This is a short story written for the Labyrinth March writing contest. The prompt we were given was: A warrior is strong, fearless, courageous. A warrior is powerful. Write a story about a broken warrior and his/her journey to that point.
This story contains many of the same characters featured in my previous story 'War and her Quill'. This story takes place quite a while after the events of that story.
Find Me (c) me
I hope you enjoy.
The battlefield was silent. The war cries had died long ago. Only whispers of death remained, carried by a soft wind across the bodies of the fallen. More of them had fallen that day then those still alive to tell the tale. Some of the survivors were weaving they're way through the bodies, searching for the wounded, searching for friends. The hope in their eyes was fading. It wasn't a day that many would soon forget.
One warrior stood apart from the other survivors. Her chainmail was riddled with holes. Her clothes stained with blood, none of it her own. Dirt and sweat was smeared across her skin. The scabbard at her side was empty, the blade still clutched in her hand. With what little strength she had, she yelled, thrusting her blade forward into the chest of the last man she'd fought and watched as the light died from his eyes.
The sword slid from the man's chest, it's black blade covered in crimson blood. She looked down at it, examining the signs of battle still clinging to the metal. It turned her stomach.
The thought of battle shouldn't have made her skin crawl. She'd seen more of it then anyone could in a hundred life times. She was a goddess of war, but even the gods can grow weary. Even the gods have moments of clarity to see the suffering of the mortals they stand above.
There was a time when she would have yearned for the battlefield and the feeling of a sword in her hands, but now her once strong hands were shaking. She bowed her head, her midnight hair falling like a curtain over her eyes. It hung loose around her head, tangled and dirty, longer then it had been in some time. She cursed under her breath, she cursed them all, but most of all she cursed Azrael.
He was their leader, most powerful of the Editors. It was their duty to guard the Manuscript and the Tales it held. The Tales were the most important part of a world. They were the moments that kept the world together, stopping it from unraveling. They were essential for guarantying a world was remembered. A world can hardly exist if no one remembers it.
Usually it was the Stories that were sent into the Tales to make sure they ran their course, but the Stories had become scarce. Azrael needed someone he could trust, so he sent War. The battlefield was her natural habitat. In another life she would have been overjoyed to be appointed such a task, but much had happened to change her mind. Azrael was no longer a man she could trust, but she still feigned alliance. If she'd disobeyed his order then he would've suspected her of treason and banished her. She could not loose her seat of influence, not now.
The angel of death had given her a list. The names on the list belonged to people not meant to survive this battle. She was tasked with making sure they didn't make it out alive. She stood over the body of Gabriel West. He was the last name on her list, and one she wouldn't easily forget.
She could not allow it to go on like this. More and more characters were being killed off, and all because Azrael desired death. These tragic scenes could not be found in the original Manuscript. It wasn't his place to make such changes. He would be stopped. She'd make sure of it.
The sword rattled in her quaking hand. She could hear the sound of footsteps coming up beside her. A small hand reached out and steadied her shaking one. War didn't need to look up to see who it was. She already knew. She let the girl take the sword from her. Her breath caught in her throat as if the removal of the sword had lifted a heavy burden from her shoulders.
The girl reached forward, lifting War's chin so that she was looking into her eyes. The eyes she met were so familiar that she could've drawn them in her sleep. Her ageless features were gentle and War found comfort in the smaller girl's eyes. She was wearing her usual long, brown leather vest that was fastened at the waist by a belt. She removed her hand from War's face and her long striped sleeve fell back down to cover it. The words scrawled across the papery skin of her face moved slightly, rearranging themselves to create new sentences, but always her right cheek remained bare.
The girl stood out from the filth of the battlefield. There were no drops of blood on her clean clothes, but the girl's soul was already stained with it. War could see her forcing the madness back behind her eyes, keeping it at bay for just a little bit longer. These moments of lucidity were becoming more and more rare for the girl before her.
"I can't take it anymore, Quill." War's courage was dwindling. Her eyes were growing hot and she could feel the tears, threatening to fall. "I've had enough. I can't go on like this."
"I know." Quill's voice was soft and soothing.
"It's never going to end is it, the fighting?" She couldn't hold the tears back for much longer. "I'm not strong enough. I just want it to stop." Never in her life had she wished for the end of conflict. It's what she thrived on, but now it felt more like poison.
"It's okay to cry, Mars." War inhaled sharply. Only Quill ever called her by that name. She'd never let anyone else use it. With the girl's permission, War finally let the tears go. They created tracks through the mud on her cheeks.
Before she'd known Quill, War had been blind to the truth of Azrael's plans to taint the Tales with death. The more death he created the stronger he became. Why he was seeking such power, she did not know.
Now her eyes were opened and reality was breaking her. Her ignorance had kept her together, but it was nothing but fake stability. It could only last for so long. Quill had given her the chance to stop Azrael, to stop those trying to corrupt the Tales. She wouldn't choose ignorance over this for the world.
"We're loosing, aren't we?" It was more of a statement then a question. War searched the other girl's face for an answer. The colour of her eyes was unrecognizable. Her irises had been smudged and had started to leak into the whites of her eyes. Her short brown, almost black, hair waved in the dull breeze. Her silence was answer enough.
They were loosing this fight. No matter what they tried, characters were still being lost. They're deaths were unnecessary and forced. They didn't fit the Tales the Storyteller had written. They're goal was appearing more and more impossible with every passing day.
"It used to be so easy. I knew what side I was fighting for." War pinched the bridge of her nose, closing her eyes.
"We're on a side all our own." Quill's hand slipped into hers and squeezed lightly. "We can do this, together."
"Oh, Quill." War sighed, defeated. "But we're not together, are we?" The small hand stiffened in hers. "Why can't I find you?"
"I'm right here, Mars."
"No, you're not. You're just a figment of my imagination I created to cope so I wouldn't completely loose my mind." War felt her friend's hand slip from hers.
"You'll find me. I know you will." She knew when she opened her eyes Quill would be gone, so she kept them shut just a little bit longer.
The real Quill was missing. It had been a whole month since the last time she'd seen her. She'd looked everywhere she could think of, but her friend was nowhere to be found. Sometimes the girl would wander off in her madness, but never had she been lost for so long.
War sank to her knees. All of her muscles ached. Dark rain clouds were taking over the sky. She heard the clink as the raindrops hit her chainmail, washing away the blood. It would take more then a fall of rain to wash her clean, to erase this tragedy. She was so tired. It would be too easy to lay down here and let her existence fade away like sand on a breeze. It was a fate many had chosen before her. For a god, sometimes it was easier to simply fade and let the mortals slowly forget you ever existed. It was as simple as falling asleep.
War had left her original world long ago, even before she was chosen to become an Editor. She'd traveled to many worlds, but had always been revered as a deity of war. She'd been known by countless names, like the Morrigan, Sekhmet, Freyja, a horseman of the apocalypse, and…Mars. She remembered every battle she ever fought, the thrill of combat. In her last few battles she had not felt the same excitement. It was not the same without a cause worth fighting for.
She once believed in the Editors and all they stood for, but Azrael had changed the game. He was twisting their duties to his own desires. The others could not see, distracted by other problems, like Corruption's return. War wouldn't be surprised if Azrael had something to do with the disgraced Story's escape from where they'd banished him.
Anger boiled inside her. She reached out and grabbed the hilt of her sword where it lay in the dirt beside her. Energy surged through her and she got to her feet, standing tall. The wind picked up around her, loud and furious. Her dark hair whipped around her head.
"I am a goddess of war!" she yelled to the livid skies. "I will not be so easily defeated! I will not lie down and leave my friends to burn! I am a warrior and this battle is mine!"
Lightning crackled across the skies and they boomed in response. She would find Quill and Azrael would fall. She would make it so, even if it cost her last breath.
A few worlds away, two doctors in long white lab coats strode down a wide hallway lined with doors. They're heals clicked against the floor in time with each other, they're movements inhumanly uniform. They wore white masks to hide they're mouths. One held a clipboard. Suddenly they stopped as one in front of a single metal door. It was locked tight. The doctor with the clipboard reached out and moved the slat in the door to create enough of a window to see into the room on the other side. The doctors both peered in.
The room they were looking into may once have had clean, white walls and floors, but now they were covered in a messy scrawl of words. They had been written over and then written over again until only a few words remained intelligible. A figure was kneeling in the centre of the web of words, scribbling on the floor with a pen and muttering softly. Her brown, almost black, hair had grown messy and wild. She wore a plain gray t-shirt and a pair of sweatpants to match. There were spots of ink stains scattered around her clothes. Her left forearm was wrapped tight with bandages. The girl didn't seem to notice the two doctors staring into her cell.
"Any changes." The doctor without the clipboard asked.
"No signs of improvement." The other doctor glanced down at their clipboard, flipping through the pages of the girl's file. "If anything she's getting worse."
"Any idea what she's writing?" The first doctor glanced around at the words covering the walls.
"Everything. It seems she has too much locked away in her head and this is her way of trying to get it out. I think she's trying to make sense of it."
"And she can't hear us?"
"No. Her mind is too lost and complicated for all of her senses to work all at the same time."
"Is there an explanation for the writing on her skin?"
"They aren't tattoos. They seem to truly be a part of her skin. Some of the other doctors have even reported sightings of the words moving."
"Interesting." The first doctor nodded. "Where did you say you found her again?"
"On our front step, actually. She was muttering something about doors."
"It wouldn't be the first time we received a patient who mutters about doors." But there was a tinge of concern in the first doctor's eyes at this new information. "Lets run some more tests. I want to know more about those marks on her arms. It might help us with figuring out what's going on inside her head."
"Of course." The second doctor scribbled something down on the clipboard. Without another word, they closed the slat in the door and walked away in eerie unison, leaving the girl alone with her jumbled thoughts.
She wrote quickly, as if she couldn't get it all out fast enough. "I have to find the right door," she muttered, writing the word find three times. Then she wrote it again. "Find. I have to find. Find. It must be found. I must be found. You must find me." Then, for the first time in a long time, she paused, looking down at the words she just wrote. Find me. Her hesitation only lasted a moment before she began furiously writing once more, leaving those two words behind. There was so much to write, so many stories, so little time.
She wrote on into the night, searching, waiting. It wouldn't be long now.
Thank you for reading. I'd love to hear what you guys think. Good luck to the other entries.