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The Last Aspiration of a Dying Musician   

                          Iron swords clash causing a deafening screech to ring out across the valley. All the soldiers in this battle have one thing in common. Their ears are bleeding from the screams of dying men. Farmers, bakers, smiths; all men that, like himself, have families, friends, and dreams that may forever be left behind. The deafening roar of fallen men ring in his head causing a pain like nothing he had ever experienced. He feels as if the cries of the battle are causing him as much agony as the physical wounds he has suffered. 

                         “Why am I here, what is the point of this war, are we really just…?” His thoughts are interrupted by an enemy with a sword and shield slashing at his shoulder. Too late to dodge the blow entirely, he lunges toward the man to keep the slash from cutting across his chest. Now the broadest part of the blade closest to the hilt is stuck in his shoulder. Almost instinctively, he grabs the enemy’s chest plate just under his neck. The soldier looks at him, astonished that he was able to react that quickly. With the soldier directly in front of him; He leans into the soldier’s right ear. His breath, heavy and full of pain and exhaustion, is barely able to whisper the words. “Please forgive me.” With all the strength he could muster, he pushes the petrified soldier, thrusting his knife deep into his throat as he falls away. There was no resistance. The knife cut into the soldier’s throat with ease. Blood sprays out covering his hands and face. He could feel the life drain from this pour, innocent, soldier’s body. One drop, two drops, and soon a steady stream of blood began to flow. “It’s as if the blood that was now covering the ground carried his very soul to the underworld.” The soldier was dead. Horrified at how easy killing had become to him, he begins to stumble away from his most recent victim, his thoughts are flooded with questions, and before he realizes it, he falls to the ground. Now staring up at the moon and clouds he begins to wonder “Have I lost who I am. What were my dreams before I was called to war. Who was I before I became the soldier I am today. Is death the only thing that I can understand?” Confused, exhausted, and in more pain than ever before, he started crawling over to the now dead soldier to retrieve his knife. The soldier is face down in the mud that has been created by the blood from the battle. He rolls over the body to retrieve his knife, and as the soldier rolled over his helmet came loose revealing his face. This was no man, he was merely a boy. A boy that couldn’t have been more than 15 years old. Roughly the same age as he was when he was forced to join the military roughly 10 years ago. “Was he stripped away from his family and friends just as I was? I wonder If this could have been avoided had we just refused to join their war.” 

                         Cassius was born into a family of military legends. His father and brothers all lead huge armies and have won countless battles before him, however, Cassius never wanted to join the military. Instead, he wanted to be a musician. He didn’t have to be good he just wanted the opportunity to make music as mesmerizing as the music he had heard growing up. Perhaps above even that,  he wanted someone to share that music with.

                         The ground shook as a boulder launched by an enemy catapult landed not ten feet away from Cassius. “Shit! what am I doing?” Hastily, Cassius uses the knife to cut a piece of cloth from what’s left of his uniform. After attempting to ring as much blood from the cloth as possible, he puts it in his mouth to bite down on as he attempts to remove the sword from his shoulder. Kneeling on the ground, he looks around the battlefield seeing all the bodies drowning in a river of blood that covers the once beautiful landscape of his hometown. What was once a peaceful valley town he had played in as a child, is now a battlefield littered with countless dead bodies. Bodies of men he had grown up with. Men that had raised him when his father and brothers were off fighting their battles. Victor, the baker, practically raised me alongside my mother who, thankfully, had been evacuated with all the other women and children before this battle had begun.They taught me what it meant to be a man. Jason, who was the towns blacksmith, might have been the only one in his hometown who new anything about handling a sword. He was my teacher, my mentor. Whenever my family was off fighting some battle, Jason was teaching me how to protect the people I loved.  As Cassius stood there, looking around at all the lifeless bodies of people he new, people he loved, he couldn’t help but be swallowed up by an immense sorrow.

                         “Is the outcome of this war really worth all the sacrifices that have been made?” Seconds later, an arrow flies by his head just barely scratching his cheek. Startled that he had let his guard down for as long as he did, he searches the area for cover. With no rocks or trees to hide behind, he begins to search the ground remembering the shield that the enemy soldier had used. Mere inches out of his reach, he dives for the shield just barely dodging another arrow. After grabbing the shield, he turns, looking for the source of the arrows. Immediately, two bronze arrows impact the shield, nearly breaking through. But it didn’t matter because he found him. The archers, standing approximately twenty yards away, didn’t stand a chance now. He mustered as much energy as possible and charged toward them, using the shield to block as many of the arrows as he could. Before he got close enough to attack the archers, he was hit twice in the legs. The first one hit his right thigh, while the second hit his left leg just inches above his knee cap. Reaching down with his free hand, he breaks the staffs off both arrows. Pain shoots up his legs causing him to scream out in agony. Quickly, Cassius closes the distance between himself and the archer. Only feet from the archer who is struggling to unsheathe a short sword Cassius whispers to himself, “I win.” Planting both feet, he throws down the shield he had been using and unsheathes his two-handed longsword from his back. With all his might, he swings it at the archer’s necks. With little effort the sword cuts through the archer’s flesh removing their heads from their shoulders. Immediately, Cassius drops the sword. “Well, that was probably a mistake” It took way to much energy out of him to use such a heavy weapon. A sudden pain shoots up his legs forcing him to drop to his knees, only holding himself upright by putting all of his weight on his sword. Looking around he notices that there aren’t very many soldiers left fighting. Days of fighting with thousands of soldiers and it looks like only about fifteen or sixteen remain. As he struggles to stand back to his feet, he hears a familiar voice scream from behind. “Cassius, help the general!”

                       Turning to see where the voice came from, he sees his friend, Terran, fighting against a couple soldiers. Obviously struggling to keep up with his opponents he yells, “Don’t look at me. I can handle these two, go help the general!” Turning to his right, he sees some enemy soldiers fighting General Crewe. There seemed to be four or five soldiers there, but Cassius couldn’t really tell. All he could comprehend in that moment was that this was the first time he had witnessed the General actually struggle in combat. But before he can join the General, out of the corner of his eye, he sees a soldier charging toward him with a spear. Instinctively, he turned toward his new enemy leaving his torso wide open. Without hesitation he throws his knife at one of the soldiers fighting the general, hitting him straight in the ear, killing him instantly. Unable to dodge the spear now, he puts both hands in front of the spears edge hoping to catch it, but it was too late to position himself correctly. Instead, the spear slices through his hands like a knife to butter. As the knife passes through his hands, he pushes the spear up away from his chest, barely able to divert it enough to avoid any fatal areas, again getting hit in the shoulder.                              Screaming, he pushes back on the spear using the full weight of his body. Pushing hard enough to knock the enemy soldier to the ground. Struggling to regain his composure, he realizes that he has trapped himself. There is no way he would be able to fight back until he freed his hands from the spear. With all his might he pulled his hands in different directions, but this only seemed to cause more pain by widening the hole the spear had created.  “Cassius, you will die!” The soldier Cassius had knocked down was now charging at him with a bright golden knife that was covered in fine jewels. Was this the soldier he had heard so much about? The man that was said to be blessed by the Gods of his country. Surprised by the speed, and agility he still contained, Cassius could think of nothing to do but run. Turning, Cassius notices that the general is no longer fighting, in fact he is nowhere to be seen. “Pay attention to me Cassius! I want the world to know I defeated you in a fair fight!” Cassius feels a flutter of panic flood his thoughts for the first time in years. “He is right, If I don’t focus right now, he will kill me.” In that moment Cassius turned to face the soldier, but he wasn’t fast enough. Cassius stepped on the shield he had thrown down popping one end up into the air and tripping the soldier. As the soldier was falling he was able to reach out and stab Cassius with the beautiful golden knife directly into his left thigh. However, after all the damage he had taken, Cassius barely even felt the blade entering his leg. All he could think about was this soldier. This man whom he had been warned about. What was his name. Frustrated, Cassius looks into the eyes of his enemy and asks, “What is your name?”

                      This seemed to surprise the soldier. “How can you not know who I am?” Taking this moment to recompose himself Cassius creates some distance between the two of them and begins trying to remove the spear. “Have we met before today?” Without paying his enemy any attention he pulls the spear from his shoulder and slowly works his hands, now riddled with two gaping holes, free. Can I really fight on like this? As he looks up from his hands, he sees the soldier is much angrier than he was before. “When your country first attacked ours, you invaded a small village just beyond the border. During that invasion you slaughtered my entire family and left me alive as a reminder that you were stronger than I could ever become. For that I will kill you.” Cassius looks at him in confusion, “I don’t remember invading any village across the border. Your country is the one that started this war!” Completely baffled by what he just heard, the soldier tightens his grip around his knife. His eyes flooded with rage unlike anything Cassius had ever seen, “Liar, you killed my family and now I will kill you and every last one of your people!” With little time to act, Cassius looks around at all the weapons lying alongside an un-countable number of corpses. As the soldier charges at him, Cassius begins to scramble for anything he can use to defend himself. The soldier closes the gap between them, but as he comes down on Cassius with his knife, Cassius grabs a dead soldier and uses his body to block the blow. With the knife stuck inside the corpse, the soldier reaches for his sword. “My name is…” As he is about to scream out his name and swing his sword down through the body Cassius is hiding underneath, a rapier pierced his throat. Cassius had used the cover of this corpse to lure in the soldier, piercing the dead body when the soldier had gotten close enough. The soldiers cough’s up an incredible amount of blood before falling to the ground. Gasping for air, the soldier tries to get the words out but his vocal chords have been ruptured. Cassius rolls off the corpse before releasing a large sigh of relief. “I’m sorry Terrick, I’ve only just now remembered how honorable a man and soldier you were. The Åbati of his people. Rest easy. I’ll make sure this war ends here.”Before he could do anything, an immense pain swelled in Cassius’s head. He started to see flashes. They were distorted, almost as if his mind was trying to block out something. “Are these memories? Memories of what? I don’t remember this. Any of this!  I… I didn’t do this!!!!” What was he talking about? I was enlisted into this war almost 20 years after it began. There is no way I could have started all of this.”Suddenly the pain stopped. Cassius snapped back to the moment, realizing that he was still in a battlefield, surrounded by corpses. “Shit, where Is the general?”

                       Quickly, Cassius worked his way to back to his feet and turned back to where the general was fighting. Cassius starts to feel this panic which feels as if it is crushing down on his very being. “Where is the general? He should be right there!” Terrified, he limps over to the spot he saw him last. “general, General, GENERAL!” Each scream louder than the last. Falling to his hands and knees, Cassius searches through each and every dead soldier on the ground. With his last piece of strength, Cassius stands to his feet and cries out, “Dad, where are you?” What seems like days pass by as he searches through all of the soldier’s corpses that litter the battlefield, when finally, he finds him. The General, Cassius’s father, was dead, lying limp on the on a pile of eleven defeated enemy soldiers. Cassius, unable to believe that his father truly died in battle, leans over top his lifeless body crying and begging for him to wake up. Eventually, after realizing that his father indeed was gone, Cassius stands up and looks around the battle field. For the first time he realizes that there is no one else. Looking around, as far as his blood smeared eyes can see, lie dead soldiers, half emerged by a lake of blood. “Am….am I the only one?” he asks in a small whisper. “Is there not a single friend, or even enemy who shall live on to remember the gruesome battle that took place here?” Louder this time he yells, hoping for something, anything but silence. “Hello! Is anybody out there?” But there is no answer. Not even the sound of the wind is present to break the silence. The silence that brought with it the greatest pain Cassius had ever felt. The pain of his lone survival.

                       August 8th, 2256 the country of Entriesum won the final battle of a nearly 70-year war at Breakstone Hollow giving them victory over Natanu, which was the last free nation in Ostras. With Natanu’s final defeat Entriesum became the new, and only governing power over all the known lands. With no one left to challenge their new-found authority, Entriesum began to test the limits of their unchecked power and influence. In the years following the war, Entriesum’s government began re-writing the history for the events that led up to the war. After all, history is whatever story gets passed down, not facts detailing true events.

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