Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Feel (emotions) (08/26/10)
TITLE: On the Battlefield of Montgisard
By Serafia Cross
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One man stood in the midst of the quiet activity with his coronet head bowed and his royal shoulders hunched. Victory—this was his victory. He went into this battle expecting to die for his kingdom—for the Holy City of Jerusalem with the odds stacked high against him in numbers and inexperience. This was his first real battle as king of Jerusalem and he only had an army of six hundred knights against an army of twenty-six thousand men. God gave him victory and spared him—but not me.
I lay dying of several stabs to my chest not too far from where the king moved among the dead. He crouched beside a body but did not touch him or check for a heartbeat. He would not feel the pulse if he checked because the king could not feel a thing. If a corpse revived and stabbed his foot, or if an archer in a distance shot an arrow into his back, King Baldwin IV would not flinch or cry out. He was a leper. He felt nothing.
My gurgling cough caught his attention, and he rose to his feet with the grace of ghost and approached me. As he neared, in the poor light of the night I saw the bandages around his feet and hands and knew they coiled up his legs and arms and entire body beneath the chain mail and all his armor. I heard talk among my fellow men how his fingers were broken and swiveled, so he used a gauntlet sword to fight while his shield was strapped to his other arm. His toes were small and deformed, but he walked with a lightness in his step that felt angelic.
He crouched beside me. I flinched. Before this moment I had only see the king at a distance, and when he led the army, he wore a helmet which engulfed his face. Now he sat near me with his face exposed, and my eyes trailed the deep chasms of decay charted out on his face. The tip of his nose dangled from the bone. The skin on his brow rippled, wrinkled and cracked. His cheeks stretched and strained from jaw to cheekbone while skin along the right side of his jaw rotted away to bone and took part of his bottom lip with it. A fresh corpse in this field of death had more flesh than he—I would be that corpse soon.
Meeting his bright azure eyes I knew my previously judgement of him was wrong. He felt more than I would ever know. Jerusalem was his kingdom, and each death chipped away at his soul like the leprosy ate at his body. He was only sixteen, but he knew the grief of ancient kings long dead. He was familiar with the doubt of leading men to their death, the confusion of whom to trust in his corrupt court, and the peace that life was not forever and death was never final.
With my remaining strength, I seized his gnarled hand wrapped in bandaged and covered in a chain mail glove. By his wide eyes and jerk back, I knew I surprised him, but I forced my voice to find the strength the king so often used to fulfill his duties. “You...” I struggled, “know men's hearts. Never...” I gasped for a breath, “never forget that.”
He nodded and lowered my hand to my chest. “Rest well, my brother. Ask God when you see him, when shall I be beckoned home?”
I smiled. He would have smiled if he could, but he prayed over me and sent my soul to the Father.
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