Highlander’s Last Fight – Alisa Adams

Tomas was not afraid. But he could sense danger, and this place was indeed dangerous. Being able to identify threats is different from being scared. As he was riding through the night, he knew that if he encountered bandits, he would have no time to prepare, that was the nature of the road, and the trees were blocking out any moonlight. Tomas had no reason to be there. He was trying to make his way through this place, and the choice to not camp that night was definitely a mistake. Suddenly he heard a noise. A part of him was almost glad as his suspicions were confirmed. This place was perfect for an ambush… “Show yourself!” Tomas shouted. At least the prolonged agony of an incoming attack would come to an end now. The silence of the hidden rider was interrupted by the heavy breathing of his horse. More than one horse actually… How many men were hiding in the shadows? “I KNOW YOU ARE THERE!” Tomas shouted again, this time at the top of his lungs. After a brief moment of silence that seemed long like a day, three or four riders – he could not tell – came out of the shadows. Tomas was trained, so he knew that the first thing he had to do was handle his horse. A rider on a calm horse can fight; a rider on a horse that is in panic is doomed.

“Easy boy,” he whispered as he was trying to keep the animal calm while taking his sword out. “Trust me.” The first man attacked him in a clumsy way, and Tomas avoided his blow just by moving his body to the side. However, to fend off the second attack, he had to use his sword; the loud noise of the metal swords clinking together was heard across the dark forest. The third man created chaos as the riders were not coordinated. This is when Tomas saw his opportunity, and while remaining calm, he attacked and hurt one of the riders. The man’s scream echoed loudly in the night, creating an unsettling feeling to the others… “Fools, he is one man!” one of the riders shouted. A second, a third, a fourth blow… Tomas was skilled and calm, but he could not fight off four men. The next blow from the riders did not wound him, but Tomas fell off his horse. I need to put up a fight so that they take my horse and leave me alone.

That is all. Tomas thought as he stood up to continue fighting. While being on the ground, Tomas changed his strategy, and he aimed at their horses. If they were going to try to kill him, it would cost them. After a few more moments of fighting in the dark, Tomas was wounded, but so were two of the riders’ horses. In the mayhem that was going on, Tomas shouted, “Is this all? – I am here, go on!” but his body was close to collapsing. “Take his horse and let’s go before we lose a horse or a man here,” one of the riders who had eyes darker than the deepest well said. Several moments after they were gone, Tomas was still on alert, looking left and right while holding his sword high. Only after he was confident that the riders were gone did the burning pain hit him. He felt his wounds being covered in blood and dust that had set on top of them.

All he wanted was to fall on the ground, but he knew that if he did that, he would die in that forest before the sun would rise… S 1 everal weeks ago. Katie’s eyes were locked on the road. She was waiting as patiently as possible. Katie was used to waiting. Her father, God rest his soul, had been a farmer and thatcher. Every year, growing up had been a pattern of patience. As the frost had set in and they had been left with their fears for the seeds, Katie would stand by the boarded window of their one-room home and tried to take her father’s words to heart. “Dinnae fash, lass,” he would say. “Seeds be sturdy. We’ll be seeing them again come spring, you’ll see.

They’ll come when they come. And we just have to wait long enough.” When spring came, green shoots would appear across the churned earth and would rise into golden straws. When the fruits and goods were sold on, the stem and flack were used for thatching the village cottages in the early winter. It was a cyclical life, where each profession kept them fed and warm until the work was done and the next came to pass with the new season. “Sometimes, you just have to wait long enough for the good things in life,” Richard Thatcher would say, looking out over the blank canvas of brown. Katie’s fingers would tighten on the crumbling plaster of the sill, and she would try to take comfort from the warmth of her father’s hand on her thin shoulder. Sometimes, you just have to wait long enough… Those were the words by which Katie’s father had lived by. However, Katie had not possessed her father’s natural patience. She held no strong faith that the world would compensate her for the virtue of fortitude.

But she tried to hold faith in her father. And each year, such faith was proven well-placed. Each year, the crops grew, and her world was golden and bright. Katie remembered her late father’s words as she stood at the crossroads two miles from Luffmore. It was, perhaps, the furthest she had ever ventured from her father’s small cottage, but the risk was worth the reward. She would reap the benefits of her patience. Bouncing on her toes, the girl of barely seventeen glanced up and down the empty road with eagerness. She pulled a strand of her dark hair away from the corner of her mouth, staring off into the distance. Her eyes were fixed on the horizon. Excitement tingled beneath Katie’s skin, energy racing through her limbs.

It felt like the only way to contain her joy, to stop it bursting from her in roaring cries of happiness, was to press her teeth together and beam from ear to ear. Katie wrapped her arms around her middle, but she wasn’t cold. It wasn’t herself she was holding, but the little life that she was now certain grew within her. The life she had created with her lover. Her future husband. Katie bit down on her lower lip as she felt her cheeks flame with color. It was not shame or uncertainty that turned her a blushing pink, but the sweetness of young love that warmed her from the inside out. The purest gratitude and most shocking wonder that this was to now be her life—the life of a wife and mother. Eight months had slipped by since her father had passed. Back in the depths of early frost, Katie had been made an orphan of more than her parents.

She had also lost their teachings: her mother’s fiery hope and her father’s patience. Looking back, Katie felt contrition for her actions. How she had wept, how she had floundered. How she had been so utterly lost on this very road, without direction or destination. She hadn’t even thought to bring a cloak for warmth. Katie glanced down at the soft and sandy lane and noticed how greenery was sprouting at each corner of the junction and spilling little yellow flowers over the earth. She nudged at a pebble with the toe of her shoe, freeing it from its little dip in the earth. She remembered how the ground had been then, how the rain had turned the dirt to sludge beneath her feet, how the frost had made everything slippery. She had been struggling to free her foot from a particularly stubborn patch of mud when she had heard the beating of hooves. As soon as she met the man that rode upon that horse, Katie’s faith had been restored.

She smiled now in memory of it, cradling her unborn child in her hands. As much as it had been cowardice and weakness that had led her to this very road that night, the world had seen fit to reward her for those passing months of grief. Now, she waited again, staring off into the distance, her vision pinpointing that exact spot where the future would appear. Despite their short acquaintance, she knew his face and his stature so well that Katie was confident. She would know whether any distance shadow to claim the road was him in an instant. As the moments were passing by, Katie swallowed and pulled her cloak tight about her frame. Long brunette waves, raggedy and without order, fluttered about her face. She blew them out of her eyes and pinched a strand from the tip of her tongue. Her hair was a nuisance when about her shoulders, but she had worn it down for him. Licking her lips, Katie shifted from one foot to the other.

She told herself it was to stay warm. She wasn’t nervous. He would be here. He knew of the baby and had promised that they would wed. He had sworn he would return within a month of his letter. “Where is he?” Katie muttered to herself. It was summer, so no clouded steam rose from her lips like it had the last time, but she felt herself shiver nonetheless. Today was the last day. One month since his letter. Katie had waited patiently for his arrival, for he knew where she would be.

When the sun finally started to sink down beyond the tops of the trees, Katie grew worried that perhaps there was another way to town that she did not know. Perhaps her love was waiting for her on her doorstep, finding her father’s cottage cold and empty. Worse still, perhaps he had been in some accident, been injured in some manner that prevented him from coming to her. Perhaps he was ill? And there all alone in the middle of the road, Katie accepted the truth… Sometimes, you just weren’t enough, no matter how long you waited. “D 2 ammit!” This time, Tomas knew that he had spoken aloud; the word rang in his ears like a bell, a warning of the impending doom that he now faced. AFTER THE FİGHT, one goal was now on his mind. He had to get to a nearby village and take care of his wounds, or else he would die a painful death. WARMTH TRİCKLED over the backs of his fingers. He pressed down hard against his wound. Pain lanced down his side from shoulder to thigh and sent his next step stumbling.

He clawed deep into what was left of his shirt, pressing the wad in against his naked belly. His other hand curled into a fist. His shoulder taut, his jaw hard, Tomas stubbornly continued forward. NO DOUBT, despite the blood pouring from his side, he looked ready for another fight. Shoulder braced, steps determined, fists clenched. Though alone, Tomas smiled in the dark. Good, he thought. I’ll not meet my end like some cowering rat, withered in some corner. I will die like a fighter, ready to take on whatever bastard might try to stop me going on through those pearly gates. HE KNEW that he wasn’t likely to make the cut for the Lord Almighty, but his brothers couldn’t get any saintlier if they had halos.

And he wasn’t about to marinate in hell all by his lonesome. WHEN HE FELT thickness on his tongue, Tomas knew that his teeth were coated crimson. Laboring through the dark, trees on either side of the road reaching for him like monstrous fingers, he could visualize himself as others might see him now. A MONSTER. SEEMS APPROPRİATE. HE’D BEEN THOUGHT a monster before. A nuisance and a miscreant. AS HE FELT himself grow weaker, Tomas could hear voices in his head, memories rising to the surface now that he had no strength to keep them buried. Shouts and cries, the aggression of strangers, filled his mind. “GET AWAY FROM US!” “WHAT DO YOU WANT? You aren’t welcome here.

” “THERE’S nothing for you here. We can give you nothing.” “COME BACK TO ROB US, and I swear you’ll be sorry.” “I’LL WELCOME you with my sword if I see you here.” THERE WERE lights on the horizon, little pinpricks of yellow against the sea of navy and charcoal. IT WAS those lights that he had been stumbling towards. He’d thrown every ounce of strength into moving his feet one after the other, and every moment of mental clarity into willing the village closer. He had already painted the outline of the houses, the sheds and barns. Perhaps there would be a small church with a spire stabbing up into the sky. He had inked in the shape of the settlement a thousand times in a hundred ways, praying for the real thing to appear.

NOW TOMAS FELT the unfamiliar tingle of fear at the edges of his mind. Perhaps he wouldn’t make it. Perhaps this forest was just too large and too dense. Perhaps the road that he wandered wasn’t a road at all but a means of torment, winding through the trees only to return to its beginning again. Maybe the lights ahead of him were an illusion over reality; a hope he had conjured up out of sheer desperation.

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