I'm Back! :D It's been a bit since I've been on FP, but I've recently made a career change that will allow me to spend some more time with creative writing and Fictionpress. So I'll be reviewing stories, reading stories, and most certainly will be writing again! :D

Now, you might notice something different with this story, and a few others I'll be posting in the next couple of weeks. This one is rated M for language (which is censored. Ex: D*mn!) and violence (nothing too graphic, it's like my other stories.) I want to expand my writing skills a bit, and going a bit more mature seems like a good step. If you don't like mature stories, then don't worry, plenty of T rated stories are coming soon. :) Also, I'll be explaining why the story is rated M at the beginning of the tale, just like I'm doing now.

I hope you enjoy!

...

They were scum, carrion, and worse than the vultures that preyed overhead and the maggots they crushed beneath their boots as they walked through the battlefield.

The battle itself was long over, and only broken swords, rotting corpses, and the overwhelming stench of decaying flesh and dried blood was left. Soldiers from both sides lay facedown in the mud, the previous night's rain mingling their blood together with the ground.

It was impossible to tell which side had won, and frankly, the men didn't even know or care who was fighting in the stupid war anymore. One army won, one army lost, and the village nearby got its stores plundered and its young men conscripted by whoever had gotten their first.

At least it was good for the six figures who wandered the battlefield as the crimson rays of dawn broke over the horizon. Their boots stepped in blood and mud and gods knew what else as their eyes scanned the corpses of the fallen.

"Ey! I found a silver ring, poor bloke musta got his hand cut off!" One man shouted, blackened teeth and cracked lips moving up in a grin as the speaker held up a severed hand. It had been crudely cut off at the wrist, but the glimmer of the aforementioned ring still twinkled in the dawn lighting.

"Grab it and 'urry up." Another replied, wiping his hands on his trousers. "I don't wanna be here too long! Igor, you see anything over there?"

Igor, a young lad of about 21 winters, used the haft of a broken spear to roll over a dead body. His uniform was smudged and blackened, but it was a soldier, and from the look of downright fear on his bloated face, he had died in agony.

Fighting a wave of nausea as a maggot crawled out of the dead man's ear, Igor shook his head. "No. Nuthin here." Quickly stepping away from the scene, he forced down the bile that threatened to creep up his throat.

While robbing from the dead and following the marching armies, as they tore into each other, was far from a noble profession, but it was the only way they would survive. Farms and orchards were being raided by the armies as fast as they could be filled, and with winter coming soon they needed every scrap of gold and coin they could find.

He turned and watched one of his comrades, a big burly man with a massive scar on his cheek and a mace at his belt, rifle through the wreckage of a few boxes. "Oi! I found some spirits! Those bloody fools musta wanted to drink a toast after a great victory." He remarked, holding up the bottle of alcohol. "A wonder these weren't smashed!"

"This is a command center you daft fool!" Another man replied, pointing to the wreckage of a still burning tent a few meters away, along with what appeared to be hastily dug barricades around the collapsed structure. "If I know these ploughin armies, their commanders hid here when it all went to sh*t and died last."

The bottle was swiftly uncorked anyway and the six men gathered around the ruined tent, sharing swigs from the bottle as the sun began to rise.

"To the armies, who fought a big battle, died in the muck, and left enough for us scavengers to survive on!" The leader of the group cheered, tipping the last dregs down his throat before shattering the bottle with a smile. "Alright, what do we got now?"

Rune, the man armed with a mace, opened up a dirty bag and peered down into it. "We got ten rings, four iron boots, six gold teeth, and one silver bauble. Not bad for a morning."

"That otta buy us some bread at the next town," Finel remarked to his band, watching his compatriots close the bag. "All right, let's keep looking. Those soldiers ought to have left more around here. Rumor was it some big hero fought on one side or another, meybbe we can find his body."

The men separated and resumed their search, pawing through the pockets of dead men, squinting and stepping through the mud, and occasionally calling to their fellows about something they had found on a corpse.

Igor stepped over two soldiers who were still locked in death's embrace, their swords jabbed into one another's' stomachs as flies buzzed around the wounds. His eyes looked over them for anything remotely valuable before moving on, and then he saw a glimmer of light.

Moving towards it, he stepped over the wreckage of a splintered war machine before gazing down into the crater it had left behind in the soft earth. Whatever the object was, it was reflecting the sun's rays, and he stepped forward to examine it further.

But the soft earth, weakened by countless battling footsteps and then again by the rain, crumbled under his feet as he fell forward, his face filling with mud and worms as he rolled down the side of the crater.

Colliding with something clammy and cold, his eyes opened and he found himself staring at the face of a dead man. The gash of blood across his neck left no illusions about how he died, and Igor choked on his own scream as he recoiled.

He stood upright as fast as his weakened legs were able, stumbling backward before tripping over a second body. A hard surface greeted him this time, the back of his head erupting with pain as it banged against the object.

The bitter taste of blood filled his mouth as his eyesight blurred, and his hands groped at the earth. They recoiled at even the slightest touch of clammy dead skin, before finally finding a piece of moist earth he could grab and push against.

Turning around as he rose, Igor gasped at the sight of a glowing golden breastplate. It was smudged and covered in countless bloodstains, but it was easily more valuable than anything else his crew had found today. Using his sleeve to wipe it off, he gasped at the familiar symbol that greeted him.

The center of the breastplate was covered in three golden circles, the symbol of the hero that had been the world's last hope. None knew which side he'd fought on, but even those who cared not for the war had heard of him.

Through the fog of battle he rode, a god of war made man. No shaft or spear could harm him, and no weapon could stand against his glowing sword. At least... those were the legends. Now he was just as dead as the rest of the men lying around him, a fair number of them with sword wounds across their chests and throats.

As his hands began to shake, Igor looked around for the sword and found it in the hero's hand. It was covered in blood, and the hand still clutched it tightly, unwilling to let it go. The blade itself was nothing special, at least to the young man's eyes, and looked no different from any other steel blade.

This is the blade the warriors of the world fear, and the bards of the earth sing about? It didn't look special...

"Aieeee!"

The scream jolted him from his thoughts as the young man grabbed at the sides of the shallow hole, pulling himself up as growls filled the air.

"Dammit! We stayed too long!" Finel screamed, his sword already out as the growls came closer, followed by the sounds of paws slapping the wet earth. "F*ckin corpse eaters!"

Ghouls, driven by the scent of both the dead and the living flesh nearby, charged forward towards the group of men. Their gnarled grey skin was pulled taut across their flesh, and beady yellow eyes shone in the dawn light as the ghouls rose onto two legs, claws out and tearing at the air.

Boils of pus and dried blood covered the creatures, and Igor swallowed hard as he groped for his own weapon. It was just a small club, better for smashing beetles and scaring off rodents then fighting... but it was something.

"Come on!" Rune yelled, the large man charging into the first two ghouls, his mace smashing into the closest monster's ribs. Dried bones shattered under the blow, poking out from under the skin as the ghoul howled in pain and rage. Rune's arms bulged as he swung the iron mace again, this time smashing it right through the creature's head.

Blood and brain flew in all directions as the now headless ghoul fell back to the unlife it had spawned from. But the second creature lunged at the man, its teeth clamping hard on Rune's shoulder.

Igor gasped aloud as Rune screamed, dropping his mace and stumbling backward. The ghoul only dug its fangs in deeper, even as the warrior smashed his fist upon it, breaking the creature's leathery skin with every single blow. Finally, both combatants fell to the muddy ground, smashing and tearing at one another with everything they had.

The other three men in the band weren't doing much better, two of them instantly going down as the first wave of ghouls attacked, their screams abruptly silenced as the pack began to feast on them, tearing the skin apart with powerful snaps of their claws and teeth. Sucking on the marrow and biting through the bones.

The third man instantly turned to flee, hurriedly tripping and stumbling over the dead bodies and discarded weapons in his way. But several of the ghouls broke off their feast and pursued him, their strides unbroken by the terrain in front of them.

Gasping in terror, the man screamed aloud, his sword falling from his hands as the monsters overtook him. One lunged forward with a mighty leap, its claws grabbing at his shirt and bringing him down before the creature began to tear and rend at the warm body. The rest of the pursuing ghouls attacked as well until the screams faded away and the sounds of tearing skin and popping bone replaced them.

Struggling to not vomit, Igor's eyes turned towards the two men still fighting. Rune, bleeding from his left shoulder as a ghoul's tooth protruded out of it, was still swinging his mace with his other arm. Two more dead ghouls lay near his feet, but sweat was already pouring down Rune's face as the rest of the ghoul pack closed in.

Finel's sword was half-buried in a ghoul's throat before he withdrew it, sending a spray of red blood up in the air. His eyes looked briefly at the fallen remains of his dead followers, a few scraps of bone and a half of a head the only thing that was left to identify them by.

Then he turned back to the fight, his sword flashing to cut up another ghoul as he backed towards Rune. "Rune! We need to go! These corpse eaters won't stop until they fill their bellies with us!"

Igor's voice caught in his throat, his fingers curling into the dirt as he waited for his leader's plan. Surely Finel would think of something, something that would get them all out of here.

He watched his leader harshly grab at Rune's injured shoulder, causing the man to howl in agony as Finel yanked him around, before hurling him towards the advancing ghouls.

Rune screamed aloud, the movement causing him to lose his grip on his mace, and he fell into the crowd of attacking ghouls before his screams fell silent.

Igor bit his lip until blood filled his mouth, watching his leader turn and scoop up the fallen bag of loot, before turning tail and running away from the feasting monsters. Losing his grip on the dirt, he fell back into the crater, the back of his head flaring up in pain before his vision faded to black.

...

His fingers gently touched the throbbing bump on the back of his head, cursing at the pain as he stood up. Rain poured down on him as Igor gripped the muddy side of the ditch, blinking both rain and dizziness out of his eyes as his boots dug into the mud. "Damm, Rune... all of them are dead." He muttered, fighting down the bile in his throat as he squelched the mud between his fingers.

Then the growl filled his ears as he froze, the clump of mud falling from his hand. Slowly turning around, he gasped as a ghoul's black undead eyes gazed at him. The eyes filled with hunger.

"Sh*t." Igor gasped, turning towards his club that lay under the muck. Its handle was buried underneath the mud, too deep for him to try to grab. Falling backward, he hit the ground, feeling a rock dig into his side as his hand bumped against the cold flesh of a corpse.

Recoiling, he clawed his way upward as the ghoul's ragged breathing filled the air. The sound of the deep breaths only drowned out by the beating of his heart. Then the creature screamed and pounced on him.

Desperately Igor groped for his club, feeling something hard in his hand. His numb fingers closed around the weapon and he brought it up in front of himself, attempting to stave off his death.

Bones cracked and the smell of blood and decay erupted in front of him. The ghoul's chest exploded as the sword pierced its back, and the monster fell on his chest.

Clamping his mouth shut, he shoved the creature off of him, feeling the corpse hit the ground as he struggled to stand. The ghoul was dead... and the sword of the hero was sticking out of its chest.

The ghoul was dead. He'd killed it, with the blade of a hero. Igor's hand flew to his mouth, his ears straining as he struggled to hear the sounds of any more ghouls. After a few more minutes listening to his own breathing, the man's hand reached towards the hilt as if the sword was a hot iron.

This was the blade of a legendary hero, a blade that had fought for right and truth and stood against the evils of the world. The warrior who wielded it was just as righteous, and someone who gave their life fighting for what they believed in. He was just a simple grave robber and a horrible one at that.

Stealing the sword would be useless, but using it would be even more so. "It's just a blade." He rationalized, sweat breaking out on his forehead. He could touch the blade, it wouldn't hurt him... and thousands of peasants and fellow soldiers would more than likely pay a ransom to get their hands on the blade. Not to mention the value the sword had to the black market.

Or he could use it. His friends had died at the hands of ghouls true, but Finel had murdered one of them. Even if he wasn't a hero, anyone could avenge a friend.

Slowly moving towards the blade hilt, he grabbed the sword and lifted it over his head. Tired arms strained under the weight as the blade shown in the sun, Igor raising the blade before gazing down at the dead hero he was taking the weapon from.

Perhaps it was insane, but he could make this blade sing again. For the cause of righteous vengeance! It would be a better use for the blade than just sitting around and mixing with the blood of monsters and corpses.

Awkwardly sliding the blade in between the sheath that had once held his club, he secured the weapon and then moved to find his former boss.

...

It took two days to track the man's panicked footsteps, past the battlefield and then into the forest. Igor forged ahead, shoving brambles aside on the third morning, his stomach full of foraged berries and rainwater.

He had just enough strength to use his sword and use it he would. Finel's trail was getting easier and easier to follow. His footprints were more erratic, broken branches and cold fire pits acted as signposts, and Igor could even see spots of fresh blood in the dirt.

The crimson blood was the thing he was following today, the sun easily allowing the red to be seen as he walked through the trees and twisted paths, finally stopping at the crest of a hill.

"Arrgh! Come on then!"

Finel's battle cry echoed over the grunts of ghouls, and as Igor gazed down at the battle, he smiled. His former boss was locked in combat with four more ghouls, these creatures were far more muscular than the creatures who had attacked them beforehand and Finel was holding his sword out in one hand.

The other greedily clutched the sack of treasures he had stolen from them, holding it behind him. The man's eyes spun from monster to monster as his chest rose up and down, meeting every ghoul roar and snarl with a slash of his blade in the empty air.

Igor watched the standoff, the ghouls grunting and snarling as they crossed around Finel. He could just leave and allow his enemy to face the same dangers that his warriors had been subjected too. That his friends had suffered.

He could allow Finel to be ripped apart and feasted on, just like his friends. His face gazed back up at him as Igor gazed at the blade in his hands. It shone with its own inner light, and now so did he.

A war cry flew from his lips as Igor charged down the hill, standing between the ghouls and their prey. His tired arms raised his sword as he charged towards the monsters, the blade swinging twice and sending two heads one way in a spray of black blood.

As the bodies fell onto the muddy earth, Igor gazed at the other two ghouls, his chest heaving and muscles aching as he raised the sword.

Snapping and frothing, the two ghouls snarled angrily, before both of them turned around. The slap of their feet on the mud soon faded away as the creatures fled, and Igor faced the direction they had ran.

"Little Igor? That you mate?" Finel asked, his voice hoarse and dry. "I thought for sure you'd be filling some corpse eater's belly. And lookie, you've got a big boy sword. Mind if I take it off your hands?"

"Sure." Igor smiled. "Take a nice, close look!"

Spinning around, he brought the blade across Finel's stomach in a swing that had his whole body burning. The metal sheared open the man's torso, the thug's sword and bag falling from his limp fingers as Finel fell backward.

"What... that's the blade of a hero!"

"But I'm not one." Igor spat, using the weapon's point to lift the bag away. "You killed my friend, left him to die at the hands of those ghouls. And for what, a couple stolen trinkets from a score of corpses?! Now you'll face the same fate, boss... because I'm leaving you to die for a bag of stuff."

Picking up the bag, Igor turned away and began walking back out of the forest, towards civilization and hopefully someone who would buy what he was selling. All while Finel's screams echoed in his ears.

"No! You can't leave me here you b*stard! Those ghouls will be back... they'll eat me alive! Please! Please!"

Soon the words faded away, to be replaced by the growls of ghouls, the screams of a doomed man, and then the silence of feeding.

...

Once he had traded in the bag for some coins, Igor gazed at the sword leaning against the wall. He could just as easily sell the blade too and make ten times the amount he had in his palms now, but for some reason, he didn't.

The blade deserved more than just being passed from a merchant to a merchant, a sword of a hero needed to continue its work, needed to be passed down from hero to hero.

Since he'd found it, maybe he was a hero now. Or at least he could be.

Gripping the sword again, he flourished it and took a deep breath, before closing his eyes and making a solemn vow. This world might be a war-torn, monster-infested, cesspit of a place, but it was a world all the same, and no one would want to see it ended.

So now, he would do something about it.

...

This story was spawned from me playing a lot of The Witcher 3, and fighting a lot of ghouls on the battlefield! It's a dark fantasy game, so I figured I'd write a dark fantasy story. I hope you enjoyed. :)

As always please leave a review, feel free to check out my other works, and have a great day!