The Field of Broken Spears, Oinos
A man – or, at least, a manlike figure – strode, in a leisurely way, through a field of corpses. Armored and helmed, and bearing a sword and shield, an outside observer might well assume he belonged to the party of the victors.
That same observer might also notice how much he stood out: there was nothing of that tired, hopeless stance of those mortals who tarried for any length of time in the Grey Waste. Indeed, the figure actually whistled a wordless tune as it poked and prodded at the corpses it passed. A few of the corpses moved; these he ran through with the air of a merry workman. Quite a few times, he poked excessively before making a killing stroke; fresh screams broke forth whenever he did this. The blade was of a remarkably flat and lifeless grey color, even by the standards of this plane.
One of the ‘corpses’ recognized the tune as… a Bytopian nursery rhyme??
“Feel free to breathe, old man. You can’t fool me. Don’t make me poke you, now.” To punctuate his statement, the armored man rested the flat of his blade against the prone figure’s arm.
The blade felt…
Cold wasn’t the right word to describe it – but it came close. It was as if the weapon were a hole that absorbed everything that was alive and good into it.
The armored man glanced around the battlefield. Even most of the clean-up was done now; a few figures moved, but he decided that none were especially dangerous to him, or interested in him. Not that any were harmless, but nothing here was an immediate danger.
“Really, old man, couldn’t you end your life in a more … upscale battlefield? No bard spins tales of the Field of Broken Spears these days.” He moved the sword away from the wounded man, tip toward the ground.
The standing figure seemed to hesitate a moment. Coming to a decision, he cleaned the sword on the cloak of a nearby corpse and sheathed it. He noted a blade, nicked but not broken, lying not far from the wounded man’s hand, and roughly kicked it away.
“There we go.”
Carefully, the armored man removed his helm, revealing a handsome – indeed, angelic face. Adonis-like, it had been called before. The older man had seen his gold-colored hair worn long, but now it was close-cropped. The blue eyes and perfectly symmetrical features had changed since those youthful days in the Twin Paradises. Much harder, the older man thought, and they have both seen and done much cruelty.
Though it was hard to believe these days, Drusus could truthfully claim to be descended from an aasimon.
Those beautiful eyes glanced down. “Your belly’s been opened like a fish, but I’m sure you know that already. I thought you’d given up the Blood War, you know. How’d you end up here?”
“I could ask… the same. You betrayed –“
The aasimar waved his mailed hand. “I only regret not doing it sooner. Why aren’t you back on a farm somewhere, doing honest labor?”
“The fiends… a baatezu raid, for blood and slaves. My wife…”
“Still alive?” the aasimar wondered aloud.
“Zibella, was it?”
The older man thought he saw a flash of the old Drusus on the aasimar’s face, but it was swiftly replaced by the cold, hard stranger.
“I am so sorry, Rufio. If I run into her, I’ll be sure to send her your regards.”
In no hurry, he drew his sword. “I’m sure you understand, old man. Priestly help is out of the question.”
“Tell her I…”
The aasimar barked out a laugh, startling the wounded man. “Love her? Old man, I would tell her you and she will never meet, either in Bytopia or Mount Celestia.”
He turned the blade so that Rufio could see it better. “The blade is a soul-drinker, fool. Did you really think the greatest swordsmith on the Lower Planes would let me go around with shoddy weapons?”
“Drusus, you can’t… this isn’t you.”
“The old me is probably a farmhand in Bytopia, or something else useless like that. This is better.” His gesture took in all the slaughter around them. “Understand, it’s not personal; I always liked you. I’m not sure what my liege will do with a grizzled old soul like yours, but I’m sure he’ll think of something. I get paid a bonus, anyhow.”
“There now, don’t prolong it.” Had Rufio been a stranger, the aasimar might have poked around the exposed intestines before finally killing him. Instead, Drusus suddenly thrust the sword between the wounded man’s ribs, skewering his heart. He’d always been blessed with great physical strength; it wasn’t difficult for him to hold the blade steady as Rufio’s life convulsed and rattled out of him.
The blade had yet to ever directly speak to him, but now it murmured wordlessly and contentedly, well-fed by suffering and death. A pleasant, by now familiar tingling played up his sword arm.
After several moments, he withdrew the blade, cleaned it once more, and returned it to its sheath. Deliberately, he took his hand off the pommel.
The pleasant feeling faded away. Drusus looked away from the corpse, feeling… something. Feeling what?
He didn’t want to be reminded of all that, of the naïve fool he’d been all those years ago. The idealist, the would-be hero. When it’s all said and done, there are no heroes or wicked men, just wolves and sheep. Living men, and dead men. If only I’d figured that out years ago!
For right now, bonuses or not, he’d lost the taste for feeding the sword. “Still,” he muttered aloud, “you’re not the one I came here to collect.” With the air of a worker whose job has just become unpleasant, he drew the blade and resumed making his way through the heaps of corpses, pushing through them and jabbing at one here and another there.