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  • Monica Red

Survivors of Laconia's Last Battle


NOTE: This is a pre-sequel of Roots of Hope. If you read it before the first book of Saber's trilogy, you will know an important detail in advance. However, I thought it would be fun to read the book knowing this.

For those who already read Shadows of Tomorrow... well, you know what happens after.

Enjoy!

 


 

The reisers had conquered Laconia years before, forcing the survivors to settle in hiding by the Southern Forest. John’s former army remained with them until the day when their enemy found them.

The last battle Laconia’s army fought was brutal. It’s soldiers delayed the reiser’s advance for as long as possible, so Tundra’s guards could take the people to safety. It was then that they learned how powerful their enemy became.

The reisers slaughtered the soldiers from Laconia. The few survivors had little to no hope to survive and were transported to an infirmary at the edge of the Northern Forest. John was among the wounded.

Already weakened and injured, in his last strike John blocked a reiser from attacking an escaping group. The reiser stabbed him on the side and kicked him down. John had no way to stand up, but kept his eyes open to see his enemy forcing a sword inside him. The burning in his torso and the need for air made him pass out.

* * *

John ignored how long he laid on the ground. His eyes kept opening at the slightest sound. In response, his body shuddered, sending a burning sensation that made his skin feel as if someone was ripping from his muscles, which left him unconscious again.

The doctors talked to each other, explaining how even if they didn’t consider his wounds, the reiser’s poison had been in his system too long, and would make his recovery impossible. John was still glad to see humans around him instead of the bloody ground and dead bodies.

He remembered clearly how his body shook, and instead of a heatwave, an icy chill rested on him. His legs and arms became heavier and the time between his breathes grew. Dying seemed like a good idea, and the emphatic smile on his nurse’s face agreed with him. However, a gentle touch wiped the sweat from his forehead and its warmth got his attention.

“You can’t go before telling me your name.” The shape of a blurry woman whispered to him.

“Please, don’t die.”

He tried to say his name, but he lost consciousness before he could.

* * *

The touch of her hand woke him up. His pain was less severe and the air going inside his lungs didn’t burn, so he guessed days must have passed.

She was sitting by his bed, while holding his hand. The smoothness of her skin and her delicate features reminded John of the painting of an angel he saw once inside the palace of Laconia. Her long hair rested on her shoulders, and her smile was peaceful and caring.

“You look better today,” she said. “What is your name?”

This time, even when his voice cracked and his throat hurt him, he replied. “John… John Monder” He wanted to talk to her, to find out her name, but his body complained and forced his eyes to closed. Half aware of the world outside, he heard her. “John… You need to get better. You have to survive.”

It took a while for John to settle that battle. The days mimicked each other as he came in and out of consciousness. Sometimes he caught glimpses of her sitting by him, making those moments somehow enjoyable until one day, it all cleared up.

It didn’t surprise him to find the chair by his bed empty. He was alive. That should be the end of his luck.

“Well, well!” A doctor said when he gave him a cup of water. “You made it after all. I’m glad for you. Do you remember what happened? Who you are?”

The nurse offered him water, and once it washed the inside of his throat, he managed to answer. “I’m Lieutenant John Monder and—” All the details from the battle rushed through his mind, and he had to stop talking, afraid to lose his composure.

“I understand it’s hard, John, but your superiors need to know what happened.” The doctor said, and the reprimanding looked from his nurse almost made John smile.

“I was fighting with my army but the reisers—They were—we couldn’t...” His mind drew the faces of his friends, dead on the ground, and somehow the air became harder to breathe. “We did all we could, but nothing stopped them. Not even hurt them.”

The doctor didn’t look surprised, but he raised his tone while responded to no one in particular.

“The few of you who made it mentioned something similar. This is so bad for our future. The prophecy must have been right. We won’t win this war.” The doctor looked at John and shook his head. “Never mind. You need to rest, not to think about this. I don’t want you to have a panic attack.”

John would have laughed about the comment, but his heartbeat speeded up and he lost his breath while the bloody field filled his mind.

“Do you know where you are?” The nurse touched his hand, getting his attention back.

“No, and don’t know for how long I’ve been here.”

The nurse nodded, but it was the voice he heard by his bed who answered.

“Almost a month,” she crossed the room and stood by his bed. “Twenty-eight days.”

He smiled at her, amazed that she was real and noticing the shine of her hazel eyes in the light.

“Who are you?” He said, not hiding his eager tone.

She chuckled while the nurse answered for her. “This is Amanda Belk. She has been helping me to take care of you.”

“How is your leg?” The doctor asked her, and only then John noticed the crutches in her arms.

“It’s there!” She said with a wider smile, but the doctor frowned. “Let me check it.”

John wasn’t happy to see her go, but had no trouble falling asleep.

* * *

If anyone had told John it took him years to walk again, he wouldn’t have doubted it. The first day he left his recovery room, the coast of Tundra’s ocean wasn’t part of the horizon anymore. Instead, sand dunes painted his view for miles.

John walked until his feet left the wet soil from the forest and his boots left marks on the sand.

“I hate it,” Amanda said by him. “Every morning gets worse.”

He didn’t notice her sitting by the edge of the forest, but was glad to see her.

“I knew the ocean was drying,” he said. “People from Tundra said it was bad, but never—”

“It’s like the water vanished just after the battle.”

“That fast?” John said, looking between the waterless landscape and Amanda.

Amanda nodded and exhaled. “How are you feeling? I thought you needed to rest?”

“That’s right. Doctor’s instructions. I better sit down here, right now…by you.” John bent down, but his knees gave out and ended up hitting the ground.

“Are you all right?” Amanda kneeled by him and helped him to sit up.

“Yeap,” he said, trying to not groan, “but for safety I’m staying here for the rest of the week.”

Amanda laughed and sat back beside him, this time facing the trees. He wanted to hear more about the ocean, but preferred to talk about her.

“So, I know I’m extremely handsome, and even when I’m conscious I haven’t been looking my best in the last weeks,” he moved his hand up in response to her laugh, “and I’m not complaining at all. I just want to understand what made someone like you, help a wounded soldier in his darkest hours.”

“Someone like me?” She said.

“Yes,” he found himself unable to look away from her eyes, “kind, gentle… beautiful.”

Amanda flushed and looked down, grinning. “Well, I was being selfish.”

John frowned and moved forward. “What do you mean?”

A shadow crossed her eyes and pulled the joy from her. “I had an accident trying to evacuate a refugee by Laconia before the—” She looked at John while her tone turned serious. “Your army’s last battle was—”

“Horrifying.” A heavy silence fell between them. It was his fault, but he wasn’t ready to talk about what had happened to him, or to his friends. “Sorry, I can’t think about—sorry, could you please—could you tell me what happened to you?”

Amanda exhaled and nodded.

“The noise coming from the battle scared the people. It was already difficult to guide them out, when someone yelled that the reisers arrived. Everyone panicked, running and screaming without sense. I saw a boy losing his step and falling down. No one seemed to notice him, so I tried to help him.” She closed her eyes for a second and took a deep breath. “I’m not sure how it happened. One moment I was trying to put this boy on a horse, and the next one I was on the ground trying to move both of us out of the way.”

John shook his head and stared at her. “I didn’t realize you are a soldier.”

Amanda’s smile came back. “For what other reason would I be here?”

“Of course,” he said, shaking his head. “How did you get here?”

“Not sure,” she exhaled, “but when I talked to the doctors, they told me I walked on a broken leg with too much weight and for too long.”

“So the boy?”

“With his mother… I believe so.” She kept her eyes on John. “The day you arrived, I was told it was my leg or my life. An infection was getting worse, and they didn't want it to spread. They wanted to cut it.”

John felt a hole in his stomach as he shook his head.

“I didn’t like that idea either,” she said, “and I couldn’t accept it. Not without fighting.” She held her hands together and turned towards the sands. “Before they could do anything to me, your army arrived. The hospital was running out of space. Even when your wounds were severe, they had to put you in the recovery tent. I heard them saying that because of the poison and the time you must have been on the field, they had no hopes for you.”

John lifted an eyebrow and rubbed the back of his neck. “Doctor’s confidence! Got to love them, right?”

“In their defense,” she said between chuckles, “they were trying their best considering the circumstances.”

John was aware that infirmaries and doctors were scared in the east of Hune. He clenched his fists when he realized after the battle that wasn’t a problem anymore. They lost that part of Hune, along with all the people he cared for. He exhaled and focused on Amanda again.

“That doesn’t explain why you were being selfish. It’s kind of the opposite, since you saved a boy and sort of shared your tent with me.”

“Right…” Amanda pressed her lips together for a second. “Please don’t laugh… or make fun of me.” John sat up and lifted his hand, smiling. “I thought that,” she said, “if someone in your condition could survive, then I should be able to save my leg. That’s why I talked to you and when our nurse was too busy, I took care of you.”

John had noticed the crutches on the ground, but her skirt didn’t let him see. “Did it work?” He managed to ask, and her smile let him breathe again.

“The doctor said I should wait before taking long walks. And I may have a limp but he is confident that with the proper care, I will be fine.”

* * *


As much as he tried to avoid thinking about the war, or how the land was getting destroyed, his mind got stuck over those problems turning his nights restless. But the time he spent with Amanda was well worth it.

One day, he found her crying with a letter in her hand. His heart froze at the idea of her leaving, but it wasn’t that. The army replaced her position, and they were wishing her the best recovery.

After he read it, he looked at her and his desire to stop her tears was greater than his rational sense, so he said the only stupid thing that will make her smile.

“Is this your way of telling me you are my superior?”

“What?”

“Well, they label this letter to Captain Amanda Belk. I’m only a lieutenant.” He took the last step between them and wrapped her in his arms. “But we both know Laconia’s army is harder than yours.”

Amanda gently hit him, but kept hugging him and rested her head on his shoulder.

That day John’s concern changed forever. Hune was still important, but his mind started to picture a life without fighting. His army didn’t exist anymore, and the thought of lifting a sword turned his stomach. He didn’t mention it to Amanda, and instead, he braided a leather bracelet. Laconia’s tradition to propose a marriage.

* * *

Not long after, the hospital hosted a small ceremony. It surprised no one when John asked their doctor to marry them, and everyone enjoyed the excuse to celebrate something in those times. At the end of that day, John’s life became complete. Nothing else mattered, and happiness was finally a reality for him. One that didn’t last for long.

A few days after their wedding, John got a letter showing his new position in the second guard of Tundra’s army. It never crossed his mind that the army would reach out to him, and he had no idea how to talk to Amanda. The breaking news came from her new letter, though. She got a royal offer to join the armament. Something John took as an insult.

“John, this is my last chance. There is no way I can be part of a guard. I can barely walk, and I don’t want to put anyone in danger.”

“Then don’t fight!” He threw the letter down. “That’s an option.”

“I am a soldier, John! Like you, I promised to serve and protect Hune and its people. This is another way to do it.”

“What about the promise you made to me?” John pretended to laugh. “That one doesn’t count? Or you forget it already.”

“You are the one leaving me!”

John shook his head and took a step back.

“I know about Tundra’s army, John!”

Tears shone in her eyes when he held her hand. “I won’t take it if you don’t want me to.”

“You won’t be able to live with that.” Amanda pulled away and wiped her face. “We are too similar.”

John wanted to deny it, but she was right. He could have lived as a civilian, but that was before they called him back. Now, he couldn’t live as a deserter.

“See,” Amanda said, “I can’t live with that either. I understand you have to go… Why can’t you support me?”

Although John wanted to make her feel better, he couldn’t support her or the King. His hate for their ruler grew during his recovery.

It wasn’t enough to have never sent help to Laconia’s army, or had tried to move his people to a safer place in Hune. The stupid king didn’t send help to the infirmary either. He never visited or sent a royal announcement to his people, who lost everything escaping those refugees. He never even assessed the fact that he lost an entire army or sent his regards to the few survivors.

To John, being part of the armament wasn’t an obligation. As a solider, Amanda could refuse the position and use her injured leg as the perfect excuse to stay out of that bastard’s way. If she refused to do it, no one would judge her, and most likely every soldier would applaud her.

“Why don’t you stay here and help the doctors?” He said, “we know they need people. I know how good you are at it. Would that be so bad?”

Amanda rolled her eyes. “I’m not a doctor or a nurse, John.”

“You aren’t a maid either,” John said. “You said it, you are a soldier. You know what we think about that freaking armament.”

Amanda looked down and whispered. “It is all I have.”

John moved forward, but before he could reach her, she stepped back and pulled her skirt a few inches up.

“Look at me!” She said, but he didn’t need to see it.

The scar on her leg was dreadful. It ran all along the side of her calf, up to her knee. Her skin never healed completely, and her leg was at least two times thinner than the other one. He knew it still hurt her, more than she wanted to admit.

“Who do you think will take the risk to add me in their guard?” Amanda said.

“So you just want to work for the King?”

The corner of Amanda’s mouth curled. “Well, wouldn’t you be following the King’s order with the guard too?”

John’s blood boiled. “Being with the king doesn’t make you a princess, Amanda. Although I don’t doubt he will send you to his bed.”

Amanda never answered and just walked away.

* * *

The next morning, John found out that Amanda left. Instead of waiting the few days the king offered her to get ready, she rode out with the messenger. Behind her, she left the leather bracelet John made for her, and with that a wound opened in John’s heart.

… ‡ …


3 commentaires


Antonieta Rodriguez
Antonieta Rodriguez
29 mars 2021

Muy interesante, tendré que leer el resto del libro

J'aime

Monica Red
23 janv. 2021

Correct! The books makes a reference to this, but the story isn't in any of them. Glad you liked it! a

J'aime

Membre inconnu
22 janv. 2021

I like this part of the story, so this part of the story is not in either of the books?

J'aime
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