It’s Not the Blade That Kills You
From the Collected Oral Histories of the Unified Militaries, vol. XIV
His blade spikes my shoulder and my whole arm numbs all the way down to the knife in that now-frozen hand, so I thrust my head forward and feel the crunch of the bridge of his nose through his face plate.
I see stars but blink them away and throw him off me. He grabs my tunic, and I stumble and fall, and he’s already atop me. His blade free again, my shoulder cold, throbbing, wet. My mouth metallic as if I swallowed the blade instead. Praying to steel-shrewd Quatha help me — Quatha help me help.
He shrieks and tears the blade down, and my arms cross without my thinking, catching his blade now hovering between us bearing down, down, down. I can’t stop it; Quatha only slow it inching closer; Quatha please can see the blood my blood dripping off its tip can smell the piss and shit his or mine or both. I hear howling, screaming, begging. The warcry on Shireen’s lips before a gunshot and a yelp. Rylzan’s call to retreat sliced to silence. Kasey moaning long and low and hearing that know we’re done for they got the last of our mage corps.
I claw for the man’s eyes, scratching at his faceplate. Blocks my fingers, blood dripping through the visor my eyes red and tearstreaked. Quatha please, no, grant me your warlust! My arms weakening, my shoulder pulsing his blade closer. Wavering. See the light in the sharp of it. His faceplate loosened, he snarls throws it off, and I get one breath in as he rises up before he slams back down. Blade lurches nearer, a shock of bright red hair alight like fire, and I see briefly the handsome copper face of a man I once bedded before the wide flat face of the pale Mardian returns snorting straining smiling and I think of what they told us, it’s not the blade that kills you.
It’s not the blade that kills you, so I rise to him to meet his blade to welcome it, pinching piercing into my chest and in his surprise his smile falters, he flinches once and that’s all I need. I bite sink squeeze my teeth into his nose, taste hot black iron fill my mouth smell onions turnips parsley on his scream, feel cartilage bone skin peeling flaking collecting against my tongue like wet gravel as he rears back, rears away, rears for life, but I have him now.
I spit out the soggy mess, grab his yellow hair smash his filthy piggy face against my fist, my knee, a rock, then shunt the body loose and limp away and see Shireen cornered, musket ready. See Rylzan shattered in two against the wagon. See Kasey cradled in someone’s arms. Then I turn to face the group of them now surrounding me and they all stop and stare wide-eyed. The lust of Quatha burns as I draw the dead man’s blade from my chest roaring, ‘Come at me you fuckers, I shall have a parade on my march to the Deathless Fields!’
— An anonymous soldier, circa 434 AE
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