Martin Hooijmans | Lars de Ruyter
The old warrior’s eyes, a brown close to blackness, were flecked with red dots, all the color of blood, each fleck representing a soul who had fallen to his blade. So was the way of his people. So was he, born a warrior. And he would depart the world as one.
Sunlight, carrying the gentle warmth of a first Spring’s day, danced in his hair, caressed by the wind. It was a long black, streaked with white and gray, tied back in a long braid. Well-tended plates of body armor, showing the dancing fox that had been the mark of his people throughout history, covered the parts of his body where landed blows would prove mortal. At his side hung a katana, donning no decoration except for a long dark red ribbon tied around the sword’s handle. It was the mark of a veteran, feared by any who opposed him. Even then, as the last remaining man in his land’s fighting force, fear took a firm hold of his adversaries.
He knelt, touching the softness of the fresh grass beneath his feet, feeling it one last time. The army ahead of him slowly waded through the heavy snow that still covered the treacherous paths of the mountain pass. Seeing each soldier, covered in their heavy cloaks and unbalanced armor, clutching spears and bows that seemed crafted to last a week, filled the warrior’s heart with a grimness. His people had not been conquered by soldiers. They had been conquered by a vastly overwhelming number of farmers and peasants, an army unstoppable only because of size. His brothers had never stood a chance. They had died with honor, but not to the extent they deserved. The warrior, rejected by the force because of his age, would grant them that last honor.
He stepped forward, slowly undoing the straps of his armor. Piece by piece it fell to the ground, until all that remained were the man’s trousers and katana. Bare-chested, his numerous battle scars induced even more fear in his enemies, who had come to a halt at the edge of the snow-covered pass, warily eying him. The officers seemed at a loss. So they stood, until an ancient man, eyes full of madness, emerged from the crowd, staring the warrior straight in the eye, daring him, loathing him. The general was followed by a battalion of riders, seeming like the only real soldiers in the man’s army, their thundering blue eyes filled with an eagerness to storm down the lone fool who faced a force of thousands. A war cry sounded, followed by the shrieks of countless trumpets and the pounds of exotic battle drums. As one, the riders charged, swinging vicious battle axes over their heads, the rest of the army right behind them.
The warrior had been waiting for the moment. With a flash, he unsheathed his sword and assumed battle position. The lack of armor allowed for complete freedom of movement, something the riders swiftly discovered as their blows never landed, crashing into the dirt with mortal wounds of their own. The warrior danced, struck, darted out of the way, struck again, shallow wounds appearing all over his body as the numbers overwhelmed him. He did not feel anything. As if in a trance, he kept fighting, even when his muscles ripped and his blood loss blurred his vision, his consciousness. He had to. He was honor-bound. He was the last.
As the warrior’s katana hit the ground, tell echoed through the land of his bravery. The army moved on, but everywhere they came inspired arms were raised against them, men and women, side by side, never giving up until their lifeless bodies littered the grounds of their forefathers.
Not even when the capital was overrun did they yield. They just faded, as a people, out of existence, the dancing fox leading the way.
So were their beliefs. So was the way of their people.