Gosh, I haven’t done a #writephoto in ages! Not for lack of inspiration – Sue has a knack for capturing stories in her images, which is why it’s one of my favourite writing prompts – rather, a lack of time and brainpower. However, the fog is lifting, and this week’s photo sent me a story. Here it is…
The horizon was empty. For now.
‘They’ll be here soon.’
The campfires were burning low, their pale flames outshone by the bright dawn painting the sky. Sinead, resplendent in leather and fur, nodded. ‘They will.’ Two swords were strapped to her back, the hilts rising above each shoulder. In battle she was a whirlwind, a twin-bladed legend. Songs were sung of her already.
‘If this is our last dawn,’ she continued, ‘then it is a splendid one.’
This was small comfort to Edric. He swallowed, clutching the pommel of the sword strapped to his waist. He was young, and this was to be his first taste of war. He hoped to see another dawn.
‘How do you do it?’ he asked, turning to her.
Sinead’s fine profile was gilded by light, the scar running down one side of her face accentuating her delicate bone structure, her wavy blonde hair scraped back into a topknot. ‘Do what?’ she said, eyes still on the brilliant sky.
‘This,’ said Edric. He moved his hand, a half-hearted gesture, taking in the bustling camp around them. Horses stamped and snorted, sharpened swords slid into scabbards, voices a low hum, the pad of feet as the lines formed, ready to face what was coming.
‘War?’ Sinead turned to him, now, her eyes, the colour of the sea, narrowing.
‘I do it because I have to. Because there is no other path for me. I have no family, so I fight to protect others.’
Her expression softened. ‘I got this in my very first battle,’ she said, touching the scar on her face. ‘I was lucky, though.’
‘That I survived it. That I lived to fight another day. And I swore, then, that I would continue to fight for as long as the gods granted it.’
‘What do the gods care for the wars of men?’ The words were out before he could stop them, their taste bitter on his tongue. He braced himself for Sinead’s response. But she just laughed, her hand coming to rest, briefly, on his shoulder.
Emboldened, he pressed on. ‘I cannot see,’ he said, ‘how it matters to the gods that we battle over small patches of land. All the death. All the sorrow. Surely there’s another way.’
Sinead, laughter gone, tilted her head. ‘War is part of us, as is peace.’
‘Yet we use one to gain the other. How is it we are not satisfied with what we have?’
Sinead laughed, low. ‘That, young Edric, is a question for greater minds than ours. All we can do is what is asked of us.’
Edric was silent. In the heart of him he knew something wasn’t right, yet his mind, still half-fogged with sleep, couldn’t grasp it. He really really hoped he would make it through the day.
The horizon stayed empty. For now.
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