“Stay with me! Don’t give up!“, the words came out slurred as I panicked, my own words coming from my mouth couldn’t even convince me, they sure as hell weren’t convincing him.
I swiped at the flames frantically, desperately trying to put them out, as they ate away at his flesh. His anguished screams pierced my ears, the bloodcurdling cries only caused me to panic even more. I mustered whatever small amount of water magic I could, to no avail. As I wailed like a teatless baby, all I could hope was my tears would dampen the flames. My hands blistered and popped, blood and other fluids spewed over both of us, but I felt nothing but desperation to save my friend. I grabbed his bloody, charred hand to comfort him, but the flesh slid right off of his hand, revealing only muscle and bone as I dropped what was once a hand, now just a charred bone.
My vision became blurry with tears as I looked down at his face, chunks of flesh missing and covered in blisters. His expression shifted to an almost relaxed look as if he was looking right through me. “Peter! Peter..!” I yelled out, reaching out for him but stopping, realizing the injuries I’ve caused myself by now.
“H...H..he..ld...” Peter could barely speak, his throat completely charred away, what little sound he could get out came out in small puffs. But I embraced every sound that came out, nodding my head as more tears flowed. I could see in his eyes that he was done. I picked up my dagger, sinking it deep into Peter’s throat, releasing him from this painful existence. His scorching blood ran down the blade as I pulled it out, staring at it for what felt like an eternity.
Forcing myself to stand up, my legs fighting against me as they wobble, I look up at the sky, covered in ash and smoke. Everything was burning, this fort is done for I thought. Who’s the bright idea was it to send a squad of recruits to defend this fort against a squad of over a hundred enemy soldiers. I put my gloves back on, the leather scrapping against my blisters as I winced. Looking around, my gaze only found either dead men or those who wished they were. I peaked over the wall down towards the fort’s entrance, seeing a few enemy soldiers tormenting a dismembered ally of mine. His screams echoed through the blazing night, but all I could do is watch and listen, and neither sounded like a very fun time for me. Slumping down against the cold wall, gripping my sword as I huffed.
“What did I do to deserve this..” I said to myself, knowing damn well I wasn’t special, this world is just that cruel.
“Hey..Hey, Get up!!” a voice yelled out next to me, piercing my ear as a man grabbed me by my arm hoisting me up. As I looked up at the mammoth of a man in front of me, it was the commander of my squadron, Commander Vin.
His scarred, bald head was his defining characteristic among the recruits, whenever they saw it, they whipped themselves right into shape. Vin had taken noticeable injuries, two arrows through his thigh and shoulder, a slash across his torso, and a cut across his cheek. But he held the same attitude as always, gritting his teeth, almost salivating with anger at me.
“If you can still swing that sword, then you’re still capable of fighting!” Vin barked, tears forming around his eyes as if he was convincing himself.
I gulped and nodded my head, knowing that the only thing that awaited us beyond the fort’s door was hell. The sound of the enemies’ spells crashing against the stone walls of the fort never let my heart settle.
The constant anxiety that at any moment, these walls could fall to rubble and I could be brutalized left me uneasy. Vin walked away, giving other broken soldiers the same talk he gave me. Some of them didn’t even have the will to listen to him, and just sat there as if they had just seen a ghost. I walked over to a slumped over the soldier, his face was covered in gashes, but compared to most of the soldiers left, he was in good shape.
I grabbed a handkerchief and wiped some of the blood from his brow, making sure he wasn’t actually dead. Helping him stand up, he turned his head and looked at me with an empty gaze, “Who are you..?” he asked, seemingly puzzled. “Huh? I’m Held, you know me right? We went through training together, man.” I tried to assure him of who I was, but he still stared at me perplexed, before he slumped back over.
That’s when I noticed the large gash on his head, as well as the fragments of his skull on the ground. He had just died. I dropped him back onto the ground and turned towards Vin, who was holding a dagger to his own throat. At this point, I couldn’t blame him, but right now we needed him we wanted any chance of survival. Forcing my legs to sprint over, I struggled with him for the dagger then threw it to the ground.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?!” I yelled at him, grabbing his collar.
His face returned to his normal, angry self, “Taking the coward’s way out, dammit! That’s what!” he shouted back, gritting his teeth with a pained expression. He adjusted his collar and stood up straight before speaking once again. “The capital isn’t sending any reinforcements. They think losing this fort isn’t much of a loss, as well as our lives.” Vin said, with a hoarse voice. “However, I have sent out a messenger bird to seek out any adventurer it can find, with the quest of aiding us in the defense of this fort! It may be a shot in the dark, but it’s our only hope now!” he began yelling out, seemingly finding his will once again.
Vin stomped his boot to the ground and proclaimed to all of us, “Until then, we will hold down this fort with everything we’ve got! We will drag them to hell with us if it comes to that!” his voice resonated through the fort, all around the room I watched as soldiers raised their heads to look at Vin, with a gleam returning to their eyes.
I stepped next to Vin and mustered up a shoat, “We may look like mangled up corpses, and we may be recruits, but let’s show them how badass we are!!” my throat ached as I yelled out, but the returning cheers from my comrades made the pain fade away. Just before this, it took all the will I had to keep my legs from giving out, but now I feel like I could fight a dragon! Hell. maybe even a leviathan! A few soldiers stood up, despite being covered in wounds, ran down the stairs to help defend the front gate. The atmosphere had completely changed. Even if we lost, I feel as if I would have no problem dying alongside my comrades. Maybe this is the fate we all accepted and decided to make the most of it.
I know all of these men. One of the ones who just rushed down to defend the front gate, Vincent, easily distinguishable by his yellow pupils, has a beloved girl waiting for him back home that he promised to marry. Peter never wanted to join this war, but he did it to support his poor family, despite this he devoted his life for his kingdom. That’s why together we fell into despair, and now, together we rose back up from that sorry state. We all share each other’s dreams and burdens, even if it may be pretentious coming from a recruit, I think we already have a damn close brotherhood! And that’s why I want us all to get out of here together.
I felt a smile form on my face, I couldn’t stop this smile if I wanted to. The pure adrenaline running through me and the burning devotion I felt for my comrades for some reason caused me to stand atop the wall, yelling down at the enemy soldiers.
“THE FIRST ONE OF YOU THAT GOES THROUGH THAT GATE IS GETTING MY SWORD UP YOUR ASS!!” I screamed out at them, grinning as I did, this unknown sensation flowing through me as if I could do anything. I heard some of my comrades laugh at this as another one jumped up beside me, Markus, a man with a wild personality and the looks to back it up.
“AND THE SECOND ONE TO ENTER THAT DAMN GATE GETS MY SWORD IN HIS ARSE’!” Markus yelled out, waving his sword around in the air. I quickly tugged Markus back as an enemy arrow flew by his head, narrowly missing.
He looked at me, his eyes saying “thank you” but only giving me a half-hearted chuckle. Grabbing my bow and quiver, I leaned back down against the wall, enchanting the arrow with a fire spell as I pulled it back, aiming it directly at the mage who threw the fireball at Peter.
I watched intently as the arrow flowed through the air and finally pierced the mage deep into his stomach, as the fire spell activated. The mage was quickly covered in violent flames, as the heat was also generated inside of him. Even though I avenged my dear friend, I didn’t feel much joy from watching such brutality. But I’ve made myself damn proud, and I hope I made you rest a little easier in the heavens, Peter. Setting my bow down, I watched as Markus launched slashes of air at the enemy soldiers wildly.
While some missed completely, the spells that landed completely eviscerated the enemies, the resulting mess turning them into mincemeat. I watched this go on for a few minutes before Markus leapt onto the wall once more followed by his iconic cocky laugh. Scwoop. I watched as Markus suddenly stumbled backwards, stepping down from the ledge, blood leaking all over the already blood-stained ground. As he turned towards me, all I could see was the arrow sticking out from his eye, and the mixture of blood and puss gushing out. He seemed confused as to what happens and began frantically huffing, gritting his teeth in confused rage. I placed my hands firmly on his shoulder and shouted for another soldier to help me hold him down. As we forced Markus onto the ground, I yelled to the other, panicked soldier to hold his arms.
“Make sure to hold him tight, this is gonna feel like fucking hell!!” then I looked at Markus, who was now realizing the pain he was in, screaming in anguish. “You’re going to have to bear with me here, man! Here!” tried to assure him as I ripped off my belt, putting it in his mouth. “Bite down on that shit or it’s just going to feel worse!!” I yelled, trying to pump myself up for this next step, staring intently at the arrow. I carefully gripped the arrow, the slightest movement of it caused Markus to convulse.
The sounds it made as the head of the arrow moved inside his eye were sure to haunt me. I hesitated a bit, before yanking the arrow out in one fell swoop. His mess of an eye came out with it, the pop causing me to gag. I immediately threw the puss covered arrow to the side and watched as Markus repeatedly slammed his bare knuckles against the stone ground, beating his own knuckles into a bloody mess to try and take his mind away from even greater pain.
After taking a much-needed breather, I stood back up once again, grabbing my sheathed sword and jogging down the stairs as I prepared for the oncoming assault on the front gate. We all knew this next attack would decide the outcome of this battle.