-SNAP- The cracking sound of some twenty trebuchets being fired from the beach resounded through the village, shaking every window as the released boulders made for the village and bordering wall with a ferocity that had even the strongest of warriors fleeing their post.
As the boulders fell, synonymous to the rain that had been pouring all morning, houses collapsed, bodies were flung from buildings along with shattered brick and mortar, and the range of fire grew ever closer to the school center the village’s families took shelter in.
Everyone had been told to flee to the lower chambers of the school center, marked as the safe zone for times of bombardment. One boy, alone in the dim school halls, gazed out the window closest to the battlefield with eyes full of melancholic interest in the proceeding battle.
The scrawny boy, not a day older than eleven, stared on as several boulders smashed into the finely constructed stone wall bordering Takanova Island, which kept the village at least somewhat safe from the coastline where the battles often took place. The boulders hit several weak spots in the wall, and a section of it collapsed into the village.
As a result, a group of infantry soldiers poured into the village, where they were met by unorganized soldiers, guards, and armed villagers. A messy skirmish ensued, in which the invading infantrymen eventually won out. One man attempted to flee the scene the moment their defeat was confirmed. However, it was quickly made clear he would not be allowed to run far. A group of six caught up to him, and cornered the bloodied and heavily bandaged man in front of the school center.
The lone soldier turned to face the group, shaking slightly in the cold rain as he readied two short swords.
Through the window the young boy watched as the six men pounced, thrusting swords at the cornered man from all angles. The man mustered all of his energy into defending and countering, spinning while swinging the short swords with desperate precision. He managed to push the group back a bit, cutting several of the attackers. However, he paid a price each time he landed a blow, as the attackers took advantage of brief openings to execute a short stab.
Before long, the fight became one sided, as the man’s wounds slowly piled up. Backed up against the wall of the school center, he lowered his swords, taking deep breaths.
He’d managed to injure all the attackers, though he couldn’t get a killing blow off as outnumbered as he was.
The attackers slowly closed in, winding up for the finishing blow. When they struck, the man kicked off the wall in a low, forward dive, managing to weave between most of the blows.
As blood spurted from his back, he leapt up, quickly swinging his short swords across the neck and torso of two of the attackers.
The two dropped before him. However, his wide swings left him open, at an angle in midair he couldn’t defend against. Two of the remaining attackers struck, going to one knee after executing a long side swing.
The swords sliced through the man’s ribcage on either side, flooring him. His swords fell from his hands as he lay crippled and bloodstained, left only with the strength to look up at his four attackers with defeated eyes as they raised their swords high.
Within the school center’s empty first floor, the sound of rapid footsteps echoed.
The nearest door burst open.
Outside, the rain muffled the sound of the double doors swinging open.
Two attackers who stood in what was now the rear of the scuffle did not expect to be knocked aside by the heavy wooden doors.
As the two front-most men whose swords had almost begun their downward arc into the man’s skull, turned in surprise, the boy streaked by them and dropped to his knees, holding his arms out to shield the collapsed man.
“LET HIM GO! YOU’VE ALREADY WON, HAVEN’T YOU?!”
“Hahaha, what the hell is this kid doing?”
“This is war kid. Fight to kill. Take no prisoners!”
Right then, a new voice sounded through the crushing rain.
“You bunch of brainless shits, how many times were you briefed on this?”
The rigid voice came from a horsed man approaching from several meters away.
“Taking prisoners like this man is EXACTLY what you’re supposed to do!”
“O-oh..yeah..I forgot about tha-”
“Who gives a shit?! Why do we have to take orders from you Red Wolves? If we hold back because of your agenda, we won’t survive out here!”
“What we’re doing is going to end the war so you don’t have to die out here, morons.”
The horsed man was now close enough that he did not have to yell, which didn’t seem to suit him anyway. His red-gold uniform, completed with a red general’s cap, was a daunting sight, the rain bouncing off his armor in a way that accentuated his broad build.
“Nobody asked you to stop the war, shithead, this is how some of us make it through!”
The men continued to argue like this.
The boy now froze in fear, understanding the possibility of being taken hostage or being killed here. He hadn’t thought about bursting onto the scene at all. It was simply a knee-jerk reaction to seeing the man’s struggle end, his face wearing a sense of hopeless defeat. He didn’t understand it, but he knew he couldn’t stand by and do nothing.
However, it was still going to end in despair.
At least, that’s what he’d thought.
Beneath him, the boy heard knuckles cracking.
Slowly glimpsing downward, his eyes widened.
The wounded young man was grasping his swords so hard it seemed he might break them.
When he looked in his narrowed eyes, defeat was the last thing he saw in them.
Instead, he saw a mad vigor to fight, to live.
After all, he had never given up.
The sight left him in frozen awe, until the man turned his eyes up toward the boy.
The moment the two made eye contact, he knew what he had to do.
Being eleven years old, there wasn’t much the boy’s small frame could offer in this situation.
Therefore, he did the only thing he could do.
Gripping the man’s arms tightly, the boy let out a shrill roar as he put all his strength into pulling them toward him.
The man simultaneously kicked off his feet, and used the boy’s slight push to leap forward.
Passing the two nearest men in a glide, the wounded man gave a rounded swing on both sides.
As he dropped to a knee behind them, blood spurted in a straight line down the two men’s neck and back.
The two fell without another word, landing on either side of the frantic boy.
However, the lone man was remained propped on one knee, shaking furiously as he barely maintained his position.
The boy eyed the threats on either side of them, two last infantrymen on one, a horsed general on another.
The horse slowly clopped over to the boy, who wore fear on his face like a hunted animal as he took several slow steps backward.
“And this is exactly why you were briefed on such situations. It’s their own fault they let their guard down.”
The large, intimidating man scoffed at the two fallen soldiers, before looking at the frozen boy.
His countenance bore something heavy, like the ever-present gray clouds in the sky.
“Now, what to do with this spunky kid here. I really don’t want to kill a kid, so I guess I’ll say he shows qualities of an heir as well, huh..”
He seemed to be talking to himself, disregarding the other four people present, especially his own men.
The boy, now realizing what was going to happen, cowered before the horsed man.
“Don’t worry, kid. Thanks to you and this guy, we bought enough time.”
The muttered words came from the man now just behind the boy, still sitting up on one knee.
His gaze remained pointed in the opposite direction, but the boy could feel the fire in his eyes from his mumbled words alone.
“So don’t you dare give up on yourself.”
The boy suddenly grit his teeth and stood tall, back to back with the man.
The horsed man saw this and gave a short laugh, a look of slight pity on his face.
“That’s the spirit, boy. Those are the eyes I wanna se-”
The impending sound of hooves beating the grass resounded nearby, turning the heads of everyone present. The rain had gotten even heavier, creating a dense layer of mist, so that nobody could see nor hear which direction the sound was coming from.
And then it happened.
The boy saw something like a specter.
A dark figure, with a large frame and long flowing hair, moved like a blur through the scene, before disappearing into the mist.
Following it, a horse dashed upon them, traveling along the wall of the school center.
As it streaked by the group, its rider brandished a long broad sword, and seared into the two infantrymen with minimal effort.
As the bodies of the infantrymen slumped onto the wall like slabs of meat falling from a fire, the horse then stopped on a dime, kicking up earth before charging in the direction of the horsed general.
The general, a small grin on his face, gripped his long sword with certainty, awaiting the clash.
As the horses met each other, and iron struck iron with enough force to send sparks flying, the boy realized what this person was.
Clad in thick green robes with exquisite armor plating, a finely welded silver helmet, and a sleek green cape flowing behind him, the man’s large build matched that of his abnormally sized horse.
The boy had heard all about them before, but as he was not old enough to be allowed in town, he’d never seen one.
The Knight clashed with the enemy general, exchanging one fierce blow after another.
He’d never seen anything like this. It was a display of power he never knew was even possible. As the Knight’s long, flowing blonde hair shook with each blow, he wondered how the horses could withstand the force of the strikes the two traded with ease.
Finally, his attention was pulled away from the spectacle by the sound of a body splashing into the mud.
Jumping to, he found the battered Teuton soldier having finally collapsed, losing all signs of consciousness.
Frantic to administer some form of first aid, the boy ripped the top of his own robes off and wrapped them around the man’s torso. He then dug his hands into the wrapping, putting pressure on each of the man’s most lethal wounds.
With panicked eyes and shaking hands, he wondered if he was doing this correctly. He had no idea or preparation on how to behave in this situation, aside from a very brief first aid session in class. As the two horsed men continued trading blows, neither giving the other an inch, the boy looked around him.
The situation finally began to feel real to him.
The battered, flaming buildings.
The seven bodies on the ground.
The blood painted thickly into the grass, and the rain beating down upon it to form a light red mist around him.
The stench of death in the air.
The boy vomited violently, turning to avoid the soldier he was tending to.
Tears involuntarily streaked down his face
Just as he hoped for some form of reprieve from the situation, the Knight finally gained the upper hand in the duel.
Their blades locked fiercely, the Knight managed to break loose, pushing the general’s sword across his body.
Never losing his grip, the Knight lunged across the general’s left side, his horse reacting swiftly to the flow of the battle.
From his left side, he gave a short sideways sword sweep, his grip wide on the sword’s long hilt.
The general had seen this coming and tried to move his horse in the opposite direction to avoid the strike, but he was just late.
Or rather, he was just on time to avoid his mouth being opened up all the way to his neck.
The blade sliced into his cheek, cutting deeply through his ear before completing its arc.
Grasping at his face, the general groaned furiously in pain. Spitting blood onto his own horse violently, he pulled the reins and turned to flee back toward the wall, where the main battle was taking place.
Understanding its victory, the Knight’s horse reared up while the Knight gave a chilling war cry, thrusting his broad sword in the air.
It was a glorious sight, befitting of the Teutonic Knights the boy had always heard about.
And, just as the boy became lost in the moment, a voice brought him back to reality.
“Cedric, what are you doing out here?”
“You were told to stay put in the shelter, Cedric.”
It was him.
“How many times have I told you that you mustn’t be a burden to others?”
It was the emotionless voice of his father, who was not his real father.
A man who, despite his large build, great work ethic and technical ability, was for some reason excused from fighting in the war.
His father, Gadric Cintog, stood thoroughly drenched, some distance away from the door.
He was getting lightheaded, fast.
“Come back inside, Cedric.”
His father’s cold voice, along with the horrible stench around him, finally overcame him.
Just as he felt his body falling slowly over, the knight appeared before him, taking hold of the wounded man.
“Rest easy, young man. You’ve done more than enough.”
As his consciousness began to fade out, the boy’s heavy heart felt just a bit lighter.
…this is …a… knight?