As the blade began to enter his flesh, my mind was again drawn to when it began. It had been a perfect day – the kind where you could stroll in the fields and want for nothing but a cooling draught of water. Perfect, except for the clash of steel against shield – except for the roars and screams as my family died one by one.
The first to fall was my father, who fought to his very last drop of blood, followed seconds later by Fisk – my dear brother and protector throughout all of my short life. My mother, who had no care but for her children, died a cruel death – one son, a few short years into his manhood – dead, and with her face turned towards the horror that had befallen my perfect day.
Then the gore-splattered excuses for men rampaged had off through the streets, their hearts set on pillaged gold.
Only one remained.
‘Just war,’ the mercenary had said, and then he’d stood up and shrugged in a vaguely apologetic way towards the broken doll of china he had made of me. On the ground – smashed and torn from the stomp of his boot and the beat of his fist and the weight of his belly and the goad of his wood.
Smashed from pristine shelf to ground of foul-smelling mud that coated my back and slimed its way into my hair. Thrust from being a child of my dead mother’s heart to a woman forged too early in pain and blood – so much blood.
He’d just shrugged and pulled his hose back up, then swaggered away, sword in hand – thinking me small and helpless. Thinking me no threat to him at all.
It had taken me a while to track him down. He’d been just one more hired soldier with a mouth full of curses and darkness behind his eyes – just one more wart on the face of a conquering army.
But I found him – in his cups on a night that scorned even the moon. And I waylaid him in the dark. Smashed him down with one, well-aimed swing – surprise on his face like an untamed mask. And I then I cut him. I cut him in the places Fisk had told me about, the ones from which no man rises – the places where cuts make man into woman
Now, he lay before me in the dark alley, legs twisted beneath him, arms useless ornaments – all painted, by my knife, in strokes of red. Bile rose into my throat as I crouched over his uselessly struggling form. I pushed back the disgust as the smell of his toilet wrinkled my lips. I forced my face close to his and whispered one word – ‘War.’
There was barely time for him to draw breath before my knife slipped in below his ribs. I had intended to make him suffer as I had. I had wanted him to recognise me and know who was ending him. But now, with his eyes of unspoken plea filling my vision, I wanted nothing more than a swift end to this nightmare.
It was surprisingly easy to push the blade deeper into him. The little blood that flowed was absorbed into his jerkin, and it wasn’t until I pierced his heart that my hands became slippery and hot from the life gushing from his body. As I closed off the light in his eyes with a twist of the blade, I rasped out these few words to his soul as it departed for the fiery realm: ‘a thrust for a thrust’.