Battle! Part VISubmitted by ridiculous at 2010-02-17 03:23:41 EST
Rating: 1.95 on 45 ratings (45 reviews) (Review this item) (V)
The old man slowly walked up the path leaning heavily on a gnarled oak staff. His was stooped and dirty, his white hair nearly brown and so shaggy it looked as if it had never seen a comb. He shambled along the path watching his feet and muttering to himself, he didn’t even see the sentry.
Grahm, leaning against the same tree he had leaned against all night, looked up and spotted the old man, he neither lifted his weapon nor was rushed as he stepped into the warm morning light.
“You there, Halt!” Then the smell hit him.
The old fellow stopped his shambling and slowly turned to see who had yelled at him, seeing the sentry he brought the staff before him and planted it standing just a little straighter.
“What in the world is that stench?” The sentry crinkled his face as if he had just tasted something sour.
“I don’t smell anything.” The hermit’s voice was scratchy and a little bit higher pitched than it ought to be, or so the sentry thought.
The younger man approached his elder. “Anyway, you can’t go that way… Good God! It’s you!”
“You smell like you have been wallowing in cow pats.” He stepped back from the old man.
“That isn’t a very polite thing to say. Maybe I should teach you a lesson hmm?” The old man stood straighter lifting his head and looking into the soldier’s eyes.
The sentries face showed that he wasn’t about to take the challenge lying down. He stepped forward.
Another sentry that Grahm knew came running down the path, stopping a few feet away he pulled his sword.
“What’s going on here?” He shouted. Grahm could see he was nervous, dripping sweat.
Grahm looked at the old man and then at the other soldier, he realized this situation would soon get out of hand, he needed to keep his head. He had intended to show the old man to respect authority, not to really hurt him.
“He was approaching the camp and I stopped him.” The old man began to chuckle quietly.
“What is so funny?” The other sentry was shaking, the tip of his sword moving erratically in the air between them.
“You, boy. So scared by a little old man.” The older man began to laugh.
“I am not afraid!” The display would have been convincing if the boys voice hadn’t broken half way through the assertion. The old man howled. “Look, you don’t know what’s been happening!” Grahm thought now would be a good time to break in.
The old man stopped laughing.
“Witchcraft? What do you mean, boy?” The old man stood straight, both sentries leapt back as the old man suddenly didn’t seem so small or nearly so weak. His voice was deeper, forceful. They immediately knew he was not as he seemed only moments before.
Standing straight he was easily over six feet tall, his upper body was muscular and his face showed the energy of youth beneath a brow of wrinkles. White hair hung past his shoulders and while the robe he wore outermost was filthy and obviously stank, when he stood it fell to the ground exposing the clean tunic and leather breeches he wore beneath it. Violet eyes assessed them both as the lips formed the question again. “Speak clearly boy, what do you mean witchcraft?” His tone was firm, strong.
“It’s… well it’s... I don’t know. It’s like they can’t wake up but their eyes are open, even the Knight Commander, they just keep shaking and lying there moaning!”
“William…” The old man whispered to himself then looking at the others he announced. “Hurry, we have to get to the camp!”
Grahm thought to voice protest but the man had already strode ahead of the two, absently pushing aside the sword point leveled at him with a fingertip.
Grahm followed the strange old man as best he could but the pace was exhausting him. He couldn’t understand how the old man could move so quickly and even stranger, when he had run to catch up a few minutes ago the old man didn’t even seem to be sweating.
“How can he move so damn fast?” The nameless sentry managed to ask between gulped breaths.
“I would be lying if I said I knew, but one thing is for sure. I think we are both very lucky you didn’t try to use that sword on him.”
Cresting the hill they slowed their pace as they could see the strange old man walking in a slow circle examining something on the ground. They approached and could see what he was looking at so intently. It was a circle in the grass that was colored a dark red. The old man looked over at them as they came on and then back to the grass, he stooped and pulled a single blade of grass turning back to them.
“You there. Sorry, what is your name?”
“Alexander.” said the sentry.
“Come here Alexander.”
Alexander looked at Grahm, who shrugged, turning back to the old man he stepped to him.
“Forgive me Alexander, this might hurt.”
Before Alexander or Grahm could react the old man solidly punched Alexander in the mouth and then reached out to steady the boy and caught his chin in his hand smearing the grass in the blood on his lip. The old man watched as the blade of grass absorbed the blood and slowly reverted to its natural green color.
“Thought so… we are in a lot of trouble” He remarked to himself.
“What the hell did you hit me for?” Alexander protested.
“I didn’t hit you hard, and I needed to know what kind of curse it is.”
“Know, what kind of… what?!”
“Look, if you don’t mind would you just be quiet?” The old man turned away and started down the hill.
Grahm and Alexander locked eyes, neither of them knowing what to say or do. It was Grahm that spoke first.
“I think he wants to help us but I don’t know if we can trust him. You go and find as many of the others as you can and bring them back to camp. I will stay with our friend until you return.” He turned and started down the hill.
The strange old man strode through the camp seemingly indifferent to the agony that could be heard all around. All the men lay as if sleeping, still in their bedrolls despite the fact that the sun was already well in the sky. Grahm was shocked to see so many men in pain, they rolled about moaning, each of them with their eyes wide open. He tried to shake a nearby soldier but the man didn’t respond. He just lay there, moaning. He stood and turned to find himself nose to nose with the old man who did not appear happy.
“Do try and keep up, hmm?”
Grahm stammered an apology and started after him.
As the uncanny duo reached the command tent it was like the rest of the camp, all around men cried and moaned in their sleep, eyes open but staring at nothing, horror shown on their pale faces. The old man stepped inside the tent and approached Sir Perth whose condition was the same. Kneeling next to him he examined his face, the ghastly pallor stared back unflinching.
The ancient man produced a small knife, barely more than the length of his smallest finger and lightly sliced the back of The Knight Commanders hand, the blood slowly welled up from the tiny wound, it was black. The ancient mystic made a sound in his throat as if the black blood had just confirmed a suspicion.
Turning to Grahm he instructed him quickly.
“Listen well boy, they have all been cursed. Tainted. Their blood has forgotten how it should work, they will need yours to help them remember.”
“What? I don’t understand, how can my blood help them?” Grahm didn’t like where this was going.
“No questions now, just listen and I will tell you what you need to know.” The Old man was abrupt and quite serious, Grahm silenced.
“Your Commander is the center of this curse, it is living in his blood. I have to enter his dream to absorb the curse. You must watch over us both when I go. You must watch our eyes…”
Grahm started to panic. Everything was wrong, he couldn’t do this? How could he help? What did this old man want from him? What about the enemy, they could be here any moment!
The old man roared. “Are you listening?” Grahms attention immediately refocused. “You must watch our eyes. If they should start to darken then you must plunge your sword into our hearts, remove our heads and burn them.”
“Wha..? You must be joking…” Grahm started.
“Do as I say! Shut your mouth and listen!” The old man made it very clear that this was the last interruption he would tolerate.
“When I have finished, or even if I should fail, the curse will be broken. You must then go to each man in this army and drip a drop or two of your blood into their mouths. Their blood has forgotten how to function properly, with the curse broken, yours can remind them.”
Grahm was completely shocked by the events of the last hour. He didn’t know what to do, so he obeyed.
“Do you have any questions?” The violet eyes searched his face.
“Who are you?”
“Most people call me Uriel.” He smiled at the sentry, tried to give him faith. “You can do this. Just watch our eyes, if they blacken it is imperative that you strike before they are completely consumed.”
“What will happen, if I don’t?” He asked the question but didn't really want to know the answer.
“We will awaken, and we shall kill you and anyone else we can find.”
Uriel turned to the wounded Knight Commander. He raised Sir Perth’s hand to his lips and began to drink the black blood from the stricken mans wound. Leaning back he inhaled sharply, his facial features contorting in pain. He tried to lie down but spasms overtook him. He collapsed next to the Knight Commander. His breathing became shallow and the blood drained from his face as he stared unblinking at the tents ceiling.