An old hand by Matthew Terry


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SUMMARY: Unfinished part of my new prolouge.

When we are honest with our own demons, then, in us, others will see true terror in the lies they share with their own, and they shall weep ľAxiom 27 of Aleron, Book of the Proselyte



Jerim awoke to a head full of clay, a numb arm, and a mouth dry with the taste of stale manure. His left eye was buried face deep in the clumpy sod of some field. Was the battle still going on? No, not enough noise, but that didn't mean he was safe. Panic set in and he shifted his weight off of his now painfully tingling left side. Coughing out bits of dirt and hay, he rolled with heroic effort trying to get his knees under him. The faceplate swung down and punched his left check where it had saved him from some peasant's hammer, or axe, or something. He sighed, taking a deep breath and trying to stay calm. He was here on his hands and knees relishing the rebounding pain coming from his face, in some god forsaken field that actually smelled worse than it tasted. He spit again and tried to stay calm as most of it caught inside his helmet. Sitting back with a groan he reached up to lift the faceplate, and it just came off in his hand.
There it was, the grand battle, or what remained anyway. The lines where men had stood apparent now as untidy rows of dirty, trodden corpses. Jerim chuckled; the white surcoats of the Tremian men-at-arms seemed cheap when ground into a little sickly red mud. But who had won? Maybe standing up would help.
Jerim shifted left and right and pushed his sore legs to force him up. His plate harness creaked in places it never had before. Bloody damn, where was his sword? Jerim looked over the area, cocking his head oddly to account for his swollen face, finally noticing the score of peasant militia lying in a cacophony of strange poses with limbs all hooked and pointed in the most unnatural of ways, like some blind child trying to weave a basket of crooked twigs. It was probably under one of these poor bastards.
Suddenly, cold fear gripped Jerim's heart and it seemed to stop as his breath tightened up under his cuirass. There was Lord Relas, visible as steel and blue swaths of color beneath a blanket of bodies. Sir Herret was behind the line, with a road nail through his visor. Jerim had known about his fate, he cut the offender down, just a half breath too late. Sir Moer was nowhere to be found, but if the other's bodies where still here...
Jerim's spirit sank as his heart rushed to catch up on its rhythm. It must have been a rout if the servants had not even come to claim Jerim and his companions, and to leave Lord Relas like that? It was unthinkable!
Fear fueled him like nothing before, and Jerim began tossing and rolling bodies, looking for a decent weapon. He found Herrets poll-axe easy enough, but he hadn't used one of those in winters. Finally, he saw the black eagle resplendent in dented gold relief beneath a boy's leg. Jerim kicked the body over and found his blood blade furrowed into the field, as if by planting it, a sword could sprout daggers in the spring. It left the muck with a sucking sound and Jerim ran his leather-palmed gauntlets over its length to clear the blade of most of the offending offal.
Feeling in control as his nerves began to settle, Jerim looked up and surveyed area, turning around as he did, only stopping when he faced three men standing on a near rise, not two rods away. Jerim was startled at the sight of them, and they all seemed to be calmly watching him, all except for the one with the crossbow leveled straight at him. Deserters, Jerim knew the type. Cowards that slink along with an army and shirk during the actual fighting, only to resurface and scour what trinkets they could after the real soldiers had already taken their spoils. Easily one of the lowest forms of life, Jerim spat sidelong at the ground.