Love Is A Battlefield


As often happens, this story had been living in my mind for a very long time.  It was supposed to fit in to a much longer tale, a rather epic high fantasy piece that I have been trying to write for years.  I always knew for a long time that I wanted a scene where there had been carnage followed by two of the participants of that battle making love in its aftermath.  This may be quite disturbing and I have often thought that it was kind of twisted myself, but it always made sense to me on some very deep, emotional level.  I may never write the rest of the story about Eben and Red Mel or the larger tale that encompasses their adventures but at least now, finally they have their one moment together.  I hope as always that this piece can find a home with some of you out there and that it is not nearly as rough and awkward as I think it is now that it is living outside of my own head.  Please read, enjoy and even pass along if you feel moved to do so.  Cheers. 

 

Eben stumbled among the dead, an ocean of hands and staring eyes and broken matchstick limbs.  For two days the battle had raged, his company holding the north flank against a seemingly endless sea of faceless men that had battered themselves into nothing more than meat and bones.  Now though, after the killing had ended, in that space just after all the madness and fear and blood Eben’s whole world had been left smashed to great jagged pieces.  They had been a 200 man free company hired on to supplement the Duke’s forces and now there were 50 left.  These men had been his family for 10 years, he had fought with them, bled with them, drank, gamed, wenched with them and now so many stared back up at him with glazed dead fish eyes.  He had stood by the Old Bear when he had been cut down, old Grimnir roaring and cursing to the last had buried his axe into the face of the man who had put a spear into his belly but the space left in Eben’s aching heart at the loss of the closest thing to a father he had ever had in this life was its own special kind of wound.  He could see them all, the minutes of the battle that he really couldn’t have described in the time that they occurred now playing out in slow motion as he wandered among the litter of war.  Back at the camp, he couldn’t stay with the men, even though with Grimnir gone he was technically the leader of the company.  There was too much life there, even with them licking their wounds, there was solace that he couldn’t touch at the moment, so he left with the excuse of looking for any more of them that might have survived.

The whole world seemed to be still, even the carrion birds had retired, glutted from an ample board.  That’s what made the sobbing so loud when it came, a high, plaintive wailing in the middle distance splitting the graveyard chill quiet.  Eben made his way toward the sound, drawn sword in hand, its weight comfortable and familiar in a world he suddenly could no longer seem to understand.  He came upon the boy suddenly, looking down at a ruin of blood and tattered flesh.  The lad’s belly had been cut and  his guts lay cradled in his arms in a knot of blue, grey and muddy red.  Every once in a while as Eben watched the hands would move in some form on ineffectual effort to stuff them back inside where they belonged but this just ended in fresh tearing sobs of agony.  He may have been 15 by the look of him, a farm boy conscript the Morcthandi had swallowed up in the beast of their war machine to fling mercilessly against the blades of hard men, men so very much harder than them.  Eben knelt down in front of the boy, taking out his wine skin and dribbling a few drops on the parched lips.  The boy jerked in animal panic but Eben laid a hand on his shoulder, firmly pushing him back and murmuring in his low, gravel voice.  “Easy lad, easy, take another pull there and settle down quiet, it will all be over soon, just you don’t fret yourself”.  The boy was staring straight at him but could no more see him than Eben could see the world he was staring into.

“I tried sir, I really did, c-c-couldn’t stand up though after…after…and all the lads they was screamin’ and runnin’ but I couldn’t, so I just sat down for a b-b-bit…I-I-I’m sorry sir, just couldn’t stand any more.”  The words came in a feverish, halting tumble, some almost whispered, others in a kind of hoarse shout.  “I hope you aren’t mad s-s-sir, I wanted to do well…did I do well?”  The pleading, desperate note was too much for Eben and the tears started to flow, dripping in silence down weathered, bloody cheeks, finding the channels of old scars to fall into the muddy, churned earth.

“You did fine lad, exceeding well”  As he spoke, Eben laid his sword down and drew from his belt a long dirk, his other hand on the boys brow.  “You can go home now and hold your head high lad, none can say you didn’t give it your all, everything you had in you, so make your way home proud now.”  He quietly cut the artery in the boy’s thigh, cut it broad and deep so that it wouldn’t take long.  The fresh blood welled up warm over his hand and shone black in the faint moonlight as it pooled.

“I’d like to go home”  the words had a dreamy sound now as all the life left in him dripped away.  “Home…going…home…mama, mama, I can see you, I’m home now mama…”

Eben bowed his head, his fingers knotting in the boy’s sweat drenched hair as the words faded into the night.  His chest felt tight, overflowing with death, sick to the teeth with it, feeling it choking him, bony hands ripping through his lungs wanting him, begging him to lay down on the sanguine earth and sleep like all the rest.  With a sudden jerk he rose, snatching up his sword with a snarl, his whole body quaking with rage and sorrow and loss and the pitiless sense of the senselessness of it all that only a soldier truly knows.  He stumbled away from the body a few steps, blade out to the side, just longing to find a standing soul to bury it into, craving a target, a body to rend and punish and make feel as wretched and alone as he felt now.

Instincts born from a thousand fights are what saved him, the soft sound of a boot tread sucking free of the mud, a tiny jangle of harness, the sharp, rank tang in his mouth at the scent of another unwashed body covered in blood and sweat all made him whirl about, sword rising in a swift, tight arch to catch the hilt of the other’s blade against his guard.  The clang of steel rent the night like a thunderbolt and he slammed his body against the other, his lips writhing back from his teeth in a vicious snarl, breath flowing hot from flared nostrils as his steel-blue eyes locked on the face of his next victim, for he would kill and for once be glad of it the gods help him.  For just one blinding moment the two assailants stood together, faces just an inch apart before recognition dawned in both.  Eben pulled away in something close to shock as he took in the close-cropped rusty hair, the subtle differences of figure beneath chain and plate that almost shouted to him that it was Mel before him.  She relaxed her guard only somewhat as she looked back at him, her subtle grey eyes flashing over the details of his face and harness as if to confirm that it was he and none other that stood before her.  Her face was pale beneath the grime and streaks of crimson and there were red splashes across her left hip that marked were a wound was slowly oozing beneath her mail.

Eben’s mind reeled, he felt dizzy, almost fell at the sight of her.  They thought that she had fallen but here she stood before him and the relief at seeing just one of his companions still breathing nearly drove him to his knees.  He never knew what happened exactly next, for there was no sense in it, or at least none that either of them could ever put to words but after one long moment of silence their bodies clanged together, her fist grabbing the baldric across his chest to pull him in, his hand clamping hard into the bristles of close-cropped hair at the back of her neck as their mouths pressed together in something resembling savagery.  He could taste blood, whether from her lips or from her biting down on his tongue he couldn’t be sure but even this was vital, he still had blood to bleed and that was life, and here was life in a body hot and close.  In the back of his mind Eben knew full well that Red Mel had never let a man lay hands on her but that thought was swept away in the heat of this one blind moment.  They fell to their knees, hands fumbling at straps, tugging, desperate, breathing in ragged, sobbing gasps.  Not one word was spoken, the only expression were those vital, primal sounds of lust and the need for just one instant to feel someone other than you against your flesh for no other reason than to prove that you still live and are capable of knowing another body in a way that does not cause its end.  So there, in the dark, in the earth turned to slick mud from all of the blood spilt upon it they came together, bodies crushed tight, writhing, fingers digging painfully into flesh or pulling at gear that couldn’t or didn’t need to come off.  Eben’s heart thundered loud in his ears, his blood hot in his veins, hotter than he had ever felt it even in the fever pitch of battle, his whole self lost and given over to this one pure thing, something so very human in the midst of a giant open grave.  They struggled together, Mel’s breath hot on his neck, her teeth digging into his should but even that pain was sweet as the wave rose up, high, higher, highest, a peak of wild, heartbreaking life that rose until with one final cry torn from throats already raw they fell together in a heap of bloody, sweaty flesh and strewn armor.  Without even one word spoken they lay together on a lonely midnight battlefield and enjoyed a smaller death inside each of them that was still a part of life in some gods forsaken way.

Who knows how long they lay there together before pulling apart, each retreating from their own strange battle.  Mel’s face as always was a stony mask as she began to put her gear back on, but her eyes never left his and in them was the same defiant challenge as there had always been so nothing had really changed, just shifted for a moment.  He looked at her as he tightened the straps on his grieves, not fully understanding what had happened, but knowing that it had happened and was good and that was all that needed to be said about it.  Together they rose and walked side by side back to their camp and the world of the living they could perhaps now rejoin.

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6 Responses to “Love Is A Battlefield”

  1. Excellent. It is wonderful that you recognize the human experience cannot and should not always be defined, analysed and judged. Very interesting. Very real.

  2. emisformaker Says:

    I’m reminded of The Black Company – less in style or content than in tone. Very intense. If it makes you feel better, I found the description of the boy cradling his own guts more squicky than the battlefield lovemaking.
    Also, this doesn’t have to be part of a longer work. I think, with some very minor adjustment, it works perfectly well on its own.

    • I don’t think that this will ever find its place in a longer work, which is why I decided to just write it out as it had been lurking in the corners of my mind and giving my ominous looks. I think it does work well on its own, other than the fact that I know far more about Eben and Red Mel then the story conveys and I would like others to perhaps know them as well but at this point I think this short piece will have to be their home, at least for now. Let me know what tweaks you think might make it better as a stand alone piece and I will see what I can do to fix it up right and proper.

      • Wilco. Sorry for the delay, but the kind folks who provide our internet service decided to cut us off for a half week. Keep an eye on your email for results.
        PS: I’ve reblogged this, ’cause it’s just that good.

      • Thanks for the re-blog 🙂 I am eagerly awaiting your notes on this story, as well as on the post “the ideas just wont come today”, which you did say you wanted to copy edit for me, wink wink, nudge nudge.

  3. […] Today, for the sake of brevity, I am cheating. Kindly read this awesome thing my brother wrote, and I will (hopefully) have something written for tomorrow. As often happens, this story had been living in my mind for a very long time.  It was supposed to fit in to a much longer tale, a rather epic high fantasy piece that I have been trying to write for years.  I always knew for a long time that I wanted a scene where there had been carnage followed by two of the participants of that battle making love in its aftermath.  This may be quite disturbing and I have often thought that it was kind of twisted … Read More […]

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