When Nicor the mercenary dies in battle, he thinks that everything good about his life has come to an end.
But could his death be the beginning of something new? Something he never could have experienced in life...
This story starts with a death. My death. It wasn’t actually how or why I died that was momentous, I was a mercenary after all, paid to fight and die in battle (which you have probably noticed I had just done). No, what was truly momentous was what I discovered after I died. If you thought that dead people just fade away and disappear to heaven, hell or wherever else they might end up then you were wrong. In fact you couldn’t be more wrong. I didn’t fade away. I stayed right where I was, standing beside the mass grave into which my corpse had just been thrown. This is where my story starts. Let me take you on my journey, the journey I’d never thought I’d take.
I sat by the fire, watching the other mercenaries. They were all discussing the battle, swapping tales of bravado and valour. With each swig of celebratory wine the tales grew more and more unrealistic, from killing a man with a finger to defeating a whole cohort of cavalry with one arm chopped off (may I just say that the man who claimed to have claimed this had both arms firmly attached to his shoulders.) I just sat there, invisible and lonely, longing to join in the hearty celebrations.
Then I noticed a group of men sitting alone in a corner, talking quietly amongst themselves. I walked (or should I say, glided) over to where they were sitting, keen to hear the reason for their sobriety when everyone else was drunk on glee and wine. There were four of them altogether, I recognised all of them, having lived alongside them for most of my life. They were discussing all the comrades we (or as the case may be, they) had lost in the fighting. I sat down and listened, had any of them noticed I was gone?
“Lucky went down when the phalanx line broke, spear straight through his gut. Dead before he hit the ground.”
I snorted, trust Lucky to get the easy way out, my own demise had been somewhat more, shall we say, prolonged then that.
“I know Zen was with the cavalry when the catapults started flying, don’t know what happened but they found him about two hours ago. Both legs crushed under a stone.”
I grimaced. Ouch. That would hurt.
“My son died when the infantry charged. The men told me he was the one who reached the enemy first, the first one to try and get his sword into one of their bellies.”
I sighed, those younger men always had been most reckless. No wonder his son was dead, the first of the infantry had been sent against the armoured cataphracts! He’d have been lucky to stick his sword anywhere, let alone a man’s belly.
As the list of the dead grew longer, I began to wonder where all of my fallen companions were. Surely the would all have stayed around like I’d done, after all I hadn’t been a particularly special case. Surely my death hadn’t gone un-noticed; there’d been plenty of people around when I’d died. Hadn’t there? The mention of my name snapped me out of my reverie:
“I guess that only leaves Nicor doesn’t it? Anything special about him?” It was the bony man, the one who’d related Lucky’s death to the rest of the group.
The fair haired man- Zen’s friend- answered him: “I don’t think so. I only knew he was dead when they brought his body back an hour ago. Rather unnoticeable was Nicor. Feels strange to even be talking about him really, I don’t think anyone knew him that well.”
Okay, maybe my demise had been a little more inconspicuous than I’d thought; I’d certainly not been with the phalanx or the cavalry (of which I was then very thankful). But surely someone must have seen? I’d screeched loudly enough when that cheating soldier had rammed his dagger into my gut, which I feel bound to point out was hidden (the dagger not my gut) so I didn’t see it until it was too late, which means he was technically cheating. But anyway, my scream must have attracted some attention? I listened again, as much out of curiosity as for anything else:
“Yes, bit of a dark horse wasn’t he? Well, there’s no point wondering about it now is there? He’s dead and there’s nothing we can do about it. Not that important anyway, I don’t think anyone will miss him much.”
And so the little group dispersed, leaving me standing alone on the edge of the crowd and feeling unloved. Did no-one care I was gone? Did no-one miss me? Was I really so unimportant as to get nothing but a passing comment from someone who barely knew me?Evidently yes.
Well then, what was I waiting for? Why bother hanging around now? I could hardly fight again could I, I was dead after all. Maybe it was time for a change of scenery. I’d always wanted to travel, so now it looks like I’ll get my chance. I smiled cynically; maybe my death would be more eventful than my life. Maybe it was to go and find out. Turning my back on the fires, the tents and the smiling faces I strode off into the cold darkness of the starless night.