Spoils of War
The clarions blasted a triumphant six note call, heralding the victory won on the field. The men and women of the Rayward army let loose with cheers and cries of conquest form the depths of their lungs. The sound of a people reveling in the slaughter of their enemies drowned out the moans and scrams of the wounded and dying. The knights of the Rayward fighting force swept over the bloody soaked field and started to place the banners of their nation in to the scarlet ground.
The tatters flags of the dragoon army flapped in the wind as they retreated from the crushing defeat at the hands of Rayward honor. The scaled warriors fled the aftermath of the fight like death itself was breathing on the back of their necks. The remnants of their gutted force sounded a raying cry from their heavy drums one last time. The stragglers left on the field who were well enough to flee joined in the mass exodus of their kind. The dragoons who were cut off from escape by their foes or had suffered wounds too great to run, soon met their end by Rayward sword and lance. The last death cries of the left behind children of the dragons propelled their brethren’s hasty exit with a zealous fervor.
“A fine victory we have won today. Why I can scarcely see any Rayward dead on the field,” said Harold Quickwater. He looked to his side after a moment of too long silence followed his remark. His fellow brother in arms wearing a captain’s cloak did not seem to be in the mood for conversation. “I said that we have won the day and…” he started to speak but was silence by a fast and concise interjection from the officer next to him.
“I heard you just fine. We have left plenty of our own on the field out there. Ours are probably buried under the piles of dragoon corpses,” said Arron Luckworth. He turned a frown at the post combat formalities playing out in front of him. Seeing men walk their red ground plundering the dead and ending the lives of the mortally wounded caused his belly to churn like the foam on a stormy sea. He looked away and found his eyes wondering down the fabric of his cloak. The stark white had been muddied by the fight and its golden chevrons were covered in the blood of slain enemies and fallen allies. The Rayward Captain felt woefully out of place as the rest of the army celebrated around him and all he could do was muster feelings of regret and forlorn.
“You have spoiled enough of my celebrations with your notions of peace, please do not try and take this one away from me as well,” said Harold with a pompous roll of his eyes.
“You would truly prefer war over peace? You like seeing our knights leaving widows and widowers behind?” asked Arron with a loaded flash of his eyes and tilt of his head.
“Bah, man you know that is not what I am on about. I mourn for the dead just as fervently as you do. You just have not seemed to accept the fact that there can be no peace with the dragoons,” rebutted Harold as he had to calm his horse and keep himself balanced steadily in his saddle as the nervous stallion swayed form side to side.
“How would you know what is possible? How would anyone? When have we ever tried to exist with them in harmony?” Arron said as he waived a hand and swept an arm in the direction of the vast mountains of butchered dragoon soldiers.
“These crusades have been going on for thousands of years. You best forget thoughts like that. Everyone else has. I should think that harmony was well out of the question when they had their great winged wyrms burn our people on sight,” said Harold with a heavy note of irritated distain. He griped the reigns of his horse so tightly that the squeeze of leather being crushed by a gauntleted hand could be heard by several of the closest Rayward soldiers.
“After we felt like helping ourselves to their land. We humans have taken over more than half of the Aeros continent from the dragoon. Tell me how much land do we need? It seems that there is more than enough room for all,” Arron stated with a driving inquisitive tone, as a child would question a parent who only had authority and hierarchy to rely on in place of reasonable answers.
“Maybe you should tell me what side of this war you are fighting on? It seems like you are quite smitten with our enemies,” Harold said with narrow eyes.
“I am simply in favor of a course of action that sees us stop sending bodies and ashes back to Rayward. I think enough of our people have died for this crusade,” Arron said with a shake of his head.
“Whatever you want to say. I will not let you sour this day for me any longer. Not when there is such a magnificent side to see out there,” Harold said with a dismissive flic of his finger at the other officer. He moved his focus out to the center of the battlefield and the object of much awe and wonderment.
Even in death the enormous form of Stef’han of Black was a formidable spectacle. The mighty dragon lay still, riddled with Rayward ballista bolts but it remained a terrifying thing to behold. Stef’han’s largest fangs were longer than a Rayward heavy cavalry lance and infinitely sharper. The gigantic beast’s wingspan was wider than the tallest sails of the grandest ships in the harbors of Rayward’s port. The countless wounds on Stef’han’s body smoked and smoldered as its blood ignited once it touched the open air. The battlefield around the dead dragon was clear for a good distance in any direction as its fall from the sky had flung the smashed remains any man or dragoon unfortunate enough to be caught underneath it far and away.
“I never thought that I might live to see a dragon, let alone have a hand in slaying one,” Harold remarked with a delighted snort. “If we go now we should be able to claim one of his scales, perhaps a fang if we are fortunate.”
“You help yourself. I have no want for such a thing,” Aaron said with a bitterness stinging his lips as he spoke.
“What? You do not care for a trophy to remember the day?” Harold asked with surprise.
“I have plenty of memories. Trust me I will have no trouble remembering what we did here today,” Aaron responded as he looked at the streaks of human and dragoon blood staining his white cloak.
“Aaron Luckworth you are a peculiar man, I will say. If you do not seek glory, honor and advancement of your station then why ever did you enlist and join in the crusades?” Harold asked in earnest.
“I just wanted to serve something. The crusades seemed like a noble cause at the time but…” Aaron trailed with a sad reflective note.
“You need to stop being so owned by that weighty conscience of yours. It will get you killed, I am sure,” Harold said as he tried to keep from letting a burst of mocking laughter break his words.
“I am sure that the dragoon and this war will end me long before my conscience does,” Aaron snapped back defensively.
“Do not be so quick to say such a thing. Sia of Red is the last remaining dragon on the continent. Once we slay her, the dregs of the dragoon army will be no challenge to finish off. This war may end sooner that you think,” Harold said with overflowing confidence. After a silent measure passed between him and the other Rayward captain, he heeled his mount off towards the body of the great black dragon, with a greedy sparkle in his eye.
“This war can not end soon enough for me,” Arron said with deep mourning and sorrow. He looked at the men and women descending on the corpse of the dragon and beginning it pick it clean of bloody trinkets. The sight of people pawing over one of the last great winged wyrms as if it were some prize was too much for him to take. He turned his mount and rode off from the field as fast as the horse would carry him. His stomach had turned upside down and he only tasted rot in his mouth. Captain Arron Luckworth had never rued his part in the crusades as much as he did in this moment.