The Battle of Eleanor
Nephi opened her eyes blinking up at the carrion birds circling high above her. She strained to focus wondering why she was laying flat on her back on the wet ground. Fighting the warm slide back into unconsciousness she willed herself to move, first one arm, then the other. When she tried to raise her head she winced as her vision swam and her throat filled with bile. Gritting her teeth she managed to roll over and raise herself onto all fours. Time seemed to stop as blackness threatened once again to engulf her. She took a couple of careful breaths and spit to clear the bitter taste from her mouth. Then, as her stunned silence gave way to a roaring clarity the world crashed down upon her. She was aware of the battle raging on the plain below, the bloody froth from the steaming mouths of her fallen team, the smell of death.
Rubbing her chest she remembered the phantom blow that had brought her down. Beside her lay the wreck crumpled and scattered next to where she had fallen. She crawled the few feet to the slowly turning wheel of her overturned chariot, clawed at the iron spokes and used them to slowly pull herself to her feet. She held onto the wheel as a sailor would in a storm fighting vertigo and the intense pounding in her ears. When her head cleared a little she fingered her long black hair out of her eyes let go of the wheel and tried a step or two. Confident she might make it; she searched the carnage for her spear. Spying the ebony shaft in the mud she picked it up and stumbled up the small rise.
Ignoring the slaughter, she stepped over and around the flotsam of war. Men lay in each other’s obscene embrace frozen as they had fallen in the final thralls of death. Cold hands gripped the pommels of shattered swords, or held the black shafts of protruding arrows that had pierced their bodies. The tortured soil, soaked with the blood of a thousand men clung to everything covering man and beast alike with a sticky, grainy mist.
Nephi searched among the destruction, her dark eyes darting everywhere. A cry caught in her throat as she recognized the broken staff and the fallen standard. She rushed to the lifeless body and sank to her knees struggling to pull the limp form into her lap. Pushing back the chain-mail headpiece, she smoothed away a swath of blonde hair and looked down at a face she had never seen but knew with all her heart. She noticed the armor, pierced at the chest in the same spot where she had felt the blow. Then having relived this moment countless times in her dreams she acted out of instinct on memories she had carried with her since childhood. Unfastening the strap that held the wineskin around her neck she let it fall beside her as she ran her hands along the young warrior’s waist until she found the quilted bag tied just where she knew it would be.
Drawing out the Chalice Nephi fumbled with wineskin squeezing and sloshing the rich purple liquid into the golden vessel, and then with trembling hands slowly tipped the cup to the bloodless lips, hoping beyond hope that the healing draught would work. Her eyes blurred with tears as she knelt in the mud with her dark hair whipping around her shoulders. She held the Knight’s pale hands in her own blood stained ones and ignored the clash of weapons and the cries of men as the battle threatened to wash over them. Silently she waited, counting the seconds with each heartbeat. From this moment life was a mystery to her, for it is at this point in her dreams where she had always awakened, never knowing if she had arrived in time.