View Full Version : The Last Man Standing

May 13th, 2015, 04:29 PM
First story to be posted here. All feedback welcome. Most likely going to be problem with tenses switching between past and present.

Dark clouds loom in the heavens like the Grim Reaper’s cloak. What of the sky that could be seen through the cloak was as red as blood. Over a field a flock of ravens circle through the air that reeks of blood and death. Two men sit back to back below the starving scavengers. One of the men has a sheathed samurai sword resting against his left shoulder and the other man has a claymore lying beside him. A band of two and a half score of men stands around them. Between the two men and the surrounding band, lie slain warriors still holding onto their weapons.

A raven swoops down from the sky and perches on the breast plate of a dead warrior. The omen of death pecks at the foggy eye of the corpse. Satisfied that what it is roosting on is dead, the raven pulls out the eye and flies off. The black bird carries its prize over the band and off to the lakes.

Those that look upon them, mumble amongst themselves. They dress in chain mail armor with pelts of northern boars resting on their shoulders. Upon their heads are helms molded in domes, some have horns attach to them. The men have long beards and hair that hangs below their shoulders. The weapons they wield hold a crudeness that matches the overall appearance of the men. They hold them as if the blades were the masters and not the hands.

“Hey, William.” The man with the samurai sword speaks while looking at the ground.

“Yeah, Nobunaga?”

“Do you remember the time we got in trouble at the orphanage when you stole some meat from the butchers?” Nobunaga looks back at William.

“What are you talking about?” William smiles back at Nobunaga. “It was you who stole the meat not me. I was false accused of being your accomplice.”

“Good times.” Nobunaga says with a laugh before he turns his attention to the sky. “The younger children were happy they didn’t have to eat porridge.”

“Yeah, but we didn’t. Why did you decide to bring that up now?”

“I was wondering, if we make it out of this alive, will we get to see those smiling faces again?”

“Probably not, this was a losing battle from the start.” William looks at the army around them. “I can’t believe our orders were to march to our death.”

“Stall the advancement of the invaders by any means. Those were our orders.” Nobunaga corrects his old friend. “It was our noble leaders that chose to do the headlong attack.”

“Nobles are nothing more than a bunch of imbeciles.” William states with a strong dislike in his voice. “Did you know they were placing bets on which of the volunteers would die first?”

William looks off at the skeleton remains of the tent of their commanders. In the mud lays the flag of their army. The flag bears the crest of a knight on horseback with a ring of thorns encircle the night. Written onto the flag at the hooves are the words ‘Ante ad mortem quam contumeliam”: death before dishonor. Boots of the northern men stomp upon it with neither love nor respect.

“Yeah, goes to show why you shouldn’t let nobles lead armies.” Nobunaga laughs. “They hold their lives above others.”

“True. Nobunaga, why did we volunteer to join this army?”

The two childhood friends remember standing among a crowd. Before the gathering people, men were dressed in the finest clothes giving speeches. Their worlds inspired and rallied young men to join the volunteer army to halt the invaders to buy time for the main forces. Nobunaga and William eagerly sought to join the army.

“Fame, fortune, women, take your pick. Isn’t it funny that no matter what we try to do or how hard we try always seem to get surrounded? Like that time we fought that gang of bullies for picking on little Susie.”

“Yeah that was fun. Little Susie got all teary eyed because we got the shit beaten out of us.” William says laughingly.

“I don’t think it was because we got beat up, rather than she felt responsible.”

“You might be right. She has always been a gentle and loving person. Wonder what she’s doing right now?”

“Last I heard she got at job in some tavern.”

“Good for her. I hate the thought of her having to stay at that orphanage. But she probably helps them out.”

“William, you know she’ll cry when she hears the news, right?”

“I know that.”

A tear runs down Nobunaga and William’s faces. Their minds go back to the old orphanage where they grew up. The tired warriors reflect on all of the fights they had gotten into against and alongside each other. Susie always tagged along beside them the best she could, the little sister both would do anything to protect.

The daze of the blissful memories breaks at the sudden silence of the invaders. Nobunaga looks ahead to see one of the soldiers step forward from the rest, holding a spear with a white cloth tied around it. The armor he wears fits better than his comrades. A cape hangs from his shoulders and a sword dangles from his hip.

“Look at this. I think they’re going to surrender.”

“Nice, we’ll be a pair of Sergeant Yorks.” William says sarcastically. “But better, for we wouldn’t be some myth form the last age. I wonder how many women we will get.”

“You know that’ll never happen. Some big wig will take all the credit and we’ll be just some nameless volunteers.” He nudges William. “Plus, what woman would want to be with your ugly mug?”

“Ugly? Now look here...”

“We best hush. He looks like he’s going to give us the good news.” Nobunaga cuts his friend off.

“I’m Ragnar, leader of this army!” The soldier yells out.

“What’s his name?” William asks.

“I think he said Rager or something like that, give me a sec.” Nobunaga replies. “Hey Rager, we accept your surrender!”

“It’s Ragnar!” Ragnar yells out angrily.

“Yeah, yeah. No need to get angry Ragy!” William yells back at him. “Are you going to surrender or what!?”

“It’s Ragnar and it is you who should be surrendering!”

“Why should we, Ragalain!?” Nobunaga yells back, smiling as William laughs behind him.

Ragnar stomps the ground in a fit of rage. “For the last time you bastards my name is Ragnar! Can’t you tell you are outnumbered and surrounded?”

The forces of Ragnar begin to grow restless at the conversation. Some call out for blood and vengeance, for the insults that the two lone warriors had throw about. One soldier grows brave and twirls his sword about. He quickly falls back in line when William throws a rock at him.

“Nobunaga, are we outnumbered?” William asks out loudly, bring his arm back to his side. “I can’t tell.”

“I don’t know William.” Nobunaga replies in a loud voice. “Everybody knows we can’t count. Poor Ragnar probably can’t either. He’s just trying to sound bigger then he really his.”

“Ah.” William brings his hands together. “No wonder Ragnar is angry. I’d be angry too if I had a small sword.”

“My name isn’t Ragnar, you damn bastards! It is Ragnar!”

Nobunaga and William burst out laughing at Ragnar. “That what we said!” William yells back as he tries to catch his breath.

“What an idiot! He didn’t even hear his own name.” Nobunaga says as they start laughing again.

“Enough of this!” Ragnar rips off the white cloth from his spear. “Do you surrender or do you simply wish to die and be left to rot with your comrades!”

The two orphan warriors cease their laughing. Their eyes look at those that have fallen before them. Old and new friends they had grown to respect, that had their backs at the start of this doomed fight. They can still hear the screams of pain and anguish as their comrades lives were ripped from them by crude steel. Off near Ragnar, lies the headless body of one of the nobles and his head impaled onto a spear.

“I guess it’s time to get serious, huh Nobunaga?” William grabs hold of his claymore. “So what do you want to do?”

“Fight ‘till my last breath.” Nobunaga says standing up and putting his samurai sword through his belt. “Like a samurai.”

“What, you a samurai?” William jokingly asks. “I hate to tell you this but I think you exceed the maximum height limit.”

“Yeah but I might as well be a samurai.” Nobunaga looks down at William. “What are you waiting for? A formal invitation?”

“That would be nice but I can do without one.” William stands up beside Nobunaga.

Nobunaga smiles over at his old friend. “Mind if I give Ragly our answer?”

“Go ahead. Make sure it is memorable.” William says lifting his sword in both hands.

“What is your answer!?” Ragnar demands.

“We’re sending you all to HELL!” Nobunaga yells out to the thirty men.

“Ah!” Ragnar yells out as he throws his spear at Nobunaga.

Nobunaga steps forward to the side a little, drawing his sword with astounding speed and cuts the flying spear in half as it passes him. William shatters the split spear with his claymore. With their swords in hand, the two men charge at Ragnar who became stunned. The circle of soldiers begins to enclose around him with their metal ready to cut them down.


The sun shines brightly in the clear blue sky. The sweet scent of flowers is carried along with a gentle breeze that blows over a field. The field is the home of various colored flowers. A young woman, wearing a kimono, is kneeling before of a stone among the flowers, praying. Tears gently flow down her checks. A little boy and girl come up behind her, each carrying some flowers.

“Susie-onee-chan, we’ve gathered some flowers like you asked.” The little boy says holding up a handful of flowers.

Susie turns around to the children and smiles at them. “Thank you, Johnny and Jane.”

Looking at their innocent faces brings back memories of the day they came to the orphanage. Two siblings that lost their parents in the war. In her heart she could not bear to let them go through life alone. So she took them as her younger brother and sister.
Jane looks up onto Susie’s face. “Susie-onee-chan, why are you sad?”

“I just miss my two old friends.” Susie answers her as she takes the flowers from them. “We grew up in the same orphanage when we were your age.”

Susie’s heart is still sore from the day she learned the fate of Nobunaga and William. She was tending to the guest of the tavern where she worked when two royal officials walked in. The news brought numbness over her body. Such numbness overcame her that she couldn’t even cry for her two brothers.

“What happened to them, Susie-onee-chan?” Johnny asks with his hands behind his head.

“They died here in this field fighting an invading army.” She answers Johnny as she places the flowers beside the stone. “When the royal army arrived they found them still standing with their swords in hand and thirty of the invading army’s soldiers lying dead around them.”

Susie looks down at the stone. Engraved on it were Nobunaga and William names. A tear falls from her face and lands on the stone. She turns to the siblings with a smile. Without warning she warps her arms around them, pulling them close to her. After a moment see looks up to see a dove fly over ahead and off into the clear blue sky.

Harper J. Cole
May 13th, 2015, 07:22 PM

I think it's a nice effort, you capture the mood of camaraderie between the doomed warriors nicely. The early paragraphs setting the stage were strong.

I did think that names like Susie and William were a bit out of place. The story seems to be set in Japan?

There were some issues with word choice unfortunately. Here are some examples ...

Dark clouds loom in the havens like the Grim Reaper’s cloak.
Should this be "heavens"?

Between the two men and the surrounding band, lay slain warriors still holding onto their weapons.
I think it should be "lie" rather than "lay".

Satisfied that that what it is roosting on is dead, the raven pulls out the eye and flies off.
Superfluous 2nd "that" here.

“It was our noble leaders that choose to do the headlong attack.”
This is past tense, so "chose" instead of "choose".

Their worlds inspired and rallied young men to join the volunteer army to halt the invaders to buy time for the main force to regroup.
The word "to" is perhaps overused here, appearing three times in quick succession.

Old and new friends they had grown to respect, that had their backs in the start of this doomed fight.
I think this should be "at the start".

Engraved on it where Nobunaga and William names.
This would be "were" rather than "where".

Without warning see warps her arms around them, pulling them close to her.
In both this and the next line, "she" should replace "see".

Anyway, a nice first submission. I haven't summoned the nerve to put any of my work up yet!


May 13th, 2015, 07:56 PM
Thank you for your advance. I have a habit of writing "where" when I want to say "were" and don't catch it all the time.

William is named after William Wallace. Susie is just a random name I chose.

As for the setting I never put much thought in the actually location, I just focus on the story. I'll try to remember to give locations in the future.

July 17th, 2015, 08:19 AM
I'd agree that some details on the setting and location of the story would help a lot, however I still enjoyed reading this.

September 1st, 2015, 11:49 PM
It's an okay piece. Certainly showing a lot of potential in yourself as a writer, and I would be very proud to have such a first post. One of the main problems that I see here is just that it's oh so very dialogue heavy - which can work sometimes, but it has to be interesting and you should definitely set the scene a bit more first.

Take Nobunaga's question in the beginning for instance:
Do you remember the time we got in trouble at the orphanage when you stole so meat from the butcher's?

Questions like this can be extremely powerful - if the characters involved actually matter to the reader. So, at this point your main goal should be to make the reader care about the nostalgia they must be feeling. Make it emotional because we're so attached to the characters, not because you think it should be. That's the only thing I'm worried about with this, is that it's just hard to make myself worry about the trials the characters are going through, because it's a tad lacking in backstory besides the fact that they were orphans once.

Again, I wanna make sure you know that this is really cool in concept and certainly impressive in diction and syntax. Just make sure your reader can care about the people you care about. It's the difference between the template photographs in a picture frame and the pictures you put in there yourself. I hope I've been helpful, and good luck with your future endeavors!