Author: Gargoyle13 PM
After a hard fought battle a reflection on the sweetness of victory through the eyes of one.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Words: 1,046 - Reviews: 6 - Favs: 2 - Published: 02-13-09 - Status: Complete - id: 4859878
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: Still don't own them and all that sort of stuff.
A/N: Thanks to the source of this little plot bunny that showed up on my doorstep. I wasn't going to let it in, but it was rather cold here and I felt kinda guilty looking at the poor thing shiver.
He stood in the field, listening to the sound of…quiet. The battle was done. Swords and axes, though still held at ready, were not clashing and clanging. The dull thud of bodies hitting the ground had stilled. He looked to the sky, letting the warmth of the sun touch his face; feeling the cool breeze, he uttered a silent wish that none of his brothers were among the thuds. He would have called it a prayer, but he had long since given up on much of that. It was hard to believe in any gods on this island, in this life that centered on killing and death.
Lowering his face, he surveyed the field, looking for the familiar outlines of his brother Knights. One by one, he picked them out; they were all on their feet, the Knights' signal that although they might be hurt, they were still able. For that, he let out the breath he'd been holding. Any day they all rode back to the fort from battle was a good day, even if it was bleeding and in need of more than field dressing for a wound. Wounds healed; broken bones mended; dead Knights, however, did not repair. Even the best Roman surgeons could do nothing for the dead. Nor could they do anything for the wounds the death inevitably carved into those left behind…
He shook his head to clear such dreary thoughts. They were all alive today, leaving the battlefield, returning to the fort. That should and would be his focus, he decided. Life. Victory made all the sweeter by life.
They rode back to the fort in high spirits. The announcement of their victory had preceded them and a large crowd was waiting, whooping and cheering, shouting the praises of the Knights and their Roman Commander.
Quick field washes gave way to real scrub-downs. Some retreated to the baths. Others to their rooms. Still others found their way to a nearby pond. It did not matter where or how, it only mattered that they scrubbed away the sweat and blood, took the opportunity to examine for any scrapes that might have gone un-noticed and needed the attention of a healer. Otherwise, it was a quiet time of reflection for most, turning over the battle in their minds and individually relishing the taste of a victory hard-won before coming together to savour it.
Savouring was an understatement for the Knights. The celebrations after a victory, especially one such as today's that was snatched from the brink of defeat, these were always the rowdiest; there would be drinking well into the wee hours and plenty of wenches willing to assist in the celebration. Strangely though, it would be a night lacking in fights – between brothers and with the Romans. Despite the quantity of alcohol that everyone would ingest, it was some unwritten code that during these celebrations, fighting was strictly off-limits. He shrugged as he wiped the water from his shoulders and arms. It didn't really matter when this agreement had come about, he was simply thankful it had. Tonight he wanted to be in the company of his brothers, enjoying their antics, drinking and perhaps finding some company for the night.
As he expected, by the time he got there most of his brothers had already ingested a fair amount of alcohol. Bors was trying to talk Vanora into singing some song (probably about home), which the other Knights were soundly squashing. The Romans he passed merely nodded in acknowledgement. A few that he had known for many years, which openly viewed the Sarmatians as assets, raised their tankards in his direction; he acknowledged with a slight bow of his head.
He approached a larger group of his brothers in time to hear them talking over each other, regaling locals and tavern wenches with battle tales – of swords blocked just in time, arrows narrowly avoided and, most of all, the intense determination to win. He smiled widely to himself; outwardly, the smile was smaller, more restrained. His victory dance, whooping and shouting were kept to himself. Very few ever saw him celebrate; he was not one to become falling-down-drunk or dance upon the tables. His celebrations took place every day that the fort was still full of the voices of his fellow Knights, every night that their drunken revelry could be heard echoing up and down the Wall.
Sitting at an unoccupied table, he waved away the serving girl who approached. He was neither ready for a refill nor welcoming company. He was not ready for the sort of company she offered. As he watched and listened, his mind drifted back to other victories, other celebrations and he remembered the Knights who no longer partook of the sweetness of victory, saw them moving among the living: patting a brother on the back here and there, laughing along with jokes and rolling eyes at outrageous claims. He watched their movement and wondered if they missed being here, among the living Knights, especially on nights like this, when victory was in the air and laughter flowed freer than the ale.
A long blink and when he opened his eyes, the ghosts were gone. He shrugged shoulders that were becoming stiff from exertion. He supposed that if he were going to find some company that wasn't either drunk or desperate, having been tossed aside carelessly by Lancelot, he should stop drowning in his thoughts. Maybe he could find a girl willing to rub his shoulders, rather like a few of his brothers were enjoying, seemingly with immense delight. He rose from the table, startling a couple of serving girls who must have forgotten about him. Stretching, well at least as much as he was ever able, he nodded good-bye to the other recluse and moved forward to claim a spot at the bar amid the laughter…and life.