The Last One

November 7, 2011
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The crisp leaves crunched underneath his feet. Aetos continued to walk swiftly through the woods with light steps. The silver moon cast a stream of light off his dark helmet. His crimson cloak cast shadows onto the canopy; the harsh wind bit against his skin. He clenched his spear tightly and cursed under his breath. It was too cold. The freezing winds blew from the seas mercilessly His armor felt like piercing daggers as the frost covered plates burned against his skin. His heavy bronze shield hung loosely off his arm. It was covered with dents and cracks, memories of the previous war. The V shaped inscription glittered under the moon light; it stood for Laconia, the old homeland of the Spartans. He was a proud Spartan warrior.
His arms ached and he slumped onto the ground. He felt as if he had just carried Mount Olympus upon his back; his muscles craved for rest. He threw his shield down and recalled painful memories. His comrades had all been murdered by the Persians; he was the only survivor. The Persians had unleashed a savage invasion at Greece and in a desperate attempt to protect their home; his company had engaged the enemy. Vastly outnumbered, the Spartans had held out for hours until the war elephants descended upon them. Those beasts were demons with huge ivory tusks. They could smash shields and snap spears; the fury of Ares himself had burned in those beasts. Lysander, the leader of the company, had ordered Aetos to retreat into the woods in order to warn the city of the invasion.
Aetos picked up his shield and grabbed his spear. He was the fastest one in the city; it was his duty to deliver the message. He gazed into the dark woods and fear clenched at his mind. NO! He was a Spartan! He was a descendent of Zeus himself! He could not fall when his city depended on him. With new found determination, Aetos continued to run.
He heard voices in the distance. “Persian”, he muttered disgustingly. The voices grew louder; Aetos readied his spear in his hand. There were multiple voices now, Aetos smiled nervously, “There’s still one Spartan that draws breath.” A drop of sweat trickled down his face; he was ready. He would defeat his enemies and avenge his companions; it was every Spartan’s dream to die on the battle field. The smell of damp moss and dirt clogged his nose; he gazed keenly into the darkness. He spotted a flicker of movement and launched his spear. The spear struck a soldier in his chest and he fell. There were two others that immediately drew their swords while yelling out in Persian. Aetos drew his sword from its scabbard and licked the blade. The cool metallic taste stung his tongue; he tasted the essence of battle. The dark forest reflected off the gleaming sword as if it displayed another world. A fiery spirit overcame him; he glared into the darkness with a burning hatred. He was ready, “Come! Your death awaits you!”
Three soldiers emerged from the shadows and surrounded Aetos; each of them were snickering and laughing. “You are nothing but a boy,” said one of them. Aetos was disgusted at the man’s thick accent and taunting tone. One of the soldiers lunged towards Aetos with his sword; Aetos dodged it and sent his enemy onto the ground with a swift kick. The other two charged at Aetos while yelling a war cry. Aetos smashed his shield into one of them and stabbed the other in the stomach. As the blade penetrated his enemy’s flesh, he felt the weakness and the terror of his opponent. He was more than a match for his adversaries; the many years spent drilling in the military camps had paid off. He killed the two on the ground with his sword and said a quick prayer to Ares, the god of war. Spartans showed no mercy; they were killing machines as ferocious as the demons of Tartarus. Aetos retrieved his spear and moved on silently into the dark and lonely woods.
The sun spread itself throughout the morning sky. The forest was illuminated and the shadows were driven away by the rays of light. Aetos continued to run; he was nearly there. His heavy panting along with the metallic clanking of his armor filled the forest. His legs were sore and his leather sandals burned against the soles of his feet. This was pain he would suffer any day to save his city. As boys, Spartan males were sent to military camps where they prepared for war. Preparation involved tiring exercises and drills on top of continuous beatings. These vigorous exercises prepared Spartans for the emotional and physical strains of war. They were the world’s most formidable fighting force; they were truly Ares’ finest.
Aetos arrived at the city; it was deserted. Not a single soul remained. Dead bodies littered the streets; buildings were destroyed and rubble filled the city. The city was empty. The silence sent chills down his back. The wind whispered into his ear; it tormented him and laughed at his despair. For once in his life, he felt helpless. The same thought haunted his brain, “I’m Alone.” His people were gone. What had happened? How had we lost? Thoughts constantly flashed in his head as he checked the bodies for signs of life.
Shields littered the ground, their shiny bronze coat called out to Aetos. “Avenge us,” they screamed. A shield was a Spartan’s most important weapon. It symbolized their people and their warlike nature. A Spartan’s shield was their soul; it was their protection from the cruelties of war. Aetos remembered the day of his 10th birthday when he had left for the military camps; his mom said to him, “Son, make me proud. Come back with a shield on your back or come back lying on it.” As memories of his childhood flooded his mind, streams of hot tears poured down his cheeks. He was scared.
He heard horses galloping from the west. The rumbles shook the very Earth at its core. The sound deafened his ears; it was as if the mighty Hephaestus, god of fire and metal, had struck his mighty hammer against the land. Aetos gripped his spear, tightened his armor, and strapped on his shield. Memories of his dead comrades and his people fueled the fire in his soul. He was a Spartan. He ran towards the sound of horses; he would die fighting for his people.
A Persian cavalry appeared; they charged towards Aetos. Aetos howled at his enemy, hatred burned in his eyes. Sadness for his people gripped him; he couldn’t breathe. In the distance, a lone eagle flew across the sky and circled the air above him. He gathered up all his strength and charged towards his enemy. Flames of wrath drove his muscles to their limits; he ran as fast as Hermes himself. Hundreds of javelins flew towards him; he stopped and smiled with awe. He would die on the battlefield like his comrades.
As steel shards pierced his delicate flesh, he felt his muscles loosen and his body grow weak. With his last breath, he let loose a bellowing roar, “SPARTA!” The wind carried his cry throughout the mountains; for a split second, Greece was quiet.
All of Greece felt the heroic sacrifice of one Spartan. He was Aetos, named after the eagle, the bird of Zeus. He had sacrificed his body for his country and his people, but his spirit would forever soar across the endless heavens.

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This article has 3 comments. Post your own now!

Ronald said...
Nov. 19, 2011 at 8:38 pm
Great job and great message!
KZhang replied...
Nov. 19, 2011 at 11:09 pm
Thank you!
dahua replied...
Nov. 20, 2011 at 8:27 pm
Wow. This has the stylistic qualities of Lord of the Rings. Excellent. It has made me realize the wonders of the life around us. Thank you KZhang, I truly believe you should continue with this work. The Last One has enormous potential; it's capacity to expand is endless. 
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