This is a flash fiction piece I wrote during my first RWA meeting all the way back in 2009. It is based on the feel of the stories my father, a Korean War Veteran, told me all my life, mixed with a vision of the battles between the Roman army and the Celts, and a little fantasy thrown in. The vision of a soldier’s first battle, the pride, and the fear and doubt too that stepping into one’s first battle and drawing that “first blood” can bring. For all our fighting men and women, for all our vets past and present. Thank you. I hope you enjoy this little snippet….
Juli D. Revezzo
The forest seemed to close in; his fellow soldiers ran ahead, but he couldn’t take that first step. Gray smoke wafted through the green sky overhead, smoke from the report of the Emperor’s aether rifles. Fear gripped him tight. He shifted his sword from left hand to right. You can do this; you’ve done it a thousand times before.
In training. Where the men were always his friends, and they always walked away unharmed. This was for real. Destiny, forever, for good or ill, for victory. Or death.
Death seemed to peer down from the trees. He shivered as cold wind whipped through the forest. Was it simple wind, or were the gods of Death truly watching, casting lots upon this ordeal, watching him, singling him out, though he was only just eighteen?
“Ho, men. Advance!” screamed the force captain. Gunfire and clashing swords bounced from east to west, north and south, front and behind, until he couldn’t tell from which quarter the noise rang.
His chest constricted as his breath fought to escape, wheezing through lungs, throat and nose, dragging every bit of pollen, ash and snow down upon him like writhing wraiths. But no, it wasn’t a wraith creeping up. He spun, whipping his sword before him in a curving arc. The blade met enemy armor in a dull clang. A man, no older than him, dark hair shaved short until only a dusting of it graced the scarred scalp.Crimson blood bloomed across his dove gray coat. The man’s amethyst eyes wide in shock, stared, first at him, then at his blade lodged in his chest. A shock that trundled through him, as well. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, extracting the blade as his enemy fell lifeless, staring at the trees overhead. He didn’t seem so fierce, really, this invader, and in a split, flashing second he wondered, why had he come. What awaited him at home? A wife, a child? No one?
His world pitched and rolled, he dropped to his knees beside the dying body, the scent of blood filled his nose, and he wretched, the contents of his stomach pouring out upon the frozen ground. Gasping for breath, gagging, he pushed himself upright, took firm hold of his sword hilt, yanked it from the soldier’s chest.
First blood. He’d done it. There was no going back now.
But he knew he’d see that man’s shocked, dying face for the remainder of the night, possibly for the remainder of his days. He hoped the chieftain, and Emperor would be pleased.
He wasn’t. Nor would that man’s family be.
But this was his job, the life he’d had thrust upon him, his pride to be here, his duty, and honor. The homeland needed this, needed him. Still, the demands of freedom were high.
“Get a grip on yourself, man,” he murmured. It wouldn’t do to lose his senses out here, on the field. He had a job to do, a family and home to defend. Far more precious than any commendation, or medals; they were the only reason he was here. That and Fate.
The invaders kept coming. He could hear them through the din of battle, in the river nearby, coming through the trees. On shaky legs he stood, pulled all his courage around him, tucked inside his armor.
What had the gods and fate in store for him? To fall, like this man?
No. Not here, not yet. Hope and courage would guide his path, whatever came. Resolve and duty would steady his blades, until he could count this battle won.
I hope you enjoyed this flash fiction piece.
War Hero, flash fiction © 2009; all contents on this site © Juli D. Revezzo, 2011, 2019 and beyond
**Picture above entitled: Soldiers in Attack Formation © Tudor Stanica | Dreamstime.com