unison, we cut down two more poorly armored enemies, when a bellowing could be heard over the din, approaching. An enormous half-giant berserker, armed with a gigantic maul covered in hideous spikes rushed past his wavering allies toward us. Raising my shield high, I sought to deflect the mortal blow, he seemed to be bringing down upon my young lord’s head. He could not protect himself quickly enough, with his blade caught in the ribcage of his fallen opponent almost wrenching it from his grasp. My own blade was free, help poised to gut the bastard as he extended his great girth upwards. However, as my shield rose, clearing my vision, before me the monstrous brute had pivoted his swing in my instant of blindness, instead of bringing the weapon over his head, to come crashing down up on, he was swinging this martial stump sideways at a low angle. With no time to react with my cumbersome shield held over my head, I lunged. Surging forward my blade bit deep into the pectoral muscles of this half-man-half-monster. Opening his mouth wide in a hideous grin, black teeth rotting with afoul stench, the brute coughed. Blood. My sword had not pierced an organ, it quivered against the stone-like ribcage of this barbarian beast. Two thin blades protruded from his chest, however. In silence Lyra, one of the few women a part of our warriors, had positioned herself behind the monster to give it the killing stroke, two blades through the spine and heart.
The low sideways swing had found its mark though. Lord Mok lay wheezing on the gory ground, an enormous puncture wound, made by one of the hideous spikes driven through the club, surrounded by gruesome contusions, covered his leg in blood. Blood just pumping… free…Lost Blood…
I had lost blood, too much of it to stand on my own, taking a deep cut across my forearm early in the battle. I lost consciousness standing over my fallen lord, my failure. As my vision tilted and darkened, I glimpsed a remembered face attached to a beautiful, broken, and bloody body leaned against a stump.