Rage against the dying of the light.
What I have for you is another excerpt from my current work in progress. Different character than last time, so I hope that you enjoy.
That was Isam’s entire world. It radiated from his side where the spear—who carried spears anymore—had pierced his side. Alright, it hadn’t been much of a spear, more of a sharpened stick. But it’d done its job well enough. More than well enough, Isam thought grimly. He could still feel bits of dirt and bark and leaves inside the wound.
Hand clutching his side, Isam pressed forward through the darkening woods. There was no path for him to follow. Instead, he pushed through brush and shrubbery, creating a racket that rivaled an avalanche. More than once Isam fell down a ravine, each time a little slower to climb back to the top. He felt sure that something would be after him soon enough from the blood he’d spilt. It covered the trees from his hands, the leaves from when he fell, and unknown other places. He’d not exactly been careful.
If he’d only been able to find his company again. All he’d done was slip out to relieve himself. Rage filled Isam as he slid to the ground next to a tree cut in half by a lightning strike. It wasn’t his fault. Sure, he slipped away, but no one asked the file leader for permission to piss. You did and he made sure not to let you until you damn near let lose in your pants. It was an unspoken rule. And what’d he get for his troubles? A bloody stick between his ribs.
Rage slid away just as fast as it had appeared. He was going die out here. Alone and in the cold. Probably eaten by some animal. There were scavengers in the woods. Or worse. Scavengers were the least of his problems this close to the mountains. Rumors spoke of dire wolves and mountain cats almost as large. In the mountains to the north, some even claimed proof of birds as big as horses. One of those monsters would be the end of him, not some wound in his side. He’d lost his musket in one of his falls, its bayonet in another. With nothing to defend himself with, he’d die watching bloody beaks and muzzles closing on his throat. Tears started to drip from Isam’s eyes.
No. No, he wouldn’t cry. He tried to force them away, but they still came. Tears blurred his vision and made the already dark sky dimmer. It wasn’t fair. Despair crept up on him and Isam embrased it. Had he a weapon then, he’d have used it on himself, not on some animal. No point in defending a dead man.
Struggling to his feet, Isam leaned on a tree and started forward again. He didn’t have any idea whether he was heading in the right direction or not, but it made little difference. There were cliffs and chasims about this place. He’d throw himself down one, head first, and pray that he broke his neck on landing. A quick death beat this agonizing one. The wound in his side throbbed in counterpoint to his thoughts, as if to show him that he was alive and that there was no reason to give up yet. But he’d seen this wound before on comrades and officers. It was a death knell unless he got help right away. And right away was long gone, leaving only death for himself.
That’s when he saw it, right when he was at his lowest and with tears flowing freely down his face. A point of brightness in the distance. It wasn’t natural. Isam stared at it for a while, trying to force it into making sense to his fog-addled mind. Raising a torn jacket sleeve to his eyes, he wiped away tears and dirt. It wasn’t natural. That meant—
Isam pushed forward with new effort, running with reckless abandon through the woods, moving as fast as he could with one hand pressed against his side trying to keep this fleeting life inside his body. Hope swelled in his chest. More than once, Isam fell, but was quickly back up on his feet. His head throbbed and the sound of his heart beat in his ears, almost drowning out all of his crashing and crunching as his boots trampled bushes, shrubs, and fallen leaves. Dry sticks cracked under his weight, throwing him off balance occasionally. But recovering was easy, only that light filling his mind. He was saved.
Hope drained away much as the rage had when he burst through into the clearing that held his salvation. Instead of the medics or civilized men he’d expected, he found a single man crouched in ragged hareskin clothes against a tree on the far side of the fire. It was a small clearing, with only ten feet or so separating him from the—what was he? The man was covered in dirt and his hair looked like a bird’s nest on top of his skull. Wild and fearful eyes stared out of a gaunt face. Only a shaven chin reminded Isam of anything civilized. This was a wild man, or at best a hermit. There was no help here. At least he wouldn’t die alone. Even if this fellow slit his throat for his clothes, he’d not be alone. Soon Isam wouldn’t need the uniform anyway.
“ A recluse,” Isam muttered under his breath. He raised his left hand in a placating gesture. Or in what he thought was a placating gesture. His mind was fuzzy. By The Lords, his side hurt. “Peace, good man. I mean you no harm.”
Another spasm of pain shot through everything and it was all he could do not to double over. “I saw your fire and hoped for . . . . I had hoped for some help. You wouldn’t know anything about—No, never mind, you probably don’t.”
Isam crouched by the fire. It was small and weak and looked much like he felt. With the smallest gust, both would be gone. But no, not quite yet. Not while there had been some fight left in him. Though, a tiny voice in his head whispered , you should be dead already.
Then why wasn’t he? It felt odd somehow, as he turned the thought over. There had seemed like a hand pushing him. He should be dead, but instead he stood here, albeit weakly, before a stranger and his campfire. Had life one last trick to play on him? Or was this just for The Crimson Lord’s amusement? Either way, right now, he’d take it.