By Blake Gabriel
Death’s stench filled his nostrils with the sickly sweet smell of blood, gore, and shit mixing together in the mud and rain. It clung to him like a desperate lover, its cloying scent overcoming all others.
“Hush now,” the knight whispered to the man dying in his lap. “All is well. The battle is over.”
Even in the hands of the realm’s most skilled surgeon, Ser Hewes knew that the soldier was doomed. The blade that had torn his stomach open like a slashed sack of grain lay nearby, as well as the corpse of the man who had borne it. All Hewes could do now was comfort the soldier as the goddess took him from the world.
“You fought bravely, Hollis,” Hewes said, holding the soldier’s hand. “You saved my life.”
Hollis gave him a shuddering smile. The soldier’s weathered face was caked in bloodied mud, but his eyes still gleamed brightly beneath the grime.
“Was just – doing my part, ser,” Hollis grunted, his eyes closing for a moment. “I didn’t think the bastard would get me so good.”
“I am proud to have called you one of my own,” Hewes said. “Any lord would pay many gold crowns to have an armsman such as you in their service.”
The soldier nodded, his blood staining the ground around him and soaking into Hewes’ arms, but the knight didn’t pay any attention to it. He could have a new surcoat made, but he could not buy a soldier as loyal and brave as the man in his arms.
“You’ll be given an honored burial, my friend,” Hewes promised.
Suddenly, with renewed strength, Hollis gripped his master’s arm. His eyes opened wide, searching the gray curtains of cloud above.