Survivor (Rough draft)
My death started with the morning the song woke me up. I heard it from way inside my tent in our camp—the thundering sound of two armies running towards one another, the sound of swords, of metal against metal, of the shouting and the dying.
I woke up to the song of war.
I was supposed to be in that war but I was bedridden due to severe stomach pains. I was told by the commander to stay. I’m only going to be a liability he said. I felt bad of course. But I obeyed. I knew I wouldn’t be able to fight properly anyway. And so, that was how I became a survivor. Stomach flu saved my life.
Our army was camped by the foot of a mountain. The huge thing shielded us from the intense heat of the sun. It also helped us scout the opposing army from a high place. My tent was placed at the back of the camp. I got out of my tent in full body armor. All around me I saw men running about and horses being pulled here and there. I looked up and I saw a scout running down the mountain path. I called him to come.
“How’s our army doing?” I said to him as I tightened my sword belt.
He was a young man, probably the same age as my son. He had pale gray eyes and sand colored hair. His face was white and I see fear in his eyes. He shook his head in reply. “We have them outnumbered at first. We were beating them sir. But, I don’t know why and I’m not sure as well as to what I saw,” his voice was starting to stutter.
“Speak boy,” I said to him in my stern voice. “What did you see?”
“I saw the men, our men, at the back of the army attacking the knights in front of them.” He said.
I felt a sinking feeling in the pits of my stomach. “Are you sure?” I asked.
He was about to answer when I heard the sound of hooves drawing near. I turned around and in the distance I saw five horses running hard towards the camp. I don’t know why but I felt at that time that they did not mean good. I drew my sword and I took the nearest horse I found. I rode towards the charging men. I felt the eyes of the people in camp watching me. Some were cooks, some were the other scouts, and some were knights left behind to defend camp. To the knights I commanded them to take up arms. They hesitantly obeyed.
As I drew nearer to the five men, I saw that they had their swords drawn and their eyes were fierce—a deadly combination. I also saw that they were our own knights. On their shields were the insignia of our kingdom.
“Halt!” I shouted to them.
They continued on riding. The one in the middle gave a shout. He swung his sword but I managed to block it with mine. The other four turncloaks rode past me. They were sent to eliminate everyone in camp. I heard shouting behind me but I focused on the battle at hand.
The rogue knight reined his horse and raised his sword for another strike. I remembered seeing his face before. He was one of the new recruits—a youth and still green in the arts of fighting. That was the reason they were placed on the flank. I saw his sword coming down. I raised my shield and at the same time I delivered a sword thrust at his shoulder. He screamed in pain. I bashed him with my shield and he fell down dead.
I wasted no time. I quickly turned my horse around and went to help in the camp. The tents were torn down and I saw some bodies on the ground. I recognized one of them as one of the rogue knights. I remembered his face as one of the new recruits as well. I cursed. Spies.
The sound of battle stole my attention. I drove my horse to a group of soldiers fighting against the remaining three rogues. I took one by surprise. I swung my sword hard completely taking his head off. The other two looked at me with surprise. They were killed off by the other knights.
“What’s going on? Why are they attacking us?” Halbert, one of the knights who remained in camp, asked me.
“Traitors,” I said. “These are the new recruits who volunteered a month before we marched on to battle.”
I looked upon the distance where our armies are now fighting two opponents instead of just one. I knew our chances of winning were getting bleaker and bleaker. Even with the help of those in camp we would be too late. After the defeat of our knights, the opposing army would march down on our camp and slay everyone. I knew I had to act.
“Timothy, gather the other knights and arm them. Do the same for those who are able to fight. I want you all to pack up and bring as much food as you can with you. We will go to the mountains.” I commanded. “Gomes you’re with me. Halbert you go with Tim and choose ten knights. Bring bows and meet us at the front of camp.”
Gomes took one of the horses of the turncloaks and the two of us rode to the front of camp. In front of us, we heard the sounds of screams of dying men. We knew they were the voices of our comrades.
“What will we do?” Gomes asked.
“We will slow them down. Prevent them from catching up to our people while they escape.” I answered. I could feel the eyes of Gomes still on me. Somehow, I knew what he was thinking. We were the ones who would die so the people behind us will live.
Behind us, I heard the other knights approaching. There were thirteen of us all in all.
“The others are already finishing packing,” Halbert said as he rode his horse beside me.
“How many people do we have?” I asked.
“Around three hundred sir,” he answered.
I gave a nod. There were two hundred thousand of us when we rode into war. I felt pain at our immense loss. I looked at the faces of the men who would risk their lives to save hundreds. Halbert, Gomes, Kite, Kristof, Paul, Johann, Samwell, John Markus, Leonard, Aaron, Yael, William, and Forrest. These were the names of the knights who fought with me as the people of our camp escaped. These were the names of the twelve knights who died while I lived. I etched their names in my head.
We waited for the coming battle. The sky had turned red. The screams had died. The army started marching. We remained quiet. But the fear that enveloped us was very much palpable. I knew I had to say something.
“I know you’re afraid,” I started saying, “We are severely outnumbered. We will be battling hundreds and the possibility of us dying is very high. But remember this, with each foe we kill there will be one less who will go after our people. With each minute we fight, we will be able to give a minute for our people to escape. We will be going against hundreds but we will also be saving hundreds.” I looked each one of them in the eyes. My heart was beating fast. “But if you want to go with those who had escaped, I will not blame you for it. Your life is your own.” I finished.
I waited for one or two or all of them to turn their horses around and leave. None of them did. I gave a smile as our marching foes drew nearer behind me.
Everything that happened after my speech was a strange blur. I remembered seeing hundreds of knights with their armor and their swords. I remembered them running towards us. I remembered that it rained. We made it rain. We shot volley after volley of arrows on them. I saw bodies fall down. Now that I can think clearly, I find it lucky that they didn’t have any archers left. We were able to kill a good number of them with our volley of arrows. Then, they were able to reach us and that was when hell started.
The song started once again and this time I was part of the band. I remembered the feeling of being in frenzy. I remembered seeing faces. I cut down face after face after face. My senses were reduced to my sight and my hearing. I no longer felt anything. The sound of swords clashing filled my ears. The faces of my comrades dying filled my eyes. I knew we were going to die. I thought I was prepared to die. But strangely, the next thing I remembered was me…running. I was running away. Not once did I turn around and look. I fear of what I would see. I fear I’d see the men, with bloodlust in their eyes, who wanted me dead. But above that, I fear I’d see the eyes of the comrades I left behind.
During my trek in the mountains, whenever I went to sleep, I’d see those eyes. The eyes of the men I abandoned to their deaths.
I don’t know how long I was running but when I next opened my eyes I found myself hidden inside a hole of a large tree. I was cramped inside. My knees were up to my chin and my whole body ached when I started to move. I crawled out of the hole and I entered a world of white. The ground was covered with a carpet of snow. The trees were bare and bony. And the sky was bleak and gray. I was on my knees as snowflakes fell down on my wounded fists and armor clad body.
I sat with my back on the tree and I remembered numbness. My hands were covered with blisters and a deep gash was on my shoulder. But I felt no pain. I just continued on sitting there. Snow kept on falling on top of me but I just had no energy left to do anything. Then I heard the sounds—branches brushing against something, twigs being broken under footfalls, snow being stepped on. Everything rushed back at me. The faces of those who wanted me dead flashed before me in a heartbeat. I scurried to get back on my feet. I started to run once more.
Above me, the sun had given way for the night. Stars burned in the sky as if the sun had shattered into a million tiny pieces. I was walking—too afraid to stop—when I stumbled on the first body. The corpse belonged to a young girl. The body was very stiff. I turned it over and I looked at her face. I recognized her as a serving girl of one of the generals. She was naked. The others must have taken her clothing for added warmth. I felt a shiver slide down my spine. It was not because someone stole the clothes off of a dead body. It was because of the knife I saw on the dead girl’s neck. I closed the dead girl’s eyes and I slowly stood up. Snow started to fall once again and I continued on my walk upwards.
I had not eaten ever since my walk from the large hole in the tree. By the third day of my walking, I was extremely weak. My crudely bandaged wounds had stopped bleeding but they were starting to smell. I knew they were infected. I saw two more dead bodies on my way up. Unlike the first one, they didn’t have any wounds on them. They were fully clothed as well. One of them had a dagger in his hand. The dagger was tightly gripped by the frozen fingers of the dead body. I pulled the fingers one by one. That was when I heard it. The sound was soft but loud enough for my ears to catch. I sharply turned around and I saw the white fur hidden behind the rows of trees. Red eyes were looking back at me. It slowly walked out from behind the trees. The wolf was huge. I quickly went back to the dagger. I could hear the wolf’s paws hitting the white snow as it ran towards me. The wolf was getting closer and closer. Two more fingers. I could hear the loud beating of my heart over the sound of the wolf’s paws. One more… I turned around and I felt the sharp claws hit my left cheek.
I opened my eyes and I saw nothing but white. I laid a hand on my cheek and I felt coldness of my blood. Beside me, a wolf was lying dead with a knife buried deep in its throat. Nightfall came once more. I sat up and looked at the bloody corpse of the wolf. I took the dagger out of its throat and I started to cut pieces off of the wolf’s body. Hunger. It drives a man to do things he wouldn’t normally do. I took bites out of the pieces of meat that I had cut.
I tucked the dagger in my belt and I continued to ascend. It was getting harder and harder to breathe as the air slowly thinned. The cold was intense and biting. Though my hunger had somewhat subsided, I was still dehydrated and feverish from the infection of my wounds. I was fortunate at least that there weren’t any snowstorms on my way up.
After my encounter with the white wolf, my trek was uneventful. I encountered a few more corpses on my walk and I took the clothing that they had, though the cold still was able to penetrate to my bones even with the layers of clothes.
Eventually, the trees lessened and the ground grew narrower and narrower. There was a moment when I had to walk across a narrow road with nothing on both of my sides but the sky and the falling snow. I went down on all fours and I crawled my way across. The wind blew hard once or twice and I found myself frozen in the middle—scared. Minutes trickled by and I forced myself to continue. When I managed to get across, I found myself laughing hard all the while with tears flowing down my eyes. I survived. Then the faces of those I abandoned flashed before me and with that, the laughter faded. I lay on the snow with tears frozen in my face.
I found the cave the following night. I was glad to finally be inside some form of shelter. It wasn’t large—enough to fit four men at most, but it was enough. I sat down with my back on the end of the cave and I watched the steady fall of snow. I then drifted off to unconsciousness not long after.
I woke up to the howling of the wind. The outside of the cave was an angry blur of white and the wind howled endlessly. A snowstorm had come and it was suicide to venture out. Of course, it was also death to stay inside the cave. My body had grown stiff from the cold and even just a small movement gave me pain. I could feel Death with me inside the small cave. I felt him in my hunger and in my wounds. I could hear him in the howling of the wind. I saw him in the faces of the men I’ve abandoned. If I looked hard enough I could see him sitting beside me. I closed my eyes as I silently wait for him to finally claim me. Just like last night, I felt myself losing consciousness. But I knew that the moment I fall asleep, morning would never come again.