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Raedwulf

A Long Day

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It has been a long day. Tiredly, you stare into the campfire. Your limbs weary, your head aching, not picking at the bandage solely because you feel too tired even to lift your hand. It has been a long day.

It should not have ended so. It did not begin so! But The Enemy is cruel; fell & cunning. For the first time, truly, you feel at war, and know what that word means. Ere now, it was, in some kind, a game. Long your years of training, great your skill, or great enough, at least. But death? Death was a thing that never seemed real when you lost the fight, your teacher tapping you on the neck, the belly, his point at your throat... But never stabbing, never cutting. Now though...

All are tired. All sleep. Except you. Sleep will not come; however the fire dances before your eyes, it does not lull you. Better to stare at the fire. When you do not... There, a comrade lies, a heavy bandage about their pate; another moans fitfully in their sleep - pray that they live till the light! Then, perhaps, the wound is not fatal. But when your eyes drift from the fire, then you look at the spaces; the places where men should lie, but they are dead. The warriors who were light and large and loud in life. But they are in life no more. The survivors sleep, exhausted, and there is none but you to keep the vigil for those that will no longer smile and laugh.

Your arm aches - every part of you aches - but your arm.. throbs... demands more of you, and you have nothing more to give. What was it for? Did you win? Even that is not clear. A muddied, confused melee of impressions; of shouts, screams, the scent of blood, the odour of fear, your own and others; the clash of blades, the thud of blows; the sudden, random, terrifying pauses! The long moments in the fight when you were alone with time to see, and no time to act. If a man could paint such scenes... surely he must be mad, and you wonder whether, now, you are?

But above all, beyond the pain, the sorrow, the anger, there is a grey wall. Fatigue. Such tales as this that you heard when you were younger would speak of vengeance. The warrior promising deaths to pay for the deaths of friends & companions! But such tales seem naught but idle boasts to you now. They never spoke of the emptiness, the langour, the numbness. Sleep will not come, not yet. Would that it would! But you sit and watch the sparks rise, small drakes flying into the night sky; to what worlds, to what escape? And you sit and watch the fire. So tired. So many slain. You cannot even see their faces. You ought to, you knew them all. But those eyes, that smile, a nose you could hang a hat on! They all add up to... A face you never saw, no-one you ever met. Surely that is wrong? But... So tired.. So very, very tired... And, still, sleep will not come...

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I like this - especially the use of "sleep will not come" as a refrain throughout the story. It brings the general mood home well, even reinforces it.

-Nim

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