Standing on the battlefield at Shammari with an Anacharsian spear through his bowels, Kamendian learned that death comes easy. Just a moment too slow with the shield, and it’s over.
He could still breathe, meaning the spear must have missed his lungs, but he could feel warm liquid running down his belly and legs. Running quickly. The spearman’s hand on the shaft was only a few inches from the puncture in his cuirass; he’d been run through completely. The hand was smooth; the Anacharsian must be young.
Kamendian lifted his head to look at the man who’d killed him. Just a boy, really — fifteen, maybe. His cheeks were still smooth under the green-lacquered cheekguards of his helmet. He was gasping for breath, and staring at where his spear disappeared into Kamendian’s belly. His pale blue eyes were filled with disbelief, and a little fear.
Well, that’s how it ought to be, Kamendian thought to himself. This isn’t supposed to be fun, or easy. Killing people is our job. We aren’t supposed to enjoy it.
He was vaguely aware of his fellow legionnaires being pushed back around him. They were losing this battle. The Storm King would carry the day. Kamendian would leave his body on ground held by the enemy.
Until then, he thought, I suppose I should try to be of some use.
Abruptly, he spun to the right. The spear twisted out of the young Anacharsian’s hand and pulled him off balance. Coming around to face the young spearman again, Kamendian brought his sword down onto the Anacharsian’s unprotected shoulder, bellowing “Sarangia!” Green hide parted under his blade, and the young man fell to the ground. Kamendian flung himself to the left, knocking the Anacharsian there down with his shield, then sprung forward to attack the next rank of enemies. With all the strength of his twenty winters, he smote in two the shield in front of him. The second rank was holding their spears for attacking an enemy at distance; Kamendian was too close for them to strike, and he gave them no time to shift their grip.
As he struck down his third Anacharsian, Kamendian realized he was starting to lose the power of his sword arm. He dropped his shield — there wasn’t any point in trying to defend himself — took his hilt in both hands, and kept fighting. He was still shouting battle-cries, but he couldn’t hear himself over the buzz in his ears. His vision was blurring around the edges. He appreciated that; it kept him focused on the foe at hand.
The battle seemed almost mechanical now: green forms came out of the mist as he charged, and he struck at them as they passed. He felt a few hit him back, but it didn’t really matter anymore. And suddenly, they stopped coming.
With no one left to strike at, Kamendian could no longer keep himself upright. He fell to his knees. He struggled to turn around and go back to the fighting, but his legs refused to cooperate. He fell back into a sitting position, looking back the way he had come. His vision was blurring, but he could see wine-red shapes amid the green blur — the color of Legionnaire armor. They’d broken the Anacharsian line, Kamendian thought as his vision faded into roiling gray.
He could feel something wet against his face — probably grass. He must have fallen over. He could smell the dirt, and the coppery stink of blood. And then everything was gone.
His head was on something soft. He could hear men shouting to each other, but the sounds of battle were gone. There was a gentle breeze across his face. The air had the smell of a battlefield to it, but there was something else in it — a sort of freshness.
Kamendian opened his eyes. It was twilight; the sun was low in the sky. His vision was still fuzzy, but he could see someone’s face above him. A soft face, probably one of the boys from the baggage train. Strange that anyone should have bothered to scrape a common legionnaire off the field. Stranger that he was alive.
“Feeling better?”, inquired a feminine voice.
Kamendian blinked a few times and realized his benefactor was not, in fact, a boy from the baggage train. She was a smallish woman — Vanatasian, he would guess, from her dark hair and eyes. She looked familiar, which was in itself odd. There weren’t many women in the regular legions, and most of the fighting women he’d met were Khirbitei, large and fair. She couldn’t be a healer or a cook, though; she was wearing armor, and it looked well-used.
It came to him; Tellias had pointed her out as they were marching past the Vanatasians on the way to battle. Her name was Lady Morgami; she was the Marquise of somewhere in Vanatas, and the youngest daughter of the Lord of Battles.
Lords and Kings, he had his head in a demigoddess’ lap!
“You’ve done well,” Morgami said. “If it weren’t for you, we might have lost this flank. It’s good to see valor is still alive in the Imperial legions.”
She was smiling at him. Kamendian felt that he should say something, but his tongue didn’t seem to be working right. He wasn’t sure what to say even if it had been.
“Shh. Don’t try to talk. You’ll probably be weak for a while yet. Try to rest.”
She looked up. “Boy! There’s a legionnaire here who needs help back to his camp. He doesn’t need a healer, but someone will have to help him walk.”
Morgami looked down at him again. “Besides, no one ever knows what to say to me anyway.” She lifted his head off her lap and gently laid him to the ground. Then she leaned over and softly kissed him on the forehead. She smelled like morning, not at all as though she’d spent the day fighting.
“Good luck, legionnaire,” she said. Then she stood and walked away.