Looking at a drawing depicting a crusade battlefield, I was overwhelmed by a feeling of sympathetic despair for what it must have been like for those who lived through it. This piece isn't so much a story as a scene: a piece of short prose, if you prefer. The Forever Knight characters aren't mine and unfortunately never will be. Permission to archive granted to anywhere that puts my name on it.
Slowly, without knowing when or how, the clash and fray died down, and Nicolas de Brabant knelt in the hot, foreign dust, his only support his bloodied sword, and surveyed the battlefield.
It was as a vision from Hell. Bodies -- friend, foe, comrade, stranger -- littered the ground as far as the eye could see, slain by sword and by arrow, and some simply by the unbearable heat of this ungodly land. The cries and moans of the wounded and dying were as the wails of the damned in the red of the failing light, and the stench of spilt blood and rotting flesh roiled Nicolas's stomach until he retched and heaved, glad there was nothing in his belly to expunge.
The light continued to fade as scorching day became stifling night, and Nicolas dragged himself back to the Crusaders' camp. He spoke to no one, not even to return their greetings; he did not want to know who was no longer there. Instead, he lay on the ground where he found place, too tired to eat and too sick to sleep. Night covered the waking nightmare in shadow, but nothing could still the tumult in his ears, or stay the foulness from his nose.
Nicolas lay, staring at the pinpoints of light far above him, and wondered where God could be in all of this. He wanted to rage, to scream his question to the silent stars, to demand that something of this nightmare make sense. Instead, he whispered his prayers and pleaded for God to give him a reason, a sign, anything. The stars answered him nothing.
And Nicolas de Brabant, knight crusader, cursed God, and wept.
"Eternal nights too short,
How quickly melt away,
With all the love we shared once,
Forever in a day."
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