The worst part is the smell. The pungent, thick odour of scorched flesh; the sulphurous reek of burnt gunpowder, and the unmistakable iron tinge of blood lingering in the air. Many fear the sights of a former battlefield. Droves of corpses. Men, brothers, comrades. Their mounts, pack animals, and unfortunate civilians caught inbetween a crossfire, prickled by arrows like mosquito's bloodsucking stings. The carrion coldly soaring above the gray, thunderous skies, eying for their next meal; bits of flesh exposed through the bits of armor, slowly rusting from day-long exposure, and clotted with gritty mud after their bearer hit the dirt.
But you can always close your eyes. This is what Tai'jo did. He shut, no, squeezed his eyes shut, forcing the tears aside on his cheeks. Over and over, he imagined the morbid sights as a crate, an object he could just push out of view. And eventually, he did, shoving his just recent memory of a cliff and into the dark abyss. Replacing it was not the desolate dead man's land of the battlefield, but lush and tropical jungle. Green vines hanged from the trees. Trickles of sunlight shone through the thick canopies. He could even, for a moment, imagine the smells: it had rained recently, and it smelled almost like a fresh coat of paint over the tropics. The light tinge of ripe fruit that had fallen from the branch, only to turn into a mush on the ground. It brought back memories of his childhood.
He and his friends, Ma'co and Cachunga, had often picked these rotten fruits up, and flung them at the girls of the tribe. Oh, the beatings they would get for that. When he was a cub, Tai'jo had always targetted Oz'i'ijna. She was a sweet girl. Her skin as blue as a twilight sky, just as soft and unblemished; her ruby-red hair braided into locks, interlocked with intricate beads of bone and wood; she had a small, curved little nose, and the prettiest pair of tusks sticking out from her plump lips. Oz'i'jina had grown into a fine woman, and despite the disagreements and bickering when they were children, Tai'jo had since been promised her hand. But he had needed to prove himself. And what better place to prove himself than the battlefield?
"Is time ta go now, mon." A shrill voice said behind him. Indeed, you can always close your eyes to escape the terrors of a battlefield. But just as you can't escape the smells, you cannot escape the sound. He had hear dogs barking, wailing at the loss of their masters. The wheels of body-carts rolling in deep, muddy tracks. The crows cawing eagerly, calling for more of their hungering kin. Tears, shouts, laughter - indeed, many had found their true calling, there among the dead.
Tai'jo finally turned around to face his father. His hand was cold to the touch as it laid on Tai'jo's shoulder. Tai'jo's expression was sullen, his eyes swollen and wet. But his father smiled softly, his eyes half-closed. "Aren't ya tired, me son? It was a long battle."
"N-no, papa." Tai'jo whimpered. His father chuckled.
"Ya fought well."
"Tank you, old man." Tai'jo looked out to the battlefield again. Two burly Orcs were holding their comrade, as a skampy Goblin cut through his mangled leg with a shark-toothed bonesaw. Switching his gaze again, he saw a Human - just a boy, one who must've been trampled during their panicked retreat, and left behind. He tried to crawl away, but the iron-enlaid boot of the Grunt stomping down on his leg put him dead in his track. The jab of an iron spear through his exposed throat ended him brutally, but thankfully swiftly. Tai'jo shuddered at the sights.
"So dis is wat its like den, papa? The 'glorious' battlefield I was told of?"
Sullenly, his father nodded softly. "In a world so little as ours, dere must be sacrifice for our ways ta continue as we like."
Tai'jo shook his head again. He closed his eyes again, and he reminiscated about his childhood. He heard the laughter of his friends, Cachunga and Ma'co. Running around in the jungle grass, their feet wet from morning dew. But, it was as if their voices grew louder, and more mature. They went from children to men. Opening his eyes, Tai'jo heard his two friends, now comrades in battle, shouting behind him.
"Tai'jo mon, where are ya!" Ma'co cried. Tai'jo's purple eyes lit up. His friends had survived - a glimmer of hope in this dark moment. He was about to run off, but his father gripped hold of his shoulder, stopping him in the track.
"W-..l..let me go, old man!"
"Are you sure about this, my son?"
"Ya...ya left us! Me, and Mama! De tribe! Let me GO!" Tai'jo roared and hit his dad in the face. His fist went right through the spectral essence of the spirit, and in that flurry of rage his father disappeared. Tai'jo ran to his friends. "Ma'co! Cachunga!"
They did not hear him. However, their moods had faded. They were gray and sorrowful, their hands softly tied by their legs, and their heads lowered in respect.
"Quit it guys!" Tai'jo cried. "No time fo pranks!"
They were looking at someone who laid with their back against the mud, dead, purple eyes facing the murky skies. Tai'jo froze. He would've felt a freezing jolt of shock, and fear, run through his marrow. A jolt which would've paralyzed him. But he felt nothing.
"Go in peace, Tai'jo, mon." Ma'co said respectfully. Indeed, it was Tai'jo who laid there in the mud, dead as a doornail, with the broken tip of a lance piercing his abdomen. Again, he felt the cold touch of his father on his shoulder.
"I'm sorry, me son."
Tai'jo crunched his face together, silently trying to hold back the tears.
"Are ya ready ta go now?" His father said. Tai'jo opened his eyes, and looked at his two friends. Those who had been at his back ever since those days as cubs. When they had run through the jungle, tossing fruits at the girls they had secretely admired. He then smiled, for he felt proud of his two friends. They would not return as the boorish brats they had been when they left, but as heroes, wrought in battle, and hardened by their loss. Tai'jo felt confident in his demise, for he would be remembered, his memory held close to the warm hearts of his friends, his family, his tribe, and even dear Oz'i'jina. He would be watching them.
"Ya, Papa." Tai'jo said. His father smiled softly and took his sons hand, as if they were to go fishing, and they left the world of the living.