Chapter Two: Blood and Dirt

Simon dropped his sword and fell through the air, coughing as dirt and pebbles rained into his eyes and mouth. His brain barely understood what had happened – that he had been so stupid as to ignore his surroundings so completely, to act as if it were some training battle on a field at home. He had given that Irish scum the opportunity to push him off the cliff.

He had not time to berate himself, only to act – now. Thoughts and feelings whipped confusingly around his mind like the rocks and dust that pelted his face as he dropped. But one roaring command rang out in his head, bypassing his mind and forcing his body to obey.


Desperately, Simon grasped for some way to slow his descent. He leaned forward with all his might, instinctively digging his feet and forearms into the cliff face before him. Sharp stones protruding from the cliff face cut into his gauntlets and boots, tearing the thick leather as if it were thin as linen. He continued to fall, sliding speedily toward the ground below, but now that he had a kind of grip on the cliff, his drop felt more controlled.

A gargling scream rang out in the gorge behind him. Squinting out the corner of his eye, Simon caught sight of one of his comrades falling helplessly. The man's body contorted inhumanely, as if it knew that a sudden stop and thud would soon destroy it.

Simon shut his eyes, willing his ears to stop hearing as more soldiers plummeted past him. Down into the unforgiving, solid ground, or the treacherous waters below.

Almost before Simon was ready, his feet hit the bank at the base of the cliff. He reacted automatically, rolling onto his back to prevent the weight of his fall from crushing his ankles. His head pounded against the rough earth, and his eyes saw only white for a few moments.

Refusing to give himself time to recover, Simon grabbed at the sword that had barely clanged to the ground and whipped to his feet. Sure enough, a few cursed natives lay in wait, ready to slaughter any survivors. One man charged at Simon with his sword, aiming to kill. The boy disarmed him deftly, landing a blow with his sword across the savage's stomach. Another approached him from behind. He whirled in time to catch a glimpse of dark, hateful eyes furrowed in a scowl before he plunged his own sword into the man's chest.

The savage's unearthly scream echoed across the valley. The hairs raised on the back of Simon's neck. His opponent sagged on his sword, jerking his arm down with it as he dropped to the ground besides other fallen soldiers. British soldiers.

The dark eyes now lay open in death. Simon wrenched at his sword two or three times before it finally pulled free. His usually hardened stomach leapt painfully at the way the lifeless body convulsed with the shaking of his sword. He wanted to retch.

A pained moan momentarily stayed Simon's impulse. Had there been other survivors? All around him, soldiers lay broken. Dead. Probably his friends.

He heard it again. The sound trailed off into an inarticulate mutter. He dropped his sword to the earth and turned warily.

There. Just beneath a broken tree limb that bent into the lake's surface lay a shuddering form. He stumbled to the water's edge.

A soldier who had fallen just beside Simon now gasped for breath, eyes squeezed shut in pain.

"Aldan?" Simon whispered, recognizing the man lying before him. One of the teasers who had harrassed him for feeling claustrophobic. Aldan merely grunted and grimaced in response. His eyes squeezed shut, and it looked like all the blood in his veins had drained away from his face.

Kneeling beside his comrade, Simon lifted the older man's head onto the crook of his elbow. Simon didn't even register the feel of warm blood trickling onto his skin. He reached for Aldan's torso, intending to lift the man out of the water.

"Don't – " he spluttered, wincing as Simon touched his side. Beneath him, inky red trails wound through the muddy water. As if under the power of some spell, his hand reached unconsciously beneath the water, beneath Aldan's body. The rocks. Thick, sharp rocks that no current had ever dulled now penetrated deep into the wounded man's flesh.

The soldier reached for Simon, laying his weak arm across the teenager's shoulder. He tried to grip his collar, and his eyes shone with urgency.

"Kill me," he pleaded.

A shadow of doubt stole into Simon's eyes. His grip weakened; his hand dropped into the water. But Aldan's eyes burned intensely.

"You'll live," Simon said frantically, wishing he could back away. Physically supporting his comrade had chained him to the spot; he could not move. "Don't say that."

"Let – " He groaned, writhing in obvious pain. " – Let me die."

Simon's jaw set. "No," he whispered through clenched teeth.

Aldan laughed. Blood spurted from his lips and trickled down his chin.


He didn't remember pulling away, or stumbling to the rocky beach. He didn't remember how the others found him, whether he'd wandered aimlessly for hours and stumbled into thir camp, or whether they had sent out a party to investigate the damage done at the base of the cliff. Later, he would be able to vaguely recall the relief he saw in Kendrick's face before his body finally gave out. But he did remember clearly, the one word that rang in his ears for days, years, lifetimes afterward.

Coward. You coward.

Written looooooooong ago, I thought I would expand it and combine it with chapter three...then I was like, "well what the heck? I still get positive reviews on my lame-o first chapter...I'll let ch 3 start being real-length."

So here you go. =3

Finished loooooong ago, not reviewed or rewritten since then, I just want it out so I can work on the already much longer chapter three in peace! ;)

P.S. ... Thank you all SO MUCH for the love and support, even when it seemed this fic was dead. Three years since last update...but even few and far between, I still get reviews asking for more. Thanks so much!

Updates will most certainly be sporadic, but now that I'm finally in some real creative writing classes with my English/Creative Writing major (junior year of college, w00t w00t!), I just am feeling more to WRITE, and not just edit/beta. Hugs for all!