“There’s a lot in soldiery they don’t tell you. Most of it gets easier to deal with in time – the killing, mainly. It stays with you. It stayed with me, certainly. But it does get easier, you stop caring so much. The bit that doesn’t get easier is the loss. Every time, it hurts as much as it first did.
Every time.”From an essay entitled “Legionary”, author unknown
Marek struggled against the current – his armour alone would have made the swim difficult, to say nothing for the figure fighting against him.
“I have to go back for her! I have to save her!”
Marek ignored Garem’s protestations.
“Stop! Marek, please!”
Marek kept swimming. There was a swift kick and Garem broke free, bursting into a front crawl towards the distant vessel.
Marek turned and pursued his companion. It didn’t take long to catch up with the weary knight, and he got one arm around the scalar.
“She’s dead, Garem!”
His brother didn’t look at him, staring intently towards where the drake had fallen beneath the waves. “No! No, she’s alive! She’s…”
Marek manoeuvred himself in front of Garem, staring him in the eyes. He could see they were full of tears. Marek shook his head.
“We have to go.”
“I won’t leave her!”
Marek struck him, a gauntleted hand catching the knight on the side of the head. “It’s too late, Garem. There’s nothing you can do!” Marek gripped him by the sides of the face. “She’s dead.”
Garem’s red-scaled face contorted in rage. “Then I’ll kill them! I’ll avenge her!”
Marek shook the knight, splashing both their faces with the tepid seawater. “No! Listen to me! She’s gone. If you go back there, you’ll be captured or killed, you know this! Another day.”
Garem stopped struggling, and after a moment of silence Marek released him. The pair tread water for a few moments, Garem trying to speak but lacking the words.
Marek eventually spoke. “The best thing you can do for her memory is to live.”
Garem slowly went limp in the water, Marek having to reach out to steady him.
“I have to get her helmet. I have to get something!”
He began to struggle forward again and Marek heaved him backwards. “You can’t! You can’t. You’d be as good as dead.”
“I don’t care!”
“She would have!” Marek gripped him by the collar of his breastplate, kicking furiously to keep the pair afloat. “She would have. She’s gone. She’s gone, Garem, and you can’t do anything about it. We need to get out of here.” Marek’s wide eyes met Garem’s stern, before the knight went limp, leaning on Marek, chest heaving as he wept.
“It’s too soon!” Garem sobbed, but not fighting anymore.
Marek pushed through the water towards the shore, swimming for the both of them. Garem’s outstretched hand trailed behind them, the knight’s gaze fixed on his mount’s resting place beneath the waves.
“It’s too soon…”