Short Story: The Reaver

I have lost my way. I am no longer thinking, just reacting to what’s going on around me. I can’t help myself. Time has ceased to have any meaning. I am locked in the violence of the moment and it feels good.

I dance and weave in the morning light striking down any who dare come too close. I am covered with the blood of my enemies and it tastes sweet. Around me, others fight for their homes and families. My reasons are much more pure.

I parry a furious slash. My counterattack is immediate and lethal. The accompanying scream is music to my ears. The foe pulls back, giving me a wide berth. I take the moment to look around and savor the victory.

What I see chills even my battle hardened soul. I am surrounded by the dead and dying. The army of villagers I had trained and led here lies broken. There are only two of us left and we face an army. It doesn’t matter. I am a Reaver. They will speak of this day in the years to come and know fear.

A man dressed in ornate armor untouched by battle steps forward. He is no warrior but he admires our last stand. With one breath, he praises us. The next, he insults us with talk of surrender. The fool dies screaming and the battle is joined once more.

I move in a glittering arc meting out death and destruction. My comrade is gripped by the battle lust, the beserker rage. No warrior could ask for a greater gift. I almost envy him. Together, we are unstoppable. Again the foe falls back, they have lost many to us. Fear of losing more causes them to change their tactics. I know what is coming and I can’t stop it. I make peace with my friend and bid him farewell. We will not meet again in this life or the next. Arrows fly. There is a grunt of pain but not defeat. I tumble to the ground and into darkness.

 ***

 The battle had lasted only a hundred minutes but the chirurgeons would be busy well into the next day. There were wounded to attend to before the dead could be taken care of. Two men survey the grim scene with practiced eyes. They were no strangers to battle but this attack and conflict took them totally by surprise.

“Who were they, General?”

“They’re from Lake’s End.” The bandage on Kalas’ arm and minor injuries showed his willingness to lead from the front and the price he paid for doing so.

“Lake’s End?!?” His aide said “They’ll all tree huggers and pacifists. Why would they attack us?”

Kalas shrugged. The movement caused his arm to throb painfully. “Desperate people do desperate things.” He said “Our intelligence said they had some trouble with raiders. Most of their crops were either taken or burned.”

“So they came for ours? It was suicide to attack us, the fools.”

“Look around you. They didn’t fight like fools, especially their leader. If our spies had not warned us, they would have taken us by surprise.” He spits. “We would have been undone despite our superior force.”

 The two paused at the body of the leader. His leather armor was pierced in a dozen places by the arrows that felled him. There was no fear in his lifeless eyes, just the battle lust that consumed him in his final moments. Other than the look in his eyes, there was nothing remarkable about the man. He could have been a farmer, a fisherman or any number of professions.

“Did we have to shoot him down like that?” his subordinate asked.

The man was still young. War and battle weren’t like the tales you heard growing up. Sometimes, you couldn’t do the honorable thing. Kalas had no regrets about giving the order to shoot down the enemy commander like a dog.

“I wasn’t about to spend any more men against him or call him out for single combat.” Kalas hoped he didn’t sound as tired as he felt. “What a waste. It will take time to rebuild the area and winter is fast approaching. Now, we are in the same boat they were in.”

“Sir?”

“Look around you. While we fought the main body, the rest of their force took all they could and burned the rest. We might have enough grain in our storehouses to feed our people but not enough to support our troops.”

“I didn’t think of that.”

“That is why I’m in charge.”

Their leader’s plan was flawless. Kalas was caught in a no win situation. If he had sent men to stop the raiders, his force would have probably been overwhelmed. Even though their leader and his force were dead, they had achieved their ends.

“Now, be a good lad and issue the order to move out. We’ll take all those fit for duty and leave the rest here to care for the wounded and bury the dead.”

“Where are we going, sir? Will we retaliate against Lake’s End?”

Kalas frowned at his subordinate. He didn’t understand that an army travels on its stomach. The man from Lake’s End knew this well. Even if the general attacked Lake’s End in retaliation, they would not be able to recover enough food and supplies to make such a campaign feasible. No, revenge would have to wait. Kalas had another goal in mind.

“We’re going to strike south across the border to Nemia. We have to hit those jackals before they realize our situation. They won’t hesitate to take advantage of us if they know what happened here. I’m going to nip that problem in the bud and at the same time fix our supply situation.”

Nemia was always looking for a chance to take advantage of its northern rival. This would be the perfect opportunity for them to strike. Their spies would learn of this soon enough, he had to attack while surprise was on their side.

As his aide turned to leave, Kalas continued to look at the corpse of the enemy commander. Almost as an afterthought, he relieved the fallen leader of his sword. The blade appeared none the worse for wear. Its blue steel seemed to almost glow.

“General, what are you doing?” his aide asked.

“To the victor, goes the spoils. Maybe this man’s blade will bring us luck in Nemia. We’re going to need it. Now, go. We need to move fast if we’re going to catch them by surprise.”

 ***

 I awaken in the hands of my new owner, a general and a leader of men. His troops are properly outfitted and well trained. This time things will be different. These are soldiers, not farmers and tradesman. Their leader has far more potential than Lake End’s champion. I don’t need to teach him much. He had already made his decision with no prompting from me. Like me, the man is a Reaver. We were made for each other.

 

Author’s Commentary

Some of you might recognize this story. I wrote and posted it a while back on my old blog. I decided to add a little polish and post it here. As you can tell, The Reaver is a very short story, less than 1250 words. I enjoyed reading the Elric and Eternal Champion novels by Michael Moorcock when I was in college. I decided to do a story with a sentient sword but I wanted to focus  on the sword’s point of view. I hope you enjoy it.

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Filed under Fiction, Short Stories

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