Friday, December 2

Selling his cloak for a sword, maybe.

A horn sounded in the distance, and the hearts of men quickened. Hoarse calls from warrior to warrior for direction were partially drowned among the cries and groans of the wounded. A wind blew across the scattering retreat, washing them with a metallic smell of blood and smoke; to some it seemed like the herald of death riding an hour ahead. A few standing men reached for any weapon at hand and turned back to join the last stand.

"Quick, give me your sword!" A wiry man with an empty sheath stooped over one of the wounded--a ragged youth still clutching the naked blade to his chest as he crawled away from the blood-soaked fields.

"It was my father's." The youth shook his head, teeth chattering. The warrior took this in for a moment, and said "Let me fight for him, too, then!" There was a pause. "I shall not dishonor him. Your sword I shall return to you--do but let me fight!"

"Give me your cloak. Promise me," entreated the youth, his breathing ragged, "Promise you'll bring me back my father's sword." The warrior nodded grimly, handing over his cloak and gently prying the broadsword from the young man's cold and bloody hands.

The youth collapsed as the horn sounded again, his head against the trunk of a tree and the cloak over his knees. The warrior found an easy grip on the sword, sheathed it awkwardly, and ran back to the line of trees. With no cloak, he could hardly hope to last through the night unless he were moving--not running: fighting.

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