Prompt provided by Sue Vincent. Follow the link to read more posts inspired by her photography.
The Soldier in the Wood
By Adam Dixon
The soldier spluttered into full consciousness, tasting coppery blood on his lips. Agony rippled through his body and he closed his eyes against it. The sweat on his brow felt cool and the air he sucked in in ragged gasps was moist and fresh. He cracked an eye and took in his surroundings. The woodland was quiet, the mixing of dull earth and green leaves providing a false sense of peace. The sun peeked through the leaves of a nearby tree like a curious child, but its cheerful rays didn’t reach him.
The soldier had seen many woods but somehow this one seemed to be the most beautiful. He snorted at the thought and coughed, spraying crimson droplets from his mouth. His leather jerkin creaked as he lifted a hand from his hip. His palm was wet and scarlet and the jagged tear in his side was nauseating. He groaned as he recognised the wound to be fatal. The cavalry charge had cut through them like butter, he’d never stood a chance. He remembered crawling off the field into woods, but he couldn’t remember collapsing against the tree.
He hawked and spat a mouthful of blood into the trees before removing his leather cap with trembling fingers. His brown hair was plastered to his forehead with sweat. He couldn’t remember where he was, or who he was fighting for. Was he in France? Spain? Scotland? His mind ached as he tried to think, and he soon gave it up. It didn’t matter anyway, he was done for. The bright green foliage blurred, and he forced himself to sit up, groaning as his side flared with pain. The bark of the tree was rough against his back, but he was grateful for it. It was sturdy and reliable, just as he had been for five years as a mercenary.
He could still hear the battle raging on nearby. The clash of steel on steel, the cries of wounded men and the screeching of horses shattered the peace of the woods. He guessed that his side had lost the battle, judging by the weight of the enemy’s charge. They’d come to finish him soon. It was a shame he’d dropped his sword.
The soldier wondered if God would forgive his sins. Every nation he had taken employment from claimed to have God on their side, and whilst they had been winning he had considered that to be proof enough. But now? He’d spent his short life killing and whoring, and he had little to show for it. No wife or family, and no real friends. He’d lived by the sword and he was going to die by it. Still, at least it was pleasant in the wood.
The muted clatter of hooves on soil announced his doom. The eager sun was blocked as a man in bright, blood-stained armour came into view, riding upon a magnificent white steed. The quality of the man’s armour and the banner draped over his horse signalled he was a noble. The soldier sighed and closed his eyes. He was tired, and his body was growing numb with cold. He heard the man dismount and followed by the harsh scraping of a drawn sword. The wood smelled of life now that his death was near, and he loved it for it.
Still, he wished he hadn’t dropped his sword.
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