A low smoke lay over the sprawling field in the pre-dawn hours. With it were blazing bonfires from bodies piled three-men high, alight to give illumination for those that still lived. The crackle of their flesh and cloth-padding beneath their chain-mail was hidden by the sounds of clanging metal. Thousands of swords from men in both red and blue cloth flashed and shined in the light of the smoking plain.
Behind the Blues a way, the closed draw-bridge of a newly erected castle from the English King gave protection to the royal, inner-guard just inside. The archers atop its walls nocked their arrows together, fired volleys into the Reds’ rear-flanks that had yet reach the swordsmen. A few, Blue knights, their armor blood-stained and their horses fatigued, cut swaths through Red and Blue swords alike to gallop in a charge for the Red Knights that rallied within the chaos.
The charge was met with war-cries from the Red Knights, their immense broadswords heaved overhead ready to smite the would-be invaders. One Knight shouted something about no quarter, but it was lost in the blood-bath beneath him. Not long after, his horse was taken by a Red’s arrow. He tumbled forward, end-over-end atop the horse. He landed either dead or unconscious, beneath the horse, his face pressed into the muck stirred up by the days-long siege on the castle.
The plain was a swamp of bodies, blood, and mud, the pervasive stench of rotting and burning flesh as much meant to burn the dead as to stagger the enemy. The Reds had grown used to the smell by now, but the Blues had been too comfortable in their fresh, clean castle to experience the stench first hand. At that, many of the Blue’s front ranks met the Reds only to wretch and heave out their decadent, pre-battle meals. Most died by the sword, taken advantage of in their moment of humanly weakness.
A second volley of arrows was aimed further inward, fired just as the Knights met one another in the center of the field. Their blades clashed, clamored for anywhere they might draw blood. Instead, they bounced helplessly off thick plate-armor. Most were equally winded by the blows, but fought onward with a breathless, valiant effort. The hail-storm of arrows descended with the prompt of nearby screams and thuds from the dying and dead. A few Knights were caught unawares, saved only by their plating.
Third and fourth volleys were nocked, arced upward through the smoke that strained the archers’ vision for their targets. Each man made a kill, but whether it was an enemy or ally, none could truly be certain. Such was the chaos from atop the ramparts and behind the turrets’ loopholes, that a man could only be certain of his kill by measuring the breadth of the wave that fell as the arrows rained down. If there were a break in the wave at that man’s position, he knew he’d failed.
The morning came with ease, the Reds’ tactic for attacking in the night near impossible to miss by now. Though the cliff’s-edge the English King’s castle sat upon was unscalable, impenetrable from beneath, it was a Western outlook. When the sun began to peer over the hills and mountains of the East, the archers were blinded, as were most of the swordsmen. Their orientation gave them the full glare of sunlight in their eyes, forced them to fight half-blind. They could only listen to the clank of their swords against armored parts to know they were on-target. Otherwise, they were helpless to know whom their opponent might be.
The tide turned in the Reds’ favor. The Blues were pushed back toward the closed draw-bridge and the deep moat carved into the Earth in a half-moon around the castle’s entrance. The blinded archers were forced to fire with lessened accuracy, their waves broken, no longer uniform.
It was then that a streak of fire, as if cast downward from a merlin-esque figure in the heavens, hurtled toward the Earth. Most of the men didn’t notice, but the Blues’ archers were forced to. It was all they could see even through the smog and sunlight. The cowardly and brave alike fled at once, terrified that the Reds had developed some great catapult to rain destruction upon them. But soon even the Reds began to take notice.
The object was ablaze with a firey tail, its trajectory on course to strike the battle-field. Whether friend or foe, the men fled together. The battle waned with only a few that took advantage of the precious distraction to soak their blades or arrows with blood. Soon, even they were drawn toward the figure above. A distant sound like the crackling fires of the dead began to engulf the area. Men of both sides stood to watch in fright, their necks and faces caned upward to see the frantic destruction ready to strike.
At once, the battle ended. It was still chaos, but now arms were cast aside. Bodies formed a sea that surged with erratic movements. Some men shouted about the wrath of God, others cried for their enemy to be slain by him. The rest simply ran, as if compelled to by little more than instinct. Those that chose the latter shed armor, weapons, padding until near-on full-nude to flee more quickly for the trees and distant hills in the East.
As the fireball drew nearer, the low-rumble and crackle of its blazing tail shook the ground and scorched the air. The air atop the trees in the hills caught fire. It spread through the pines and evergreens as if dry kindling. The men there choked, coughed, writhed in pain on the ground from their innards being flash-cooked. The men’s terrified fleeing had stolen away their breath even in those with the best stamina, but the lesser men were already dead. When the others fell to the ground, they writhed long enough to see the last moments of the battlefield itself.
The fireball landed with a bright flash and a tremendous quaking of Earth. There was no-one left to watch from the inside, but from the outer edges of an eagle’s view the destruction was unmistakably total. The great fireball had leveled the castle, the men, and the field, left only a smoking, orange-edged crater. The impact scattered dirt and debris for countless distances, halved the cliff’s-edge so that not a mark of either side’s presence remained.
It was later said the English King had incurred God’s wrath and spite, brought destruction upon both sides equally. As the ages of monarchs gave way to that of reasoned men and their fields of science, mathematics, and astronomy, the theory was changed. However guilty the men had been of immorality– the King among them– their deaths were coincidence. While some outright argued it was not evidence against God’s wrath, others mirrored the sentiment more poetically. It was, they reasoned, a firebolt of anger from the Universe itself mean to dispel man’s wrath, overcome him with humility at his smallness. Whether poetic, true, or not, none at the battle would disagree. Were they not centuries dead, it was certain each of them knew would remark upon their smallness having been witnessed first hand to the wrath of a great, vast universe. Not even the most foolish fools among them would disagree they were much smaller after the battle than at its start.
3 thoughts on “Short Story: Wrath of a Universe”
Wow! Great visuals. The smallness of humanity (or its irrelevance) in the grand scheme of a greater universe. I love it
Thank you! I wanted to try something a little different with this one. Humanity’s a subject I use in a lot of my work, but its size– figurative or literal– isn’t something I’ve covered as much as I’d like. I was hoping I’d done it justice, so thanks I’m glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for reading!
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Truly a pleasure to read. And of course, it’s got that medieval twist that I like… So double fun for me:) keep ’em coming