November 26, 2003

fallen

The soldier slumped to one knee. He was wounded and he was tired. But he was not just tired from the day's battle, which was far from over, but from the war itself. It seemed that his whole life he had been about this war. Don't misunderstand, it was a war that he knew needed to be fought, there was no doubt about that, but this war had enveloped his whole life. And he was tired of it, soul-tired.

There was a lull in the battle, the main excursion had moved to other parts of the field, which had given the soldier a moment to contemplate. But he knew it was worthless to contemplate for long. The enemy would be back, they were strong and fierce, and without fear.

He attempted to rise, using his sword as a cane. He knew that he needed to get back on his feet because the ground was beginning to tremble from the onrush of the barbarian horde. Once he was standing, he straightened his back, and popped his neck a couple of times. There was the smell of death in the air. For the first time in this war he wasn't so sure that he was going to survive.

The first of the barbarians came over the hilltop. It was still some distance away, so he took this last moment to briefly examine his wounds. He wasn't sure why he was doing this, he knew there was no possibility of leaving the front lines and heading for the physician's tents. There were a few nicks and cuts along his arms and legs. He knew those would heal, he had the scars to prove it. There was one long slash across his chest. That one happened when he let his guard down to assist a fallen sword-brother. If it had been just a little bit deeper, he knew that he wouldn't be examining it now.

The enemy let loose an onslaught of arrows. Without thinking, he kneeled down and raised his large shield over his head as they rained down. He had been in battle enough that every movement was performed with near perfect precision, without hesitation. He heard the arrows falling like large hailstones, all around him, and a couple on top of his shield. He heard a scream from one young soldier, where an arrow had undoubtedly found its mark.

As the last of the arrows fell, the soldier rose again. He prepared his mind and his soul to rush, once again, into near certain death. He heard a 'woosh' from behind him as the bows of his own archers released their deadly missiles. As soon as the arrows had passed, he took that first step to rush headlong into the enemy. His men instinctively followed. As one force they flowed down the hill like an avalanche to meet their foes, maybe for the last time. He could see the details of their faces now, rushing at a maddening pace towards him. Many of them fell because of the accuracy of his archers. And when the forces met, there was a sound like thunder and the sound of metal on metal filled the air.

He adjusted his course slightly so that he was headed straight toward their chief. He had already slew two of the enemy, but he knew that he needed to make it to the chief. He had seen an enemy scatter because of the loss of their leader enough times to know that this was their greatest hope. He fought his way to the chieftain, working his arms with precision, like a reaper, mowing his way through a field. It was exhilarating! He set himself to the task with a slight smile on his face. He hacked and hewed his way closer and closer. He approached so quickly that he even thought that the chieftain was making his way towards him!

The soldier met him on the top of a small hill, and there they fought. No other soldier or barbarian dared to step too close to this battle within the battle. With everything going on around them, they fought. Both grinning at the other, they fought. But the soldier was stronger. He had a power that the other lacked.

The soldier stood over the fallen foe. He was preparing to finish him off, when he was suddenly knocked off balance. He whirled around to face this attacker, but there was none there, only a sharp pain from where he had been hit. He turned back and attempted to raise his sword, but was unable to lift it high.

The soldier knew it then. He had been struck with an arrow. One deadly marker had found its spot, neatly between his shoulder blades... He had been shot in the back. One zealous archer had continued to release the deadly projectiles, felling both friend and foe alike. The soldier brought down his sword, swiftly finishing his job, his purpose.

He slumped down again, fallen in battle.