IMW: Love and Loss
Henry thought that he was ready for the battle, but it wasn’t until the orcs made contact with their lines that he saw how wrong he was, but he knew he couldn’t break. He had to keep his wits and keep his mind sharp to protect those next to him. When the line pressed he did the same lifting his shield when needed to weather a blow that threatened to break his arm even through the wooden slats.
They were winning even though he had seen other fall to blows that defied what he thought men sized creatures could do, but those deaths were few and when the orcs broke ranks and ran, he knew that he was prepared and that if he trusted his training and his brothers he might see the end of the war and he might see Jean again. He knew she was somewhere on this battlefield, weathering the same blows that he was.
He heard the horns blast, and he stopped walking. They weren’t going to press the pursuit any further. He cheered with everyone else, but his cheering was truncated when he saw a sickly orc standing in front of them, he was more yellow than green, half starved and with wild golden colored eyes. It lifted a knife to it’s own throat and drug the blade across it, splitting the skin and spilling its black red blood down it’s front. Everyone felt sick to watch it, was this the orc way, could they not surrender? Was death the only way?
Screams from their right took everyones attention away from the orc suicide before them, but Henry’s gaze was transfixed on the orc. Its skin split and swelled, his considerable bulk expanding and then his flesh sloughed off and below that was grey and black fur, and then his face split and the maw of a wolf appeared. “WOLF!” He yelled, but it was too late, the transformation was complete and the wolf was already upon the line. Henry dove away at the last possible second as others were rent in two by the force of the giant monster.
Fear like he had never felt before, a type of fear he never knew he was even capable of having. Fear of a monster. Other stepped into the creature, spearmen emboldened by their own hubris and Henry watched them fall to the crazed thrashing of the creature. Spear Tips found purchase in rippling muscle and fur, but as their wielders were felled the creature flexed and the metal points were pushed from its flesh and the wounds stitched. This was not a foe they could best.
He ran, running between the two ranks or what were passable as ranks given the chaos that was erupting all around him. He knew that jean was on the far end of the lines, he had pulled in all of his favors to be deployed with her, he didn’t know why before but now he was sure it was The Six guiding him to protect her.
He saw her, helmet off, lifting her shield to weather a blow from a wolf. He dropped his shield and sword, and tackled her just in time to take her out of the path of the claw that was buried into the ground where she once stood. The wolf thrashed around, and clipped Henry’s armor and sent him flying. He hit the ground after flipping several times in the air. There was no wind left in him as he gasped against the ground, the pain of his wounds weren’t even evident yet. He tried to get to his hands and knees but his body wouldn’t move. He heard screaming and clanks of metal and chain before it was all washed away by the sudden and vivid ringing of a bell that deafened him. The force of the blow hit him soon after and his world was awash with blackness.
A faint light came through his closed eyelids and the scent of blood and herbs made him flare his nostrils. It was a far cry from the battlefield scents of sweat and mud. He thought that he had been on the battlefield before hadn’t he?
He yelled as he tried to sit up but his arms only lifted and his legs didn’t move at all. The pain set in as soon as he felt his core tighten.
“Henry no.” He couldn’t hear it fully like it was very far away but when jean’s face came to him he relaxed some.
“You-You’re safe. Thank the Six.” Henry relaxed although that relaxation made him wince from the pain of his relaxing muscles.
“Thanks to you, and then that Knight Valiant.” She looked like he felt, blood covered her, scratches and cuts all over. She didn’t have any armor on and was just in a mottled tank top.
“Miss. please. Can I speak with you?”
A priestess came and placed a hand on her shoulder and pulled her away. They had sequestered many of the wounded into this area, and it seemed it was only those on the verge of death or those who would be dead quite soon. It made her worry, and it made her worry for Henry even more. She rose and they walked a couple of steps away.
“You seem to know him, which is good...I mean.” She cleared her throat. “He is not long for the world. He has injuries inside him that we cannot mend. It will be soon, he will close his eyes and it will be the end...a peaceful death. You should stay with him...keep him.”
Jean pulled her hands to cover her mouth. She couldn’t bear to look at him. “Your wounds are not superficial either, but you seem to be recovering better than most, I will send a cleric here to check on you.” The priestess smiled and gestures for Jean to sit next to Henry, and headed off.
She lowered herself down and took Henry’s hand into her own and forced a smile. He could see right through it, but said nothing.
“So does this mean when we get back you’ll run away with me. We can find some nice place where no one knows us.”
She smiled and tears came to her eyes. “Yeah. I’ll run away with you. I didn’t mean what i said under that tree.”
“I know. It’s why I followed.” He yawned.
“Can you just stay awake for me a little longer.” She smiled and wiped her eyes although it just smeared the rehydrated blood across her features.
Even covered in the filth of war he thought she was beautiful. He blinked hard. “I love y-” he drifted away.
Jean tried to force another smile, as if he could still see her but she felt his hand go limp in hers the mask fell away and she wept hard and ugly for him. She buried her head into his chest, trying to feel any sense of life in him but there was nothing.
A cleric walked up behind them, he looked down at the pair, a sad scene he would only make sader. He watched her back rise and fall with the sobs and then noticed what he was told was true. The cuts on her back that should have been causing her considerable pain were slowly stitching themselves back together. She was too far gone to the plague to be healed. He pulled his mace from his hip, he at least knew that her sadness would be brief. A swift stroke and she was still, a second to ensure it. At least they would be reunited soon in death rather than spending a lifetime waiting for each other.