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Battle Report Contest Winner - The Gift

Paul
Downey, California, United States

It always starts the same. In supplication, I asked a Boon for my teammates, and a mask for myself. Our cloaks snapped in a wind arising from our arena of crags and toppled crystalline pillars. Their movements animated the design emblazoned on their backs, not just our symbol, but our name.

The gates opened and we moved unhurriedly to greet our enemy. A row of metal stood before us, and a single Mesmer clad in red stood to one side. His gaze never left me, but the face beneath his mask betrayed nothing.

Both sides held for a moment, tossing catcalls and the occasional arrow. Suddenly, one of their warriors broke ranks and charged, sword raised and hair streaming behind her. Our target caller gave the order, and the battle was joined.

Steel rang against steel. Cries of pain and rage echoed all around me. Serpentine fires roared and icy crystals snapped as the elements themselves were set to violence. As an acolyte this cacophony terrified me. Old age has brought with it a certain clarity, and now I hear it for what it is. The din is but the orchestra that calls the dance; a dance I knew well by now, and were it not a threat to my modesty, I would say one that I performed with grace.

The health of my comrades rose and fell in time, my steps in tune with theirs; a Breeze to stem a severed artery, enfolding Hands to ward against ferocious blows. Sometimes I would let them wane perilously close to death, only to send the full power of the Word of Healing. Orisons and Signets of my Devotion washed against them like waves upon the shore. My ego indulged itself in imagining their growing desperation and sweeping relief, but I knew this to be a lie. These were my brothers and sisters in arms; we had struggled together many times before and to question their talent or will would be to insult us all.

For a moment, the dance continued. Then, one of the foe sidestepped the melee and charged to me. He was encased in the skin of a dragon, and the horned skull-head of his mace winked at me as he closed. Faith and fury clashed as he rained blows upon me. I am sure a more pious man would have been ashamed to waste so many prayers on himself, but there is still much weakness within me and I did so without pause. Still, I understood my situation, and wasted no time doing what any hardened veteran would have done in my place.

I screamed for help at the top of my lungs.

One of my own turned himself to me, his axe flashing in a rescue attempt. To save me he had to slay a beast. To finish me my opponent knew had but to kill a lamb, and he grinned underneath his helmet.

His focus was his undoing, for in his dash for me he had missed our Elementalist. She punished him for his mistake with gust after gust of flame, until a Fireball crumpled him into a smoking heap.

Grinning, my allies turned their attention to the fight once more. I returned to my duties, but no sooner had my intonations started than they exploded in my face. I had lost track of the Mesmer in red. My Veil was torn away, and with speed and precision he bound me; Backfire to punish my actions, illusionary hemorrhages to punish my inactivity. For an instant I stood helpless, unclear in my path.

It was due to this indecision that our Elementalist died, crushed in a vise of hexes and felled by an arrow to her chest. I spared myself no reflection on this, but knew it would haunt me.

In one moment, an arrow pierced the calf of one of our warriors, while another cursed in pain from a deft blow to his hamstring. My opponents wasted nothing in this opportunity, and broke from the melee to charge me directly. I glanced damningly at our Ghostly Hero, but he ignored me and fired arrows at a distant foe. The dead must have different priorities than the living. The Mesmer in red moved up on my left, and my duty was suddenly clear.

Without debate, I charged to the sides of my allies, into the belly of the best.

I uttered my prayer, and was made a Martyr, drawing the wounds and weaknesses of my allies into me. My flesh burst and bled, toxins set my blood aflame and scorched my veins. Grave wounds turned my vitals to stone and my legs to sand. I tried to stand under the weight I had taken on, but I was unable. Staggering, I could do nothing to stave off the speeding maul intent on biting my spine.

The warrior with the hammer grunted as I fell, broken and at my end.

The laity misunderstand the martyr, I think. It is not that I do not value my own life. I see myself and the miracles I still had left to perform with prideless honesty. The act of the martyr is not a sacrifice, it is a gift.

Although my own eyes could only see a dimming sky, I knew the battle raged on. My companions, freed from their infirmities, took up the fight with fervor. One by one our worn adversaries were ground underneath their righteous advance.

The Mesmer in red, to his credit, was the last of our foe to remain standing. He retreated and ambushed in series and made my friends pay dearly for his life. But in the end, pay they did, and he fell at the feet of his own guildmaster.

Our standardbearer flew to cement our victory, and it was done. A wave of the spirit blew across the theater, restoring life to the fallen. Reunited again we looked at each other, and, as one, we smiled.