There was an audible whoosh coming from behind his head. Audible even over the cries and screams and crunches that were filling his ears every where else around him. Without hesitation, a mark of the instinct that his Generals spoke so optimistically about, Smithson ducked.
The axe flew over his head, accompanied by a grunt from its wielder, whilst Smithson had already unsheathed his boot knife with his spare left hand and at the moment he landed on his haunches, he had spun around and sunk it deep into the stomach of his enemy. The blood rushed warm over his hand. That was a critical hit, and the axe-man was falling, sliding smoothly off of the blade and hitting the floor with a thud. Another noise to fill the field of battle with confusion. Smithson, however, could decipher all of them individually, and his perception of distance had made him a valued warrior, rarely getting even a knick from an opposition blade. He was still young, however, and one of the Generals still fought at his side.
‘General, are they too many?’ Smithson shouted back the six feet to where his more experienced colleague was pulling his broadsword out of the chest plate of a felled victim.
‘There are never too many against an army as skilled as ours, do not worry Smithson.’
‘I am not worried, sir, I only fear that skill may be powerless against a constant onslaught, never relenting waves of attack.’
‘My boy, you fear too much still. That is the last lesson you need learn. Leave the fretting over numbers to our Seniors. We have enough.’
‘Yes sir,’ Smithson had conducted the conversation never in the same place twice, and ended it with three bodies in his wake, one with a boot knife-sized hole in the side of his neck, one with a broadsword gash diagonally stretching from shoulder to hip across the torso, and the last beheaded. Smithson, unlike all the other warriors of his age, did not fight with a shield. This level of confidence was shared only with the Generals, and even they often bore a shield in a battle of this size. A shield slowed Smithson down though, and has been a trait of his since his training.
This battle was commonly perceived to be the last in the war. The Great Divide between East and West had reached a head, and all of the West’s armies had stacked onto this uneven, damp, and un-kept field. The war had been started by just one man. A spy of the West had infiltrated the capital of the East, a great fortress, but going alone, had stolen a very precious artefact: the sword of the last King of the land. However it now seemed as if the West would end it, retain the sword, and force the country to unite under the rule of the Government. When the last king died, the division within the country was only due to the Prince’s banishment and corresponding forfeiting of his heir, by the Government. A civil war broke out then, but even though the East maintained the fortress capital, and succeeded in forcing the West over the natural boundary of the Evenhide River, the Prince remained a captive. The East had attempted to rescue the rightful King on countless occasions, but the strength and size of the Western army had always held strong. The abduction of the sword was a defiant move by the West in at last confirming their desire to move the Government East and reunite the land.
The Seniors, acting for the East in the absence of his Royal Highness had instead looked to invade Western towns, and forced the West out in stages.
However, now they faced the combined strength of its armies. The East was heavily outnumbered, and the Seniors knew that. Their hope rested on the speed of the maturing talents of the likes of Smithson. But there was a prophecy that many of them believed to give them a chance. It was not the belief of all, the rest had resigned themselves to failure in the face of such an adversary, but those who believed knew to look North.
Smithson trailed his blood-dripping sword off the ground in a graceful arc taking the mace arm off of another foe. As he wheeled around his knife was embedded into the chest. The crunch of it snapping through ribs was deafening. Another body dropped at Smithson’s feet.
‘But sir, they are never-ending!’
‘Smithson, keep focused!’
‘Even when Death is inches from my face, need I continue to stare straight through him?’
‘You are good enough to survive this battle, Smithson, do not lose hope.’
‘I may survive the battle, but what of the war, General?’
‘Smithson, you need not know this, but if it will put your mind at rest, I will tell you of the prophecy which is foreseen. This is the first day of September. We had all hoped to be fighting this battle, on this field, on this day. At noon, look North, Smithson. The end of the war will be seen then!’ And with that, he thrust his heavy broadsword clean through the latest onrushing Western warrior.
The sun was high in the sky already. Smithson was sceptical about the prophetic tales from whoever he had heard them from, but hearing them from his General had him curious.
Between swings of his sword he flicked his gaze northward. The General was wary of the possible distraction and in taking his attention away to the North Smithson lost focus. An arrow, which usually never comes close to worrying the young prodigy, as by the time they are shot, he has heard them and is already three steps away slaying another, flew by and caught him on the right shoulder. Smithson jolted back, and lost his forward momentum. He struggled to maintain the grip on his sword but knew he would be defenceless armed only with a knife. He threw his knife out from his left hand, landing it square between the eyes of an enemy warrior with enough force to clothes line him from his feet with the impact. He swapped his sword to his fit arm, and took another step forward, but his eyes were still drawn North. He scarcely made the necessary side-step to his left to avoid a swinging axe, and caught another wound to the same shoulder. This time he fell to the floor. Smithson was still mid-air as the General ended the life of warrior who had felled his promising starlet. Although, as Smithson landed his head swivelled northward again, but his vision now being turned into the sky by his position on his back, he saw what his General had referred to, falling to the earth. A white light, like a luminescent snowflake, was carefully gliding down to the ground.