Twilight

11 July 2013

 

Enemy Borderlands, evening of 09 July 2013


"Who used projectile weapons?!" demands the Commander.

His jaw falls open.

          They had feedback.

"Whoever used projectiles, you just killed us all!"

          Bouncing off. Returning. Deadly.

Chest heavy, throat tight. Proper, regular breathing now a difficult chore.

"Projectile weapons -- long bow, short bow, rifle, pistols!"

An enormous, invisible weight of his own making pushes irresistibly upon his shoulders. He falls to his knees. Jaw slack, eyes slightly wide, breath too fast.

"Speak up!" the Commander demands.

He tries. The right thing to do. Man up. Mouth hangs open, but tongue is a slab of lead, refuses to cooperate, to form any sounds beyond the panting of his labored breathing, now bordering on hyperventilation. Vision goes blurry as sap wells up and fills the eyes. Head falls into hands and he doubles over as the full magnitude of his error and its tragic consequence crashes down upon his mind.

He remains in that state for he knows not how long -- on the ground, knees fully bent, backs of thighs on backs of shins, bowed over, head in hands, fingers burrowed into scalp beneath head-leaves, face wet and sticky with sap, labored breath. Contemplates the enormity of what he's done. Paralysis of shame and self-loathing.

He finally stands, a slow, labored process unworthy of youth. Regains his feet, posture upright, head bowed, hands at sides, gazes at nothing on the ground two meters in front of him. Eyes close. Slow, heavy sigh. Eyes open. Head level, face a mask of deadness, drained of all motivation and spirit.

I am not worthy.

Dead face stares out at nothing.

They took me in, trained me, made me better than I ever could be...so proud. So very, very proud to be one of them.

Eyes close, lips purse together. Eyes open, gaze dead.

Not worthy.

Left arm bends at elbow, hand reaches up and over left shoulder, grasps the longbow on his back, unhooks it, brings it around front. Gazes at the gleaming guild symbol affixed to the side of the handgrip. Corners of mouth turn up slightly, eyes shine as he remembers the pride of that day. Then mouth turns down and eyes go dead at the memory of his failure. Left arm goes straight and slack. Left hand gradually loosens. The bow falls from his hand, clatters briefly against the ground with a din that reverberates far louder in his mind than it does with actual sense of hearing. Right hand up and over the right shoulder, unhooks the quiver of arrows from his back, brings it around front. This too falls to the ground. Right hand draws the dagger, holds it against his chest...

...a moment's courage and it is done...

...cuts half the stout threads that mold the guild emblem to the leather, grasps the exposed flap, rips the rest of it free. Holds it in his hand, regards it briefly...

Not one of them. Never was. Not after today. Unworthy.

...lets it fall to the ground.

A whine. His dog. He faces. Expressive, round eyes stare up at him, expectant yet confused. Tail wags once left ... once right.

Slight, wistful smile.  "Your service is ended."

Dog cocks head, trembles slightly. Whines.

"Go. You are free." Turns away. Walks slowly but deliberately away from the field of battle. Doesn't look back.

Dog remains. Watches him walk away. Whines. Confused. Glances at bow, quiver of arrows, guild emblem, left forlorn on the dusty ground, bereft of purpose. Paces once left, once right, agitation increases. Disbelief. Drawn-out whine gradually crescendos into a BARK! at the retreating master. Another BARK! ... desperate, fitful and lost.

Dusk gives way to night.

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