People had always told Eren he needed to have faith. Faith in heaven, faith in redemption, and most importantly, faith in the goodness of other human beings. Faith in man's capacity to love. He had been promised it would protect him and deliver him from any evil he encountered along his journey. In fact that was one of the last things his mother said to him before he left. But now he didn't know if he still believed.
Where once there had been faith in a higher power, now there was an emptiness, a gaping chasm in his soul. Because he knew there would be no salvation for him. He knew he wasn't going to a better place. He knew he would die soon.
His side burned with a white hot fury that refused to be soothed. A blade had pierced his left breastbone, just above his first rib. The blow had cut to the bone; the blade had only stopped cutting through his vulnerable flesh when it hit bone, chipping his rib. The man who had pierced him hadn't killed him right then. He must have known his work was finished; that there was no need to do anything further.
His left side was bloody, swollen, and horribly bruised. The wicked, throbbing ache tortured him. Now it poisoned his blood as the infection spread through the rest of his body, like a raging fire that consumed him, body and soul. He was shaking and feverish, yet chills continually shot down his spine. He recognized the symptoms of blood poisoning, but he couldn't close the infected gash above his rib because he couldn't reach it.
Initially he thought he would survive. This was his land. He knew the terrain, the forests, the wild animals, the plants that could be used to provide relief from pain and cleanse wounds. His mother had taught him all she knew about medicinal roots and herbs, and now he, too, was a healer. But he needed someone to help him with his wound, to stitch it up with his bone needle and thread. He needed to rest. He needed someone to stay with him and care for him, as he had done for many others during this terrible war.
The group of soldiers he was traveling with had left him to die alone, out here in the rugged wilderness. He was to die of his injuries or be slain by the enemy, whichever claimed him first. Without a weapon of his own, he wasn't supposed to be engaged, but that had done little to stop the enemy. He knew they were ruthless. And yet they were his only hope for salvation. He had been abandoned by his own people. He had cleaned and treated their injuries, but they wouldn't do the same for him.
Eren was losing faith as hope evaded him, continually slipping from his weakened grasp, flitting away like a bird sprung from a cage, finally free. He was perhaps fatally wounded, exhausted, starving. He was severely dehydrated, yet he had thrown up every last bit of fluid his body had saved, retching with a dry cough as his raw throat burned and closed up. There was no moisture in his mouth to wet his throat or lips; his lips were cracked and bleeding.
His last hope was these men-these invaders from the south. Though he didn't want to, he had to depend on their mercy and kindness. His own people had betrayed him. In his desperation, he only wished to find some semblance of humanity in their hearts, if there was indeed any to be found.
He had cautiously followed them for the last half day, becoming increasingly blatant in his attempts to get food as despair set in. But they never left their food supply unguarded. He wasn't a thief, but he was starving to death, and he needed nourishment for his immensely weakened, dying body.
It was either die out here alone, or perhaps find someone who would have mercy on him. He might find someone who would have the compassion to run a sword through his belly or slit his throat. Undoubtedly it would be quicker and less painful than this slow, horrible death. He didn't have a weapon, but even if he had one, he didn't think he could end his own life. That would be a sin. But in his most hopeless moments, he almost welcomed dying at another's hand.
He had to make his move now. Another hour without sustenance or rest, and he would surely be beyond saving. Soon they would know he was feverish and his bones ached and were cold down to the very marrow; he wouldn't be able to control his trembling or violent shaking any longer. But if these men rejected his plea for assistance, he would have no strength left to resist them or defend himself. It was in God's hands now. He had always believed, and now he hoped his prayers would be answered.