Bonus story from Dark Things Between the Shadow and the Soul
All his life he had dreamed of this day. He’d ride into battle and return with a glorious victory, in a battle that minstrels would sing about.
The truth is a little different.
His father and uncles are fighting elsewhere, it is only him in this tight circle, surrounded on all sides, turning and slashing and hacking at his enemies as they came at him in an endless horde—
He does not know these people; he doesn’t hold back as his father had once paused on the eve of battle, too heartsick to fight once-beloved uncles and cousins.
He brings up the weapon in his hand, the only weapon he now has, as an arrow is fired at him. He’s not quite quick enough, though, and the arrow leaves a large gash in his side trailing fire in its wake.
He doesn’t know if he’ll survive.
Everyone had always told him that war would be glorious, that he would win, and gain everlasting fame as a warrior.
But they had lied.
This is not war.
This is death.
And death is not glory and valour and heroism. It is not the stuff of songs and ballads.
Death is pain and weariness and agonised screams and the sound of metal clashing against metal and the taste of blood in the mouth.
It is the final, defiant scream that bursts from his throat as he lifts the chariot wheel above his head.
Because there is no such thing as glory in death on a battlefield.
There is only death.
In The Mahabharata, the greatest epic of Indian mythology, one of the more famous legends is of Abhimanyu, Arjuna’s son, who was killed in battle at the age of sixteen. He perished in the unbeatable battle formation called the Chakravyuh against more experienced fighters. During battle, he was routed completely, in the end, was left to fight only with a chariot wheel -because all his weapons were destroyed by enemy fire.
Abhimanyu had always seemed fascinating to me. Killed at sixteen and already a father (his wife was pregnant when he died) Abhimanyu’s son would go on to inherit the throne the Mahabharata war was fought for. So essentially, you could say that of all the Pandavas, he won.
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Rearranging age old tales from Indian mythology into something new, this collection of fractured fairy tales will delight lovers of the unusual.
[music| Turning Tables: Adele]