Barrett didn’t actually know what the horn meant, but the enemy started moving forward. It occurred to him that he had no grudge with anyone from Padrein. They probably had no grudge with him either. That wouldn’t make a difference if they had to fight, even if Barrett only wanted to kill August. That had probably been the right choice. After all, if he had to choose between dying here and fleeing the country, he would have chosen the latter.
Then a horn blew from his own side, and everything fell apart again. He found himself marching forward whether he wanted to or not. There was nowhere to move that wasn’t forward, and everyone else was moving. Then Barrett saw arrows flying toward them.
Barrett’s first thought was that arrows were slow. His second thought was that he wished he had a shield, but he didn’t have one. The men next to him did, and he considered taking one of theirs… but they hadn’t done anything to deserve it. If only August was close enough to use as a shield… but Barrett couldn’t afford to look around for wherever he was when the arrows were already on the way.
The arrows descended. As they did, they seemed to become faster. Barrett wasn’t sure if that was true or not. He didn’t have time to think about what he had read, only to dodge. That was… surprisingly easy. After all, the arrows weren’t aimed at him. Just at the general area. He avoided getting hit, though he felt some of them scrape by him. Perhaps they grazed him, but nothing important was hit. Around him, some soldiers went down- though most blocked with their shields. Unfortunately, those who went down weren’t directly next to Barrett, so he couldn’t get their shields.
He found himself pressed further forward. He didn’t have time to think about much as he had to continue avoiding arrows and moving forward… and then they met the front lines. The enemies he was facing directly both had spears. Barrett would have had a spear, shield, and armor if he was given proper equipment. Instead, he had his axe. While he was more used to it, there was a time and a place for every weapon. Having inferior reach wasn’t pleasant.
One of the two soldiers that Barrett could reasonably attack thrust his spear at him. Who wouldn’t, given the chance? An unarmored enemy was an easy target… but Barrett found that his enemy was weaker than anticipated. He easily avoided the spear… then grabbed the shaft and yanked it forward. Instead of letting go, his opponent foolishly let himself be pulled with it. In his other hand, Barrett swung his axe down. While his opponent’s helmet could have stopped a glancing blow or even a regular soldier’s attacks to some extent, it did no good against Barrett. He watched the helmet crumple, and knew he had killed for the first time. However, before he could think about it, it happened again.
Barrett no longer had time to think. He just acted on instinct trained from various battles… except here he didn’t hold back at all. If he avoided killing his opponent, he would die instead. His axe chopped down, splitting helmets and heads, then he moved onto the next target. Barrett felt his heart pumping like never before, the noise of it filling his ears. He thought about what he would do less and less until he felt like he was merely observing.
He was still in control, but felt more like a guide. He told his body to kill an enemy or wait until friendly soldiers stepped up, and it did. Anything more subtle than that wasn’t consciously processed at all. He didn’t tell his axe to swing to the left or right, or to chop down. He didn’t choose to dodge a spear and block a sword with a shield he had picked up, but he did both as his training said. His training, and the feel of battle.
Master Hykel had said that berserkers who recklessly charged into battle were useless. All they could do was kill a few people before succumbing to their wounds. A true berserker still maintained a sense of rationality and his own mortality… even in the face of his own rushing tide of emotions.
Barrett wasn’t sure if he was doing it right. He felt like he had been taken over by the rushing tide… but he certainly wasn’t being reckless. He could tell friend from foe. He just couldn’t tell one foe from the other anymore. It was just hack, slash, chop… Then his axe broke. He threw out a punch- a stupid idea against armor, but he knew how much berserk energy he needed to break steel armor. He’d had to practice that. He’d also had to memorize tables, but he couldn’t recall those at this point. Instead, fist impacted armor, and armor crumpled. Barrett ignored the dull throbbing in his hand. He also ignored the throbbing in his upper arm and thigh from arrows. There had been brief gaps where archers thought it safe to fire at him and those on his side… and sometimes they hit. One had gone into his left forearm where he had to block after one of his shields broke.
Barrett wasn’t sure how many people he had killed, but it was many. He’d dodged just as many deadly blows… or at least avoided the deadly part of them. The torso was full of important organs, most of which were protected by his ribcage. He had some idea of where the most important ones were, and did his best to keep most attacks away from there. He did his best… but he was growing tired.
He couldn’t avoid taking a spear to the gut. There was nothing there but his intestines. It could be a problem, but he wouldn’t die right away. He couldn’t afford to let it bleed, so he couldn’t let it be pulled out. He gripped the spear, crushing the handle in front of him. Berserk energy made things brittle, and combined with his own strength and a twist, the wooden shaft snapped. Barrett drove a sword through his opponent. His breastplate should have stopped the sword, but liberal applications of berserk energy and Barrett’s own strength avoided that little problem. Then, Barrett felt something. It was like a spear… but from behind him. He swung behind him. There shouldn’t have been any enemies there, but he had been careless… at least, that was what he thought until he saw he had just cut down one of the soldiers that had come with August. Not an accident or an enemy then… Those were his last thoughts before the lack of blood hit him and he started falling. All he could do was try to fall to his side so as not to impale himself on any of the things already in him. The world faded as his eyes slowly closed.