The Mad Sword

The Mad Sword

He awoke to the sound of a loud thud. He opened one eye and found it difficult at first, there was something wet covering it. He reached up with his hand and wiped away what looked and felt like blood. Judging from the throbbing headache he realized it was probably his. He reached up to his brow and felt the cut, a searing pain shot through his body. Yes, definitely his. Before moving much, he tried to assert his surroundings. It was hell. All he saw was mud and dead bodies. All around him he could hear the distinct clashing of steel against steel, the screaming and shouting of thousands of men fighting for their lives all around him. He dared not move, lest he be noticed. A loud crash came next to him as two soldiers fell, struggling against each other, screaming at the top of their lungs, their anger and rage pouring their eyes, as if their fight was the embodiment of this whole battle. One of them managed to get on top of the other, pulling a dagger from his sheath and bringing it down through the eye of the soul below, in and out like a hot knife through butter. Not even taking his time to appreciate his kill, the leather-clad killer jumped to his feet, picked up his sword and charged away from him.

Who am I? He fell upon this thought and just couldn’t remember who he was, where he was or what in the gods he was doing there. No matter. That really doesn’t matter right now. He carefully felt the ground around him for something familiar, and there it was, the hilt, he might not recall who or what he was, but his muscles could never forget that hilt. He grasped slowly, firmly, and he felt a surge of ecstasy surge through his body. Yes, he thought, this feels natural, this feels right, this feels mine. He dared for a second to turn his head and look around. Flames, carnage and death all around him. Screaming souls desperately crawling underneath the hooves of a cavalry charge, screaming which was rapidly muffled by the sounds of heads popping like grapes as the brigade slashed and tore its way through a regiment of footmen. His right hand clasping the hilt of his weapon, his left checking to see if he was bleeding elsewhere, all the while making sure his armor was intact and in place. It was. He tiled his head upwards and saw a helm with a great big dent exactly where his cut was. Lucky, he thought. Whatever hit me, knocked me out cold and sent my mind into a pit, but at least I’m alive he thought.

In one swift move, he threw himself forward and onto one knee, he looked down and noticed that what he was grasping was a longsword. Good, he thought, I’m going to need this. He willed his energy and as he got to his feet, he saw a shadow racing towards him out of the corner of his eye, adrenalin shot through his body and he swung his sword as fast as he could, severing the incoming soldiers head clean from his body. Blood splattered onto his face and he felt all thought fade away. The thrashing and clashing of swords became nothing but a murmur and his movements became autonomous. He darted left and swung, again, and again, and as he moved in no particular direction, bodies were falling all around him. He saw wild confused faces staring in horror as he moved like thunder itself, in no possibly predictable direction, yet leaving a path of destruction behind him. A platoon of spearmen converged on him, and staring down from his towering height, he blocked, parried and thrust with terrifying speed. First one, then another, he span, thrust, blocked, swung and another went down. He saw some of them shout things at him but it was of no use, he was death incarnate, charging like the berserkers of old, leaving nothing but destruction behind him. He felt a crooked smile forming across his face and with each step and each move of his blade, another foe fell, a clear path of ruin left beneath him and behind him.

As if the heavens were channeling his blind rage, he kept moving, his enemies terrified of his ferocity, and even more, of his smile. He saw two fronts of soldiers meet and the deafening crash threw his bloodlust into overdrive. Prying an ax out of a dead man’s skull, he placed his feet on solid ground and roared such a scream that echoed all across the battlefield. Yes, this feels right, this feels like glory, he told himself. In the midst of his battlecry he realized that he had been surrounded. He began to laugh as he saw the terror in all the young lads faces. He made a full, slow, committed turn, meeting every eye, seeing each socket fill with fear, and he took his stance. As the surrounding soldiers converged he swung his sword, parrying a blow and following quickly with his ax into a soldiers shoulder, pivoting on his feet to deflect another blow and piercing another man through the heart. In a storm of steel, swords, blood and sinew, he deflected, struck, maimed, and killed. With each blow the men became increasingly desperate forgetting their steps in the dance, some stumbling backwards from the ferocity of his blows and finding no respite from the death he was bringing.

The circle rapidly turned into a waning crescent, brothers in arms each looking at each other for courage, but finding none but the realization that death itself faced them. It was over in a couple of swings, and rather than admiring his work, he charged towards the head of the army. Kill the King and everything else will fall apart, he thought, kill the King and glory will be mine he muttered to himself. He charged ahead, his heavy boots leaving deep prints behind him, tearing through the ranks as if the earth itself was splitting them. With each swing and each blow he tore and bled through the soldiers. Mounted, covered in steel, wielding sword or spear or ax or bow, it didn’t matter. He had seen his prey and there was nothing to stop him. Taking his lead, the army behind him was rallying to his cry and the lines of enemy soldiers were rapidly fading, as if his own presence was causing their lives to evaporate like rain falling on a hot pan.

He reached a line of what were probably the King’s personal guard seeing that the King was shouting orders at them. They charged, thrusting their lances, yet finding no target, his movements sweeping under and above them, his feet racing towards his objective. He saw the King’s eyes widen as the realization fell completely into place, I am going to die, the King thought to himself, and no sooner had this thought come into his mind that the terror of the battlefield found himself flying through the air and thrusting his blade with unparalleled force into the King’s chest, cutting through steel, leather, lace, skin and muscle, right through his heart. As he crashed on top of the King’s body, falling to the ground from the horse’s height, he lifted the veil of bloodlust for just a second, enough to savor this sweet victorious moment. He looked deep into the King’s eyes, and heard him speak the words, words which crashed down on his mind like mountain breaking down, “What have you done… my son….” Recognizing the King’s voice and seeing his last breath leave his lungs, his memories came rushing in like a tidal wave. He saw everything, his childhood, his knighthood, his fraternizing with his brothers in arms, many of whom lay behind him, felled by his own sword, and in that moment he knew madness. He screamed a scream that became the only sound in the battlefield, for the war was over, and his true enemy’s army all stood now, aghast at this most mad sight. Rickard got up, tears streaming down his face, the blood of his father covering his vest, sword at one side, ax at the other and yelled with rage, might and madness at the men that stood in front of him, his true enemies. Silently they stared at him, and slowly a line of bowmen formed a line in front of him, drew their arrows and released.