Fiction Friday – 15 February 2008
This Week’s Theme: Tell the story of a physical scar a characater has.
When battle ceased in forest glade
At Triphtus’ feet they lay
Mylokan hordes know ye well
What was your prize
Bought dear that night
In warrior’s blood
A scar, an eye, a glancing blow
Triphtus still stands!
The last strains of the song hung in the air, as the men in the hall cheered. “A glorious song Praxus! Tell us, is that how it really happened?”
Of course. It is all true. I was there. I saw it all…
The stag paused by the brook, stock still. The moment passed slowly, the constant gurgling of water over rocks drowning out all other sounds. The birds. The wind through the trees. My heartbeat. The stag turned slightly, exposing its breast. My hand opened, and the arrow flew forward, piercing the heart of the beast, felling it instantly.
“Good shot Praxus, good shot!” Triphtus laughed, grabbing me by the arm. “Quickly, let’s make sure it isn’t suffering.” We broke from the cover of the trees, and ran over to the carcass, swords drawn. The shot had been good. The stag had not suffered. Triphtus pulled some twine out of a pouch on his belt, and knelt down by our prize to bind its legs. I glanced around nervously.
“Hurry up!” I hissed. Triphtus did not look up, but continued tying the legs. “I am, I am, don’t worry Praxus. No one will complain.”
A noise from the underbrush. It’s just a rabbit, maybe the wind. I slowly pace round, making sure we aren’t being watched. “Fine, just remember our deal, if anyone asks about the deer…”
“Yes, yes, I killed it, I remember.” He grabbed at the legs and swung the deer over his broad shoulders. “No-one would blame you if they found out Praxus. The Council brought this upon your family, how else are you supposed to feed your mother? Charity?” He shook his head. “With only one son, what were they thinking to make you a bard?”
I smiled. Five years ago I had been the one to complain about my fate, and Triphtus had sought to reassure me. Now, I accepted what I was, and it was his turn to rail against the will of the magi. I patted the haunch of the deer. “Well, with this fine kill I need not do this again until the springtime.”
“True. And a fine set of points on it. What shall you have made?”
“Mother needs new knife handles, these should do fine.”
Triphtus laughed. “You spoil that woman! No doubt my own wishes she had as thoughtful a son…”
Triphtus had moved on a few more paces while talking. I remained. That noise again. Not a rabbit. Bigger. Without realising it, my hand crept to the sword by my side. In the mud of the path, I spotted a track. Not animal. I stooped to examine it, and that saved my life. The arrows whistled past me and impacted the hart on Triphtus’ back. A lucky escape for us both. In one movement he dropped it, drew his sword, and moved to the ground to shelter behind it. I scrambled into the undergrowth as a second volley was directed at me.
“Praxus!” he roared, but was drowned out by a crashing sound as the undergrowth was hacked aside. Mylokans. A small raiding party of Mylokans. A dozen swords pointed at Triphtus, a dozen warriors screamed for his surrender. Triphtus raised his sword, and leapt at the horde. With a cry I drew my own sword and assaulted them from behind, surprising two of them and swiftly dispatching them to the warrior’s rest.
Triphtus held his own against the leader, but I struggled. It had been many years since I had practised with a sword, and felt myself clumsy. My surprise attack had allowed me first blood, which made the rear pack wary ? this was my only advantage. With Triphtus making short work of rest, I knew I didn’t have to hold out for long. Six left. The odds in our favour.
I of course never studied the strategy of our enemies. And Triphtus was caught in the moment. Mylokans never raid without a Vorten, a mounted champion. The drum of hoofbeats was lost in the drum of our heartbeats, and it was almost too late when I saw the black mare almost atop Triphtus. “Triphtus, behind you!” I screamed. He turned, raising his sword, enough to deflect the blow intended for his heart. The blades rattled, swung wildly, and I saw the edge of the Mylokan blade strike his face, blood spraying into the air as Triphtus fell.
I don’t recall much else of that day. I can see the rider dismount. I can see the Mylokans falling, one by one, falling away from me. A stranger held my sword that day, but he fought like Triphtus. Strong, fearless, cunning. Soon, only two men stood. The Vorten, and the Warrior. The air seemed to turn red from the blood of so many, but I remember this detail. Two blades plunged into the gut of the Vorten, before he fell. I did not recognise the man who held my blade, but through his eyes I looked down and saw Triphtus, a dark blood oozing from his skull, crouched on the ground, but alive. His sword lying on the ground, but I knew in my heart it was his sword and his spirit that were in me.
“Triphtus” I managed to speak at last. He smiled weakly, as he brought his hand up to his eye to staunch the flow of blood from the long gash on his face. I let go of my sword and crouched down, cradling him in my arms. “Together my friend, always together. Thank the Gods, you live.”
“Together brother. Always.”
Triphtus slowly got down from his throne, and stood by me. “Aye, Praxus was there. When we were young men.” He embraced me, and for the first time since our childhood I saw a tear in his eye. “You were there. Together, brother.”
“Always” said I.