Worry…. Don’t worry. I am here.
Am I, really? I’ve forgotten, by now. Last time, the last time I worried I was… Was I? I can’t remember. Let me go back. Go back to… no, I can’t. Can I? I’ve tried so hard and it has become so difficult. I don’t know if I can manage anymore.
Back… to the day. The day I died.
Dying isn’t as difficult, or as… finalizing as you’d believe. Dying is simply like finishing a chapter in a book and turning to the next. It simply happens and you’re… new. Renewed. A new person, a new face, a new life… and a new beginning. Maybe it is more like reading the sequel to a book, instead of a new chapter. Yes, that would describe it well.
For me, though… death was not like that. No reincarnation, no tunnel of light, no chorus of angels… Nothing.
I was killed by a sword, in a battle. We were the final stand, before the village. I’m not sure why they chose me, a woman, to lead the men. They believed in me, though. I was strong, before them. I failed them, though, in the end.
The man in the armor, black and shining brighter than any star. I can’t explain it, not easily. No amount of polishing would normally bring that sheen. Many claimed it was from stone. Deathstone. Something only whispered of. Rumored of… certainly not seen.
No matter. He was who killed me, who slay me where I stood. I tried to fight him, but a young girl – barely into adulthood – has no chance against a weathered Battle Lord. I tried, though. It was the least I could do, for my family and home.
With my sword and dagger, I fought the man. All around us, the sounds of battle died. It could have simply been my imagination, or perhaps they were watching us. My people with hope, hoping that I would win. His with sadistic glee and amusement at seeing a GIRL fight such a man. It’s laughable, really.
I tried though… and for my efforts, I died. I was slain on the spot. I had my stomach ripped open. I saw my stomach spill forth and my blood flow, as I grew dizzy. My vision faded and I fell to the ground. First to my knees… and I would have spilled onto my face, yet… Yet I used the last of my energy to fall to my back, so I could see the Mother Sun, before my last breath.
That is how one dies in my land. Looking to the sun. Many have held out until daybreak to die, simply so they could see the sun. This is why we bury enemies and traitors face down. So they may never see the sun… Back, however, to my story…
One moment, everything was fading away. Sounds were swirling away from me, fading out of hearing. I could feel my heart slow in it’s beating, each beat feeling like it was millennia away. I was dying and I knew it. How could I have not? Seeing my stomach split open like that.
Then, in the instant it would take to take a single breath, my eyes were opening again. I was still upon the ground. I was still covered in blood. As I lifted myself, I found my stomach still open. Yet I lived? Or did I…
I found I had no need to breathe and that blood no longer seemed to pump through my veins. As what was on me was from when I was slain. It was congealing.
The smell of death hung heavy upon the air, assailing my senses. As I stopped focusing on my own body, I looked around me. Men were dead. MY men were dead. Yet… for every man of mine dead, at least one (usually two) of the Battle Lord’s men were dead.
I felt a swell of pride. While we were defeated, we took down the enemy. We still fought valiantly.
As I staggered to my feet, I placed a hand over my stomach, holding my innards in. Funny, how after seeing them spill from me, this seemed like nothing at all. My stomach didn’t heave… then again, my stomach wasn’t in any shape to heave.
I thought this with a short, morbid clip of a laugh. My sword was still in my hand, and there it remained. I was not about to abandon it.
I turned back to face my home and was met with the sight of flames. Homes were scorched, many already turning to ash. My feet took me across the field and I heard the occasional crunch of bones – or otherwise – beneath my feet. The blood that was still fresh sent my head spinning.
I had the urge to touch it, at the least. I restrained that urge, as I stumbled towards town. A few houses still remained standing, but were obviously abandoned. Doors and windows were broken in, some had furniture tossed outside. I felt the need to weep, as I saw this sight. Yet, the tears would not come.
My body – was it dead? It did not seem to work… -- was assailed with wracks of dry sobs, as I paused in the Town Square. I looked to the Inn. Still standing, surprisingly. I stepped within the door, looking around. My gaze passed, emotionless, over men killed where they sat. More than one had been run through with sharpened pieces of wood. Some through their heads, others through their torsos. I didn’t care anymore. I could not care. I felt I had lost the ability to feel such emotions.
I made my way into the stores and found what I had entered for. Cloth, needles, thread… I had to patch myself up. So I spent the next while doing that. Hours, perhaps. Do you know how difficult it is to place your organs back within yourself and then sew such a cut closed? If not – which I do hope you don’t – I’d like you to know that it is very difficult.
Afterwards, I stepped within the cellars, walking down the dark stairs. As I reached darkness, I found I had no need for any lantern. Somehow, I still managed to see clearly. I found alcohol. Mead, mainly. I had a feeling I would have need of such a drink. I finished one while down there. While it felt good and seemed to assure that my insides still at least partially-worked, I did not feel the affects.
I had always been a “lightweight” when it came to such things. A mug or two of ale and I was smashed. Now? While I got a slight buzz, I felt naught else. Still, what I got from it was enough. So, toting my “wares”, I returned to the Square.
I began a pile of things I thought I might need. Why I might need them, I did not know. Simply that I did. I collected a bedroll, some food. Clothes and a makeshift first aid kit. I wasn’t sure what went into said kits, so I guessed. Seemed to be right.
A search of the village and a few surrounding farms – those close enough to be within under an hour’s walking distance – found me one horse. It had run into a copse nearby one of the farms. It took me a time to coax it out. It seemed rather skittish at first with me, which I did not understand- it was Likth, a stallion I was familiar with.
No matter, for he soon grew all right with me and I was able to lead him to a barn to find saddle, bit and reins. All I needed to ready him to leave. To ride. Again, I knew not where I was headed. Simply that I was. To ride, to perhaps hunt down the Battle Lord. To find a place to train, to be able to bring him down.
I hobbled him in the Square, next to the well. I went into the tailor’s shop and got cloth. I found some serviceable clothes. Ones to replace mine, which were still soaked with blood. A pair of breeches, a loose tunic and a coat. The coat was a style I wasn’t familiar with: long, black. It nearly brushed the heels of my boots. I also found a new belt, on which I placed my sword.
Further searching of the town found me weapons. A crossbow and a long bow. Quivers, for each. I made a rig to hold the bows to my back, over the coat. The quivers I had placed on the horse; one hanging to either side of the horse, behind the saddle.
I went over my things, as I placed them on the horse. Food, water, mead… A “travelling kit”, with first aid items, as well as various other small things. Such as needle, scissors thread. Another few weapons I picked up were daggers. A boot dagger for each belt, one for the small of my back, and another for my belt. Also, two rolls of throwing daggers. One in a special pouch to hang upon my belt and the second which tucked aside the pommel of the saddle. My bedroll went behind the saddle and the bags of food and clothing hung to either side.
Likth was further skittish- he’d rarely carried a load and after all he had experienced, was rather scared to do so now. I took the time to sooth him, standing before his nose and feeding him one from a bag of various fruits (and oats, of course) I’d brought to have to feed him. Of course I’d mostly let him graze, but even horses need treats. As an aid, to help them keep going. So they don’t get discouraged.
I took one last, brief walk around the village, leading Likth. We were both very somber. No need to ask if the horse was. A horse isn’t often so calm and slow, head hanging as his did. We both knew what happened and that we were both all that remained.
It soon hit me, like the slap of driving wind and rain into your face. My family, my friends… Everyone I had known, all my life… They were now gone. I should have been gone too, but I was not. Why was I still here? Did I upset the Mother Sun. Did I disappoint her, in my way of death? Did she see me a traitor, who should not have died as I did?
I returned to the well in the Town Square, these thoughts running through my head. I finally, for the first time that day, stepped up to look within the well. And then my eyes saw it. My eyes saw the blood. The well was full of it. Not a drop of water… Only thick blood, that had not congealed, nor seemed like it was going to.
It was then I lost my mind and dropped the reins and fell forward, drinking it. As I drank it, a small part of my mind finally realized what I had become…