The sun had set a while ago, the triumphant had left and the injured had been collected. Vultures and vermin searched the dead and dying, looking for scraps and picking at the bleeding corpses. Oh the blood, oh the blood. The blood was a companion of the warrior, the bond between them all, and it mixed with the dirt on the battlefield on which they lay, creating a sort of thick mud, a mud of soil, sweat, and tears. Wails of pain and prayer echoed around the field, the sounds of battle songs and cheers of the tents in the distance. But despite the noise, Unther Veldritch felt alone.
He was one of the last to fall. By the time he’d taken the slice through his side, the fatal blow, he’d struck down 7 warriors, broke at least two of his ribs, an ankle, sustained a flock of bruises, and bled from his ear, elbow, thigh, and countless other places.
“So this is it, innit?” A voice came from his left, a chipper and light chap, from the sound of it, very young. Strange for the dying on a battlefield. He must’ve been 7 inches above his head. If Unther wished, he could reach out and graze the voice with his fingers. But Unther didn’t bother twisting his head to see the other man, who was probably grotesquely misshapen, as most of them were.
“Seems it,” He grumbled.
“Oh good, I didn’t know if you’d speak back,” the man’s voice sagged with relief. It almost made Unther laugh.
“I won’t, soon enough,” he chuckled. Knowing the end was near, that relief would be upon him soon, the pain didn’t feel so heavy anymore.
“I’ve already prayed every prayer I know. Tenreth knows I’m ready, so any moment now, she’ll pick me up and I’ll fly on her wings to the good place. I’m so hungry you’ve no idea. You know what I’d eat right now, if I had one last meal? My mothers roast and potatoes. She’d only ever make it for special occasions, and it tasted awful. But I’d eat a whole table’s worth of it now,” He sighed dreamily.
“I’ve prayed to my god, but not for much. He’ll decide whether or not I make it to the mutton at his table.” Unther wasn’t a very religious man, but again, he was almost dead. Dying changes things.
“Have you a family?” The man asked.
A family. His beautiful wife, with her reproachful smile and soft hands, her belly round with their son.
The thought almost brought tears to his eyes.
“Yeah, me too,” the man said quietly, reading Unther’s silence.
Unther lifted his head ever so slightly, pain shooting through his body. The movement allowed him to the last of the sunrise, the red tinge coloring the ebony sky above the mountains, the usually vibrant forests a smudge of black across the edges of the vast clearing. Fireflies lit the field of death, seeming like fairies- for a moment, you could almost forget the field was full of wailing corpses and wandering souls.
“It’s beautiful,” Unther breathed, in awe of the world, a sudden Euphoria overwhelming his senses. If his body could bear the tears, he would’ve wept right then and there, for he was truly lucky. Even lying inches in dirt and blood, he knew he was in the most beautiful place in all the universe.
“What’s your name?” He asked the man, suddenly worried for the stranger.
After a moment, the young man replied.
“Arelle.” Unther could hear him dying.
“Arelle. Lovely name,” he paused. “My name’s Unther.”
Unther always knew that he’d die on the battlefield, tearing enemies down bit by bit until the very end. Never did he think he’d die wishing he could speak to one.
The man didn’t respond, but straining his ears, he could hear the man’s labored breathing behind him.
A few moments passed, and then finally, the breathing stopped.
He was alone, yet again.
He looked up at the sky. The red tinge of the setting sun was gone now, replaced by millions of twinkling stars, staring down at them from a black, and utterly endless sky.
“Good night, Arelle,” he mumbled, breath catching in his throat. “Save me a seat up there.”
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