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The clash of steel was deafening. Everywhere he looked, it was chaos. Blood and mud and swords flying.

It wasn’t like training, he realised. You can strike a training dummy all you like but it’ll never prepare you for the first time your sword hits another human being. You can march around the yard in formation for hours, but your line breaks when you meet with the enemy. They were everywhere; ahead of him, beside him. Behind him.

It was all a man could do to stay on his feet.

He raised his shield by instinct and reflex, staggered under the force of the blow. Swung his sword over it in reply. It hit with a clang and shook his arm right up to his shoulder.

He heard a man screaming, and didn’t realise it was him.

Thoughts fled his mind the way he wanted to flee the battle. Instinct and reflex were all that remained. Raise the shield, swing the sword.

A flash of bright colour caught his eye. There was someone beside him. He whirled, his sword ready to fall upon the man.

Time stopped. The sound of war faded. The blood rushed through his head. His mouth went dry and he nearly dropped his sword.

“Rally to me,” the king shouted, oblivious to the horror of the loyal subject who had nearly killed him. “To me!”

© Kari Fay

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