The horse archers were on the roll, moving purposefully across the battlefield. Divius, training since age seven for this moment, rode atop his steed with bow in hand. As the first wave of horses thundered into the enemy flank, he loosed an arrow from fifty yards and watched it stick into an enemy thigh. Another arrow was sent on a journey, this one lodging into an enemy skull. At a furious pace, his horse entered the heart of the fray, horror written on a hundred faces. Divius smiled and nocked another arrow. It pierced an enemy chest, the body falling, hands clutching the heart.
Then he was airborne, soaring vulture-like above the field of war torn bodies. But it was not any reaper who summoned, no spirit offered to the Gods of war. Though he heard nothing, his vision remained, and the earth approached fast. The wind didn’t hold his weight for long, the impact with earth painful, bone-shattering. The bow fell from his grasp as he tore at the pain searing through his shoulder, arm, and mangled hand. He was breathing, still armored, alive.
But could his bow be hoisted again?
Divius crawled for it, unable to reach. An enemy slashed at him with a scimitar. He rolled away and rose to his feet. Another slash, but he jumped back, right arm hanging, throbbing. The enemy pushed on and a third slash struck flesh. Blood drained from his thigh. He looked down for a weapon but nothing was near. To the left he ran as the enraged enemy charged, ducking as a blade nearly cleaved his face in two, scooping up a sword slathered in blood. His momentum carried him another twenty paces where the battle cleared of action. Where was his harasser now? The big swordsman intent to drive him from this world?
He turned toward the morning sun and saw the swordsman in pursuit, eager to carve him like a slaughtered pig. The sword grasped in his left hand, Divius swung for the head but missed. A smirk appeared under his enemy’s long crooked nose. He charged again, roaring with madness as he lusted to kill. Divius held steady, lowered himself, and deflected a blow with his own sword. The enemy was thrown off balance, stumbling further toward a stream. Divius followed and sliced down into an exposed hamstring. A howl escaped his attacker as convulsions gripped his body. A major artery had ruptured, a wealth of blood liberated from his body.
Divius had a moment to breathe but the pain made it hard. There! A chariot en route, a moment to latch on and escape. He glared back at the battle, brother after brother fighting the enemy horde, bleeding, dying, armor shining under the sun. He looked to the sky and said, “To my beloved ancestors, any who dare rejoin the earth at this time, come and join me for in my soul there is no will to flee.” A jolt of fire lit inside and Divius rushed back into the fray.
The shouts, bellows, and bawls of warriors burst into his ears. The sting of his lacerated thigh melted away as he went sword-to-sword in battle. Reverberations from the clanging swords sizzled down his arm into his shoulder and chest. He fought bravely against them, but many were well armored, his sword doing little damage. He wanted a bow, he wanted that flexible wood and string in his hand and that feathered arrow that flies so true. He glimpsed a fellow archer lying dead nearby. Moving there, he crouched beside and took up the dead man’s bow. Three fingers were broken and bent on his hand, and with each heartbeat, an aching shockwave throbbed throughout those fingers. But the bow was his birthright, the weapon he was born to command.
Divius set his stance, nocked an arrow, and drew it back with two healthy fingers. His mouth open, teeth bared in pain, he took aim at an enemy. The arrow shot free of constraint, wobbling and curving towards nobody in particular. He lowered his bow and picked another arrow from the ground. Soon his focused eyes sought another enemy, but instead he recognized a friend, Maran, back pinned against the earth. A raging enemy hoisted a sword over him, ready to sink the blade into Maran’s chest. Divius loaded his bow and launched an arrow. The enemy dropped, hand over the smallest bit of exposed skin on his throat. That was more like it.
Maran stood and pointed in the direction of the stream. There alongside was the archer’s lost horse having a drink. Divius ran to it and was welcomed by a whinny. He stroked its shoulder and climbed atop, saddle still in place, bit still in mouth.
In this part of the north with a frigid sea nearby, the sky can open up at anytime and pour down rain. Grey clouds shimmied in first, a breeze and some mist. As Divius and his fellow warriors continued their assault, the breeze turned to fierce wind, the mist to cold rain. Then a thunderclap boomed from behind a ridge. Divius looked up and saw an enemy warlord perched atop his horse, gazing over the battleground. A fresh rank of enemy horsemen stood in line with the warlord, the one they called Gromm. The warlord blew a horn amid the storm and they rode their horses down into the fray. Gromm rode magnificently through the combatants, slicing down Divius’s comrades with his scimitar.
Divius had one remaining arrow in hand, and in the heavy rain, moved to meet his foe. His horse galloped powerfully in pursuit of Gromm. At forty yards he stood slightly in the stirrup and readied the arrow. The wind tore at his face, and all around men hacked at each other with swords. The bowstring came back and his fingers released the shaft. The release was not clean and he knew it instantly. The arrow darted past Gromm’s head, missing by inches. At twenty yards their eyes met, a gloss shrouding the warlord’s eyes.
Divius turned his horse tightly while searching the ground for arrows, sword, or spear.
Then something bit into his back and his skin felt warm and damp. He fell forward, embracing the horse’s neck. His grip soon weakened and he crashed off to the mud. He tumbled to a stop, his blood drenching the soggy earth. He had one final thought before leaving this world: A warrior I am, and I fight for my motherland. May she bear fruit forever.
The next rush of cold wind whisked him away to another tribe of trespassers, another war-scarred land, another desperate intolerable place.