Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Siege of the White Mountain; Vol. 2: Fields Running Red--Part 49

Bodies lay strewn around the field, looking to Brother Cord’s eyes as if an angry child had finished playing with its toys by angrily casting them around the room at random. It occurred to him that in a way that was most certainly what had happened, though he had to wonder who exactly the child was. One of the Seven? All of them? Douma Dalkiel? The Prince of Leonais? The Dark Lord and his Lady? The Holy Synod? Whatever their equivalent was across the river?

The Flagellant shook his masked head. Such questions were ultimately beyond a man as humble as himself. Perhaps beyond anybody. All he knew is that he and his brothers had been called to tend to the wounded. Most were not happy to see the Flagellants at first.

That usually changed when they started taking care of their injuries. One thing to be said about joining the Flagellants--you picked up an interesting skill set.

“Water…” groaned the man lying before him weakly. “Water…”

Cord nodded, and placed his dipper into the bucket he carried. “Of course, sir…” He placed the water at the man’s lips. It was filthy stuff, and if this were a man he thought would recover, he’d be giving him a shot of aqua vitae instead. But this man--this man would not survive. Not with wounds like that. Not if the Gods were kind.

And as he thought on the whole They were, he tried to mirror that kindness, at times like this.

The man guzzled the water greedily, then lay back and shut his eyes. He murmured something inaudible, which Cord took as ‘a thank you’. The Flagellant moved on to the next man.

This one was missing an arm now. And on closer examination, a good portion of what had been his stomach. He gave a weak cry for water.

As Brother Cord gave him a spoonful, it occurred to him that his profession had really given him an understanding for how long a body could live when it should be dead.

Brother Law approached him. “How’s it going? You need a rest?”

Cord shook his head. “I’m fine.”

Law nodded, glancing around. “So… some mess, huh?”

“That is putting it mildly,” answered Cord, standing to attend to the next man. This one looked like he might just make it. “The Dark Lords are terrible in their might…” Law gave a bitter laugh. “What’s so funny?” said Cord, turning to regard his friend.

“Oh… I’m sorry. You were serious.” Law shook his head. “Most of this--wasn’t the Dark Lords. It wasn’t Cthonique, it wasn’t that witch of a wife of his. It was us. Us in a panic. That’s how bad things are now.” He glanced around, then shut his eyes. “Honestly, I think the Nightfolk and the Montalbanese aren’t even going to have to do anything. Unless that second army that we’ve been promised shows up soon, this damned siege will end with us all killing each other, and them dancing together on our corpses.”

Cord shuddered. “Well--they’re probably as hungry as we are, at the moment. It’s been a while, and there are a lot of people behind those white walls…”

Law nodded grimly. “And a second army will mean more men to feed, but even so…” He blinked and gestured to the sky. “What is that?”

Cord turned, following his brother-in-arms’ finger. “I… it looks like something… flying. But… it has no wings…”

“A dragon, maybe?” suggested Law.

“The way I hear it,” said Cord, “they prefer to be farther south. No… no, this doesn’t fly like something that’s alive…”

And then it came into view, and Cord realized that it was something from the other side of the river, something he’d heard a tale about once, and discounted as too utterly impossible.

And he knew then that their siege was doomed.

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