Home > My Favorites > Day One Hundred and Fifty: Betrayed

Day One Hundred and Fifty: Betrayed

Garus couldn’t see when he woke up. He thought he might have gone deaf, too, but he could hear the howling of wind, which carried the screams of the wounded and dying to him. He smelled blood and mud and smoke and felt a stabbing pain in his stomach, all of which together convinced him that he was not dead. Or if he was, there was a very unpleasant eternity in store for him.

He tried to lift a hand to wipe his eyes, but his right hand wouldn’t move. So he picked up his left, which still held his sword, and for that he gave a rare thanks to whichever gods had decided not to abandon him at that moment. It did leave him with a poor choice, though – leave himself blind, or let go of Endiel so he could see again. In the end, he pulled the sword close to him, so that it rested against his side. He tried to sit up, but the pain in his stomach made that nearly impossible. His right hand had been burned into a rigid claw, the burns so deep that he couldn’t even feel it anymore. Garus resented the burns. He wasn’t a bad swordsman with his left, but nothing like he was with his right. Slowly, painfully, he levered himself up and got the blood and mud off his face with a hand sore and stiff from clenching the sword hilt.

The field of battle looked worse than he had imagined. The long green grass where he and his men had made their stand was gone, now nothing but a field of churned mud and corpses, all wearing the colors of the Army of The Red Rocks. Long-shafted arrows pinned the ground as far as he could see, and rivulets of rainwater flowed red to a larger stream of blood that slowly seeped into the ground. The bloody mud was mixed with splinters and rags, and he could see hands and faces just barely sticking up above the pooling red rainwater.

He took up the sword again and used it to get himself to his feet. Endiel was brightly, bitterly clean against the mud, and its green crystalline blade seemed to mock the desolation around it. Garus grimaced and tried to sheathe it, but his scabbard was gone. Lost somewhere in the mud, probably. He turned around, but everywhere he looked was the same. Bleak, gray-brown desolation. His eyes started to fill with tears.

The Army of the Red Rocks had been charged with protecting this pass. The mountains were nearly impossible to climb in any season and served as an ideal protection for the city of Deroth behind them. And it should have been easy. The Steward of Deroth had contracted Garus’ band to raise an army to defend the pass, a chokepoint that could have been held by an old woman and her grandmother. Garus had raised an army of a thousand loyal to Deroth to see to it that the forces of the Echuskan Empire would find them a nut too hard to crack.

Not so hard after all, it seemed. He looked behind him. The carnage continued into the pass, and he could smell smoke on the wind. He didn’t need to see it to know that the city of Deroth was dead, or at least dying, and he had failed in his promise. They must have been betrayed. It was the only explanation. He tested his anger and found it flat and dull, and that was how Garus knew he was dying. If he thought he could live, even another day, he would spend that day seeking out the traitor. He would die in that quest. But somehow he knew. He knew that there would be no quest, no search and no vengeance. Not for him.

Garus spotted a glimpse of color in the carnage – a bright blue that somehow remained unstained, and he knew there was only one person it could be. He limped over and cried out loud when he saw what was left of Kal-Atem. His body was slashed and broken, his bright Toriian plumage crushed into the mud. His beak had been hacked off by a sword-stroke and left a gaping maw where once poetry and song had come from. His cloak, though, was unstained. It was a simple enchantment, but just the kind of thing that a performer like him would want. Garus thought of the songs that Kal-Atem would not sing again, and he sank to his knees. For a moment, he wished bitterly that they had never met.

His weeping caused him to cough, which turned into hacking, and moments later he spit out something red and thick. “Oh,” he said. He thought about standing, but what would have come from that? There, by the body of his best friend, was as good a place to die as any. He knew his other comrades were out there somewhere. Probably just as dead as Kal-Atem was, as he would be himself.

Endiel still glowed in his hand, and he hated it for a moment. Still clean, unmarred, as beautiful as the day it was created, no doubt. Not a trace of the violence touched it, and Garus was well aware that no none who had ever wielded it had lived to give it up. He had gained it when he was a boy, when it fell from the hands of the Master Knight who’d wielded it. The sword had glowed when he touched it, and they were bound together from that moment.

From that moment until this one.

He lifted the sword up, and with an effort that sent him to hacking up bloody chunks again, he slammed it into the mud, down to the earth beneath, until only its hilt stuck up above the ground. When he recovered, he reached out and gripped the hilt with a bloodstained hand and took a thick, shaky breath. “I am Garus,” he whispered, and the sword-light shined a little brighter as it heard him. “We were betrayed,” he said. “We were betrayed and Deroth has been taken. The Empire will continue to move until it devours all.” He started to cough again, and it was a long while before he could speak again.

“If you hear this, then Endiel is yours. Take her. Wield her.” He spit again. “It is too late to save us, the Army of the Red Rocks. Kal-Atem. Nuis. Lynala. Yatix.” He felt faint, like he hadn’t slept for a long time, and his grip on the sword felt soft and indistinct. He ground his teeth and tasted blood and took a shuddering breath. “It is to late to save us,” he said.

“Avenge us.”

Garus let go of the sword and its glow winked out. Someone would find it, that much he knew. Not today, not tomorrow. But someday. He just prayed that the hand that wielded it would be strong enough to do what needed to be done.

He lay back, next to the body of Kal-Atem, and watched the gray sheet of clouds drift slowly overhead. The wind whipped across the field faster than the clouds, and Garus wished he could smell something sweeter than death as he went. “Good thing you’re not here, Kal,” he croaked. “You would have hated this ending.” He started to laugh, but the laugh cut off as his chest clenched and stopped his air. His heart followed soon after.

Garus and the army of the Red Rocks lay in the mud as the city of Deroth burned behind the mountains. It would be a long time before someone found the sword. It would be even longer before Garus and his friends were avenged.

  1. October 18, 2011 at 11:59 PM

    Good read!

    This story has a lot of potential. Do you plan to continue it?

    • October 19, 2011 at 12:03 AM

      I actually just realized the whole theme for your site. It’s a very interesting idea, though I would imagine very difficult to come up with something fresh each day.

      This story was pretty strong though, even if you don’t continue it.

      • October 19, 2011 at 5:14 AM

        Thanks. Yeah, some days it’s easy, most days it’s a struggle to get going. But it’s all about trying to find different stories to tell and different ways to do it. Good mental exercise.

    • October 19, 2011 at 5:12 AM

      I certainly hope so. It was one of those that kind of built itself while I wrote it, so I think there’s a lot to explore. I’m sure I’ll put this in my “come back to it later” pile.

      Glad you liked it!

  2. October 19, 2011 at 6:51 AM

    But when that day of vengeance comes…it will hopefully be quite the literary reckoning to behold. Nice little work – and as for the project-at-large (fiction a day!), a good goal for any writer. Keeps the mind limber and the fingers agile. Leads to good things.

    Best of luck, my fellow writer!

    • October 19, 2011 at 7:11 AM

      Many thanks! One of the goals of this project is that when the year is done, I’ll have lots of raw material to work with. It should keep me busy for quite some time.

  1. December 11, 2011 at 3:35 PM

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