I stand there silently, eyeing the path that I am to take with suspicion. The road ahead is dark. Silent. Unseen. A chill runs down my spine. I take my steps forward. A rush of cold wind hits me. The cold breath of the forest. I wince but move on...

formyself.

I stand there silently, eyeing the path that I am to take with suspicion. The road ahead is dark. Silent. Unseen. A chill runs down my spine. I take my steps forward. A rush of cold wind hits me. The cold breath of the forest. I wince but move on...

The path becomes narrower, muddier as I walk. As if the forest desires to embrace me into its darkness. The path is wet with the day's rain. All is silent but the crickets and frogs of the forest. I can hear my own feet as they unwillingly hit the wet ground. My heart beats faster. Memories come rushing in to fill the void in my mind.

Memories...


A bright sunny day. A house standing just outside the village amid lush green fields. A fair young woman standing at the door. The summer breeze blows her long red hair in her face. She brushes it away. I see her face beaming at me. She's holding her stomach with her hands. She carries my child. She has just told me about it. I am overwhelmed. I have to go to the neighbouring village to sell some of my sheep. I feel a tug at my heart. A queer foreboding. A premonition. I brush it aside. I wave to her. She waves back with a smile. The smile...


"Ovid...", the call jolts me out of my reverie. I turn back to see a familiar face staring at me with surprise. "Are you alright?" he asks.

I look around to see nothing but the forest and its darkness. "The others have stopped and camped." he says pointing somewhere into the fog.

"But you kept walking. Alone. I kept calling out to you but... Is something the matter?"

I nod silently and walk back down the road.

Why did the King send us down here? What would a band of farmers and shepherds do against a group of well-armed rebels? Die?

I reach the camp and silently sit down on a rock ignoring the many eyes glaring at me. The fire in the middle of the camp warms up my body. Alas it can not touch the heart.


I look around to see only sullen faces. Broken men in light armour. Men who had never before held a sword nor a spear now apparently ready for battle. I let out a small laugh attracting more stares.

"He's gone mad!" a whisper falls on my ear.

Yes. I have. We have. Walking to our deaths.

The cursed night flashes back before my eyes.


I merrily walk back to the village, happy with the decent amount of gold I have made. This will provide well for us I think. I think of my wife and would-be child at home.

I see a huge glow down the road. Dread grips my heart as I realise that the village is on fire. I run as fast as I can towards it. A head hoisted on a spear greets me at the gate.

Its dead stare meets my eyes. I flinch.

I run wildly to the other end of the village towards my farm, my heart pounding. The burning houses, and bloody corpses scattered around the streets don't concern me anymore. Is she safe?

My house still stands. Relief. But I see her body lying naked on the door step. Her hands twisted and tied behind her back. I pick her up. Her pale face questions me. My breath fails. A tear rolls down from her undead eyes.

Her neck and womb are slit open. I have lost. Lost all that I had. I want to scream, to cry. But no sound or tear leaves me.
I place her on her bed in the house and do the only thing that they didn't care to.

I reach the village with a torched house behind me and a sword in my hand. The whole village is burning. Corpses of men, women and children lie scattered. Many are lying in their own blood.

I can see a band of armoured men leaving with bags of loot. I run towards them ready to strike.

I want to kill. I want to taste blood. For the village. For the innocents. For her. For my unborn.

A strong hand snatches away my sword and lifts me into the air. A face comes into my view. I cannot see his face. His helm hides all but his eyes. A cold mocking stare.

He touches a dagger to my face. I close my eyes afraid of the naked steel. I feel my body trembling, sweating. A laugh issues from his unseen lips. He pulls the dagger across my face scarring it with blood.

"Coward. Be grateful that we have had our fill tonight. We leave you to mourn and cremate." he says with a laugh.

He throws me down on the blood-soaked earth. The band leaves laughing.


A cry in the dark awakens me. The rebels are upon us. I can see men in black armour running in from the darkness and slaughtering our men. My body and mind refuse to rise. I watch there from the rock as the camp is destroyed and destruction spills around me.

Fire. Blood. Corpses. The past and present meet here. Now.

A man walks down from the panic and takes me by the neck and lifts me up.

"Coward eh?" his voice booms in my head. I see a stern bearded face. I look up into his eyes. I recognise the evil, mocking gaze. He recognises the scar that he drew across my face.

"Hehe, we meet again, rat. So did you cremate your village well?" he mocks.

My hand trembles. A violent rage boils within me. I want to teach him a lesson. Hurt him. But my courage fails me. I cannot. I lack the strength.

"Looting your village was fun boy." he says smiling, "I enjoyed it. Particularly the house on the outskirts. The girl was..."

My sword slices his face into two. I savour the sight of his blood seeping into the soil. I lift my head and see others like him. Looting, killing. Laughing.

The rage erupts. My vision is blurred now. I feel my body gliding through the air swiftly. My hand swings with fervour as the blade seeps effortlessly through the rebels' bodies. I see nothing but red. Of fire and of blood. I hear nothing but screams. Of the soon dead.

Many heads fall, many limbs cut. The blood on my sword grows everytime my hand swings. I like it.

I see men begging for mercy before me. I hear my laugh before their screams. They deserve it. My sword begets death. It is death.

I stop when my sword meets no foe. My breathing is heavy, deliberate. As if I am forced to live. My legs are weak, but I stand. My arms lie numb at my side.

Thunder booms in my ears. The first sound I have heard since long. A flash of lightning brings back my vision. I see myself staring at the ground.

I can see my hair across my eyes. Blood. My feet in wet soil. Blood. My shirt wet. Blood. The sword hanging in my hands, dripping. Blood.

I lift my head and move my gaze around. Burning tents. Corpses lying around. Some of the men I was with are still alive. They are staring at me.

I sense their gaze. Fear. They're afraid. Mortally afraid. I absorb their fear. Feeding on it.

I walk slowly towards a severed head. I pick it up by the hair and impale it on a spear. The heavens cry at the massacre. It begins to pour.

Its dead stare meets my eyes. I smile.

The anger with in me still rages. It torments me. My destiny has been chosen. I feel unsatisfied.

I want to kill. I want to taste blood. Not for the village. Not for the innocents. Not for her. Not for my unborn.

I sheath the sword without wiping the blood on it. I begin to walk away from the burning camp. As my feet carry me away an answer reveals itself to me.


For myself.


2 Responses:

HellFragger said...

wow ! just wow ! really grippy and fast action ! i know some influences, but wont bet on them...this is a really nice read, and the ending...very nicely justified and apt, and very good.

this is the right mix, one reads about the village and home and feels the cliches growing, only to be snatched back to real fast action.

draw a manga ! please !

Kartik Prabhu said...

This was written a long time back and I also started drawing an illustrated story with this, but never finished it. Maybe will get back to it sometime.

PS: Kenshin influences are very apparent...