This is a story I wrote when I was in high school. Lots of religous themes, but ultimately a theme of perseverance and hope. It is the first story I ever completed. I hope you like it.

The field burned with the fires of arrows, fragrant with the stench of blood like the first breeze of spring. A smoky haze of clouds obscured the sun just enough to concentrate its red light, making the landscape look like the outer flames of a sizzling bonfire.

Hell was the only land similar to this killing field. Bodies littered the ground, cut down by the malicious thrust of combatant's sword and lance. A thousand eyes stared into the void, defiant at the unknown. The flies had arrived; scavengers would not be late for dinner.

An old warrior sat lonely against an upturned cart, his breathing ragged from an arrow piercing his lung. Two other shafts protruding from his right thigh prevented him from rising any further. His blood still ran hot in his wounds, his nerve endings screaming for relief. His side was drenched black, soaked from a knife wound he scarcely remembered at this point. His beard, gray streaks peppering the stark black hair, hosted two red streams draining from his mouth. His right eye was forced shut, but whether it was from the slice that had taken his eye, or the swelling that had followed, he could not tell. Yet, he ignored his pain.

He kept his attention to his neck, his hand gripping a small charm that hung from a chain at rest on his shoulders. In the scorched, hellish world he found himself in, the chain weighed heavy. The warrior clung to the chain as his rasping breath inflated his chest, before pain caused the air to wheeze out once more. His armor, hot with blood, his enemy's and his own, felt heavy on his chest, but the chain was heavier.

The man blinked. Each blink taking a second longer than the last. He could feel darkness taking him. Peering into the void, all he saw was the dark of a starless night. At this, he sighed heavily, a frown creeping across his face. Yet even still, he clung to the chain, it's charm the only thing tethering him to life.

Finally, opening his eye after what felt like an eternity, he finally looked toward the horror in front of him, toward the body of a fallen comrade. Toward his son. Blank stares drilled holes of sadness and regret into the old warrior's heart. The boy shouldn't have been there, but duty had beckoned him. The father wanted those eyes to blink, to close and open, to focus on something other than nothing. To do something. Anything. He wanted to curse the blade that still pierced his son's heart, to curse his inability to have stopped it. He wanted to curse the cruelty requiring the father to bury his son, to curse the wounds that would prevent him from doing so. The chain felt so heavy.

Looking from his son, the old warrior laid eyes on the horizon to the west. Hours ago, he had marched his countrymen to this spot to defend their land. Minutes from now, there will be no survivors of the battle. Both sides had slaughtered each other, and he would ruefully be the final witness to the chaos. His country would be safe, the rest of his family secure. But it would be forever broken. The weight of the chain dug into his flesh, how heavy it was.

Dark tendrils crept into his vision, slowly at first, but now steady. He wanted more time. More time to love his wife, more time to teach his son. Death was patient and willing to wait, but it was becoming restless. His grip on the chain was weakening. He just wanted more time...

"There will be," a voice called out to him. The voice shook him from Death's grip, if only for a moment longer. The voice was deep, deeper than the lowest thunder, but more comforting than a mother's embrace. He wasn't intimidated by the voice, instead he felt protected, as a child feels peace at the sound of a father's voice. What confused the warrior, though, was the lack of any living soul on the field. Had the voice been his imagination? A cruel trick of the annals of death?

Death again began to engulf him, but once more, the voice called out.

"Warrior, do not be afraid. You know who I am." The voice boomed into the warrior's head, and he was no longer in doubt.

"Yes, I do. I'm sorry to say, I have f-failed you," the old warrior wheezed. Raising his head to the flaming, red sky, he closed his eye as a single tear made a track down his face. Nothing followed. There was nothing left in him to give. "I led these men to their death. I cut down men with a-anger as my fuel. Even as death comes, I d-doubted you. I have sinned against you…" The admission burned in his throat like molten lead.

"No. You misunderstand." The voice's pitch raised, feeling like a warm summer breeze engulfing his battered body. "I seek the stained one who has persevered through the misery of life. A good life forgives the sins committed without thought. Come, child. It is time to rest."

The old warrior blinked once more, opening his eyes to a radiant light. A furious light holding no fury, a blaze with no heat. In another blink, he was enveloped by a strong warmth, lifting him up. He felt his physical body slump against the cart as his eye closed, his ragged breathing ceasing. Looking up, he could see the clouds drawing nearer. His pain faded away; his sorrow ended. He flew past the smoking scorched clouds to an even brighter light above.

The warrior blinked, finding himself laying in a field. This field was lush and green, as wildflowers in full bloom dotted the horizon. A blue sky radiated above. The sun shone brightly, but not hot. A cool breeze caressed his face. Turning, the warrior saw his son sitting on a carpet laid out, a picnic already prepared. His son called to him, beckoning him forward in peace. The man smiled, accepting his rest, and joined his son.