pay me here
Sleep on the hard ground, dig in the rain, smell the wet earth and the sweet scent of summer's end, today is the last day. No more digging, no more toil preparing the camp, no more taking the watch at night, the enemy has taken the field and they are many with armor shining in the afternoon sun and spears pointing skyward, sharp edges out. But my spear is just as sharp, and my heart pounds in my chest, my eyesight has never been keener, and my armor feels as light as fine silk. Today is my day. Tales will be told to children over smoldering fires about my deeds today.
This anticipation, waiting, just before the charge, it is such a sweet torture. I enjoy the last quiet breeze on my face, but I crave the noise, and the fear, the smell of panic and blood. They will fear me once they see me coming. I have been here before, and each time I expected to die. Once my spear takes the first one, they will see me and be afraid. They are bigger and better armed and better organized, but I am quicker, and I know where their armor is weak. I will kill many, then I will die.
We run, each trying to be the first to die on the enemy's shield wall. The distance passes in only a second. It is so quiet. There is yelling, screaming, spears pounding on shields, brassy horns bellowing, but I do not hear any of it. The world has focused to a pin's point. I see my enemy, I have chosen him, because he is the biggest. I leap, his spear is down, and comes up too late. My hand pulls down his shield and my spear pierces his eye socket. Then I am among them, slicing and stabbing, my spear is broken before I hit the ground, but my sword is just as sharp. Then it is over, and there is only darkness.
My arms are weary. The sword is heavy in my hand, finally, light as a feather for hours. My time draws near, there are too many. A thousand tiny cuts bleed crimson red, my armor is broken and full of holes. This is no surprise, a legion of men in armor with spears and swords and shields, their standards flapping in the wind, Roman scum. They rape the villages and burn them, leaving behind them nothing but char and death. Too many from the start, but running was not an option, for I am Preteni. I will stand before this glorious host in their shining armor and I will teach them what it means to be afraid. Now I stand, weary with killing and a hundred and more are dead by my hand and I can see the fear in their eyes. They wonder if I am a god, sent by Mars, to punish them. They wonder if I can be defeated. They do not see how the wounds have made me weak.
They pause, a dozen paces away from me, their centurions whipping them, cursing them, driving them towards me, but they still pause, fear in their eyes. I bellow at them, cursing them for cowards and mocking them for their weakness. I laugh, I am full of mirth. Here I am, standing upon a mountain of their dead, a glorious victory, no matter if I meet defeat now.
Then they come on, and I raise my sword and bury it in the first man and see his eyes go dark. But I am too weary to pull it out, and they stab me and it is over. I fall, and all the pain is gone in an instant. They keep stabbing in a rage over their fallen comrades, but I do not feel it. I am beyond their rage now. I look up at the sky, at the clouds, highlighted in orange by the setting sun. It is so beautiful, how did I not notice until now?
Fate's hand writes my future. My lung is a ruin and I am on the ground trying to make my one good lung work for me. The bullet has torn its deadly path through soft tissue and bone. More bullets are on their way towards me, but all I can think about is oxygen. I roll, despite the fear and pain, death is worse. Bullets fly above me, blood is everywhere, fuck it, I will not be beaten, just need to take some of them with me. Fire fills my chest, my head blurs and my breath spits blood. Again and again, bullets tear through me. Those bullets hit organs that do not matter, not now. There is no more pain, my brain is on fire, I hate, like I have never hated in my life. I hate this one creature. He has taken everything from me, so I hate him.