The clouds boom in the distance, warning of the storm we have been fighting to prevent. Lighting cracks are our only source of light. The thunder grows louder and louder, growing closer and closer to deafening my ears forever…as if that wouldn’t already happen soon enough. Rain surrounds me on all sides, pouring icy tears to mix with the mud below. As if it needs the help; crimson swirls around by itself, only distorted slightly by the downpour. And now I shall add to it.
My body lies on the ground, slowly losing its life. I clench the wound over my stomach, but I know that it is mortal. There is no way that I am getting out alive. We all knew that it was probable that we’d perish here. Their forces were many and great, and I am surprised we made it this far. But at least I have cleared the way for him.
We’re all heroes. We’ve been fighting for half of our lives. Most of us are young, and would have promise if we laid down our arms and live normal lives. Some of us are older and have no choice but to fight. On second though, we all have no choice to fight. And all of us have come here for hope.
The darkness is coming. We are the warriors sent to stop them. All of us are great fighters. Yet all of us have fallen, all except for him. He isn’t that much better. He has his flaws, his weaknesses, but he has his strengths, and those strengths make him slightly stronger than any of us. Because of that, all of us fought for him, our elected leader. We all have our reasons to fight. I fight for my Jacob, my leader, my life-long friend who has slightly outdone me.
We’ve managed to prevail somewhat. In this final battle, our forces were even. And so, it eventually came to me fighting their general. I did, and I won, but I was badly wounded in the process. Their leader gave me the mortal wound from an arrow, and I urged Jacob forward, for him to finish it for us. Leader to leader, they’d fight. One will win, and the other shall perish.
Jacob rushes up the cold, black steps, staring back in rage towards me. I can see the anger on his face. His right hand is white from his iron grip around his sword. His face is distorted in his rage. His chest is flaring erratically, signs that he is holding back a yell. Of course I know how he feels about me, feelings that I return.
I manage a smile, opening my mouth wide enough to make it a grin. A spasm rocks through my chest, and it takes me a few seconds to recognize it as a cough. A warm liquid fills my mouth and is spit back out, at which point my fears are confirmed: crimson. Only one liquid that I can cough up could be crimson.
Through it all, I still manage to smile. He still looks back at me, still climbing to enter the fight again. But I can see him hesitating. He wants to go back and help me, despite my wound being mortal. I know it; it is his nature. Especially considering how close I am to him, he’d give the world up for me. But we both agreed that our lives were not as important as our cause a long time ago, so the next thing from my mouth hurt less than I expected.
“Go. Jake, just go. Do it. Finish him off. We can win this. We can win. I’m depending on you.”
The sentence rings through my vocal cords, humming their very weak tune. Whether he can hear me say it, I do not know. But at the very least, he sees what I just lipped. I can see a tear fall from his eyes as he turns around and makes the last leg of the journey to the top, where our foe stands.
A crackling noise spreads around me, echoing through my ears. At first, I register it as another jolt of thunder, until I realize that it is too high-pitched, that it isn’t rolling like the thunder I have heard normally does. Then I realize what it is: laughter. The sinister laughter of a man confident in his supreme dominance, of his total victory. And then I see him come into view. His chin is held up high, his head staring at the black sky. His chest is bellowing, and I can tell that he is definitely our enemy. His laughter stops and he stares at Jacob, grinning.
“You’re too late, Jacob. Or do you prefer Jake? It doesn’t matter. But I shall soon send eternal darkness across the land. Your rebellion was noble, I must admit, but it was in vain; I can assure you of that much.”
The man—no; monster would be more accurate—laughs some more. His right arm slowly moves downward and eventually grips a handle. After dwelling for a few seconds, his right arm moves back up, still clenching the handle. The sound of metal clinging against leather can be heard, amplified by echoes.
A gleaming black blade shines its dark form of light on the surroundings. A sword made from pure darkness, made to shine in darkness, made to destroy those that oppose darkness. If I were up there, I am sure that I would be afraid, even if rage drove me on. Jacob, however, is different than me in some ways; the rage I can see in his heart covers any despair, any fear.
His left hand rises up a little and jerks forward, pointing his index finger directly at me. For a second, I fear perhaps he tends to use some type of spell on me, to perhaps finish me off. No; he would never pity me by killing an already mortally wounded foe. “She will die for nothing.”
Jacob charges. He lets out a roar and lunges at our foe, who merely steps to my right. He gives a slight nudge to Jacob, who is forced back a few feet. At least now I can see the faces of both of them, how they react. As if I need to see Jacob’s face to know what he is thinking, what he will do, but it does make it easier.
Before Jacob can charge again, he jumps back, laughing. He raises his left hand up again and presses it outward. The universal sign to stop. “Please do not interrupt. I was not finished. I swear, I shall not weave any black magic upon you, nor shall I use my powers to continue what I would do if you were not here. On this, you have my word.”
Jacob raises his right hand slowly and points it toward his foe. I can see the fire in his eyes as his gleaming silver blade reaches out, touching the throat of his foe, eager to lunge forward and end it with a single strike. Jacob’s teeth are clenched, his breaths short. A blind man who has never met Jacob would still feel the anger in his heart. The shock in his foe’s eyes is clear, and I can’t help but smile when I sense the fear. The smile is gone, choked out.
“Aaron! You have no honor. You are a liar, a cheater, and a murderer. I should end it right now!”
Aaron again smiles, and brings his left hand up, touching the gleaming blade. He carefully lowers it a few inches. Jacob pulls his sword back, withdrawing, but clenches the blade with both hands, ready to strike. “If you wanted to be the thing you hate so much, then, yes, you would have ended it right there. But you’re not that dishonorable. You don’t have the guts to cut down a foe that won’t defend himself, no matter how evil. That would make you worse than the evil you try to slay, would it not? For I was not lying to you. I will not break my word.”
Jacob clenches his teeth, resisting every fiber in his body, ignoring the incredible urge to just plunge the blade through Aaron’s body. He readies himself for attack, but does not fall victim to his instincts. Aaron lets out a weak laugh, a hollow victory for him. He extends his hands out and raises them above his head.
“I’m wide open, yet you do not attack. Your honor code is even stricter than my own. In your place, I am not sure that I would do the same. Perhaps I would not, but it is likely that I would. You realize you’re wasting your best shot at killing me, don’t you?” I can see the veins on Jacob’s hand enlarge, signaling him clenching his sword even tighter. The intimidation obviously leaves a mark, but he manages to control himself.
“Oh, well.” He swings his blade around and stops a few inches from Jacob’s neck, a sign that he has no current hostile intent. “Your mistake. If I broke my own word, then you would be dead, right here and now, and I would have won.” He again points his left finger at me. “She…” All of his fingers extend outward. His arms move around, pointing to all sides of the battlefield. “And all of your comrades will have died for nothing.”
Jacob can resist no more and lunges at Aaron. Aaron leaps to his right, again facing me. Jacob swings his sword again, but is parried by Aaron’s glistening blade. The clatter of metal against metal rings out for the first time the two combatants have faced each other. “Only if I can’t kill you!” They again center themselves so that I can see both of them, although their sides have been reversed. Aaron lets out another laugh and can’t help but raise his left cheek in a grin. Jacob must have vented his rage in those two blows, as his face again is emotionless, and his grip on his sword is again loosened, his hand no longer white.
“How noble of you. I admire your confidence, but you must accept the fact that it’s over. I have won this match, before it even began.” Aaron swings around and aims his sword for Jacob’s neck, but Jacob merely blocks it.
Jacob shifts his weight onto his left leg and swings, putting all of his weight into deflecting the sword out of the way. Aaron’s hand is forced down and towards the ground, giving Jacob the chance to strike. He swings his sword, aiming for Aaron’s armpit. He is met with air, seeing Aaron throw his weight in the rotational direction of his sword and hit the ground hard. After a roll, he gets up and is again ready to fight. Now it is Jacob who is smiling.
“Is that really so, Aaron? You seem to be having some trouble handling me.” The smile fades away, the humor lost on deaf ears. Again he becomes serious, not showing his rage, but definitely showing his determination. “I will win this. For all of them.” His head shifts a little to his left, and I can tell he is looking at me. “For her.” His eyes lock onto Aaron again. “For the thousands who have died, and for the millions whose lives depend on the outcome of this fight! I will do it for all of them. I will do it for myself. I will defeat you, Aaron, if it costs me my life. This I do swear.”
Aaron smiles again. “I am sorry, Jacob, but I am afraid that I will have to shatter your honor. I will not die. That is the only way to stop me. Even if you manage to defeat me, I will not lose. I won’t die. You might defeat me, but I will still win. This is what I do swear.”
Jacob’s knees bend slightly and his right foot slips a few inches behind him. His sword is lowered, pointed at Aaron’s heart. He is about to lunge. I can again see a tint of his rage, but more than anything else, I can see his determination. His silver eyes shine with his sword, not darkened by the black clouds above. “Then we are done talking.”
I can tell that he means it. The real fighting is about to begin; I can sense it. He lunges, forcing Aaron to dodge to his right. Aaron raises his sword and brings it down on where Jacob’s sword had been moments earlier, but finds only air. He is forced to hug his own sword to the left half of his torso to block the swipe Jacob had just given. The clang of sword against sword echoes a second time, and I know that many more will come with such speed that I can’t tell the difference between the echoes and the strikes.
Jacob again follows through on his attack, swerving around and swinging his sword from above. Aaron simple flicks his wrist and raises his arm a little to block the blow. Before he can deliver a counter, Jacob strings a fourth attack to the combination, kicking Aaron in the chest and sending him back ten feet. Within a second, Jacob is on top of him.
Aaron rolls to his right, almost out of my sight. He leaps onto his feet and swings his own sword at Jacob. Jacob falls to his knees ducking the strike at his ribs, and swerves around for an uppercut aimed for just below Aaron’s ribs. This time, it is Aaron who ducks, throwing seventy percent of his weight onto his right foot and bending his right knee, the sword still managing to graze his shoulder.
Jacob presses another attack, lunging at the thin gap between Aaron’s ribs. Aaron raises his blade in a single swift motion, deflecting the blade with ease. Instead of pressing the advantage and defending against the disadvantage, both fighters shift a good portion of their weight into their back legs and arch their backs. They both swing their swords with what I am sure is their maximum strength, and the two blades meet midair, letting out the loudest clang of metal against metal in the whole fight.
The two combatants keep on pushing against each other with all of their might. Instead of seeing exertion on their faces, from all that strength between the two, I instead see some shock. Both Jacob and Aaron have slightly red faces from the effort of fighting, but they are still loose, as if they are ready to drop open.
Then I hear why. A cracking noise, and then another. The cracks get louder and louder. Then I can see it. Both blades at the contact point have just that forming: cracks, enlarging by the second as if an earthquake had just hit a patch of rocks. After seeing the force in those blows, I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s exactly the equivalent of what happened.
Then their mouths drop open. I hear the shattering of the metal, and see over half of both of the blades fall to the ground. They had struggled so hard, they had broken their blades. Neither had expected this. Neither had wanted it. While there is a moment of silence, all good things come to an end; there could be no draw in this conflict. I can only hope that Jacob is the one to react first and use another weapon.
I hear the clang of metal against marble and then increasingly weaker ones—the sign that the blades have hit the ground—and only moments later, Jacob lunges at Aaron with his broken blade. Aaron holds his right hand out in defense, still holding his own black blade’s remnants in his hand. While Aaron goes for a long dagger on his belt, his right hand is shaken with the force of another blow, Jacob’s lunge encountering Aaron’s sword.
Taken off-guard, Aaron’s dagger goes flying out of his hand, falling down a flight of stairs and ending up nearly half the distance between me and the fight. Jacob lunges again, at which point Aaron uses his broken sword in a desperate attempt to block the strike. A cracking noise emanates throughout the fight zone once again, and I see the last of Aaron’s sword—down to the guard—shatter.
Aaron’s silver eyes are filled with horror as he realizes that the remnants of Jacob’s sword are still in tact. He puts all of his weight into his right foot and leaps for the stairs, rolling down them. Jacob follows suit, and just when Aaron has grabbed his dagger, Jacob stabs him in the back.
Aaron whirls around to face Jacob, sword still in his back. He pushes Jacob to my right and then faces him—they are back in their original positions, except for half-way down the stairs. He smiles. I can see that his grip on his dagger is extremely weak.
A single good smack on his right hand, and the dagger would be sent flying again. He coughs up a little blood and staggers backwards. Jacob’s right hand fingers for his own dagger on his left side, charging as he manages to draw the small blade. He lets out a yell and is on top of Aaron in an instance, knocking the dagger out of Aaron’s hand and putting the shards of his sword further into Aaron’s back.
Then my worst nightmare happens: Aaron manages to keep Jacob’s momentum going and flips over, now on top of Jacob. I can see that he is badly cut in the chest, bleeding badly, but is far from mortally wounded. He struggles over the dagger with both of his hands, preventing Jacob from escaping by pinning him with his legs. I can hear him panting, can hear the despair in his words as he looks like a man desperate, nearing defeat. Yet he still smiles, as if he will win the fight.
“You won the fight, Jacob. You have kept your word. I can’t beat you. I’m badly wounded. You have separated me from my weapons. You have prevented me from having a means to kill you. You’ve even manage to stop my magic. But I will still hold my word. I will kill you with your own weapon, rest a little, and then begin again.”
A lightning bolt hits the dagger. Both fighters let out cries of agony, faces distorted with pain, teeth biting as hard as they can without shattering. Both nearly let go of the dagger, nearly let the other one get it. But Aaron manages to recover first, and brings the dagger inches away from Jacob’s throat.
Then he throws the dagger away. He just throws it in the direction that Jacob had thrown Aaron’s own dagger seemingly an eternity ago. He grips at Jacob’s neck and lifts Jacob up to ground level again. Jacob draws his hunting knife, his last blade. The serrated edge digs its way into Aaron’s gut, forcing him to release his grip.
He staggers a bit and moves up two steps. His right hand reaches behind him…and finds the top half of Jacob’s blade. He grips the broken sword’s tip and then catapults all of his weight forward, falling again, releasing the blade with all of that momentum in it. Jacob dodges the blade, and in front of him, he sees Aaron collapse, stopping moving, skipping a few breaths. Could it be over? Could he have killed him? I can only hope so.
As Jacob moves in to examine Aaron, Aaron’s right hand reaches for his gut and removes the knife embedded in it. Aaron’s legs flip over him and he uses them to leap up. His left hand carries the momentum of the flip with it and punches Jacob in the neck, stunning him.
Though Aaron is bleeding badly, leaking crimson everywhere, he still has enough strength to wield the blade and plunges it into Jacob’s heart. Jacob falls to his knees, defeated. I can see the shock in his face, the sheer defeat. He doesn’t have time to fight back. He doesn’t have time to deliver the finishing blow to Aaron. All he can do is die.
…And I want to join him. I close my eyes and let the darkness overcome me. I can hear Aaron laughing in his victory, and that is all. We lost. Jacob had tried, had given his two-hundred percent to fighting Aaron to the death. Yet we still couldn’t do it. We failed. We would die, and Aaron would win, rule until someone can overthrow him. The last thing I can hear is him gloating.
“No, Jacob, you did not lose. You did not fail. You won the battle, and fought admirably. This damage is nearly lethal. I might not live from it, though that is doubtful. You managed to beat me in a fight. You broke my sword. My dagger is lost to the void, no thanks to you. You bested me in this war. I won only because of a trick. I did not lie to you. Nor did I break my word. I simply faked death for a few seconds, and that was enough for you to accidentally let your guard down. You had no weapons. I had yours. And so, I have used my only remaining weapons—trickery and your dagger—to live. Be proud that you’ve done so well, heroes. That you managed to fight my minions and win, that you got to fight me as well and win the fight. But I still win the war. With all of your resources, you still lost. This will be more than enough to ensure that people do not resist me. Thank you, for truly giving me a fight, Jacob. You are the true victor, but I still win.”
I curse his name and surrender my last hope, my last wish, to the void. I would join Jacob. That’s what I want. But I think that we both share the same last thought on that day: Please let the light shine in this darkness to come…