Once more he had dreamt up the same nightmare, and once more he had woken from it in a cold sweat, a wetness on his cheeks as if he’d been crying.
                Most nights he had the dream.
                The marshes surrounded them, the fog permeating the cloth beneath their armour so that their bodies were sodden as their feet as they sloshed through deep wells of soggy mud. Even in this dream he could still hear the wet squelching.
                The cold rise of dawn came upon them and the mists rose higher so as to impede his visibility. But they slogged onwards. For he was at the front with Damyen beside him, his long light hair falling to his shoulders, a young face despite his age that bore little stubble and a thin, sturdy frame. Behind them marched a mass of faceless soldiers.
                He continued staring at Damyen, as the water from the mist caught in his eyes, as if he wanted to say something, but no words came out.
                Then he stumbled, and the young soldier caught him.
                “You need to watch where you’re going, squire.” Damyen winked, and he picked him up and dusted him off. “Now come on, the scouts report these bastards aren’t too far ahead. I—“ His words were cut off by a roar of sound.
                That was when everything became chaotic.
                The soldiers became manifestations of the clouds, swirling writhing masses forming into images too fast for him to understand. He’d lost Damyen in the motion of the ethereal. And he realised, his men had been attacked by Barbarans that had come upon them like ghosts.
                The fog quickly turned red and so did the waters. As the sounds of clanging metal deafened him just like the sound of his own shouts and the roars in the fitful throes of his sleep. He heard a cry from afar. It was Damyen’s voice, calling to him.
                He tried to wade through the mud, but it was too thick, taking too long.
                A fighter leapt in front of him, but he cut him down.
                He continued to struggle through the dirt, searching desperately for the source of the shouts, but they were all around him, closing in on him. The muddy waters rose, trying to drown him. Wraiths grabbed and pulled and jabbed at him.
                Then he found Damyen in the distance. He fought a warchief. He was doing well, holding him off.
                And then the flash of silver, the dagger in the back.
                And that was the point at which he would wake up with his bedsheets twisted around him, his dirk in his hand glinting with the light of the moon. He would throw it in anger across the room and put his head in his hands as he tried to regain control of his breathing. It would take him a moment to realise he was sobbing. Then he would get up, retrieve his dirk and look out of the window. He would sigh deeply; try to let the cool air of night ease his mind.
                This was what war had reduced him to. A complete mess.
                The worst part was, that’s exactly how it had felt at the time. And the thing that had made him most curious, was that dagger. Was it some symbol? His Captain had entrusted him to be there, to protect him and yet he had failed him. He may as well stabbed him in the back. He thrust that thought aside. Now was not the time to be thinking of the dream.

Devlin looked up and saw the crowd of people as they cheered. They were all screaming, most in adoration too. He felt proud as he held the banner of House Dray in his arms. It was bloody heavy, the pole being about three four metres of wood topped with a streaming mass of cotton. His house, his people, all here to see him off, to tell him they loved him. He let himself grin.

The End

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