No Victory in Death

Flags snap in cold wind. Smoke swirls black into a sky the color of hammered steel. And a knight of the Orange Check wakes from sleep, death, or something in between. He knows not which. He moves his sword arm and a blade drags along the muddy ground. His hand is too cold or tired to release it and his shoulder is too injured to lift it to back to its place in his scabbard. So he leaves it dirty with viscera drying on a once sharp edge.

His head dips. The muscles in his neck feel injured like his head will no longer be comfortable there again.

A dream lurks in his mind. Something dark, something horrible, something that slithers slowly from his brain.

The caw of a crow on his shoulder draws his attention. Maybe that woke him up. The bird pecks at his face. He moves to shake it off and pain like nothing he has ever felt roars through his back and left shoulder. A fire sent from Di inferi himself races through his body. He opens his mouth to scream and a thin layer of scab sealing his chapped lips snaps. Blood flows over his useless swollen tongue that refuses to even utter a sound.

At least the bird flies away. Its caw sounding like laughter at the knights misfortune or as a warning that he will be back later when the battle has finished its work.

The pain has one benefit; it pulls the knight back from the brink. He is able to sit up a bit straighter and see a bit more of the carnage around him. The thousands and thousands of bodies that lay on the field.

He is the only living Check he sees. The others lying about, some without limbs some with pools of entrails about their feet and many with the stab wounds to their exposed throats and faces wear the dark green.

He looks up from the carnage around him and finds the wet living eyes of a Green Knight on a dead horse.

A lance has been run through his back. It has been driven through his armor down his spine and stomach into the horse’s chest, Or maybe it was the opposite a rearing horse falling on a stationed lance, either way it was soon to be bad for the Green Knight.

The Green knight struggles, pain rippling his ancient face before he stills. For a long time the only movement is the wind rustling his mane of grey hair and bristling his grey mustache.

The Check Knight wonders if the Green died, but then the man stirs and laughs a huge booming laugh.

“You awake Check knight?”

“Aye.” the Check knight whispers after working saliva around his parched mouth. Knowing his reply will carry even over the cacophony of the murder of crows circling the battlefield.

“I wasn’t sure if you slept or died.”

The Check doesn’t say anything he just sits where his legs gave out on the clump of dead soldiers under him. He does not want to waste the energy to look which side they are on. It doesn’t matter. They are dead and all the dead smell the same. The shit and blood and semi-digested food of sliced up intestines, the soft parts pecked at by the birds and chewed into by the rats, soon it would be his turn.

“Seems both of our lords have run away on this day. Left us to rot on this field. Left us to the carrion.”

The Check lifts his head carefully. The use of the muscles pull at the arrows in his back, but he continues to straighten his head. “You are more than dead Green knight, there is nothing that can be done.”

“Aye. As are you Check. Those arrows are dipped in shit. I watched the archers do it. You might pull them from your body, but nothing will get the shit out. Your death is going to be long and painful.”

The Check knight looks at his opponent and nods “There is little we can do then I suppose, but watch each other die.”

“Nay, there is one thing we can do.”

“What’s that?”

“We can race to Summerland, Check.”

And with that the Check knight listens to the Green Knight laugh. It’s a mighty laugh. Proud and booming. The black birds complains and fly off in great clouds of flapping wings and then suddenly he stops and dies with a hideous smile on his face.

After an hour more of living the Check Knight gives up waiting for his own death and stands on weak legs.

He takes one step then another dragging his sword behind him trudging after his army.

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