Here is the second of three short stories that I have to do for my Narrative Writing course this semester. I still consider this to be a draft but I don’t think I could ever “fix” enough to be fully comfortable. Anyways, I hope some on you enjoy this little story that I cooked up.
A snowflake fell lazily from the sky above, slowly meandering its way through the frozen air and drifted through a land of pure white on its way towards the ground. Everything in the forest was covered in snow; the trees, the bushes, and the grass. The elks were hidden away and the bears were in hibernation. The land was quiet.
The snowflake continued making its inescapable descent through the air, twisting and turning every which way. It seemed destined to end its journey on the limb of a great pine tree, yet the wind took it another direction. The snowflake was going to fall onto a bush below the tree, but the wind decided against that as well. It fell further down until it neared the ground.
The snowflake landed gracefully on the ground. It merged with the other flakes around into an amalgamation of ice crystals. I ignored this wonder of nature and crushed it underneath my leather boot as I went by. I had no time to contemplate on nature and its beauty. I was on a mission of vital importance.
I had come into this forest in search of my father. He had told me yesterday morning that he had to leave the village to find something he had lost. I had watched him walk into this forest and he had never returned. My father hadn’t left the village since my birth; something was wrong.
I had set out this morning to find where he had gone. With sword belted to my waist and leather, I ventured out. The elders warned me to not leave the village because this forest wasn’t safe. I ignored them because I had to find my father. I had no other choice. My mother had died when I was born. Father has been the only parent I had in my 24 years.
When I entered the forest there was nothing to see. No life moved or stirred and the snow silently fell. No signs of travel had survived the night so my only chance was to follow the trail. I had no idea where it had gone but it was my only hope.
“I should have brought some food,” I said to myself. “Who knows how far this goes.”
I chuckled. I had leapt into this trek without any proper preparation. Luckily I had a thick, woolen tunic that kept most of the cold at bay but wearing the armor was going to exhaust me eventually. The snow was beautiful but could also kill me if I wasn’t careful.
I spotted a berry bush beside the path. I pushed my way over to it to investigate. Most likely the berries would already have been eaten by wild animals, frozen, or had befallen some other fate that made them unusable. I bent down and grasp the bush in my hand.
I heard a sound. It happened so fast that I couldn’t identify it but I definitely heard something. I stumbled backwards onto the path, intent on not being taken off guard. I had not seen any animals but I knew that bears and wolves lived in these woods. I drew my sword.
Snowflakes drifted onto my face and gave me just enough stimulation to not be able to ignore them. I raised my hand to wipe my eyes of the condensation.
An arrow came flying in from my right. I dropped to my knees and rolled, easy feet to do in armor. Thank the gods I wasn’t wearing any form of mail or I would be explaining my stupidity to them right now.
I fell down and started to kick my feet out to get some movement started. I didn’t stop until my back was up against a pine tree. I pushed my way through the branches and was covered in more snow. The strong smell of the pine filled my nose, limiting my field of vision.
I could see it. A foot away from where I had been standing was an arrow, firmly implanted into a tree. I had almost become a pincushion and I was dead certain to not become one.
Well, not dead certain. Not yet at least.
I looked through the limbs of the pine towards where the arrow had come from. I saw nothing but more white snow falling. The snow was coming down harder, whiting out anything past several layers of trees. The extra snow would limit movement but would help me as well. If no one could see me until I could get on top of him or her then I had a chance.
A flash of movement drew my vision back to where it had just been. A lone man was running towards me and was doing it fast. This must be my assailant; the poor bastard was going to run right past me. I drew my dagger and readied myself to leap out at him. I had never killed a man up close before; I guess there’s a first time for everything.
“Come on you sap, keep coming this way.” I whispered
The man kept along the path and was about to pass me.
“Gotcha!” I yelled. I leapt from the frozen ground underneath the tree and tackled him.
A look panic crossed the snow-covered man’s face as I tackled him. I threw him to the ground and drew my dagger to his neck.
“You picked the wrong traveler, highwayman!” I bellowed.
When I looked at the man’s face, I soon realized my mistake. The face of my father, bruised and covered in signs of exposure, looked back at me.
“Dad!” I exclaimed and pushed myself back.. I quickly put the dagger away, ashamed that I had come that close to killing my old man.
“Marcus, what in the world are you doing here?” My dad asked breathlessly.
“Looking for you, fool. What are YOU doing here? You never told me where you were going.”
“Why do you think I did that, boy?” my father sneered. “If I had wanted your help, I would have asked! Run, get away!”
“Too late.” A third voice proclaimed. I looked up and noticed that a group of men had surrounded us while my father and I had been in our short argument.
It dawned on me then that the arrow hadn’t been for me, it had been for my father. He had been attempting to escape and they had been trying to kill him. My fingers squeezed the hilt of my sword in sudden anger. I had brought the bigger weapon along with my dagger in case I met something more than the shorter blade could handle. It looked like I had found one.
“Who do you think you are?” I asked angrily, not looking into the speaker’s eyes.
“Your brother.” Was his response.
My head shot up and absorbed the man. He was as tall as me, even shared my short blonde hair and blue eyes. He looked like a sibling that I might have.
Except that I didn’t have one.
“LIAR!” I screamed. “YOU TRIED TO KILL MY DAD! HOW DARE YOU!” I wanted this man’s blood. He was no brother of mine; no son tries to kill his father in cold blood.
The man looked me in the eyes and chuckled. He had on a mishmash of gear and everyone in his band looked like they hadn’t seen civilization in years. Their clothing was an amalgamation of hides, metal, and cord. None of the men had faces without beards and all had a look in their eyes of pure malice.
The man spoke, “Indeed boy, I am your brother, your younger brother in fact. Did your pitiful father not tell you about me? I’m not surprised. He is quite resentful.”
“Liar!” I said again, this time with a husky voice. “If you were his son, why would you try to kill your father?”
“Because he isn’t my father, not really at least. True, I am of his blood but he is no family of mine. These men around me,” he waved his arm at the other men, “are my true family.”
I stood, tiring of this back and forth arguing and lifted my sword.
“If you have any honor, I challenge you to a duel right here and right now. If you win, you can keep my father. If I win, you let us go.”
The man stood still and contemplated my offer for a few minutes. An evil-looking smile crossed his face.
“If that’s what you want, that’s what you’ll get. I hope you know what you’re getting into.” The rest of the men in the band laughed at this.
The man drew his slender sword from its sheath and braced himself. I did the same. With only a couple of yards between us, we stared into each other’s eyes. There were no feelings of mercy. He hated me and I hated him.
“Why are you doing this to your own family?” I asked, desperate to see reason in this madness.
The man looked upon me like a cat upon a mouse. ”Like I said, I am your brother. In fact, we’re twins. Mother died after giving birth and father placed the blame on me. Father left me out in this forest to die. Luckily this band of honest travelers found me and raised me. They are my true family. I guess father found out and decided to come find me and apologize. I’m sorry, it’s too late for petty things like blood ties to save you.”
With that, he charged at me. I raised my sword in a defense form that dad had taught me and barely caught his attack. I rebutted, pushing my blade to the side and struck forward with my hilt. The man caught it with his hand and shoved me back, rendering my move completely useless and set me off-balance.
I slipped on the snow and fell to the earth. The cold and wet swallowed up an entire side of my face and limited my vision. Behind me I could hear Father crying. I spit out the powder and looked up to see a blade falling towards my face. I rolled over and kicked up at the man, hitting him in the chest.
I don’t think he was expecting this move, stumbling backwards from the attack. I pushed myself up in order to get back into a position to fight. By the time I had accomplished that the man was back on his feet.
“Not bad,” the man spoke with an air of exhaustion, “you caught me in the lungs. You have instincts, so this should be interesting.” He charged again.
He was using the same form to attack me. Knowing where his blade would land, I attempted a parry. This man was obviously better than me and I had to end this fast.
I had been bluffed. The man drew a dagger from his belt and sank it into my leg. Blood sprayed down and started to melt the snow, turning it a bright crimson. I screamed and fell onto the ground, grasping my leg in pain. He had won.
The man went over to where I had dropped my sword. He picked it up and threw it to one of his cronies. He then bent down to me and laughed.
“You know nothing of fighting men. You’ve lived a soft life, a life that should have been mine. Now, I shall take that life from both you and father. I will finally be able to calm these memories of rejection and loss.”
“Just promise me one thing.” I whispered in pain.
“Kill me with dignity. Your anger isn’t at me; it’s at dad. I had no idea that you existed. Remember that we are brothers so take my life while leaving me with honor.” I requested of him.
“I guess you have a point,” he answered, “and you did challenge me to a fair duel. I shall give you that honor.”
He walked over to me and picked me up. My leg was screaming in pain as he did this. One of his men walked over to the tree that had the arrow in it and took it out, handing the arrow to my brother. He put the arrow up to my throat and chuckled.
“I will make you die slowly and with as much pain as possible. My vengeance is with all of you. Hell, if I could kill mom again I would”
That was all I needed to hear. I reached up and pulled my own dagger out of its sheath and sunk it into his chest. I could see the shock and awe of what I had done in his face. He stumbled back and stared at the weapon. The dagger was implanted in the middle of his chest; it must have gone perfectly between ribs and gotten his heart. He fell onto his side.
Since my brother wasn’t holding me up anymore, I fell over onto my side as well. A cold darkness started to come over me from the blood loss. We stared into each other’s faces as we both faded into darkness.
I could feel the pricks of snow falling onto my cheek. The sensation of the cold was almost comforting, giving me a reminder of what it was like to be alive.
That feeling soon fell into oblivion as well. Death enveloped me like a comforter and took me far, far away from that frozen forest.
The father and the band of brigands looked upon the bodies of the dead young men in shock. No victor had survived but the honor of the duel had its own value. The bandits released the father and sent him running back to his village, tears streaming down his face. After doing that they disappeared into the wilderness.
Nature disregarded the conflict that had been raging, continuing to release its icy harvest onto the forest. Snow fell like a soft powder onto the forms of two young men whose fingers still held onto their blades. These young men had died over what had been something worth dying for, yet the skies above held no care for their struggle. With time the snow would completely cover the abandoned bodies and preserve them for memorials made in the spring.