My sword dripped blood. I gripped the leather strap on the inside of my cracked and chipped shield, dragging it beside me. The bones from wrist to my shoulder ached from the tension and strength it took to keep my shield steady through every attacker’s onslaught. I gratefully sat my shield and sword against a heavy boulder on the edge of the battlefield and painfully sank onto the soft earth beside it. I winced, leaning against the giant rock and gazed out with bleary eyes at the view before me. Black and heavy swirling smoke poured out of gaping holes that pock marked the valley floor. The dead were sprawled out in ugly piles of twisted limbs. The eerie wails of the dying echoed through the haze and smoke. I could see a few soldiers struggling to carry the wounded off the field towards the forest.
The enemy had retreated out of sight, taking their foul stench and tormenting screams with them. My companions were also trudging off the field, weapons stained in red, backs and shoulders bent in weariness and pain. Most of their armor was ripped and punctured and hanging in pieces off their bodies. One by one they trudged over to where I rested and joined me, dropping their weapons with heavy thuds into the trampled soil.
I couldn’t even offer them an encouraging smile. My tongue was rattling dryly inside my mouth. I had run out of water hours of ago. The smoke had already coated my throat in a burning ached that raced along the edge of my throat.
“There are too many wounded,” said the young man nearest me, he was rocking forward, hands clasped in front of him, tired gazed starting at the ground between his feet,”There is not enough physicians to tend to them all.”
I looked back up to the dismal view before us. It was true. We should all be out there helping, but none of us were trained to tend wounds, only defend and attack. We could get the wounded off the field, but they would only die in the safety of the forest. It felt like there was no point. I bit my lip to keep from crying out in exhaustion and grief. So much suffering. I wanted to squeeze my eyes shut to block the images from my mind. It didn’t matter that we had won the day, the cost may have been too great.
But then I heard a familiar voice to my left, low, deep and authoritative.
It was the king. I glanced up with a sigh, catching sight of those blazing eyes that could persuade me to do anything. Of course he was on this side of the battlefield. He was the king after all. He was also covered in more blood and dirt that any of us; his calloused knuckles still gripped his sword as he slid it into his sheath without a sound.
The king’s eyes were serious as he reached out a hand towards me. Every fingernail was covered in dirt and ash.
I grab his hand, allowing him to pull me back onto my feet. He moved down the line, doing the same to many others. Some shook their heads refusing to go, but he persisted until he had tried them all.
“Your brothers and sisters have need of you. Come,” he turned on his heel, heading back out towards the smoke and agonizing cries.
It is impossible to disobey a king. I trudged after him, wearily sheathing my sword. I didn’t look to see if the others followed, but I hoped they would. He weaved through several dead bodies and carnage before pausing at the first wounded man. I nearly tripped, not expecting him to stop, because I did not see the barely moving body.
He bent, sinewy hands reaching out to touch the man’s face, which was bleeding profusely from a nasty gash across the top of his forehead. I crouched beside them, unsure of what my role was.
“You are not meant to die here to day?” He spoke gently and calmly to the man, whose eyes were rolling in agony. Bending closer I saw the gaping wounds in the warrior’s side, pouring out onto the soil.
I wanted to cover my eyes, so weary of death and violence. But the king only placed both his hands over the holes, right into the middle of the blood and intestines. And then glanced up at me, eyes determined.
“Hold his head?”
I stood up, circling the two men and then knelt again and slipped my hands against either side of the man’s head. He moaned in agony, despite my fatigue, I found myself involuntarily whispering words of comfort to him.
The king gently pressed harder against the man’s side. I watched as a light began to slowly glow from under his fingers. It was not bright, but warm and yellow. It spread out from his finger’s and across the man’s belly. The man let out a deep shudder and than his moaning stopped and I felt his head relax in my hands.
My met the king’s and he knowingly smiled and than sat back on his heels, releasing his hands. I caught my breath as flesh and blood he had been touching was fresh and pink skin once more. The only sign of previous wounds appeared in the puddle of blood on the ground.
The king leaned forward, touching the warrior’s forehead and he whispered so softly, I had to strain my ears to hear.
“Return to your men and rest,” and then the king stood to his feet. The man on the ground began to weep. I pulled away my hands from his head, gently brushing his hair back, but then also stood. I stared, blinking down at him. I knew what the king could do, but it was still surprising every time. This man had been healed of all his wounds. Even his head wound sealed into scarless, new skin.
The king was already staring out over the field. His eyes were full of tears. We all knew he hated pain. He hated death. I followed his line of sight, but heard the cries before I saw the woman lying against the tree at the edge of the forest. She had managed to her pull herself that far but could go no further. She was starting to shake and convulse.
The king took off at a run, racing towards through the haze and smog of the battlefield. My throbbing legs protested but I attempted to run after him. I saw movement towards my right and vaguely realized some of the others had followed us and were helping up the wounded. That was good.
I reached the king and the wounded woman after he had already lain her out gently on the ground. She was still slightly shaking, her mouth foaming and cheeks contorted in pain. She had a broken leg, bones twisted and unnatural at the knee. There were no other visible outer wounds. Though perhaps that was bruising I saw peeking out in black and blue above the brown collar of her tunic. I touched her hand, kneeling. He had brushed back her long dark hair, uncovering her eyes that were rolling crazily in confusion. Beside her the king bent very close, lips murmuring inaudibly against her ear.
Warmth again spread from his hands to the woman’s body, just like the other warrior before. Her leg popped back in place, the shaking ceased and her eyes calmed into peaceful pools of blue and green. The king smiled as the woman reached up, wrapping her arms around his neck in joy and thanks. He lifted her to her feet, kissing her forehead and then turned her towards the forest.
“Go tell the others and bring help for the other wounded!”
Young face still beaming in joy, the woman grabbed her sword and ran into the forest, disappearing from sight. The king was still smiling as he turned back to me. He rested his hand on his sword, smile fading. He was now staring at me with a question in his dark eyes. I rose to my feet slowly.
“Are you ok?”
I shrugged, “I think so…maybe…I don’t know.”
He moved towards me, lifting my chin, giving me a really long gaze.
“Who are you?” He asked.
I shook my head, “What do you mean?”
“You know what I mean,” his eyes would not for a second allow me to look away. It felt like fire burning like knife stabbed straight through my forehead and out the back of my head.
I tried desperately to break his gaze, but I knew better.
“I want to hear you say it,” he murmured softly.
I pressed my lips to hold back the tears but I managed to say the words, “I am worthy.”
“And why are you worthy?” He pressed further.
“Because You say so,” I said a bit louder. I was gripping my own sword now.
“And why do I have the power to say so?”
“Because you are the light of the world and in you is no darkness.”
He smiled with satisfaction and gestured out across the battlefield, ” My light is also in you. I created you to carry it. Come…do what I do, see what I see, feel what I feel.”
I followed the direction of his arm, staring at the nearby wounded. There were too many. How would we get to them all before the enemy returned?
“I-I don’t think I can do what you do.”
He stepped closer and reached out, gently pressing his hand over my heart. A deep red-hot fire burst across my body. I gasped, nearly falling backwards.
“I am who I say I am,” he whispered close to my ear, as he leaned forward, “It’s not about your weakness, its about my strength and my love. Receive it and give it.”
I gripped my sword tighter, but leaned into his shoulder, shaking with sobs.
“I’m so tired…” even as I wept the words a pulsating energy filled my body and more importantly flooded my mind.
“Stay steadfast. I will give you what you need,” he whispered, voice so calm and steady it made my heart ache with the peace it released.
I nodded, wiping my eyes and bravely smiling as I pulled back. He pointed outwards again, “The enemy will return. We must get as many as we can off this field before dawn. Are you with me?”
I nodded again, turning to peer through the thickening smoke and haze. The king began walking forward again and I followed, resolve and desire welling deep inside me with each step. When I knelt beside the first wounded man I found, I took a deep breath, glanced across the field to meet the king’s blazing eyes one final time. It was enough. He was enough.
Then reached out to care for the dying man in front of me.
Natasha is a short story writer who has been blogging for the past decade. She is currently raising four kids in the midwest United States and married to her wonderful husband of 10 years. They both work with YWAM and media missions.