Death was knocking, loudly and incessantly, and it didn’t seem ready to take no for an answer. Its knocks joined the percussive concerto that had been started by the cannons and the thunder.
The battle progressed, but not in their favor. Slowly but steadily, the number of ladders appearing overcame the number of men trying to displace them, and the invaders flooded the walls. Stephen disliked using the sword; he preferred to take out his targets from the distance, but in the situation where the supposed targets refused to honorably remain far away and decided to come closer, well… wishes and horses, et cetera et cetera.
Much of the fight, he couldn’t remember. He could have been fighting for five minutes or five hours or five years; it wouldn’t have mattered when the inevitable came. His sword suddenly decided his hand wasn’t good enough and flew away, then a line of fire blazed across his torso. Control, control! His head screamed, but his body was having none of that, instead opting for a pirouette that would have shamed a ballerina and depositing him against a merlon that looked yonder the city.
He touched his chest and wasn’t surprised when his hands came away bloody; he would have sued his body had it been exaggerating with the pain.
Lord, let me not die tonight…
Well, it would seem that particular prayer went directly into the spam folder of the mailbox or hadn’t been taken seriously. On the ground beside him lay Four-eyed Thomas, named so for his glasses that he couldn’t do without and now staring glassy-eyed (pun definitely not… fuck that shit). He’d have to, now, since said glasses were smashed to pieces with the rim and a few pieces embedded in his face.
And if I do, before I wake, Then I accept my fate
On hindsight, he probably shouldn’t have added the last two, since they seemed to have been treated with greater priority by whatever deity ended up listening. A bright light suddenly appeared in his vision; so fast? He hoped he didn’t see Thomas there; he didn’t want to have to be the one to tell him that the glasses broke. Thomas’ sister had given them to him on his last birthday, and he loved the glasses.
But the light persisted, and then the accompanying boom of thunder that followed it told
him that it was lightning instead. But lightning striking the Alexandrians randomly and not touching any of the defenders by mistake? Was he already seeing things?
Then, his pain momentarily forgotten, he concluded he was seeing things when a pillar of lightning (that was definitely the word that could quantify it; pillar) fell and out of it strolled a man dressed in ornate black armor with red and gold lightning designs all over. He carried no weapons, save for a sleek and beautiful helmet in his left hand. He strolled so casually to the edge of the battlements now devoid of invaders that Stephen was almost inclined to believe that if gods existed, they would look like him. Walk like him. Look up to him.
He swept a piercing gaze around the stunned soldiers with fiery gold eyes and said in a voice that matched the rumbling thunder. “It’s okay now, soldiers of Heath. I’m here. We’re here.”
Okay, Stephen concluded. He’s definitely the whatever deity that my prayer went to. Or the miracle that the Vicar had told them to expect. But whichever he was, couldn’t he have arrived a little earlier?
And just when Stephen was thinking that he could now continue his dying in peace, a shadow swooped down onto the battlements beside the deity, let loose a terrific roar and the dragon rained down fire beyond the walls, so bright it lit up the night. Perhaps the people of Heath had an unfailing God on their side, Stephen thought as he watched the deity and the dragon single-handedly give the Alexandrians a hello straight from hell, complemented with fire and lightning. A God of miracles, some of them last-minute. Or perhaps He was prioritizing another situation over theirs, and another deity had decided to step in for Him.
But whichever the situation was, it was a little too late for him.