The Joy of Death

by David Moon

Large gray enveloping the sky like a blanket suffocating the land, rain was imminent the air was dense and this was truly the quiet before the storm, where grass should be dust lay thick, death lingered eminent by limp brown vegetation unnaturally decaying, this blight encroaching month by month on the grassy lands and pastures left within Masia'f

Rhuan charged forward without fear his chest pounding with the exhilaration leg muscles tensing with each long stride made, he knew his death was soon, but he didn't care for such small inconveniences, his father had always told him when he was a boy still mastering the sword that he was not to be afraid of death and to embrace it when it came no matter if it was of your body failing from old age or from a spear in glorious battle, Rhuan had always thought his father a wise strong man but he disagreed with the former and would always prefer to die in battle not for money or a country squabbling over borders and lines on a map, but for a cause one worthy of him this cause was worth his life and worthy of his participation and because of it he would not see the sun rise again.

Sweat from his forehead started to drip down on his silver armless chest plate adorned with the emblem of Tor his homeland, the sweat slipping of his brow and into his eyes, obscuring his sight momentarily he could still see that the enemy lines were over a hundred feet away.

Many thought it was a stupid tactic to charge into battle with light armour and no horses to carry him or his men but these things did not matter any more he had just six thousand men making this desperate running charge into the dreaded shadowspawn force, an aggressive and organised army that outnumber his 8-1.

Coming into fifty feet of the shadowspawn he could feel the strike of his and his fellows boots throw up the hard packed dirt and dust like a slow drum rhythm, with each step upon this blighted land.

He listened to the whistle of the arrows thrashing and swooping past his ears striking into the ground, many piercing the bodies of his men, each body falling to the ground sometimes with a silent thud or loud bloody scream of a man in despair knowing his death was seconds away, if he was lucky, all was heard perfectly by Rhuan each death piercing his soul just like the flesh and bone of his comrades for each one he had fought in battles with and talked like brothers around the roasting pits of camp about problems with the wife, on many occasion, these weren't just his comrades they were friends and brothers staring death in the face and laughing with mirth unknown.

Rhuan's charging force were now within twenty five feet of the enemy his tanned skin and long dark hair dripping with sweat giving the feeling of life, he signalled and he and his men unsheathed there swords each one making scraping sounds as it was torn from its sheath with such power, all of various sizes and shapes for each of these men had come to fight this disease from many places and nations of this land.

His own were two short curved blades the length of a grown mans arm from the shoulder to the tip of his finger, the hilt wrapped in a blue cloth grip, originally his wives veil taken from her and used to make his grip on the day he found her mutilated body after the battle of Tor he had embroided the cloth with words in the ancient language of the creator which she used to translate, before they joined this cause over a decade ago, translated it reads, 'Guard my soul and body and I shall Destroy that of our enemies my Beloved Eliza'

The enemies lines started to charge, coming ever closer now to the shadowspawn he could estimate about two yards now, an ever quickly closing gap he roared with all the power and justice he could put into his voice as to let it carry to as many men as possible.

"Let us on this day brothers and sisters"

Six feet.

"Show this stain and shadow upon the land, our hearts and soul"

Four feet.

" And then show them there's!"

Rhuan shouted with complete conviction.

Two Feet.

He heard a loud roar from his fellows of satisfaction and pride in what they were about to achieve, it lasted only a second before he ran the blade in his right hand through a ghoul's chest and then took it's head of in a clean sweep from his left in a spinning motion trying to catch as many other ghouls in the process.

They were bald jet black creatures with human features mostly, except they had sharp spacious sharp teeth, built for devouring and tearing human flesh they were stronger than a normal man with larger foreheads and did not die easily. To survive long enough to take a handful of this dark corrupted foe would require great tactical skill and a work of art with sword play that is only written about in legends, fortunately this day will become a legend.

Plunging his right handed sword into a ghouls shoulder blade from behind and then using a swinging motion with his leg he tripped it toward the blood covered ground, shades of deep red and black saturated the dust the latter coming from the enemy, stamping down hard upon it's face the ghouls head crushed under his dirty metallic boot.

Rhuan gazed around for a moment looking for his comrades, he could still see them fighting the enemy with great skill worthy of this legend many falling but making sure they were taking as many a foe down with them as they could before they were claimed by the darkness, Rhuan could see men that should be dead still fighting, persevering when despair and hopelessness should have overcome them.

Rhuan's head stopped still he now saw what he came for a hooded man on horse back wearing a cloak of black that looked so dark it could suck the light right out of the air, a ghoul rushed him as he was distracted and he fell to the ground, his blades falling a few feet away with a ring as they hit the dust, quickly acting to survive, he moved his head out of the way of the red covered dagger bearing down upon him, it struck the ground he used his right hand to grab the ghouls wrist with the dagger which was stuck into the ground and had only scraped Rhuan's face on the way down causing a small bleeding gash, he followed that smashing his metal gauntleted fist into the ghouls Face with his last free hand causing the beast to roll over onto it's back giving him an advantage he quickly rolled with ghoul so as to be now on top, Rhuan he could smell the corruption on it reeked of it, feeling desperate and tired beyond belief Rhuan pulled his knife from his ankle sheath while restraining the cornered beast, trying to lash out with its hand gnashing at Rhuan with it's teeth, he plunged the dagger into the creatures eye instantly killing the foul thingm, he spat in the creatures face a mixture of blood dirt and saliva that had gathered in his mouth during the struggle.

Raising form the blood saturated ground, cut and bruised not all attained from that bout, Rhuan grabbed his blades and relentlessly attacked the ghouls surrounding him dismembering one in front of him, attacking another soldier and piercing a heart of another all spraying him with blood as they went into there death throws, so much so it took him a few moments to notice that a torrential downpour had started, he felt like it started so as to clean and rejuvenate him for the man he sort he could hear the pop and blasts of lightning close and far.

'This really was a day of reckoning'

He thought to himself

The man he searched for within this torrent of lightning, blood and death was a great general of the shadow he was the reason for this suicidal attack against the shadow, he was a great strategist and had been a great man and friend of Rhuan before he turned to the dark a decade ago causing Rhuan to lose a battle to save his homeland of Tor because of the mans betrayals and schemings, the man was a former shadow of himself now consumed by hate and dread, for all men who gain power, fear losing it the most ,which was the precursor for this old remnant of a tactician to claim many of this lands nations in the name of the shadow, this is why Rhuan sort him so, for the death of this Kin slayer would slow the dark tide rising over this forsaken land, a war the Light was and is, losing against the shadow and has been slowly over the past few decades, beginning when reason was replaced by doubt in men's hearts.

Hopefully today's show of defiance will make men reach for heights of great courage and Valour,

Time appeared to slow down around Rhuan he could feel each drop of rain and every splash of blood touch his skin, cleaning and tainting him as he defended himself against this tyranny of evil.

Rhuan's eyes locked upon his target he through himself into a sprint feeling the ache of his muscles the cuts upon his body being stretched and pulled, re-opening with each stride taken, but this Rhuan did not care for, there only was one focus of his attentions his men had started to fall now and the battle would be lost soon, he had to just accomplish the two things here he came to do. Leaping at the horse with a great stride made from the back of a falling ghoul, his eyes met the man who was responsible for plunging a sword blade through the falling creatures stomach the man looked in amazement and smiled just before taking an arrow to the ankle, Rhuan had is blade extended as to cut into the betrayer of men from atop his horse, the man spun round to face Rhuan cold calculated eyes boring into him the man of shadow lent and fell off his horse to dodge Rhuan's.

Rhuan plunged to the ground after the man with no control of were he was falling he landed with a roll and spun round to face his target, with blade in hand, he felt a sharp pain and something pierce his chest he blinked in surprise at what happened, dropping his sword it making a ringing sound at is fell on the dusty ground.

Rhuan put a hand at the left hand side of his chest falling to his knees grasping a short thin grey hilted knife, sticking out just where his heart is, blood flowing down his breastplate, how?

"You were always arrogant of your abilities Rhuan even as my student"

The man said in a confident well spoken accent, lowering his hood as he was walking over to Rhuan, Rhuan could now see the man properly he had not changed much over the years where most men get frail with age Shi' Tan looked more refined and stronger he had under estimated his enemy and now paid the price, he believed the man weak with age and had lost his edge in battle and yet the abomination seemed more cunning and deceitful than a snake in burning grass, he came closer and closer with each step and Rhuan felt weaker with each as if the blood was beckoned from his body with the mans advance.

Shi' Tan had grey hair and was off a tall, large build with wide shoulders he had a short beard that went from temple to temple and was connected by a moustache of gray and all dotted with black hair, he wore a jet black breast plate with a gray silver outlined raven upon it devouring a human skull this was the emblem of the shadow.

The traitor of light was now in front of him looking down upon him like a child might do a bug wondering how best to kill it, now he had torn the insects wings and legs off, it did not scare Rhuan but gave him much needed time

"Shi' Tan do you remember what you said...."

Rhuan stopped for a moment coughing up blood and spat it at Shi' Tans feet covering his enemies boots in a dark shade of red.

Rhuan cleared his throat and continued.

"About how a man should always finish his enemy off quickly"

"Yes boy I do remember I said he should do so as to allow his enemy some dignity and honour in death"

Staring intently town at Rhuan he continued his answer.

"But boy I shall not do this for you I am of the shadow now and show..."

Shi' Tan cut of as Rhuan harnessed all the energy left in his body rolling to the side grabbing his sword by the embroided haft, Rhuan used every muscle still able to move in his hands and legs in order to put himself into the right attacking stance, the feeling in his joints was terrible as he jumped to his feet and plunged his curved Toran sword through Shi' Tans heart, all the man could do was show surprise and terror upon his face.

Rhuan continuted.

"You also told me later that very same day that to take your time with your enemy when he was dying could leave you open to attack from the cornered animal I believe you called it, well Shi' Tan I am a cornered animal, a vengeful husband, a leader of men who laugh in the face of death and greet it as they would a long lost brother, I am the light which destroys the dark and banishes the shadow to never return, I am not the last of the covenant created to hold you're masters tide of shadow back, where his touch spreads hopelessness, despair and doubt the covenant shall spread Courage, Hope and Compassion, I was born in blood and I shall die in blood I am Rhuan of the warrior Clan of Tor"

Rhuan pulled his sword out of Shi' Tan who well backwards to the ground with glazed distant.

Rhuan collapsed upon his knees then on to his side darkness started to take him he could here the old flute and drums that his people used to play before battle and with his last breath he recited the passage for the last time 'Guard my soul and body and I shall Destroy that of our enemies my Beloved Eliza' but before the darkness grasped him, he realised the drums and flutes weren't a fleeting memory of years past they were coming closer and louder which meant.

The Covenant had come.

'The Joy of Death praise the covenant'

He thought to himself just before the darkness took him

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