An exile complete as any.((Still pending title))

Prologue

Why a field? Johnathan asked himself, out of breath, with his legs burning from exhaustion. Experience alone had formed him into a fast runner, but the two men chasing him rode horses, and the sounds of hoofbeats behind him were drawing ever closer. A field. He cursed once more, his breath coming out in white jets.

It was a clear night, and Johnathan could swear the only sounds were his breathing, and the horses drawing ever closer behind him. However, there was fortune in this dire situation. Barely 200 yards away a thick line of trees formed. A forest, a place where he could lose the horsemen. However, 200 yards was a long way, and he was running out of time.

He tried to push his legs farther, move them faster, but they only replied with pain. He was at his limit. Still, the distance was closing fast. Johnathan dared to look behind him at his pursuers. One wore a suit of mail, a guardsmen. The sound of the chain links clicking against each other had finally reached his ears. The other was an innkeeper, no doubt riding the horse of one of his customers. That was the man who had picked out his face among the crowds at his inn. Both of the riders held a club, and both were gaining on Johnathan.

He turned his gaze back to the line of trees, only a hundred yards away now. He wouldn’t make it. It dawned on him then that he shouldn’t have made it this far, the men behind him were riding slow, giving him false hope. It was the type of cruel treatment Johnathan had grown used to. He looked at the riders once more and saw that he was right; they were riding much more quickly now. A look of rage plastered on both of their faces.

Johnathan was only 60 yards away from the tree line when the first blow struck him, in the small of his back. The force of it blew the air from his lungs, and knocked him off balance. As he was falling the second blow fell, clipping his shoulder, sending a second explosion of pain through him. As he hit the ground, cutting is lip, he knew it was only the beginning.

The beatings always took time.

Fourteen blows fell on his, none striking his head however. When the two men had finished they both spit on him, throwing curses at him. Then came the part that always hurt worse than the beatings, than the exile, then the utter rejection of a society who had held him in as high a regard as the king. It was the names.

“That was for my daughter, Julia, you bastard!” Shouted the innkeeper, kicking Johnathan in the ribs before mounting his horse.

“Aye, and for my wife, Isabell.” Said the guard more calmly, giving Johnathan a look of disgust that lasted until he and the innkeeper turned their horses away, back to their village. Leaving a broken Johnathan to crawl into the forest.

Chapter I

The sun had begun showing itself on the horizon when Johnathan finally managed to light a fire. The night had been spent, for the most part, inching his way across the forest floor. Distancing himself from the village whose name he had forgotten. It wasn’t uncommon for a second, and third group of men to come searching for him, to beat him themselves. It must frustrate them to no end… Johnathan began musing, while watching the flames, that they cannot kill me, after all, breaking a royal decree means death. It always amused him, the most hated man of the world, even by the king, could not be killed because the king commanded such. Of course, Johnathan had welcomed death at times, an end to the exile, the beating, the hate, the names of those his actions had indirectly killed and made suffer. It was actually surprising that someone had not taken the risk, broken the law, planted a dagger in his heart, or ran a blade across his thought. Admirable restraint on their part.

As the fire finally began to warm him, Johnathan took a clump of moss from his pocket, and began to chew it, slowly. It was hardly filling, and less than hardly tasteful. However, he had come to realize over they ears that food was food. Soon an hour had passed, and then two. As the sun climbed higher into the sky it brought little additional warmth though. The cold season was beginning, and the chill blocked the sun’s heat like an invisible shield stretching across the sky. Of course, the numbness would be welcomed by him to ease the pain of his wounds, but there was a stubborn part of his mind telling him to stay warm. It was the defiant part that said everyday; “That’s right, you may beat me, shun me, and treat me as something less than a man, but I will live!”

The strength of such defiance, such willpower, shocked Johnathan sometimes. It is what kept him from placing his head in the path of a falling club, arching down to strike his back. It is what kept him warm, and feeling his pain throughout the cold season and what kept him chewing moss that tasted like dirt. Survival could be worse than death at times, but it meant the possibility of seeing a better day. At least, that’s what Johnathan told himself day by day.

As the sun began to reach it’s zenith Johnathan finally stood. His joints cracked loudly against the still silence of the forest. As much as Johnathan hated to admit it, he was aging. He was beginning to near his mid forties, if the date he heard yesterday had been correct. He had once been a tower among men. Over six feet tall, and well muscled from his career of blacksmith gone-soldier, and soldier gone-general. However, in the past few years his body had whithered to a shell of it’s former self. It was a struggle just to cover a few miles in a day. His body would easily be able to take such work not ten years ago.

He sighed, grabbing a large stick to help steady himself and began walking north. Don’t dwell on the past, it’ll get you nowhere. Johnathan reminded himself, gritting his teeth as pain from his back assailed him. It seemed every man and his horse was brutally proficient with using a club. The two men last night had managed to hit him in all of the right places. As a soldier in the Raelin War, Johnathan could appreciate such precision with the weapon, even if it caused him more pain than necessary.

Johnathan tried to keep his mind wandering as the minutes of painful walking turned to hours. He instead focused on old military drills, the basics. He went over them in his head over and over, many dozens of times. The moon rose and fell again before Johnathan snapped out of his trance. In front of him spanned many dozens of more trees. This forest is endless. He thought to himself. He turned his gaze to the sky to try and figure out the time, when something caught his eye. Smoke, rising to the north of him, faintly. The wind was blowing in his direction, so it was hard to tell just how far it had traveled, but the point remained. He was close to civilization again. With renewed strength Johnathan began moving forward, until the smell of morning meat being cooked reached his nose.

He had been asked before, sometimes when being chased, sometimes when being clubbed, why he bothered to show his presence at all to a world that hated him. The answer was simple, Johnathan was a social person. If he had spent the last years without any human contact, he’d have been driven mad. He preferred to keep his sanity, and suffer through pain, than become a mad hermit, living in exile. Thus, he was doomed to walk amongst the people who despised him.

As the first house came into view Johnathan pulled the hood of his cloak up, and bowed his head slightly. Even if these people, who looked to be far cut off from society by their location, knew of him ,he probably wouldn’t be recognized. The once cleanly shaved tower of a man who commanded armies barely resembled the half-skeleton wandering the countryside. Still, Johnathan didn’t want to take any chances. As more houses of the small village came into view a nasty cough began to make itself known in Johnathan’s throat. He had felt such a cough before, when his army had been campaigning in the mountains of Ghard. The illness had no name, but it was caused by the cold, and Johnathan knew well the next symptom. As his cough grew into a viceous hacking he noticed that he had caught the attention of a villager, a man with a bow slung on his back, dragging a deer carcass behind him. The hunter ran to him, letting go of his kill. Visitors are probably rare here. Johnathan thought to himself, seeing the look of confusion on the man’s face, even through his quickly fading vision.

“I… need a… bed!” Johnathan spat out between his fits of coughing. It didn’t matter anyway, he knew he wouldn’t make it to a bed anyway. As his knees buckled under him, he hoped he would pass out before collapsing completely, his back was in enough pain already.

He got his wish.

Re: An exile complete as any.((Still pending title))

This…is interesting.

Keep working at it, I’d like to see how this goes.

Re: An exile complete as any.((Still pending title))

Chapter II

It was as good a day as any for the battle to take place. The first battle of the war, and Johnathan had the privilege to be on the front lines. I may even spill the first blood of the war! He told himself, immediately after which his thoughts corrected him. No, the archers will kill the first men. Still, looking around he couldn’t help but feel joy. The Bellirian army was massive, over 100,000 men were stationed here alone, and this was but a segment of the entire army.

Johnathan, standing an entire head taller than the typical Bellirian man, fixed his eyes once more on the army before him, the enemy. He felt his grip tighten on the large club he carried in anticipation. Most of the army, aside from the commanders, wielded clubs. They both cost less, and performed better in the cold weather against the lightly armored, fur-clad Raelin soldiers. The Bellirians were dressed much the same way, except the officers wore a suit of mail as well.

The Raelin army across the field had piled up what looked to be everyday items, furs, and what few rocks and branches were around into a fragile, makeshift, wall. It was the quickest defense they could put together, having only arrived onto the field an hour before. Johnathan tensed as he heard the commanders begin to shout orders, closing gaps, and readying arms. It didn’t take long for the command Johnathan was waiting for to ring out, like a battle cry in itself from the voices of the gods that were leading them.

“All men, charge!”

Johnathan and the men around him exploded into motion. Arrows from his force flew overhead in an arc of death. Looking around him, Johnathan saw that there was no more line, it was more akin to a wave, sweeping across the plane, and Johnathan was one of the edges. If his legs ached from propelling him across that field at full sprint, he couldn’t tell. His only focus was the makeshift wall, and the men behind it.

A second and third wave of arrows sailed towards the wall, the force of impact collapsing the fragile barrier in some places. As he began to look for the easiest part of the wall for him to break through, Johnathan noticed the first line of blue. Every soldier in the Raelin army wore a long strip of blue cloth on their right arm, which noticeably stood out between the brown of their furs, and the white of the snow around them.

A volley of arrows was released from the line of Raelin soldiers, right into the approaching wave of soldiers. Johnathan’s club slammed back into his shoulder as an arrow hit it. A sickening thud echoed behind him in a chorus as arrows met their marks through fur and flesh. Johnathan ignored the screaming of the wounded, and the pain in his shoulder, as he gave one more burst of strength to his legs. A fourth volley of arrows hit the wall, and then Johnathan was upon it.

The archers had dropped their bows, and were in the middle of readying spears, when Johnathan leaped over a partially collapsed portion of the wall. He swung his club twice, one caught a man in the side of his head, the other blow struck the hand of a man’s weapon arm. Both blows were answered with the sound of cracking bone. That was all of the time that Johnathan had before the Raelin soldiers had readied their spears. Bellirian troops began pouring over the wall en masse behind Johnathn, meeting the Raelin soldiers head on. The mêlée had begun.

Johnathan’s movements became automated. He did strike a few more blows, but most of the time he was battering away spears. Slowly the wave of Bellirian troops were pushing back the blue-armed Raelin army. When Johnathan finally gained a brief respite from the battle, he took an exhausted look around him. With pride he gazed at the vast, if less so than when the battle began, wave gaining the upper hand.

He set his eyes in front of him once more, when he noticed something that couldn’t have been in place when the battle began. It was a second makeshift wall, lined with rows of archers. Archers that had arrows knocked and ready, they didn’t even have to aim to hit the Bellirian soldiers. Johnathan shouted a warning to to the men around him, but it was no use. Seconds later the harmonic sound of hundreds of bowstrings being released filled the air. The terrible sound of arrows ripping through flesh followed immediately after.

Johnathan raised his club into the air and gave another shout, this one of rage. Before his very eyes the the world shifted. His club grew longer, thinner, and took on the elegant shape that was an officer’s sword. Hundreds of chain links began forming, first on his arms, and then all of the way down to his legs. Day turned to night, and instead of shouting into the sky, he was shouting downward, into the face of his aide-de-camp.

“I know full damn well the the battles have all been the same since the Alderic Plains! Victory, with heavy losses on our side, I was there!”

Johnathan stopped for a moment and caught his breath, trying to calm himself. He and Albert, his aide, had been arguing for a while. In fact, Albert was the only man in the army who could argue with Johnathan, purely because of how long they had known each other, eight years. The problem was tactics, the Bellirian army had won every engagement since the start of the war, close to ten years ago. However, territory gains had been minimal, the army had been fighting through mountains for years. Morale was low, the public wanted an end to this war, and the king wanted the Raelins destroyed, his only opposition on the continent.

“Albert, we simply cannot keep going on like this. The loss of life has been staggering. We have barely a third of our entire army left, I only have 12,000 men left under my control. That’s 88% casualties in ten years. General Richardson won’t arrive for another week, and my spies report that we’re going to be hit hard by a force more than twice our size tomorrow. We need to catch them by surprise, charge at them while they sleep, capture them while they’re still drawing their weapons!”

“Sir, But such a cowardly move, surely we are above such trickery.” Argued the small Albert, clearly distressed, almost begging Johnathan to change his plans.

“Honor and cowardice be damned on the battlefield! I have one job, win this war with as few losses as possible, which I am clearly not doing. Now, go out and inform the men. We march within the hour. If there’s trouble with the order, tell them to think of their families, their country, and the brothers they have to avenge.” Almost immediately after the words left his mouth Johnathan added, as an afterthought, “And give the men swords, knives if there aren’t enough. Tell them to stab, it’ll cut the enemy down more quickly.”

“Yes, sir.” Replied a clearly troubled Albert, after several seconds. As the small man left, Johnathan let out a sigh of relief. His orders would be carried out, Albert would make sure of it. When he left his tent is was snowing out, the snow never seemed to stop falling in the mountains. Movement caught his eye, and he watched as a number of officers began walking toward him, around twenty of different rank. They didn’t look happy. This will be a long hour, and I already feel breathless. He thought, preparing himself for the shouting, and expression of authority he would need to use.
However, as them en grew closer, their faces were unfamiliar. Their cloths became those of commoners. Commoners who began forming a ring around him. Slowly the world shifted once more. Johnathan fell to his back, to a firm, but not uncomfortable surface, the snow was gone. His armor became rags, his muscle vanished, and his sword changed to a walking stick, propped against the wall of the small room in which Johnathan now rested.

Even though I knew about the hallucinations, reliving of memories, I still couldn’t fight it. He thought to himself, bitterly. Mountain sickness, he hated it more than anything else. For the most part because he had far more bad memories than good ones.

One of the men noticed Johnathan had awoken, and quietly nudged the man standing to his right. His slight girth was a giveaway that he managed the village. Overall, the balding, tall man was unimpressive, but, Johnathan sighed with relief when he saw no malice in the man’s eyes, simply, curiosity. The man stepped forward, stopping at the edge of the bed, looking Johnathan over.

Finally, he spoke the obvious question. “Now, who the blazes are you?”

Johnathan chuckled, already feeling himself slip back into unconsciousness.

“John, I’m John and nothing more.” He managed to reply, before the darkness overcame him once more.