I stood alone on the edge of a snowy mountain, a broadsword gripped tightly in my hand, surveying the aftermath of a war.
As I looked down the mountain, I realized that the snow was no longer a pure white, but rather a bright crimson, stained with blood. The blood of countless victims, whose bodies were strewn across the mountainside; some living, most dead, but all broken—if not in body then in spirit.
The bodies lay there, blood pouring out from open wounds and pieces of flesh hanging from limbs. Often there was not even a whole body, rather only an arm or a leg which had been hacked off during the battle.
I glanced out over these people, many who were my friends, simply abandoned there, more helpless than a child in a snowstorm. Those still alive breathed hoarsely, struggling with every rasping inhalation to remain alive. I wished I could go and help, but there was nothing I could do—nothing but watch as they gave a final moan of pain and gasped for the last time. I could barely stand to watch – my friends dying one by one, but I endured.
I did not enjoy standing there, watching them all die helplessly the way they did, but I knew I had no other choice. No other choice but to walk away and desert them; and that was not an option. Not for me. I would not leave my friends alone to die. I would remain until the end. To be with them every step of the way.
Soon there was only one person left who still breathed—even if only just. With each wheeze, drops of blood spilled from his open mouth, but he clung on to life, unwilling to give up just yet, still hoping there was a way to get back to his family.
He was my best friend.
When I could stand it no longer, just watching the life evaporate from my comrade’s body, I started climbing down the hill-side. I walked with a limp I had received from many injuries. But I was still standing—the last to do so.
I trudged slowly through the ankle-deep snow toward my friend, who moments later was sprawled only feet away from me, one of this legs missing from the knee-down. As I walked, sharp, biting pain accompanying my every step, I looked down toward my armor, once a glistening white, but now matching the snow.
When I had at last reached where my friend was, I fell down on my knees and held him in my arms, bringing him close to my own body to keep him warm. He continuously spat out blood, staining my white armor even more, but I didn’t care, for that was all he could do. He could only lie there and cough up his own fluids, longing for death so the pain would cease, but yet wishing that he could live so he could see his family. He persevered, choosing the second option, holding onto hope. He made ragged breaths, was still alive—but not for much longer.
I remained there, cradling his limp form, not willing to give up, but knowing my efforts were fruitless. After only a few more minutes had passed, my friend let out his final exhalation. Blood still spewed from his mouth, numerous gashes and amputated limb, but he no longer felt pain, for he was dead. Tears flowed from my eyes and onto the body I was holding, which had only moments ago been alive. I stayed there, kneeling for a moment before I began screaming in anger; anger at the ones who started the war. Screaming in pain; pain that tore into my heart like daggers from the loss. Screaming in frustration; frustration that I could not have saved him.
I was alone, and soon would die from exhaustion, starvation, or blood-loss. The pain started to become intolerable, and I finally had to leave the scene, seeking help and leaving a scarlet trail with my tracks, my feet bleeding from one of many injuries.
I walked alone along the path before me, not knowing where it went, or where it would lead me. But I walked on further, knowing it was the only choice I had—the only choice besides giving up hope. As I looked around, hoping to find someone–anyone–I could see only my shadow beside me, always following, but never speaking, never comforting—I was alone.
I started to trudge away from the mountain, coming to a dirt path with patches of snow placed intermittently. The dirt entered the open wounds in my feet, causing violent stinging. I unsheathed my sword and brought it to my throat. I could bear the pain of being alone no more, nor the pain that escorted my numerous wounds, so I let the blade dig into my skin, releasing a trickle of blood from the wound. I was ready to plunge the sword in further, prepared to sever my jugular, but then I remembered who I was; a hero.
I trudged along still, sheathing my sword, determined to retain my dignity if nothing else. I tried to keep up hope, but I could undergo the pain no further. I fell down on the dirt path, the blood coming from my knees staining the path before me. I unsheathed my sword for a last time, and again brought it to my throat. I placed it on the cut I had made earlier, and dug in further.
~ :: ~
The blade passed through his jugular, severing the organs in his throat, and within seconds he was dead. His mouth remained open, and his body limped to the ground, lifeless. He was no longer alone at last. But he was lost forever.
~ :: ~
One thought on “Solus, A Short Story”
This reminds me of a scene from The Children of Hurin (J.R.R. Tolkien, published posthumously). Very gripping.