Joan brought her sword down with all her remaining might, inflicting a deathblow on her opponent, and watched the last of her country’s foes collapse.
Exhaustion made her knees wobble. She stumbled toward her nation’s flag, fighting hard not to collapse, and rose from the field of corpses, holding onto its flagpole.
An eerie silence hung in the air.
She was the last soldier standing.
She waited for victory’s sweetness to reach her soul, but all she experienced was the acridity of battle and the metallic taste of the blood that ran from her forehead to the curl of her split upper lip. She shook her hand free from its gauntlet and wiped her face, caked with mud and blood.
She expected feelings of relief and euphoria, not grief and sorrow. Triumph was supposed to be savory. Triumph was not supposed to feel this way.
She drew a deep breath and questioned the ashen grey sky, but obtained no answers.
The rising sun splashed its warmth, illuminating the land around her in a bright yellow drizzle as it fought to pierce the smoke-heavy clouds.
From the east to the west and as far south as her sight could reach, the ground was dark red and silver, strewn with the remains of loyal soldiers. Fluid ruby red splatters had hardened and darkened with each passing hour, turning the dew-covered human cadavers into vulture-pleasing carrions.
Behind her lay the smoking ruins of the citadel she had sworn to defend, its cathedral was standing in its center – intact, like she was, by God knows what miracle.
She swept the fields with her eyes, wondering whether a divine or demonic influence had allowed her to survive and led her to victory. Witnessing all these wasted lives, broken family lines, and mayhem – the product of humans loathing their kind- didn’t taste like victory.
SWEET BITTER LEMON CUSTARD
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar (for dusting)
Butter 4-6 custard cups with unsalted butter. Set aside.
Whisk egg yolks + sugar until almost white and fluffy; mix in the flour + zest+ lemon juice +milk. Set batter aside.
Beat egg whites until a peak forms. Add to batter and mix thoroughly.
Divide batter among 4-6 custard cups and cook in a bain-marie* in a 350 degree-oven for about 20 minutes (until top is lightly brown and fluffy.) Serve war, at room temperature, or cold. Dust with powdered sugar.
*Bain-marie: place the custard cups in a baking dish that you filled with water (the water should reach half to ¾ up the sides of the cups.)