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The Same Death

Updated: May 24

From the annals of the Loristal. Arkstone XCVI, an account of the century war on the chosen world, Gaien.


---------


The word death never enters into it in the thick of battle.


There’s only living, and the drive to stay alive. The need to make it to the next breath, the next day, the next step forward on solid earth instead of ending up beneath the dirt.


That at least, is what Aldrin told himself, breath coming in ragged gasps as he heaved his sword from the chest of a fallen enemy. His songblade pulsed with light and rang with an angry hymn of magic and bone-rending steel. Blood sprayed across his face, mingling with the sweat and grime that coated his skin. He didn’t bother to wipe it away. In the heat of combat, there was no time. There was only the next strike.

 

All around, steel crashed and cries of pain resounded. A chaotic mass of bodies, undulating to the violent rhythm. He caught sight of the standard bearer ahead, the flag of their house still fluttering defiantly despite the odds. A surge of energy rose in his chest, knowing they had to hold their lines. The other blade singers were visible in a fray near the north line. One of his brethren lay upon the crimson stained earth, still.


Resolve hardened, he breathed praise to the Ageless One who was with them through the power of the blessed armaments.


They would see victory.


------

 

Rokar feared well the spirit of Za'real, the portent of death, as did all his people.


But here and now there was no room for fear. There could only be conquest, and the need to crush your enemies, to see the next victory, the next step forward on claimed land instead of ending up retreating in disgrace.


Rokar’s breath came in controlled, steady bursts as he pulled his war axe from the chest of a fallen opponent. Blood sprayed across his face, mingling with the blue and orange war paint that coated his skin.

 

Ahead, the warlord’s banner, marked with the black drake, flew high amidst the chaos.

 

Pride and fury ran strong in his veins. They had to breach the line. They had to reclaim the sacred lands.

 

A flicker of movement to the right. He spun around, narrowly parrying a strike from another accursed glowing, rune-covered sword. Their eyes locked, and Rokar saw the a fierce resolve there, and terror too. It all mirrored his own amalgam of emotion, reflected in his opponent’s gaze.

 

Rokar cried out and twisted his axe and forced the young face soilder back, shattering his defense. His axe struck true, and his enemy fell. Rokar didn’t pause to confirm the kill; he pressed on, searching for the next to fell.

 

--------

 

Aldrin ducked behind the wreckage of a chariot, beneath a sun hanging low in the sky now, and casting long shadows across the battlefield. The fight had raged since dawn, and both sides were weary. But surrender was not an option. They fought for their home, for their families, for the hope that they might see another sunrise.

 

Most of all, they fought for land promised them by the Ageless.


An explosion rocked the ground beneath his feet, sending a shower of dirt and debris into the air. Aldrin stumbled but quickly regained his footing. The enemy had brought in reinforcements, artillery that threatened to break their lines. Catapults of molten stone which burned wicked and fast.

 

He scanned the field, seeking out the commander. His eyes landed on the familiar figure of Captain Aloria, her white and gold armours still gleaming between layers of blood and muck. She was shouting orders, rallying their forces for a desperate counterattack.

Aldrin pushed his way toward her, cutting down foes that tried to block his path. He drew closer and saw the strain on her face, the determination in her eyes.

 

He cleared the remaining path to her, cutting down two more Duradim.


“We need to take out those artillery pieces,” she shouted over the din. “If they breach our lines, it’s over.”

 

Aldrin nodded, his grip tightening on his sword. “I’ll lead the charge.”

 

Without waiting for a response, he gathered a small group of warriors and began to make his way toward the enemy’s position.

 

The air grew thick with smoke and the stench of burning flesh. Aldrin’s heart pounded but he forced himself to stay focused. They had one chance to turn the tide of battle, and he would not let it slip away.

 

"For the King and the Ageless!", he cried, leading his men into the fray, their swords flashing in the waning light. The enemy was taken by surprise, their ranks thrown into disarray. Aldrin fought with everything he had, his movements a blur of steel and fury.

 

------

 

The waning sun casting a blood-red hue over the battlefield. Exhaustion tugged at Rokar.


He couldn’t stop now. For his leader, for his kin, for the spoils of victory, they had to keep fighting.

 

An explosion shook the ground, showering debris. A close strike of their own fiery catapults. Rokar stumbled but quickly regained his balance. The enemy had brought in reinforcements. They had to be stopped.


He scanned the field and spotted Warlord Kharak, his armor glinting with protective wards despite the layers of grime. Kharak was a beacon of strength, rallying their forces for a decisive push.


Rokar fought his way to Kharak, cutting down foes with savage efficiency. As he approached, Kharak’s eyes met his, conveying a silent command: Kill the blade singers.

 

Rokar nodded, gripping his axe tighter. He saw the swordsmen on rushing from the frontlines, their wicked enchanted blades pulsing with power casting shimmers in the air around them.

 

"Heretics", Rokar breathed, cursing at their profane and twisted use of all that remained of the Divine.

 

He called out and assembled a small band of remaining berserkers. As they advanced toward the line the air thickened with smoke and the stench of burning bodies as they closed in on their target. Rokar’s heart pounded, but he forced himself to stay focused. This was their chance to shift the battle’s momentum.

 

With a thunderous cry, he led his men into the fray. Their axes cleaved through enemy ranks, sowing chaos and panic

 

His ax clashed with a glowing, rune-covered sword. He felt the wretched power emanating from weapon, his stomach turning and rage rising within. What was sacred turned profane.

The soldier he faced was unrelenting and skilled, matching him strike for strike, neither of them giving ground.


In a final, desperate swing, his ax connected with the blade singer's helm, shattering it.The blade singer staggered back to one knee, and the countenance revealed beneath took him aback. Bloodied and broken, a grim smile upon his face.


“I see it now,” he rasped. “We’re the same.”

 

Rokar faltered as a hidden truth from somewhere far away yet close enough to breath in resounded like a thunderclap.


They were both fighting for survival. For their people. For their honor and conviction.


------


The Duradim had fought well. He'd earned the right to give Aldrin a proper death.


But now he paused, as if stricken by some unseen force. The Ageless, Aldrin breathed.


His sight and strength were failing him. He would depart to join the Ageless soon.


He clasped the hilt of his blessed weapon.


------


The accursed blade found its mark.


Rokar looked down, surprise and relief washing over him as he saw the blade in his chest, piercing his leathers, flesh and bone.


As Rokar fell to the ground, the world around him fading, he understood.


We all die the same.




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