Inspiration can be a powerful tool. You know how it works, or I hope you do. Everyone has had a moment in your life where you looked upon an act of bravery and single mindedness that pushed you to go beyond your limit. There’s something about music that fits this bill really well.
I had to admit something, I don’t really listen to music. Or rather I don’t listen to particular brands of music. I am more of a life’s soundtrack sort and appreciate it as I run into it. That said I watch movies and play video games, so much of the music I come across is exactly that, background music.
In highschool I played in marching band, Sousaphone to be specific. I have a certain appreciation for the role of a Drummer as it is not too different from playing the bass line of a song. It’s repetive yes, but it serves as the heartbeat of the music. Nothing quite motivates like a heartbeat. It reminds you that you’re alive.
I wish I had written this for Memorial Day… But the muse is a fickle creature. Hopefully you enjoy it.
There were ten of them left alive. The rest were dead.
They never stood a chance; the enemy was on top of us before they had been able to draw our first sword. In those first grim moments fifty throats had been slit and blood flowed onto the floor of our tents. The first man able to let out a gurgling gasp served as the morning cock to stir us. But in the next moment another fifty had steel thrust through their hearts.
Frantic shouting followed as some managed to begin the futile effort. Some of the enemy fell, more of ours died.
Now there were only ten of us. The rest were dead.
They managed to make our way to the weapon stores. The enemy is sacking our supplies and pilfering our dead for weapons and the gods knows what else. They heard the sounds of eating, but they had no food. They have no idea who or what they are up against, only that they came upon us as shadows and struck with such reckless ferocity that they never stood a chance.
Their armor is on, but they don’t even know if it will do us any good. The enemy is not leaving. The enemy is not moving. They will be discovered eventually. Then they will die along with our brothers.
One of the cowering men stands, the youngest. His jaw sets with determination in the dim light of the storeroom. It is a ramshackle wooden shack made hastily with no roof to speak of. The light of the early morning pours onto them.
This man has no weapon. He isn’t like the rest of us. His tool is a drum. A grim expression sits on his face and his eyes look upon his fellows; his brothers. Quiet contemplation fills their faces as the realization sets in they will never see their wives, children, or lovers ever again. The battle is already lost, but do they need to die like shaking dogs?
“No.” The drummer said readying his wooden drumsticks. “We are but men.”
An unearthly screech filled the air as every one of the attackers sang out in unison. They knew where they hid, they knew of their presence all in one deafening moment of realization. But the drum struck louder.
“As we bleed and die…”
The other nine men laid their boots into the walls of the storage hut, splintering it’s walls and casting them into exposure of their assailants vast numbers. The falling heavy walls landed on near ones splitting their skulls and granting them first blood.
“Our maidens they may cry…”
They spread out shoulder to shoulder, blades at the ready. Steel glistened in the morning son as the enemy let out another scream. But the drum’s rhythm drowned it from the ears of the men.
“Swords brought bare, banners high…”
One leapt, it’s tense twisted form was nothing they had ever seen. It was stark naked, but still a man of sorts. Coarse black fur was stained with blood as black as pitch as a spear caught it in the throat. Another leapt and met the same fate to an axe.
“Eyes cast upwards towards the sky!”
The men with sword and shield drummed their blades across their nation’s symbol. Others made do by drumming against the wood of the fallen shack’s walls. Two had to make do by sinking their weapons in the skulls of their attackers. They all let out a mighty roar. “RAH!”
Drum-beats echoed across the camp as the men kept beat with their steel when it wasn’t being jammed into the enemy. With every strike they learned their foe. They knew it could bleed. They knew it could die.
“Crush thy foes! Sons of Lye! Eyes cast upwards to the sky!”
“RAH!” One of the figures used an opening made by one of its brethren and latched onto the neck of a soldier, tearing at his throat. Red blood gushed outwards as his axe was nestled into the neck of one of the unholy beasts. He gasped and wrenched his axe free, digging it into the flesh of the beast that would take his life.
“Bleed well for your nation…”
He staggered forward, his kin closed the gap he left with their blades at the ready. The two men at his sides nodded grimly and fought on. The dying man used his last breaths to kill the ones that swarmed him to feed. His axe took two of them he had to use a dagger to take a third before he was brought down.
“Vigilance thy station!”
A spearman jabbed his weapon into the soil and brandished a bow, feathering the beasts feeding on his fallen comrade. As they died they piled atop him giving him a shield of dark flesh atop him. He was dead, there were but nine of them now. The drum beat remained vigilant and the drummer’s voice matched each stroke of his drum, loud as thunder.
“Brave within, crusades begin…”
Another beast leapt onto the shoulder of a man at the archer’s back. It tore uselessly at his armor and was grabbed by the husk of its black fur by the man at his side with a bare hand. As he tossed its body away and into the circling pack of its fellows black steam billowed off of his hand. The mere touch of their rancid fur was enough to sear flesh.
“Let conviction prove words true!”
The burnt hand was made useless as it curled and twisted from the damage of the acid. The lightly armored axe-man gritted his teeth against the pain and fought on. Another beast caught the sword arm of another at his down-swing pinning his hand and blade and leaving and opening for another beast to waylay him. The first was squashed by a spearman, the second made it through tumbling the staggered man forward out of the safety of his circle. His sword arm served as the source of his doom a second time as he was dragged away and fought over like a strip of meat.
“Bring your foes an end…”
This served as an opportunity for the archer to feather a few more. The men found comfort in the pathetic wails of pain as the arrows lodged into the beast’s flesh. The wood of the arrows hissed and smoked on contact, withering to dust. It mattered not. They did their duty just as these men planned to do theirs.
“To judgment we will send!”
The dragged soldier was pinned by the arrow filled corpses clawing at his legs. Some of them had tasted his flesh; a grim streak of blood, his blood, separated him and his fellows. He offered a nod at then and drew a dagger from his side. He drove it deep in the open maw of a one of the creatures trying to make a meal of his face. Dark blood splattered on his face, blinding and burning him. He grit his teeth, wrenched his knife free and swung blindly at a second, catching its throat, and splashing more of the corrosive bile onto him.
“March on forth, heads held high…”
A creature broke the line trying to get to the source of their strength and silencing the maddening sound of the drum. The archer intercepted him, raising a forearm to be dug into with long fangs. The crunch of bone and red blood mixing with saliva of the beast did nothing to deter him. He dropped his bow and drove his arrow deep into the side of its skull. The Drummer licked his lips quickly to belt out another lyric.
“Eyes cast upwards to the sky!”
“RAH!” The archer freed his spear and held it tensely. It was a two handed weapon, but he was only with the use of one arm. He stepped forward taking his place in the circle as eight stood where ten once did. The dragged man’s shout was weak but it was heard as all nine men sang in unison.
“Crush thy foes! Sons of Lye! Eyes cast upwards to the sky! RAH!”
They pushed outward striking down no less than three of the beasts each to the sound of thunderous drum beats. Each strike heralded by wooden stick upon stretched hide. One of the axe-men silenced five. They pushed out to the piles of beasts feasting on their friends and drove weapons into the gorging abominations.
“Do not mourn your fallen…”
With a bold action they kicked aside the corpses of the dead alternating between the grim work and making more corpses still of the beasts. The axe-man with the wounded hand was overtaken, pulled to the ground his blood and entrails poured out onto the soil of the campgrounds. The wounded spearman had is limp arm wrenched away and yanked. The man at his side landed a sword in its belly but was attacked and pinned from behind. He had no choice but to roll over, back hand away his assailant and struggle to keep the beasts away from his face.
“Heaven’s gates are callin’!”
The spear man was toppled again, and thrown into a sear of teeth, fur and claws. The distraction allowed the man with a sword and shield to stand. He opted to charge the dog pile atop his comrade slaying six beasts with a single sure stroke. A single glance back at his fellows let them know to close up again. The five of them stood vigilant as the valiant swordsman was taken down.
“Sorrows grim, death you face…”
Five men looked upon a sea of enemy and corpses. They may have lost half their number but what was five men when a camp of two hundred once stood and fell?
“Bolster yourself with thy grace!”
“RAH RAH RAH!” The men chanted in unison beating their weapons to the rhythm of the drummer, taunting the horde before them to strike. A moment, however brief, of hesitation rested in the beasts eyes. They were fifty, maybe more against five men. One of which armed with a drum. There was doubt in their sunken eyes that they would win.
They crouched low and growled at their defiance. The drummer played louder than ever, playing mockery to their numbers and bolstered the confidence of the men still standing and honoring the fallen with the song.
The four men’s weapons might as well have been the two hundred that fell to the surprise attack. Now there was as much black blood on the ground as there was red.
“Rally forth! Victory calls!”
The four men nodded, three to the remaining sword and shield man. A spear, two longswords, an axe and a drum was all that stood before them and certain death. The shield man planted his blade into the earth and took the fallen bow. Their formation shifted so the three protected the drummer and the shield-man armed with a bow. They charged to their certain death.
“Bring justice to our halls!”
They fought, and fought well. Black blood painted the battlefield as the beasts met the men’s audacity with matched ferocity. Arrows flew to cover openings in their defense as not one had a shield to speak of. Their victory came in killing, not defense. It took merely seconds before the beast’s numbers were halved. The spear man fell as the number shrunk to barely twenty.
“Brave within, Fate begins!”
His dying breaths saw to it that number reached twenty. His lifeblood fell along with his limp body. He was dead standing, the rest of the trip the ground was merely a formality. The axe-man faired better but fell victim to the corrosive blood he was distributing liberally onto the ground. He fell as the number shrank to a dozen, a beast took his weakness as an opportunity to open his throat. And arrow stopped his killer from making a meal of his face.
“The strongest always win!”
The longsword made its last swing into the face of a beast trying to get past him. The vailiant act cost him his other arm as it was taken clean from the socket. Two of the beasts were foolish enough to fight over the arm and both were able to be dispatched with a single arrow. They were pinned the ground head to head like a roasted kabob.
The drummer struck his hide with fervor. Where there once were ten, there were now two. Where there once were a hundred, there were now six. The shield man cast aside his bow, arrows spent and plucked his sword from the ground. He roared along with the Drummer. “RAH! RAH! RAH!”
Real fear was in the eyes of the six beasts, the approached and went to circle but the shield man charged and drove a blade in one’s skull, retrieved it and hacked off another’s head with and upwards swing.
“Four remain! The rest slain! Eyes cast upwards to the sky! RAH!”
The shield man smirked at the improvised lyric and bashed his sword against his shield in rhythm with the drums. They were outnumbered two to one, good odds by any measure.
The lone knight charged forth to the center of the beasts a triumphant ‘RAH!’. A mighty cleave split the beast from crown to jaw. An expert parry from one that tried to flank him led to another death. Fanaticism burned in his eyes as he drove his blade into the third creature’s brain. Blood dribbled from its cowering form. The drum beats rose in crescendo with each kill until…
The fourth and final creature, content to strike from the shadows took the final knight’s throat as a prize. He staggered, wearing the beast as a neck tie, his armor prevented his head from being severed but blood poured around his neck like a red gorget. His hand opened and his sword fell from it onto the soil.
“As we bleed and die…”
In his dying breath, to the beating of a drum he struggled at his side, floundering for his dagger.
“The maidens they may cry.”
The drummer sang in a desperate tremolo. The dagger was in the knight’s hand, sliding slowly from their hilt.
“Swords brought bare, banners high…”
With incredible desperate force, the dagger was brought about and jabbed into the beast’s head. Blood erupted at point blank searing the knight’s eyes past his thin visor. He toppled backwards, spent. Gasping for air that simply wouldn’t come.
“Eyes cast upwards towards the sky…”
The knight gaped and gasped, drowning in his own blood. A pool formed around his neck and mixed with the brain and bile of the creature he killed. Somehow, against all odds, he gurgled a single work. “Rah…”
The drummer stopped his cadence and ran close clapping his drumsticks into one hand, and grasping the knight’s with the other. He was already gone. A dull whimper sounded behind the drummer. A twisted creature with one lung crushed with puncture crawled towards him.
He narrowed his eyes at it and stood, placing his hand on the head of his drumsticks and pulled. Hidden blades made visible he lunged and drove the blades deep into the beast’s eye sockets. Black blood dribbled out and seared the ground below.
There was silence, after all that, there was now silence. The bard panted heavily, alone in the field of dead. The field was covered with dead soldiers, the one hundred and ninety slain by ambush and the valiant ten that felled one hundred foes.
The drummer stood and walked to the fallen planks that acted as a stage for his performance. His drum stood tall and taut in the morning sun.
A howl filled his ears. It was distant, but not distant enough. Another followed it. Then Another until there was a Symphony of dire cries in the air.
The drummer placed his hands on his drum and sighed. He let his eyes open slowly as he placed the drum heads back in place.
He began to play. And he sang. He sang as loud as his lungs would allow.
“Crush thy foes! Sons of Lye! Eyes cast upwards to the sky! RAH!”
He played his drum hard and loud. He played cadence of honor for those that were slain. He played until the creatures came upon him, and silenced his audacity.
Remember the brave. Rember those that died for your freedoms. Many times the ones back home serve as their inspiration. A drummer’s job is to remind.
Now how did I go this long without commenting on this righteous piece?
*looks at perpetually-distracting dogs*
Sure, let’s go with that.
Anyway, if I had to sum this up in one word, it would be “powerful.” Powerful strikes, powerful emotion, powerful meaning…even though this isn’t exactly a novel-length installment, you manage to bring plenty to the table. (Actually, I should probably add that if I could sum this up in three words, it would be “powerful and manly.”)
So yeah, mighty fine job. Although on the subject of music, I’m of the opinion that you’re a step closer to enlightenment if you get some metal in your system.
First off thanks for the kind words.
And I totally agree with you. I’ve never lacked for appreciating the mood that is carried with music, I just lack the natural knack of seeking it out.
Thankfully the love of my life has no problem with this. She has provided me exposure, an audio equivalent to second hand smoke if you will, that has allowed me to bottle some nice creative juices.
After I finished writing this, it really made me wish I had the patience and capacity for flash. I would LOVE to see this animated.
Pingback: Short Story Bonus: Vigilance of Lye « Memories of a Dimanagul