The morning crept on The Sword with a swiftness and with it approached Whitewool’s army. Before Billingsley’s men were ready to move out, Whitewool was already approaching the base of The Blemish.
A horn sounded, waking Seth up from his deep sleep. Groggy eyes and yawns surrounded him as confusion broke out around the reasoning of the wake up call. A man opened the canvas door to the tent. Fresh air and sunlight filled the muggy place as if it were a vacuum, void of such things.
“Captain wants everyone outside now! They’re here!”
There wasn’t a man left in the tent a moment later. Outside, Billingsley stood atop a platform of boxes and sandbags. Hands on his hips, he awaited the sleepy formation of soldiers to arrive at his feet. His image stood above the crowd like a newly erected statue. The picturesque nature of Billingsley atop the pile of randomness reminded Seth of the Chief Ito statue in the Sternum’s plaza.
With knee-high boots and jodhpurs that were deflated from the night’s short sleep, Commander Billingsley stared through the horizon.
“Listen up!” His voice skimmed the heads of every soul out on that peak, “Whitewool’s army has approached the foot of this rock. They have us surrounded. We have no choice but to fight.” His eyes swept across the sea of faces, “We came here for training with our brothers from all over the region. Well, if you survive this day then there could be no better training.”
Sniffles and coughs broke the silence. Next to Seth, a man shivered.
“The Sword will blockade the main road to the peak.” Billingsley continued.
“The frontline?” Men around Seth whispered.
“That is all, for my men. Colonel Ishimura will now speak for Plainsbane. My men are dismissed to their elements.”
Swords were taken from their resting places and armor was buckled and strapped. Seth checked his battle buddy’s armor to ensure proper fastening. His name was Masaru, but everyone called him Mas for short. At least, that’s what he had just told Seth.
“Now you check mine.” Seth said turning around.
His armor was light and made of leather with a belt loop under each arm to secure it in place and adjust the tightness. Mas tightened the straps.
Seth shook his head and made an audible noise that wasn’t quite a yes. He grabbed his katana from where it leaned against his bunk and turned to Mas before sheathing it.
“Are you ready?” Seth stared at the ground unable to face what was in front of him.
Mas shook his head and grabbed his sword. The tent door flap flung open and they headed to the blockade.
Men were already in position behind a short wall of boulders to the side of the main road. Hunkered down, they drove their bodies into the side of the rocks in anticipation.
It was quiet. Sand collided with Seth’s boot. He was fixated on it. Swirls of wind brought the dirt centimeters off of the ground before it’s pattern was broken by a new gust. The cycle continued.
Then, a horse whinnied in the distance and the restlessness of The Sword followed.
“Get ready!”. One soldier whispered loudly to the group.
Seth’s palm and fingers shaped themselves around the blade’s hilt under anxious pressure.
Another horse whinnied, but this time it was much closer. Tips of spears and swords poked over the hills like newly sprouted blades of grass. The upset cadence of horse hooves grew louder as the animals were forced up the steep slope; pacified once they reached the top.
Seth and the men scanned the horizon examining the enemy before them. Some looked like them, some on horseback, but one blinded them. A knight stood at the front of the elements, the sun reflecting off of the concaves of the sheer steel. Seth had to squint to continue observing.
It was clear the knight wasn’t a General. The real General shouted commands off to the side of where the knight stood. Seth could see the General yelling something before turning back to look at The Sword’s position behind the rocks.
Then suddenly a slicing crunch sounded above him. A single arrow pierced one of the soldiers atop the rock and he fell to the ground.
Whitewool advanced with a quickness.
Two men knelt down to provide care to the wounded swordsman. Seth grabbed at them and yelled.
“There’s no time! Whitewool advances!”
The look in the two soldiers’ eyes were filled with fear and disgust. They shrugged Seth off and drug the wounded man away towards the medical tent.
The enemy advanced quickly and some of The Sword had already begun melee combat on the other side of the boulders. Seth turned back to the men dragging the body, but they had been struck down by stray arrows from somewhere; Seth wasn’t sure.
In a flash his instincts kicked in and blocked a spear strike off to his right. A leather-clad boy no older than seventeen engaged him. Clanks of metal and steel rang all around him and a shakiness in his fingers stung as blade collided with blade. The boy prodded at Seth again and he deflected it with a blow to the long rod of the spear. The weight of it slung the boy to the left. Seth struck him in the abdomen right below the leather straps to his side.
Everything fell from the boy’s face but his innocence, but Seth didn’t have time for that. He yanked his katana from the belly of the enemy and continued onward.
Seth moved across the rocky battleground stepping over dead enemies and allies alike. His mind was in a daze now. Mas had just stricken down an enemy and breathed heavily. This was washed over Seth as he moved around the carnage before coming upon the knight.
Seth’s senses returned as the knight beat down a man he had seen in the dining hall the night before. The knight’s greatsword was heavy enough to kill a man from its own weight, but the armor-clad warrior forced it into the soldier’s carcass.
The knight turned to Seth and lurched forward. His armor heaved under heavy breaths; the only thing that let Seth know the man was human. Ringing filled his ears, but he wasn’t sure if it was his surroundings or his own horror that caused it. It was as if Seth were now cast into the heart of a blacksmith’s forge.
He came to his senses as a stray arrow struck the knight in his shoulder armor. It caused no damage, but the knight turned to see Mas standing atop a boulder in what can only be described as a sort of fearful success. Mas had lured the knight away from Seth if only for a moment, but that’s all Seth needed to disappear into the mass carnage again.
Seth looked down at the drying blood on his katana blade and wondered if Mas had gotten away, but now Seth was cornered by two Whitewool soldiers.
The left one swung his rapier in a wide top-to-bottom stroke. Seth dodged backwards, blocking the right soldiers’ swing in return. Seth swung on the left, striking his thigh and then swung in combination to the right, but was blocked. The three took a moment’s breath before Seth was struck in the chest. The man’s blade partially pierced his leather armor, but Seth could still fight.
With his left hand holding his chest and his right hanging low with fatigue and the weight of his blade, Seth pushed forward striking the weak left soldier in the side of the stomach. As Seth pulled his blade back in exhaustion, the right man fell to an arrow. An archer had taken him down.
“Fall back!” The archer screamed waving in the direction of The Sword’s base camp.
The Sword’s coalition of units began withdrawing from the battleground. Seth took advantage of the confusion and dealt a deadly blow to the injured soldier. With his blade lodged in between the man’s ribs, he broke it loose and made his way back to the camp.