Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Maritsa ran red with blood.

September 27, 1371 A.D.
Chernomen, Serbia

The Maritsa ran red with blood.

"By the hinges of Hell!" I cursed. Bodies, horribly hacked and mutilated, floated around me as I led what remained of the Sect across the river. I knew we had to cross into northern Greece. I knew we had to put as many leagues behind us before the sun rose. There was no telling what the Turks would do once dawn arrived.

"How has this happened, Tenet?" Roksana asked. "How, in the name of Christ, did eight hundred defeat eighty thousand?" Her dark eyes were wild with fear and disbelief. I eyed her carefully, watching for any signs of weakness. We were literally wading through a river of blood - not the best place to be when traveling alongside a vampir, even one who was Christian.

Giovanni answered before I could reply. "Superior tactics, a night raid, and the fact that the King of Serbia and his brother were desperate for revenge, I would expect," he said cooly. The man was oddly detached and calm. The fact that he mentioned King Vukašin Mrnjavčević's brother, Despot Jovan Uglješa, revealed what was on his mind, however. We'd lost Giovanni's brother, Johann, amidst the chaos of the battle. None of us believed he was dead, but there were worse things than death, especially for an Edenson.

Johann was not the only one who was missing. Our own Turk, Kadir, had been captured and I was almost certain that I'd seen Ormolus, our unicum animarum, ripped into pieces. I was not sure if the mechanical man could be made whole again, even if we were able to retrieve all of his parts and pieces. The Sect of Seven had been riven, splintered, and torn.

But that was not the worst of it.

I climbed out of the blood-soaked river and immediately lent a hand to Giovanni. I had no idea how the man had crossed the river Maritsa with the chest on his shoulders. I had barely made it carrying my own weight. Granted, I was gravely wounded from an axe blow to the ribs, but still... "Hand me the chest, Giovanni."

The bearded man grunted and pushed up the lead-lined wooden box and clambered up the slick, muddy slope. Roksana came last, drawing her bow as she did so and immediately began a sweep of the surrounding forest.

"We need a place to rest and tend our wounds, Tenet," the Edenson said, breathless from his exertion.

"I know, but I fear that the Turks will be at our heels when they discover what we have." I shot a look with my odd black-and-silver orbs towards the chest.

Giovanni made a face in confusion. "How will they even know, with all of the chaos?"

"They have Kadir," I replied solemnly.

A hint of fear slid in behind his eyes. "He will not tell them," he hissed.

"He does not have the jawbone, or else they would have never taken him," I said.

The fear started pitching a tent and Giovanni gasped. "I had not realized, but yes..."

I waved my pale-skinned hand in the dark air as if shooing smoke from my face. "The retrieval of the jawbone is a problem for tomorrow. For now, we need to get as far away from here as possible. I suggest south, into Greece."

The Edenson nodded, too weary and wounded to argue.

"There is a hut an arrow's flight from here," came the soft, sibilant voice of Roksana from the dark woods. A shiver ran down my spine at it's sound. I could tell she was leaning heavily upon the strength of That-Which-Was-Within-Her to keep going. The dark-haired vampir would never admit that she needed to stop and rest, but the intent of her words was clear.

I looked from the heavy chest, with its precious cargo, to the panting Edenson lying on the muddy bank, and then back across the blood-and-body filled river towards the burning bones of Chernomen. I ran a hand across my bald scalp and sighed. We needed to run and run far and fast. My companions, though each far more than human, still had their limits. "Very well. Lead us there."

The pale of dawn was beginning to creep into the sky as we stepped into the clearing and saw the small, neat hut before us. A split-rail fence leaned crookedly beside it. In the light of day, I thought for a moment that I saw the hint of something hovering above the hovel, but in my weariness, I dismissed it.

"Good job, Roksana. We will rest here for a bit and then will continue onward."

If I would have only known how wrong I was...

Art Source: "Serbian Mythology - Talason" (c)/by Vanja Todoric
Story and Characters: (c)/by Brannon Hollingsworth

#MMWW, #Makes, #Me, #Wanna, #Write, #BrannonHollingsworth, #Tenet, #Tenetstales, #Serbia, #OttomanEmpire, #Sectof7, #Roksana, #Giovanni, #Edenson, #Johann, #Jawbone, #Kadir, #Ormolus


Post a Comment