Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The End of War

Ander couldn’t hear the sounds of war. He couldn’t see the battle raging across the plains of grass; it avoided him anyway. If he looked at his hands, he would have been surprised to see his sword, which had stabbed his enemy. All he could see was the pained look on his best friend’s face, clutching at the wound Ander had made.
            Throwing his blade to the side, Ander reached out to support the man he’d trusted more than anyone. “Joran,” he started.
            Joran Tanner took a step backwards, almost falling over in the process. He shook his head gently. Ander tried to read his expression. There wasn’t anger or anything accusing in his eyes. There was only disappointment.
            The sadness slowly melted away, leaving Joran laughing. The shaking of his body knocked him to the dirt. It seemed to hurt him, but he didn’t stop. “I guess you were always a little better than me,” he said, trying to keep his tone light.
            “Joran, I didn’t want this to happen,” Ander said, pulling off his cloak. He pressed it onto Joran’s wound, but it didn’t help much.
            “Save it.” Joran’s tone was sharp, but not unfriendly. “We both chose our paths.”
            Now the sounds of fighting finally reached Ander. He had ignored them during his entire battle with Joran, but he finally looked out and saw the devastation. It tore at his heart to see the carnage on both sides.
Two armies were still fighting across the dusty plains. Despite an overcast day, the lack of sunlight did nothing to negate the heat, but Ander still shivered from the top of the hill overlooking the rest of the battle. And he saw the incredible losses both armies suffered. It was all avoidable. 
            “I’m not going to let you die,” Ander said, bringing his attention back to Joran. Even as he said it, he knew there wasn’t anything he could do. He’d stabbed Joran in the heat of battle. If he hadn’t, it would have been him with that wound. But he’d never wanted to kill the friend he’d known for years.
            “It’s too late for me,” Joran muttered. His face was getting paler by the second. He managed to hold himself up slightly, but he was starting to sway.
            “I’m sorry,” Ander whispered.
            Moving faster than he should have, Joran lunged forward and grabbed Ander’s arm. The dying man still had an iron grip, and Ander let himself get pulled down. “Don’t be sorry,” Joran demanded. “We have the same enemy. You stopped me before I could stop him. Now it’s all on you.”
            “I know. I will.”
            Joran had heard that before. “No, I’m serious, Ander. We were the only two who could stop him and now… now it’s all up to you.” His grip loosened. Joran’s back hit the ground. He slumped over a few inches, but it looked like the blow had seriously hurt him.
            Ander watched as the last of Joran’s life drained from his eyes. A small smile fell on his face. "I've made a lot of mistakes, Ander. And I'm so sorry for all of them. But now this is your responsibility. Stop him."
            Ander couldn't speak as Joran's eyes drifted shut. His breathing slowly went on for another minute, but it was labored. In a little while, it stopped altogether. And Ander was left alone. he took a step back and kept watch over Joran's body. He was only twenty-one, but he had shaken up the entire world. Looking at him now, Ander could hardly believe the boy in front of him had threatened a kingdom.
            After that, it was only a matter of time before Joran's army was routed. A general found Ander, still standing beside their dead enemy. The general called for the rest of the army, practically announcing the end of the Martolac Uprising, but Ander couldn't bring himself to move.
            His mind was still playing Joran's last words in his head, as they would for the rest of his life. Joran had given him a mission, and it was one he couldn't ignore. He had to finish the game he'd been playing for ten long years.
            Without wanting to, his mind drifted to his two brothers. Suddenly, he wasn't sure he could do it.

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