As she walked onto the battlefield, the stench overtook her. The copper tang of blood mixed with the stomach churning sweetness of day old corpses was enough to make Amaranth’s head buzz and her stomach lurch unpleasantly. They were out farther into the field now. She realized that she could no longer hear the General, although his mouth was moving.
None of her experiences could have prepared her for this. It was a gut wrenching picture painted in blood, seared into her memory. As if she needed that. She had seen death many times before, perhaps more than she should have, but never to this magnitude. The scene laid out before her as they rounded a bend was just that final push needed to shove her over the edge she had been fighting desperately to avoid.
Amaranth doubled over, just managing to get behind a nearby bush. It was one of the few left not completely trodden into dust beneath the boots of the incoming army a day earlier. So much destruction was utterly incomprehensible. Sinking to her knees, she wretched, vomited, coughed until only the vestiges of nausea were left and nothing but the merest glimmers of delirium misted her vision. She recovered herself enough to wipe her mouth, take a swig of water and spit it out, wincing at the acidic taste left on her tongue.
Amaranth got shakily to her feet and climbed from behind the shrub. After a few paces, she was walking more firmly. She rejoined the General as if nothing of consequence had happened. General Winshire was kind enough to return the favor, not commenting and seemingly non-judgmental, continuing his side of the conversation where they had left off.
Even if this girl hadn’t made it quite clear that no fanfare would be appreciated, any comment he might have made would have been a complement. What else could it have been? Most of his soldiers took ten, fifteen minutes even, to recover from the debilitating bout of sickness from their first encounter with this horror. The mere girl walking beside him had taken only five.
No, he shouldn’t -couldn’t- think of her as a mere girl. His superiors had made it quite clear that she was most definitely anything but. She was a, what had they called her when he had questioned sending a girl? That was it, “A finely tuned fighting machine. At times, hardly fit to be called human.” Well, if that was their opinion, he was certainly not going to raise any objections. That being said, his first impressions had been less than exemplary. The girl was quite a bit younger than he would have expected for someone his higher-ups called “a finely tuned fighting machine”. She was thirteen, maybe fourteen years old at most. Since then, he had come to appreciate her for more than her outward appearance implicated. He would soon realize just how much he had underestimated this strange girl.