Thursday, April 19, 2012

Q is for Nate's Story

I got nothing today, nothing at all. Stupid Q. Go see Matt at QQQ or Annie over at Quiet Commotion. They like Q. A lot. Prepare your mind for Annie, though. Her poetry is a club to the temple, followed by a good monkey-stomping once she drops you.

So, since I hate Q, I give you a long, arduous piece, which is, my friends, one of my early pieces. It has no title other than Nate's Story, because I wrote it for my brother, and because Nate is my brother's name.


The six warriors stood motionless atop the rise, their deep set eyes probing the westward darkness. It was a night of stillness, with neither clouds nor the wind to push them. No breeze touched their silver shoulder length hair, nor did it dry any of the unblinking sea green eyes as they patiently monitored the night, waiting.

Each thick chest was protected by dove white plate armor without insignia. It was matched on both arms and legs, ending in ribbed gauntlets resting interlocked on the hilts of large broad swords stuck point down between plated boots. Each flat blade was elegant in its simplicity, bearing no sign of art, no engraving, but deathly sharp and balanced to the hands around it. The swords spoke of bloody battles, yet were perfect and unscathed, shiny as the day they were forged. The porcelain faces above them remained as pure and simple, but just as deadly beautiful.

They stood thus, patient as death, waiting for the moment of battle; it was signaled by a gentle breeze and the thudding of large boots approaching. None moved as the night came to life around them.

A head first appeared to them over the rise, seeming to come out of the ground itself, followed by the body of a very large warrior. He was clad in armor such as theirs, an iron look on his perfectly chiseled face. On his back rested a powerful looking sword, nearly as long as they were tall, heavy with its life taking force. He stood a full head taller than the largest of them, and on each shoulder hung an arm the width of a tree. He came to a stop before them and looked to each in silence.

His deep black mane hung loosely about his shoulders, and moved slightly with the breeze he brought with him. He took each of their faces in with his stern glance. His eyes were as dark as his hair, all pupil without color, simply large black circles swimming amidst seas of white. They pierced each of the warriors in turn, first with harsh measurement, then with a flash of compassion before moving to the next. His head moved slowly from warrior to warrior until finally he had burned all of them into his mind's eye; these were his warriors, and although he was their protector and leader, he often sent them to their deaths with a flick of his tongue. His mind held the image of each that had perished, every warrior he had slain with the utterance of a command. He added their faces to the scores upon scores of others, then issued his orders.

His voice boomed into the silence, both a tempest and a song. "The one we seek is held strongly guarded in the valley below by two dozen of your dark un-brothers. I saw no other warriors, and no place of concealment for ambush; your twenty-four un-brothers stand firm, ready and bold, confident of their strength and purpose."

As he spoke the wind gained force, first softly caressing the faces of the six warriors, then growing in strength as he addressed his troops. Clouds quickly tainted the sky with darkening need, a lighter shade of black against black. Their silver hair danced with the breeze, alive at last with the thrill of battle.

The large warrior turned away from them and once again surveyed the arena below. "At the coming of the storm we will descend upon them with terrible might," he continued. "I shall lead the attack, dividing their number through the middle. The six of you will then descend upon the remaining warriors, flanking them three to a side."

He turned to face them, his eyes growing darker, and said, "The chase has wearied us all, but put your fatigue away for after the battle. Do not allow yourselves to tire, but pace your strikes in order to weaken their arms, not yours. And waste no effort killing a fallen warrior, but find the heart of one still able to raise his sword against us.

"They must be separated and cut down individually; our advantage is superior strength, but theirs is with their number. We must force them to face us one against one if we are to survive. Do not let them fight you one against many, but draw them away from their dark brethren and cut them down alone."

The wind quickly gave way to a storm, and crisp soft ticks rang out as small bits of hail bounced off the warriors' armor. A mighty cloud formed over the valley below, solid and thick and heavy as smoke, and spewed forth the tiny bits of ice with its windy breath. Fingers of light flexed from within the looming black monolith like the claws of a crouched demon cat. None of them appeared to notice the stinging on their faces as the wind grew stronger, throwing the shards sharply into their only exposed skin. None flinched as the sky was burned with fiery white explosions.

Raising his voice, the large warrior said, "Embrace death, my brothers, for it holds no power over us. Fight with Our Lord's grace in your heart, and with the wrath of the Almighty on the edge of your swords.”

***

The large warrior turned and strode purposely back the way he had come, gracefully retracing each step down the slope into the valley below. The time to fight was nigh, and he wondered again at the necessity of the destruction. He both loved and hated battle; he fought for love, and for sanctity, but despised the need to fight at all. Many times he wept as he prayed for those lost in battle, remembering the faces of the fallen. He had begged to be given another lot, but this was his destiny, his reason for creation. He was a warrior first and only, nothing more, certainly nothing less. So on he strode without remorse or mercy, never pausing, never questioning the deed, only its vile necessity.

But such thoughts had no place in battle, and he pushed them consciously aside. There were enemies below, and sometimes one must fight and destroy those who opposed what is right.

And that was exactly what he intended to do.

As he continued downward, the sky grew more violent with each step. Even the ground shuddered as he walked, feeling as if he were on the deck of a precarious ship. Thunder boomed overhead in great claps as it spit larger and larger hailstones more violently at him. The air was hot and rank, putrid with the smell of ozone and sulfur. Fist sized chunks of ice shattered harmlessly against his armor in futile fury as onward he marched, oblivious to the clangor.

The approaching valley was covered in velvet darkness, thick and uninviting as a cauldron of boiling oil. He briefly saw through the darkness with each stroke of light from above, only to be plunged forcefully back into the pitch.

The two dozen warriors stood waiting with their hands on the hilts of their swords in the same casual manner as their un-brothers above. They were clad in shiny black armor, with a writhing red serpent engraved on the chest. Their swords were less simple, with finely decorated blades and with lines of red ringing the black hilts. Around each of their necks was a red twine laced with the dried ears of those they had slain, and their long silver hair was bound tightly at the neck with thin straps of black leather. Their sternly set green eyes glared back at him through the darkness, challenging and daring him to step forward against them.

A single tear escaped his eye, his only mercy, and warmly rolled down his face. He prayed for forgiveness, for strength, but above all, he prayed for victory. A powerful arm slowly slid the giant blade from its scabbard. As it came free, the ring of the blade momentarily overcame the anger of the storm like the cry of a laden mother. A fleeting glimpse of emotion passed across his face, then was set aside by the iron face of death.

***

The six stood unmoving, watching as the large warrior moved sword-first into the darkness below. The storm had risen in pitch to a deafening maelstrom, hurling man-sized hailstones furiously into their armored chests. The ice shattered star-like around them; they were six brilliant supernovas atop the dark slope, spectacular white against suffocating black. None moved, nor paid heed to the raging attack of the storm.

The ground shuddered beneath their heavy boots, moving none of them, but destroying itself with the effort. It shook violently and threw great stones defiantly skyward, disappearing silently into the darkness above. But each stood transfixed on some distant shore, some tranquil land of beauty unseen by the forces around. The six remained calm within, waiting for the moment of attack.

Then there was silence, as sudden as a clap, complete and tomblike, silent as death. For many moments they stood in the silence, waiting for what they all knew would come, but all had hoped would not.

Once again heavy steps signaled an approach, and again a warrior seemed to materialize from the ground in front of them. Their armor rattled at his approach as the ground shook with each of his steps, rising in a clamorous crescendo as he neared. He stopped before the largest of them and silenced the rattling with the wave of a hand.

He was clad in shiny gold plate armor, much adorned with flowery designs and deep black jewels. A blood red velvet cape covered his back and was clasped at the neck by two golden snakes intertwined, their ruby eyes winking. On his hip hung a long and impressive sword of gold, held loosely by a magnificent belt and an engraved jeweled scabbard. The hilt was that of a serpent striking, its fangs bared as it hissed in attack. His long black hair was tied off near his waist and flowed tail-like behind him with a life of its own.

He was the same height as the warrior he addressed, but somehow all those around him seemed small and insignificant. He was beautiful beyond creation, such as to blind one who looked upon him for too long. Even his movement was perfection, balanced and sure. He turned his attention to those on either side of the large warrior and smiled warmly. No crease violated the purity of his face as he exposed rows of perfect ivory teeth. He stood like a powerful oak among six pitiful shrubs.

He faced the largest warrior. "Take your prize now, my child," he said smooth as a snake across velvet, "and share with me the glory that is to come." His pure blue eyes pierced the warrior, two perfect daggers burying themselves deep inside his soul. He waited confidently for what he knew would come, smiling, guile his only weapon, the only weapon he needed. "Take it now, my child," he whispered into the warrior's ear, his breath sweet and warm as a lover's kiss. "Take it before it is taken by another." He continued in an even lower whisper, hypnotic and songlike, barely audible, "Take what is yours...."

He stepped back from the warrior in absolute confidence, smiling in uncontested perfection, waiting for the inevitable. Even his silence was absolute perfection.

Long moments passed, when suddenly a warrior to his left came to life with inhuman speed, furious at not being chosen by the glorious warrior. The large warrior easily met the blurring blade which rushed at him, taking several steps back as the attacker advanced with sword singing death. His face contorted in rage, the attacker delivered furious blows to the large warrior, but each was parried, pushed aside while he waited for the next attack.

The attacker moved in circles around the larger warrior, testing for weakness, probing his defense with maddeningly fast swings of his mighty blade. They moved faster and faster still, until all their movement was a blur, lost within the singing of their blades as each danced to the sounds of their lonely battle.

The large warrior never returned the attack, but stood defiant should the attacker choose to stop this fate. He met each blow with his sword, without emotion, seemingly without effort, but refused to be drawn into the death of his brother.

The four remaining warriors stood silently by, watching, waiting for the outcome. There now was balance, one against one, and all knew that to upset this would be to turn the battle violently against them. To watch was marvelous, two great warriors battling for a victory that could not be. Like the day battles night, or night the day, neither could truly ever win, but it is the meeting of the two, the dawn or the eve, that is the most beautiful to behold. As they danced their deadly attacks, their essence was bared, their reason for creation seen. They were designed for battle, and designed only to win.

The golden warrior stood aside smiling at his victory, pleased again with his perfection. He waited for the next temptation, for the time of reckoning. He absorbed the beauty of the battle into himself, adding to that he already possessed. With eyes closed, he shuddered with the pleasure of it, seeing in his mind the glory he had created.

The battle raged violently onward as the warriors continued to attack and parry with blinding speed. Blade for blade they moved across the ground around the other warriors.

But the large warrior held to his patience, held on to his hope and belief that his brother would not turn, yet the battle was wearing him. Creases began to show across his face as he refused to attack, the voice of anger softly speaking to his soul. He drove it back down within him with a silent blow from his mind; he would die before he attacked his brother. Distracted by the effort, his blade faltered and he was struck to the ground, prone as the attacker descended like a raptor upon him.

One of his brothers moved to intervene, and lifted his sword in attack to save his fallen brother. But quick as a thought a golden sword found its tip to his throat, held by the beautiful golden warrior, smiling. The battle stopped just as abruptly behind him, both warriors bound to the sod, watching, one with sword held high.

"Stay your hand, child," the golden warrior hissed to the interloper, "lest you find your head between my feet." He smiled broadly at the warrior, victory his for the taking now.

To the attacker he continued, "Take him as yours, my new warrior, for you have truly proved to be the greater. Feed upon the carrion that dared once call itself your brother. Take him for the glory of your new master."

Hardly had the golden warrior finished before the attacker hacked a large piece of the fallen warrior's head from his neck. He surged with unseen power as he continued to deliver dozens of furious blows in the following seconds. Huge rivulets of blood spewed about him in volcanic gushes as his sword cut through his brother, leaving jagged slashes of torn armor and bone and flesh. Finally, his anger sated, he turned, covered in the blood of his brother, dripping in red bone and sinew, and laid his sword and his head at the feet of the golden warrior in glorious praise.

"Do you see how their pathetic lord has abandoned them in their time of need, while it was I who stayed by your side," he said to the warrior at his feet. "He left them to die, while I gave you life. He bound them to servitude, to death, while I offer you freedom and life. Arise, my great warrior." He sheathed the golden sword and extended his hand to his new servant. "Arise and follow me to glory."

The warrior sobbed as he listened, thankful for his fate, grateful for the wonderful praise. He whispered words of thanks, words of love and praise and glory to his new lord. He stood and hefted his sword above his head in salute. Salty tears rolled down his bloody face and mixed warmly amidst the red.

The four remaining warriors stood motionless atop the rise, and watched their brother and the golden warrior as they descended back into the ground.

***

The large warrior's sword thundered down onto the dark warriors with the wrath of a tempest. They sprang suddenly to life and moved around him in a semicircle as they tried to find his back. Their swords flashed before them as they parried his blinding attacks.

He backhanded the warriors on his right, knocking two from their feet even as they held their swords against him. The warriors to his left pounced quickly, thinking him exposed by such a lopsided attack, but his sword continued around in a full circle as he leaned against his heels and reversed the attack against them. The broad sword found its mark across one warrior's chest with such force that it was as if he had exploded from within. Imperfect, another warrior's blade shattered as it was held in defense and embedded the sharp shards in his tender eyes. The large warrior's huge left fist followed the blow and drove the remaining jagged blade up through his chin and into his skull; the dark warrior knelt as if in prayer, then fell forward onto his destroyed face.

Without pause or mercy, he continued his onslaught before they could regroup. His sword took the head from one of the stunned warriors he had knocked down with his first attack as he tried to stand. In the same low swing he cut the knees from another and stepped forward to drive the twenty remaining warriors back.

They had all seen him fight before, had seen him take down entire armies alone with wide deadly swings of his perfect sword. Thousands fell before him as if they were grass lying flat in his mighty wind, unable to stand, and they knew that to fight him was vain. Like the four that had already fallen, each knew they looked into the face of death, but stood against him defiantly. They were the same as their un-brothers on the hill above - they knew only victory, and fought only to win even against great odds. Both had absolute faith in their lords, and believed they would somehow prevail even in the face of destruction. To stand bravely against adversity guaranteed them a place next to their lord in the afterlife.

His sword knocked away an attack from the left, then whipped back, the tip neatly slicing through one of the dark warrior's necks. The dark warrior dropped his sword and stood firmly as he tried without success to stop torrential flow of his life's blood spewing forth from between his clasped fingers. He stood thus for several moments, then gave the large warrior a bloody grin as he fell over, finally overcome by death.

The dark warriors could not get near enough to him for their swords to reach. The perfect broad blade flashed out and dealt death whenever one got within its reach. One of the dark warriors moved around him to find his back, and with a mighty swing discovered his own death. The large warrior sidestepped the attack and without looking buried an armored left elbow in the dark warrior's face, shattering the fragile bones there. With hardly a glance he spun around and cut the dark warrior bodily in two across his torso, then returned to face the remaining dark warriors as the top slid wetly off its legs to the ground.

Another dark warrior fell defending against the large warrior's attack and lied prone on his back. As the others took yet another step back, his sword descended on the fallen warrior like a bolt from God. It shattered the upheld sword and cleaved the warrior's head and chest in two.

The seventeen remaining dark warriors moved to flank him as time grew more desperate. Cut down in order, the strongest still stood parrying blows from this mighty warrior. But compared to him, they were unarmed children against an angry bear.

The speed of his attacks increased to a blur as the onslaught continued. With each blocked attack, the warriors were thrown off balance by the force, unable to return the attack before another blow needed to be defended. One of the warriors was nearly spun around by an attack, and his spine was cut from his defenseless back.

But before his blood hit the ground, the dark warrior turned and smiled up at the large warrior in dove plate armor. He smiled because a golden sword ripped through the air toward the raven black head of his killer.

The four white warriors flew down the hill into the fray.

***

The man drifted further down, until dark and sinister things began clawing him, breathing harsh hisses and raking their teeth on him. A clawed hand suddenly dug out his heart from the blackness, but he would not die even as it gnawed on the bloody organ. The demon's mouth was filled with needle teeth below flaring bestial nostrils, and his heart exploded like a ripe tomato as it bit harshly into the muscle. It savagely tore off a piece and gulped it down whole. The burned skin of the demon stretched taught over thick rippling muscles as it crouched over him teasingly, then it stuck its face into the hole in his chest and messily slurped his life's blood. It emerged dark and shiny, grinning wetly. His screams were matched by the bloody demon in mockery, then it ripped one of his eyes from its socket and held it teasingly above its outstretched tongue.

His body flamed in bloody pain and agony as more sharp hands held him down, prone against the demon as it danced around him jingling his shiny white eye by its sinewy cords. The claws dug into his flesh unmercifully, and he felt teeth gnawing his fingers and toes, painfully ripping them off in a violent feeding frenzy. He was being devoured, unable to die, and knew somehow that he would never be completely gone, but would forever be ingested into the bowels of Hell.

Above his own screams he heard the sound of a distant battle, the shouts and cries of war drifting across the plains to find his ears. The creature looked in the direction of the noise, then returned to him and plopped the eye down its throat with a sardonic grin. It gave him a final rake of its razor claws across his face, then bounded off into the darkness, leaving him alone and battered.

He waited long moments as the sounds died away and silence overcame the place he now was in. From over a small hill came three large warriors, one of them towering over seven feet and as broad as a horse, with black hair and a sword as long as he was tall. Gore splattered their simple, dove-ivory armor. They strode directly to where he lay.

"You are ours, now," he heard the largest say in a deep and powerful voice as he reached down to him. "You belong now to God."




There you go. If you made it this far, God bless, and God help you.


- Eric

LEAVE YOUR MARK! Put an X in the comments, if you have nothing more to say.



Eric W. Trant is a published author of several short stories and the novel Out of the Great Black Nothing. He is currently represented by Debrin Case at Open Heart Publishing. See more of Eric's work here: Publications

2 comments:

Carole Anne Carr said...

Glad you couldn't find anything for Q, I loved the story, very powerful.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

What are you going to do with X? Carole is right. We are the winners since you had nothing for Q. Great gift for your brother, Roland