Sound the Bugle

By: Spirit the Fire Dragon

Sound the bugle now... play it just for me
As the seasons change... remember how I used to be
Now I can't go on...I can't even start
I've got nothing left... just an empty heart.

Will was alone.

He was lying on the cold ground, staring up at the dark canopy of the trees. He felt…empty. Shameful. Regretful.

How could he have underestimated those stupid bandits? He winced slightly as a too ragged breath make pain radiate from his stomach, where the dagger still protruded. His blood soaked the ground, pooling around his splayed cloak and trembling body.

Why, he thought. Why now?

The pain didn't bother him much. Breathing was hard, but he could manage. The loss of blood was another matter that he could deal with too. But Will couldn't face the shame, the horrific shame of failing his master.

I'm a soldier... wounded so I must give up the fight
There's nothing more for me... lead me away
Or leave me lying here

Halt had sent him on a simple mission to chase down two bandits and capture them for trial. Or kill them if the need arose. Halt had trusted him to go out alone and do what he had been trained for.

And Will had failed.

Will felt tears prick behind his eyes. He didn't want Halt to be angry with him. He knew if he died now Halt would be angry. Angry for letting that bandit surprise him and stab him in the gut, and leaving him for dead.

It wasn't a good way to die, with the thought of your near father being angry at you.

Sound the bugle now... tell them I don't care
There's not a road I know that leads to anywhere
Without a light, I fear that I will stumble in the dark
Lay right down and decide not to go on

He was done. He was five miles from Halt's cabin, in the forest, lying near dead from loss of blood. Will couldn't go on. His grasp on the dagger became slightly looser as his vision began to dim and flicker.

I'm sorry Halt.

Tug!

His Tug, loyal Tug, was back in the clearing at his campsite. Standing and waiting, waiting for his master to come back, unknowing that he was now lying in a pool of his own blood only thirty three or so meters away.

And he was still saddled and under the command of 'Silent', standing stock still when he heard the slightest sound made by man.

How could he die now, letting Tug have no chance of surviving until Halt came in a few days time…or maybe longer? That was unfair to the faithful horse. Truly unfair and wrong to such a loyal friend.

Then from on high, somewhere in the distance, There's a voice that calls,
"Remember who you are... if you lose yourself,
Your courage soon will follow,
So be strong tonight... remember who you are"

Will set his jaw in a determined line, his teeth clenching so tight it hurt, and his grip on the dagger tightening to the point the sharp edge cut his flesh.

Tug deserved the chance to get back home.

Will grunted in pain as he pulled his leg up, in an attempt to stand. He pulled him arm from splayed on the ground so he could curl his shoulders up to lean on his elbows.

Will gasped in pain as he tightened his muscles in his core to heave himself up to a half sitting position, the dagger twisting in his gut with the movement. He ignored the pain as he pulled his other leg up, slowly, and crouched before he stood.

Grinding his teeth, Will wobbled dangerously before he mustered the strength to lurch forward at an unsteady, painful, as brisk as he would dare, walk.

Yeah, you're a soldier now,
Fighting in a battle,
To be free once more.
Yeah, that's worth fighting for

Gasping for breath, he lurched along the wavering path, his hand around the dagger, caked with blood, attempting to make the dagger move as little as possible and to hold off the blood flow as much as possible.

It wasn't going too well.

Seemingly millennia's later, Will rounded a bend and saw his Tug standing in the clearing, his liquid brown eyes greeting him. Tug shook his mane quietly and with a quiet signal from Will, he trotted over to where his master was swaying like a leaf in the fall wind.

Will ran his hand along Tug's warm neck and mustered a smile. It was worth the energy to give his horse the fighting chance to live, or to be able to run back to the cabin.

Will set himself to pulling off Tug's reins and saddle, but it was hard with only one shaking hand. He moaned quietly as the saddle thudded to the ground, and Will followed its course, slipping onto the ground and cradling his wound.

Tug looked quizzically at his pale master and friend. Why are you on the ground? Tug thought, nudging his master with his muzzle. We need to get home.

Will didn't register his horse's concern. He moaned as more pain flared from the wound, pouring throughout his body and making every centimeter of his body scream. Sleep, he pleaded silently. I need to sleep.

He felt his shoulder being butted by some soft but firm force. He cracked open an eye and saw Tug's kind and completely loyal face.

"Home," he whispered to the horse, gently pushing his head away, toward where he hoped the cabin was. "Go home, Tug."

Tug turned his head back to his master, confused. You have to come with me, Tug thought. Why are you staying here?

"Go, Tug," Will insisted. "I need to stay here." When Tug still refused to budge, he forcefully pushed his horse away and yelled, "Go! Leave, Tug! Go home!"

Tug stepped back a few steps, a horrible hurt look in his intelligent eyes. He whinnied shrilly and turned quickly, galloping away down the trail that they had come from.

As Will heard his galloping fade away, tears ran freely down his face. He failed his master. He betrayed his horse.

Will choked out a sob and regretted it instantly, for pain so horrible racked through his body that it made him fall onto his side, curling into a fragile ball and waiting for death to give him mercy.

Now Will was truly alone.

Shortish, I know. Sorry 'bout that. First fanfiction, so tell me how I did! Next chapter coming later...ish. R & R!

Stay Happy,

Spirit

(No, I have my penguin. But thanks for asking)

Disclaimer: I do not own or claim ownership any works of Brian Adams or any characters of Ranger's Apprentice. Sadly.