Written for the There N'Back Advent Calendar challenge. Day 7's word is: hole.
The siege had lasted seven long years. For every night on the battle plains, Guran’s home consisted of a hole, roughly two-foot deep, and six-foot long. A once-sturdy tarpaulin – long since rendered useless from the elements – was all he had for roof. Such as it was. He’d learned to sleep in his armor; well, most of it anyway. Skirmishes happened at a moment’s notice, and it helped to be as prepared as possible. He only took off what he could put back on in a hurry. He’d learned to get what sleep he could, even if it was only a fraction of an hour and no more for the rest of the day. There were many such days when sleep had been impossible. He’d learned the any kind of foodstuff was a luxury, that it could be at least two days before his next meal. His stomach rumbled in empty protest, as if to make a point.
Guran stared up through his ratty tarpaulin, catching glimpses of the moon and stars through the haze of smoke and clouds. Could she see them, too? Did she make a wish every night that he would be kept from harm? Did she still wear the ring he’d given her the day before he’d left for this forsaken land?
Did she still remember him?
Reaching up to his neck, Guran pulled out the gold chain he kept around his neck, and fingered the small, plain silver band that hung from it. Nediel had given him one of her rings as a farewell gift the same night he’d given his to her. He remembered that night well, for she had also given herself to him, promising to wait for his return.
Guran closed his eyes and sighed, wiping away a stray tear. He could still see her long, dark hair, lying in waves and spread out over his pillows. He could see the way she looked at him, with so much love in her eyes, mixed with the strength of her passion. He could still feel the heat of her skin against his, and the way she moved around him, with him. That night had been unlike any other, and Nediel had ruined him for any other woman. Another tear fell, and he wiped that one away, too. He remembered kissing away her tears that night, and in the stolen moments before reporting to his regiment. Before they’d left for the war.
Did she still remember him?
So many of the men he’d fought with were here to defend their homes, families, and also served with pride for their king. Guran was no different, except he seemed to be the only one still alive, while others had been cruelly killed, murdered by orcs or other nasty creatures. They would not see their families again. Husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, cousins: they paid dearly in the effort to vanquish Sauron.
How he had survived, Guran knew not. But he had not escaped unscathed. A hideous scar now ran down the side of his face, bisecting his right eyebrow and travelling down to his jaw. His nose had been broken twice, and he’d had to wait in the surgeons’ tent while other broken bones healed and he could return to fight again. It was the life he’d known for seven years. If he made it back to Nediel, would he be able to adapt to a peaceful life again? He hoped so.
That was if she remembered him at all.
A loud shout rang out in the night, startling Guran from his memories. Automatically, he swiped the tarpaulin away, hurried to his feet, jumped out of his hole, and replaced the armor he’d taken off. He didn’t even have to think about it anymore. This was war, it was what he knew, and he snatched his sword and ran with everyone else to meet the enemy. It was another skirmish, another battle. He banished the memories of Nediel as he raised his sword and dispatched an orc. He was a soldier, a warrior, and he had to keep his mind clear so he could remain alive. That was his promise to Nediel.
He only hoped she remembered him.