Initially I wrote this for my school's short story competition because my English teacher forced us to… he only sent in the best ones in the class and mine wasn't one of them… ha ha ha ha… but I thought that since I took all the trouble and panic to write it down, might as well let SOMEBODY read it so… yeah. Here it is.
Tell me what you think ya? Flames, reviews… anything. Especially comments that can help me improve.
This is, of course, a one shot. Shoot me if it ever continues. My trials are in two weeks and I have NOT studied. Ah, O levels…
Anyway, I present to you:
My senses alerted me to what would happen in the next ten seconds if I did not move from my current position.
I yanked my brother down behind the safety of the parapet walls. He looked at me angrily – I can tell that he had been about to shoot down another enemy from the look on his face. As he started to demand me to let him go, my eyes took in the sight of the last line of defense for the fort. The enemy had long since broken through the walls after a siege that lasted for half a day, and we were the last people to hold them off. We had not known that there would so much of the enemy – there were only about a hundred and fifty of us initially to protect the fort – now we were down to the final thirty or so.
I took a final look at my comrades. I was the last mage left – my two other companions had been taken out – one in the first strike, and the other in the melee that followed. My magic was running out fast – if I used anymore it would start draining my life force. The thirty of them fought valiantly from the battlements – the women, children and elderly were in the cellar deep down and were counting on us to protect them. My gaze went down to the swarming army below – and knew that we had no hopes of defeating them.
I felt a sharp pinch on my arm, and glared angrily at the culprit – my brother.
"What-?" he demanded, but I cut him off with a word, and started my incantation. Teleportation was not my specialty, but right now I had never been more grateful for the forced syllabus at the University.
I heard someone ask me what was going on, but I paid no attention. I saw the complex weave of the spell in my mind, then set it. The instant before my brother and I were yanked through space by the spell, I saw the Strike slam the battlement, taking away half our force with it and injuring the remaining half. The battlement cracked and shattered under the strike. I felt it shudder under my feet as it gave in just as the spell pulled us away. I also saw the horrified look on my brother's face as he realized that we – or, more accurately, I – were abandoning our comrades.
He was not very happy.
Okay, that was most probably an understatement, but my mind felt so shallow at the moment that my vocabulary did not seem as colourful as it should have been, although I can hardly say the same for my brother who was swearing profoundly.
I tuned him out as I always did when he went into another one of his tantrums. Brothers we may be, but we were as different as night and day. He was the one who became a soldier – I would have probably stayed home and waited for the grass to grow had a passing magician not discovered my magical potential. The war had been going on for four years already, and we had been part of it from the beginning. This was, however, the first time we had abandoned anyone. This was low, even for me. He had every right to be angry.
'Angry', once more, being an understatement.
I suddenly saw a shadow cast itself over me, and looked up to see him. The fury on his face would have caused almost anyone to think twice about what they would say – anyone, except for me. I was the calm in the face of his anger, always. I was the one who made all the rational, sensible decisions ever since we were children, despite him being the elder. I also had a tendency to be brutally practical and frank at times, which is most probably the reason why I was not liked as much and did not have as many friends.
"Why did you flee?" he demanded, his voice shaking with anger. I half-expected him to hit me before having a civil conversation (or, at least, as civil as it could get), or at least hitting me in the course of his interrogation.
I met his eyes steadily as I answered. It was harder than I thought it would be. "You might not have realized this, but staying there would have made next to no difference," I began slowly, wary that anything could set him off. I felt like I was trying to appease a volcano not to erupt – and was obviously not successful for he swiftly cut in.
"Does that give you the right to just turn tail and run?" he demanded. Annoyed, I shot back.
"Are you any use to your country dead?" I snapped before he could continue. He glared at me for a moment before turning around, kicking an innocent stray pebble and stalking off. "We may have been set up, you know." I called out behind him. He did not even pause. I left it like that.
I had tried to transport us to the next town. My magic had not been enough, and we had been dumped in the forest that had surrounded the fort. It was far enough to be safe, but not close enough to the next stronghold. I had allowed my brother to rant for a whole fifteen minutes, which was enough to let the guilt seep into me so much that it drained whatever energy I had left. It was most probably due to all the magic I used today, but I like to imagine once in awhile that I had half a human heart, in the least.
I was wondering where we should go from here, when I heard my brother returning. I had a short glance of his face before I saw nothing but lovely green grass. It took me a moment to realize he had just hit me – my brain must have been working slower than I thought it was for it took quite some time before I registered the pain. Still, me being the ever practical self, simply sat up and gave him a sarcastic look.
"Feel any better?" I asked, almost politely.
"No." he replied, but it suddenly it seemed as if he ran out of gas, and all the anger went away, leaving a forlorn dispirited man, who crumpled next to me, holding his head in his hands. "God, what have we done?" he whispered hoarsely, mostly to himself.
"Actually, it's what I did." I replied. "There had been no intelligence that they had such a huge army, or that they brought their mages as well – I didn't realize until they begun preparing the strike cannon. You know how fast those things work – and how destructive."
"So you ran away." He said bluntly.
"No, I teleported away. With you." I replied, rubbing the spot where he hit me earlier. He looked slightly apologetic, although he did not voice it out.
"… Why?" he finally asked.
"Why what?" I replied.
"Why me?" he groaned. I rolled my eyes.
"Why you what?"
"Why did my brother have to be a mage who chose me to follow him and run away?"
If I had felt a little sorry for him, and a little guilty as well at the beginning, all those emotions were taking a nice 180 degree turn into a feeling called 'annoyance'.
"Like I said, you're no use to the country six feet under. Don't even start with all those what-if- you-survived theories – everyone's already dead. You saw what damage the Strike did – I'd say at least four mages were empowering the cannon." I paused, thinking about it. Four mages to power one cannon, along with an army of around fifteen hundred men. If four of them were in charge of the cannon that meant that they had mages to spare. It was usually one mage to twenty men on average. I shuddered to think the amount of mages among the enemy earlier on against the fort's pathetic three, which was equivalent to one mage per fifty men.
"… Four?" came his hoarse voice when I had not continued. I nodded absently, the gears of my brain finally in sufficient working order. Why had there been such a large force laying siege on the fort? Why had our information be so off par? They had estimated a force nearly equivalent to our own numbers – this was the biggest error ever made in the four years of war.
There were several possibilities – perhaps they needed the fort to launch an attack on the capital – which seemed highly unlikely as the fort was nowhere close to the capital. It was also nowhere near the border either - to allow more of their own people safe access into our country - and neither was it at one of the key points where the earth's magic met the surface – to strengthen their magicians. Needing the fort as a war strategy to attack seemed less and less plausible. The area was also not one for agriculture due to the salt sown into the land from our enemies long past, so supplies was not a probable reason.
Speaking of supplies, a certain pair of siblings would not last long if they sat down the whole day, one thinking and the other simply despairing.
I finally manage to get my brother moving after cajoling, bullying and terrorizing him for a few minutes to go look for the basic necessities – food, shelter and water. I hurried as I needed to sit down and think – something had begun nibbling the edge of my mind – it was as if the answer was so close, and was something I knew.
Once the both of us were settle down, I resumed my earlier thoughts. What was going on? Nothing seemed to fit. I watched my brother rubbing his arms, trying to keep out the evening chill – we could not risk a fire, and I did not have enough magic to keep us warm. I thought back to the accusation I had made to my brother earlier on: We may have been set up. But by whom? The enemy? Or perhaps even our own king?
Even with only sketchy thoughts about it, the latter seemed highly probable. In the end, we were simply pawns in this war. Our spy network was highly dependable – so much so that they could even spill false information to the enemy. As a major force of the enemy was directed someplace else, that would leave them more weaken their main force, which could result in a huge victory that would more than cover up the losses at the fort that we had been holding.
The sudden chill that came over me was not due to the temperature.
"Hey, Carl…" I called out, saying my brother's name for the first time ever since we left the fort. He looked up at me, and looked up from the inspection of his sword. How was I suppose to break to him the news of my suspicions? He was loyal to his king – unlike me, who just did what I was told to, especially if I benefited in the end. I could already hear the vehement objections in defense of his the man he followed.
I looked him in the eye – those were the eyes of a soldier, ready to die to protect his country. It probably mattered little to him if he was merely a pawn to be moved around on the chess board and be sacrificed for the sake of winning the game. If I told him, it would change nothing. He would still go out there, still risk his life, still pull out his sword, and still stand after so many others had fallen, just to protect his country and beliefs. He did not care how he was used, as long as hewas used. Even if it was only as a decoy that had an inevitable end. He may feel a little dispirited, and perhaps even annoyed at being used as bait, but he would still do it anyway.
"Yes?" he said, slightly impatient. He had been an idealistic boy who grew into an idealistic man, even after seeing all the horrors of war. There was only one purpose in his life: defend our people, defend our country, and defend what we – or at least he – loved.
I had robbed that chance from him. The chance to die trying. I had pulled him out before he could even make an attempt to do the impossible – such as stop the Strike somehow (which was impossible unless there were at least another four mages to counter it) or defeat the remaining fourteen hundred or so left (which would also prove impossible unless a miracle happened). What I thought mattered little to him. If I did voice it all out, we would just end up quarrelling again. I had been selfish enough to put myself before him by saving his life.
"We should go and look for the next town come morning. News of the siege and the defeat should be known. They might be looking for survivors." I said dully. He nodded grimly – that was a soldier's train of thought. Reports, reports, and more reports. Countless lives lost all put down on paper, only as figures. Events written down, just as a formality. None of them significant. The children who learned history hardly cared about the blood and tears shed for whatever purpose the war had been fought for.
There never was any glory in war, as there was no justice in the world. In the end, we were all just tools to satisfy one man – our king.