The Second Battle

The whetstone was an ugly green. Pale, sickly color. But at least it wasn’t the color of blood. Jason drew the whetstone across his blade that was well beyond sharp.

Villagers bustled around him. He heard their gentle sobs, their fervent prayers, their angry curses. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the strongest and bravest venture out into the grasslands, bringing back the wounded, identifying the dead. Crows circled the darkening sky. The villagers threw the greenish goblin bodies in a pile and let the birds feast, but chased away any who tried pecking at a human corpse.

Jason didn’t offer to help. Didn’t comfort those grieving a fresh death. Didn’t apply any of his extensive knowledge of warfare to help repair the defenses. He just kept sharpening his blade, keeping his eyes on the perfect reflection of the moon’s blinding light.

He wanted to curse his gnarled, calloused hands that shook with arthritis. They’d barely held the sword steady as he’d cut down the goblins and shouted orders. They, and the rest of his aged body, kept him chained to this broken village with its bloody fields and grieving widows.

Some retirement this is, he thought.

Jason should have been part of the rescue mission. He should have been leading the team that was tracking the goblins and the villagers they’d kidnapped. He should have been the captain of the second battle.

Thirty years ago, he would have been.

But now, it was his granddaughter, Elise.

He wondered if, right this moment, she was using the sword he’d trained her with. The one he’d made specially for her, even going so far as to add a hawk design to the hilt. Birds had always been her favorite animal. She’d been so happy when he’d given her the sword, her innocent smile lighting up the room.

Gods, Jason’s son-in-law had been horrified at the thought of his little girl becoming a soldier like her grandfather. Jason hadn’t been too thrilled either (Look where it’s gotten her). But it wasn’t much of a choice out here, where even the safest parts of the country prepared for goblin or orc raids. Elise’s father had bitched and bitched, but as he was in the city for business and Elise was in the country with Jason…Well, in any case, Jason doubted that City Boy would have much to complain about now. Those without swords had a better chance of being killed by a sword.

Jason wondered if Elise had found her lover and the other kidnapped villagers, scared and a bit worse for wear, but alive. Or had she only found corpses?

Was she even alive?

Jason gave the sword one last lick of the whetstone, and stared at his blade. An old, tired man stared back, flecks of dried, black goblin blood sprinkled on his face.

Gods, was this what it’d been like for his family all those years ago? This tortured, eternal waiting? Meanwhile, he’d been gallivanting off on adventures in all corners of the world. Battling goblins, waging war on tyrants, outsmarting wizards, even killing a dragon. And he hadn’t gotten too hurt with that last one. He’d been too high on pride and stupidity to care about the wounds, anyway. But he knew if Elise ever came home with half as many burns and cuts and broken bones as he had, his old heart would burst. No wonder his mother had been such a fan of whiskey.

When Jason saw his parents, grandparents, and wife in the next world, he was going to throw himself at their feet and beg their forgiveness, for being so carelessly cruel. They had worried themselves into an early grave, and Jason had had the nerve to ask them to wait on him hand and foot between adventures.

Hm…Elise is going to be exhausted when she returns. She’ll need a hot meal and a bath, probably a shoulder to cry on, seeing as she’s lost a few friends…

Jason stood and sheathed his sword.

Enough self-pity. It was time to get to work.