Seven Deadly Swords

Afghanistan 1982

Reymond looks down the scope of the sniper rifle and curses God, wars and deserts. He watches the APC park at the solitary farmhouse. Definitely not a Russian patrol. Not locals either. One of the others has found out his plans? He taps his finger against his thumbnail and decides to sleep on it. Maybe they’ll be gone by the time he has to move. He takes a shallow gulp from his canteen, aware that filling up on water at the farmhouse is out for now. He performs his calming exercise. Long slow breaths, singing Frere Jacques quietly on his outbreath. The old, familiar anger simmers down from boiling point. Even then his nightmares are filled with the screams of women and children, the faces of dead friends, and so much blood. In his dreams he is an avenging angel, an implacable force. Even in his dreams a small part of him suspects this falsehood.

A gun battle wakes him and, as ever, waking is a mercy. Sounds like a bad one. With his luck, it’ll only make his next day’s travel more difficult. He grabs his night vision goggles and both rifles, and crawls from the cave. Following the rattle of automatic gunfire, the pop of small arms. The night is full of now familiar smells, goat from the cave, wild herbs, burnt dust. Reymond spots tribesmen below him in the small valley calling out in their harsh guttural language. Whoever they are fighting are making a stand in the farmhouse. It’s a tiny mud brick affair, providing minimal cover. In the eerie green glow the night goggles give the landscape Reymond can see that beyond the building another team of fighters are taking position. Reymond spots two black clad bodies outside the farmhouse, neither of them moving. The Afghanis have the men in the farmhouse pinned down.

He gargles a sip of water contemplating the situation. The fight is nothing to do with him, but if it drags on it will affect his onward travel. He’s already been tramping around this godforsaken place for too long without any human contact, and he’s so close to his goal; his hands clench and he expels a snort, before taking a deep calming breath. He may gain information. Yet it might also reveal him to one of the others, and that thought makes him shudder involuntarily.

The men in the Valley are dressed in tribal garb, loose fitting and in muted colours, with the ubiquitous felt hat. The men in the farmhouse seem to be special forces, dressed in black. Mercenaries perhaps, hired by one of the others? Sloth and Envy he discounts immediately, one couldn’t bothered and it wasn’t the other’s style. He crawls back to the cave. Picking up his radio, he flips through the bands until he finds the one the men in the farmhouse are using.

“Hey you arseholes, where the fuck are ya going with our transport?”
They speak in English, to his surprise and relief. His minimal Russian doesn’t stretch far. Unlikely to be Gluttony then, he wouldn’t reach as far as England from the Vatican.

“Sorry Fisher, there’s too many of them. You’re on your own now.”

“Come back. you fuckers!” There is a burst of static, and it clears enough for Reymond to hear the voice say, tightly, “You’re leaving us to die.”

“Sorry mate. Discretion is the better part of valour and all that. Hope to see you around.”

Reymond thinks he may regret this, but they will have information. He watches the APC pull away, until it vanishes behind the hill that obscures his line of sight. It is too far from the sea to be Lust. Pride seldom showed his hand. It must be Greed. The ones running obviously think money the better part of valour. Perhaps he could use this to his advantage. He thumbs the radio.

“Fisher?”

“Who’s this?”

“A friend. I see you are pinned down. I could possibly alleviate pressure on one front. I am above the Afghanis in the valley to your six o’clock.”

“I see. Standby.“

Reymond lets them consider it.

“Hello ‘friend’, you still there?”

“Still here.” Reymond is staring down the sniper again, following the movements of the men in the valley below.

“How d’we know this isn’t some sort of trap. You have a funny accent. Where you from?”

“Lots of different places. You can call me Patience.”

“OK ‘call sign Patience’, we’ve got a wounded man here and two casualties. We’re low on ammo and the locals may be stalling so they can get hold of a RPG or sumthin’. What’s yer plan?”

Reymond considers how he could possibly do this without besmirching his soul further. He sighs, more deaths were unavoidable. Best to be as efficient as possible then. His simmering temper increases a few degrees. He has to run through his calming exercise. But is interrupted.

“Patience?”

“Give me as much cover as you can and I’ll take out the men below me. That will give you an escape corridor.”

The team in the farmhouse fire from each of the windows but concentrate on the tribesmen closest to them, keeping them pinned down. Reymond draws a bead on the Afghani who appears to be the leader, and his head explodes in a spray of blood and brain. He calmly moves onto the next target and takes him out too with a shot to the chest.

Four more; he has a partial on one of them and takes it, he thinks he hits but the man drops behind the rocks and he can’t be sure. The survivors are now deep in cover. Reymond abandons the sniper, running at a crouch along the ridge until he is close enough to drop into the valley. One of the tribesmen is squatting beside a rock, and Reymond snaps a shot as the man raises his arm to fire. The tribesman is thrown back heavily, leaving a dark splash on the rock he was trying to hide behind.

14 thoughts on “Seven Deadly Swords

  1. S. A. Smith, Author says:

    The first sentence drew me into your story. Good job. But, I stopped reading at “others” and “plans”. I’m not sure you even need to include this. I stopped again at “He taps his finger against his thumbnail and decides to sleep on it.” How can he be tapping his finger against his thumbnail and stare down the scope of a rifle at the same time? And just deciding to fall asleep. I’d be crapping my pants. There’s a lot going on and the sentences feel disjointed to me. Good luck with your story.

  2. Pam PortlandPam Portland says:

    HI there – thanks for submitting this story. I stopped reading at, “…Following the rattle of automatic gunfire, the pop of small arms.”

    I like the tone, in that it implies scattered thoughts, which I expect is common in a battle setting as created in the opening paragraphs, but I found it unclear as to whether this was a war scenario or a vigilante versus government standoff. What really took me out of the story, however, was the lack of incomplete sentences and sentence structure. Perhaps there are ways to create the choppy, segmented feelings and images of battle without sacrificing grammar, etc.

    I’m not courageous enough to write in present tense. I always feel like this requires something between a minute-by-minute account or a stream of consciousness. Perhaps consider writing a portion in another tense and see if it impacts your story at all. Good luck, regardless!

  3. Pam Portland says:

    With apologies if this is posted twice, but it does not appear as if my comments posted, so I am trying again.

    Thanks for posting your story. I certainly could feel the tension of a war situation in the opening paragraphs. I stopped ready at, “Following the rattle of automatic gunfire, the pop of small arms.”

    I certainly understand the war scenario is probably segmented and often full of quick, random thoughts and moments, however, the lack of complete sentences and sentence structure made the content challenging to absorb and read.

    Also, were it not for the location tagline, this might read like a war scenario or even a government/vigilante standoff. Perhaps consider more specific, descriptive references to the setting in the opening.

    Lastly, I am unable to write in present tense. I feel it requires either a moment-by-moment update of events (otherwise what is the character doing between his thoughts), or a complete stream of consciousness. Maybe try writing a portion in a different tense and see if it makes the writing, and reading, easier. Good luck!

  4. Dominic Sero-Asturi says:

    I read the whole of your submission.

    I enjoyed reading through the most of your narrative, given to strong personalities and an interesting situation. It leaves me wanting to find out more, and read more. I did notice, however, that a few sentences weren’t punctuated in a way such as I might’ve done, and that you might’ve misused some words. “Whoever they are fighting are making a stand in the farmhouse.” This is an awkward situation, personally, I would change the sentence – even if ‘correct’, it stoppe dme in my tracks. Though, I will say, present tense isn’t my forte’, so – good on you!

    Good luck in the rest of your writing!

  5. johnsonofdaw says:

    I’ll comment as I finish each paragraph.

    1 Good start. Last three sentences confused me. Were his nightmares daymares in the present or nightmares in the past? If the latter did the previous sentence refer to the past too?

    2. So did he fall to sleep with the gun in his hand?

    3. Can you gargle a sip?
    Isn’t all travel onward?
    expels a snort = snorts?
    Isn’t a shudder always involuntarily?
    It might be just me but these phrases grate.

    4. Who does “one of the others” refer to? What others?

    5. Who is Gluttony? What’s he got to do with England and the Vatican? Who said “You’re leaving us to die.” ?

    6. From the paragraph starting “Reymond thinks” to the end. I’m confused about who is where. It took me a while to cotton on to the vices and virtues, and I’m still not sure whether they refer to people, callsigns, units or something else.

    If some of the questions I asked rhetorically above were intentional to get me intrigued there were too many of them and they just got me confused. Your choppy style suited the fast action scene but I couldn’t get into the swing of it because it raised too many questions. Which annoyed me because I would find your setting – in the middle of deadly action within the fog of war – compelling. But the writing would need a lot of tidying up to keep me reading.

  6. psutton2008 says:

    Thanks for the feedback folks – yes the short sentences are deliberate & the novel is in present tense. Dominic – can you be specific about puinctuation and word misuse? & Pam – again, can you be specific as to where the grammar is incorrect?

    • Pam Portland says:

      “Following the rattle of automatic gunfire, the pop of small arms.” These are not complete sentences. There are no verbs.

      “In the eerie green glow the night goggles give the landscape Reymond can see that beyond the building another team of fighters are taking position.” The eerie, green glow [singular] of the night goggles gives [singular – subject/verb agreement] the landscape; Reymond can see beyond the building another team of fighters are taking position. [break out as two sentences or as two full clauses.]

  7. Alex Zaykov says:

    The story flows very well. I get a good feeling of the situation, the details of the battle are realistic, the stakes are high and there’s enough to keep me reading. The only concern I have is that the story feels like a sniper movie that I have already watched, so hopefully the plot will be original and different. In addition to a few expressions that sound a bit unclear, the use of the deadly sins as names for some hidden stakeholders made me stumble a bit while reading. It may probably be a better idea to mention just, say, two and give a little more insight as to what kind of players these might be – a secret foreign service, a mercenary leader, a religious order, etc., what they are after and why they are dangerous.
    By the way, I am curious to see whether the seven deadly swords are the real thing or a metaphor. 🙂
    Good luck!

  8. chickinwhite says:

    For me, personally, present tens narrating always seems distant somehow. I can´t explain. Though I felt the tense of the fight and the situation, I stopped reading at “hey, you assholes” – just because it confused me: who is talking to whom? And why? Who is fighting?
    The words “He taps his finger against his thumbnail and decides to sleep on it.” had an awkward sound to me.
    Sorry, not mine.
    Good luck, though! 😉

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