Flash: Thirst Trap

Turkish scimitar with scabbard, with ornaments and corals, 18-19th century,isolated

Photo 70495356 | Scimitar © Valeie | Dreamstime.com

Criella looked over at Dolph, remembering when she drafted the kid into her unit all those years ago. Was it only three? They were dealing with some bullshit pirate activity hitting the small ports along the southeast coast and needed locals to fill out the ranks of the recently dead. She hadn’t expected the blond fifteen-year-old to last, either dying or deserting before the month out. And here the kid was, waiting like the veteran he was for the goblins to come pouring over the hill. She waved the fisher boy over.

“What do you want, lieutenant?” the youngster asked the tiefling in heavily accented Draconic. “Captain.” He said nodding at Ghesh, the dragonborn leader of what was left of the duchy’s army. Dolph made Sergeant when he managed to learn Ghesh’s native tongue enough to run messages and sit in on the meetings.

“We got some magic shit from that last battle with the redcoats.” She offered him a sword. “It’s a scimitar. Don’t know what it does other than has a solid edge. The mage only had enough juice to detect, not identify. There’s not much use for a scimitar in the normal ranks behind the shield wall, but with your fucked-up fighting style, maybe it will be useful.”

The kid’s blue eyes grew round. “A magic sword, for me?”

“Yeah, here.” She thrust the ruby-jeweled hilted blade inside a beat-up leathered scabbard at him. “Don’t say I didn’t give you anything.”

“No sir, ma’am, sir.” The boy lifted the blade just far enough out of the scabbard to see the beaten waves of the special metal – a fractal pattern of silver and brown-rust leading to the curved shinning edge of the blade. “Thank you,” he breathed. Dolph glanced at the captain then at the lieutenant.

After they nodded permission, he moved off and unbuckled his belt, taking off the standard-issued longsword. He then threaded the belt through the scimitar’s scabbard, playing with how it fell against his leg, balancing it against his daggers, and the javelin on his back. Next he practiced drawing it and the dagger until satisfied. After dropping off the hated longword at supplies, he rejoined his light unit.

They asked him for news, and he watched their faces fall at the no change in orders. Sixty soldiers against a horde of goblin meant fewer would be gathering around the chow wagon come morning. It’s been one nonstop battle for a month since whatever happened at the capital happened leaving only a hole where the fortress and city above Mirror Port used to stand. Took two weeks for the news to sink in, now everyone and all their neighbors were vying for a land grown rich on trading from their many ports and solid roads the old duke and his son had insisted on building. All he, his unit, and his leaders could do was keep as many of the local alive until the big guys figure out who owned what.

Tonight that meant they would be fighting goblins.

Mini, Marcus, and Rovindell formed up on Dolph as they moved to the flank of the regulars they would be guarding and melted into the trees. Mini and Rovindell took to the trees like Dolph would take to water if there had been any. He moved to Marcus’ left side to guard the arm the man lost four days ago. If they hadn’t been protecting a convent against the redcoat army attacking all the religions their country’s monotheistic church hated, Marcus would still be laid up. Instead he was out here, untrained and off-balance for his new body structure. Dolph muttered a quick prayer to his distant sea god for mercy during this storm and safe harbor at the border fortress town just two days march away they were trying to reach, hoping for reinforcements.

The first horns of the goblins sounded in the next valley. Wolf howls echoed, and smoke rose against the twilight sky. Hollerhome burned, a sacrifice in the war of attrition, most of the citizens behind their limited military lines walking, running, and riding away with the clothes on their backs, dropping the precious possessions they could not leave behind but didn’t have the energy to carry if they wanted to move fast enough to escape.

Full dark was three hours past when the first screams rose from the ranks closest to the rise on the other flank. The clear field stopped reflecting the silvered harvest stubble as the goblins poured in. Within moments Dolph knew there was no flank to guard against a surrounding maneuver. Hundreds of goblin broke as a wave against the shield wall.

“I would tell you to run…” he muttered to his fellow soldier.

“If there was any place to run to.” Marcus finished the thought. “Well, every death here might save someone in a port town.” He adjusted the shield strapped against his body, drew his sword, and rushed in.

Dolph just a step behind him, dagger and new scimitar at ready. A cut one side, then the other, the scimitar not fighting his two-weapon style, but not being overly helpful. Still much better than the overlong sword forced on him when he enlisted. He could feel the weapon’s joy at the bite into goblin flesh and the sing at the end of the slash, blooddrops flying.

Dolph did not notice the blooddrops flying back into the sword a moment later, the battle overwhelming in sound and darkness.

More slashes, a few dagger thrusts, his avoiding pikes and knives, some enemy attacks skidding along his leather armor, bolts bouncing off his helm. A bite here and there, but Dolph paid more attention when Marcus went down, the older soldier’s longsword gripped by a goblin so he couldn’t withdraw it to protect him from three pikers on his right. Blood flew as Dolph made his way to his fallen private, not caring about killing blows to protect his back from survivors as much as clearing space between where he was and where he needed to be.

Anger ate at him. The never-ending battles. The useless fight. Friends dying. And goblins, so many goblins. He let his rage take him.

Criella found Dolph’s body on the left flank by following the path of desiccated goblin dead, shriveled, drained of blood, dozens if not scores piled around his form at the end of the path. Her tail flicked with surprise when his chest rose and fell. The kid was sleeping. In his hand, the magic sword she gave him was gripped tight, and not a drop of blood on him. The fractal pattern in the metal a wet red. His armor needed replacement, but he looked remarkably healthy considering the amount and placement of the holes in the leather.

Well, that gift worked better than she hoped.

She hunkered down to study the curved blade closer. Damn, a thirst sword. Sorry about that kid. Still, Dolphin was breathing, which exceeded the state of half their army at the moment. And likely they had that much because of blondie and the blood blade. The goblin shamans had taken the mage the redcoats and the pearls left them before she and Ghesh could break away from the hobgoblin allies the goblins brought with them. Now their army had no magic except her small skills.

Dolph and that sword would be getting a workout.

After tucking the thirst blade back into the mangled scabbard, his right hand still wrapped around the hilt making it difficult as shit, she let out a shrill whistle. A nearby dragonborn corpsman responded and picked up the six-foot soldier to take him back to the wounded tent.

She pushed aside the question of whether to warm Dolphin about the curse effects. People got really fucking weird when she reminded them how close her bloodline was to actual demons. Dolph hadn’t yet but she hadn’t really, really rubbed his face in it. Once they made a full count of the living, she would bounce the issues off the captain.

(words 1342; first published 9/27/2023)