A Knight’s last Dawn

The light flickers with uneasy shadows reflecting off the moss covered stone walls as I creep along carefully. The torch I hold up in my left hand casts a baleful light that surrounds me with its undulating cast. My feet step through the bone dry leaves and small twigs, *Crunching*, marking my location and giving away my presence.
They lie just beyond the light’s touch. I can hear them scurrying back, avoiding the illumination, intent to wait out the life of my torch. I continue on, knowing they will have their wish all too soon, and dreading the coming darkness.
I can hear their noisy breath as I continue forward, the sounds like a hundred nostrils flared-wide, inhaling my scent, my fear, my turmoil. They are well versed in this act, having repeated it for the last pair of years. I turn quickly, trying to force those behind me into the visible glow, to take away their strength and ichor, weakening them with the radiance of my fire.
It is a ploy that doesn’t work, I know before I perform it. But I have to try, don’t I? The alternative of submission is still beyond me. I cannot lie peacefully and let them travel freely. It is against the Code, after all.
The torch begins to falter, the small flames dancing their last as the tinder fades to ashes. I can hear them chuckling softly around me, and I hurry forward, to give myself as much room as possible before the night closes inward against me.
The narrow corridor suddenly opens up onto the surface. I can just make out the small scrub that lie scattered about the ground as the torch finally succumbs, its light extinguished as I toss it aside. I draw my sword, holding the handle with both hands, eyes narrowed as I balance myself, ready for the assault that is building up all around me.
Their cackling laughter erupts in a darker circle all around me, and I know the battle is begun as I am hit from behind, the sudden force almost knocking me off my feet. I strain and turn suddenly, lashing-out with my blade, catching nothing but air as the motion carries me around in a circle, cleaving a path through the air! I thrust forward, not stopping, unable to recover before the next touch clutches me from the base of my neck, needle-sharp teeth scoring a bleeding trail upon my skin. I cry out, pulling my right arm back suddenly, my elbow connecting with the demon that gripes me tightly from behind! It grunts as it is thrown from my moving form, to be replaced by the horde of its brethren. I slash and parry, moving from retract to extend, flexing and sliding from one side, then the other. It is an ancient dance of Death, and all present know its icy touch.
The night wears on, and I am soon scored by numerous hits, the demons ability to find the creases of my armor professional in its intent. My sword is broken as I slash furiously at an armored hulk that rushes towards me, and its eyes glow with a fiery glint as it opens its maw wide, the fetid breath washing across me as I struggle to draw away! I pull my dagger, thrusting it upwards with a violent motion, stabbing the thing through its lower jaw, impaling its head upon the tip of my steel, grunting as its weight pulls my arm down, tearing the dagger from my hand.
Weaponless, I turn quickly, hands raised before me and my weight balanced upon the balls of my feet, breathing deep and fast, trying to draw the fatigue from my weary muscles.
They do not halt their push, and I am sorely pressed to keep them off of me as they circle, I am repeatedly hit, bitten and scored by their razor-sharp claws. I begin to tire, and become distressed as the fray continues. I am only one Man, after all! My blows become less effective as my arms and legs become leaden and too heavy to lift.
They tease and torment me with their laughter. They sense the nearness of their success, and pause to relish the moment, drawing out the conclusion.
I gasp and stare pleadingly, looking for succor, for some sort of revelation that may save me! I can see the faint imprint of the nearby mountains as the dawn approaches, and am heartened by the oncoming light of day!
The demons scream and cry, talons reaching and mouths slavering at me. They sense the Dawn, and know that with it I will escape them. They suddenly leap as one, burying me under their mass! I am crushed beneath them, the air in my lungs expelled with a muffled shout, my efforts to rise too weak to throw them off.
I lay there underneath them, feeling the light headedness of suffocation closing with me, drawing my mind down a long narrow tunnel. I try once again to crawl out from under them, and can feel consciousness slipping away from me, a tear rolling down my face as I succumb.
I awake to the night, my fire barely lit as I grab the final torch and light it, standing up to face the impending darkness, hoping beyond hope that I shall live to see the Dawn. I am so tired...

And the dance continues…

Esse Quam Videri
(To be, rather than to seem)