The Saint of Blades

January 22, 2008

Can a single man defeat an army?  

If ever there was one who could, it would be he who was known as the Saint of Blades.

It was said that no man alive could match him in battle – indeed, he had transcended the art of combat itself. Against his swords, no man could stand. No weapon could pierce his defenses – he could deflect any blade, dodge any arrow, withstand any assault.

Today was the day he learned how little that meant.

The enemy had come at dawn. The Saint was visiting Sunrise, a simple monastery on the outskirts of the king’s land. It was the time of Festival, and many had come in pilgrimage – knights and soldiers from the surrounding barony, farmers and merchants sent to speak their prayers, and several famed heroes such as the Saint himself. The evening had passed in quiet revelry and peaceful pleasantry. Those within had a warm and comfortable night’s rest.

At sunrise, they saw the approaching army. The Goblin Horde, come down from the Hollow Hills to the West. A force that had ravaged the kingdom in past centuries, but had always been driven back and forced from the lands of men… for a time. A time that had once again passed.

The Horde was vast beyond reckoning – those within the monastery knew they could not throw them back. But they could send message, and hopefully hold their defenses long enough for aid to come, God willing. They had knights, and soldiers, and heroes, and brave men who would stand and fight. The monks themselves were no strangers to battle, living here on the edge of the realm. They were fortified, and they were determined, and they were intent on standing tall and proud.

Riders were sent out, and they made ready to defend against a siege. And the Saint… well, the Saint had no fear. He thought perhaps he could turn back the goblin force alone, for he knew that his skill at arms would not wither against a hundred foes, against a thousand!

They spent the day in preparation, as the goblins continued to fill the surrounding countryside.

At dusk, they launched their attack.

They did not feel the need to bother with a siege. There numbers were countless, and they cared not for the deaths they took in their frenzied assault. They battered the gates with blade and body – and eventually down came the gates.

Standing for them at the entrance was the Saint of Blades, and a dozen skilled warriors at his side. The goblins charged… and the goblins died.

And the Saint’s training proved true, for no foe could land a mark against him. In each hand he wielded a gleaming sword of light, and with each swing the wicked creatures died. They came against him in twos, then threes, and then dozens at a time, trying to bring him down through sheer weight of numbers… and they could not. Hundreds died all around him, and still he fought untouched.

But by then he fought alone. And for the hundreds dead, thousands more… simply swarmed passed him. The other warriors were not so skilled, so strong, so swift, and they all fell in time to the endless wave of foes. And even as the Saint saw this, as he pushed himself faster and faster, he found he still could not strike down them all. And even if he could, he heard the yells and screams of battle within the monastery, as the horde poured in through other doors and gates and windows.

He fought, and he killed, and he took their measure in blood and anger as he carved a path back inside in search of someone to save… and he failed. They filled the monastery with their foul bodies, cutting down every villager and knight, every soldier and every monk. They claimed the simple treasures and pillaged the storerooms, even as he sliced apart dozens more of their foul kind.

And then they left, scattering in all directions to continue washing over the countryside. And his blades claimed more and more lives, but he could not slay them all, nor he could chase down every last one.

And then the monastery was silent and empty save for him, and dozens of good men lay dead throughout. The walls were stained with blood, the floors hidden under the weight of broken bodies.

One man could survive an army, perhaps, if they had the unmatchable skill of the Saint of Blades.

But he could not defeat an army, not alone, and all his skill had won him was the guilt of the survivor, and the thirst for a vengeance that could never be truly fulfilled.

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