Dead Army

The battle continued, but not for Edric. He lay on the ground while light and sound both faded in and out. He struggled to breathe, knowing he was dying but unwilling to give up.

After a slow eternity, Edric noticed that the pain had gone. It was dark. Not pitch-black, but like a cloudy night. He turned his head and saw the full moon, half-hidden behind the clouds. The sounds of fighting had faded away to nothingness.

There was a loud, echoing noise. He convulsed as a sharp pain flowed from his ears to the rest of his body. Then there was a grating voice speaking words that he couldn’t understand, although the meaning was clear.

“Rise”

The command came into his ears, but bypassed his brain and went directly to his muscles. He rose and saw that many of the other bodies were standing as well, with varying amounts of success. Some were pushing themselves up with the stumps of severed arms, and others stood on uneven legs. Some failed to rise at all, only twitching.

“Rise”

The command repeated, and more of the struggling bodies steadied themselves. Others that were barely standing lost the last of their balance and collapsed.

“Come. Assemble.”

Edric felt himself being pulled forward to a clearing outside the field of corpses. He felt like he was walking through mud, and his steps were shambling. Other bodies joined him until an army had assembled.

A man stood in the clearing. He pointed at a spot in the clearing. The shambling corpses, Edric included, gathered there.

“It is not yet time for your eternal rest. Your battles will continue. From now on, you will fight for me.”

Edric tried to protest, tell the man that he wouldn’t fight alongside the enemy, but he couldn’t.

The man pointed off in the distance, and Edric found himself marching home defeated.

Image Credits: Anne Wipf.

The Guardian

They told me that I couldn’t climb the mountain. They told me the Guardian Giant would stop me. I didn’t believe in their superstitions, so I chose to prove them wrong.

Oh, how mistaken I was.

I climbed the stairs, feeling the air around me get colder. I thought that the Giant would be nothing more than a cultural memory of avalanches in the mountains. I’m glad that I wore my furs, including the helmet liner. I cringe to remember the icy feeling of my helmet, imagining it on my bare head.

When I saw the Giant from a distance, I thought it was a statue. As I got closer, I wondered what dedication would cause the tribes to build this colossus on the mountain. I wondered at the weapons they insisted I bring. Did they truly believe that a sword would be needed against stone?

As I drew nearer the Giant, I saw that it wore a fur kilt. I wondered at that. Did the cold prevent the fur from rotting to the ground?

As I looked at the statue, I began to feel fear. Was it a trick of my eye, or was it facing slightly off from where I had seen it while climbing? My steps slowed as I saw the illusion of eyes following me.

“WHO DARES CHALLENGE ME?”

The statue was looking down at me.

At my running back.

Image Credits: M Hugo.