Monday, June 13, 2016
Sunday, June 12, 2016
We have taken the shore and have managed to build our defenses. Claiming this tiny strip of land has cost us dearly. Nearly a third of our men are left soulless near the water’s edge. We have gathered their bodies and prepared them for burial. They will be lauded the hero’s death and given wreaths and laurels and their family will receive their death benefits, but they will never behold the faces of their loved ones again. I have found too many of my friends and companions in the breakers where the rocks meet the waves. The gaping wounds on their bodies didn’t bother me. it was the look of surprise on their faces, as if they were seeing the gates open to the afterlife before their eyes and it wasn’t what they expected.
All the nests are cleared and our encampment is secure. We will be receiving reinforcements soon. Now that other nations have seen the enemy can be destroyed they will be sending in their own troops. It has taken this forward push to show the others what can be accomplished if we don’t allow this evil to spread. The enemy can be held back. We can force our way into their strongholds and prevent further incursions into our homes.
We came to one of their strongholds in the night. I was terrified of what I would find. The walls were thick and from where I was standing I couldn’t see a way inside. Everything was silent as we approached and I wondered if the fortress had been abandoned, but just as we established our lines the sudden clash of the enemies’ weapons being brought to bear shattered the silence of the night and suddenly the air was filled with the smell of burning sulfur and torn flesh. Our entire front line melted and we had to pull back out of weapons range.
We would have been entrenched around the city if the city council hadn’t been terrified when they saw our army approach and tried to take off through a bolt-hole. We spotted them coming out of a cave entrance and captured them. Our commanding officers questioned them throughout the night. We could hear their cries as the questions became more intense. It seems the enemy promised the city protection as long as they kept the supply lines open from the coast. Our arrival on the shore effectively cut off the major supply lines into the city and therefore dried up the flow of supplies to the front. The enemy has other ways to get supplies, but if we can take out the three major cities along the coastal region we will leave them without a surplus and we will be able to create our own supplies lines without fear of attack by sea. A war can’t be fought by soldiers with empty stomachs.
It seems the enemy was unprepared for our incursion and only left a minimal complement of defenders along the shore. Hopefully it will be too late by the time they realize their mistake and we will have already taken the cities before they turn their eyes to this shore.
The city was left with few defenses by the time we arrived and the first volley of weapons was its last. My companions and I disguised ourselves with enemy armor and painted our faces with ashes from the fire. We didn’t look exactly like the enemy, but it was dark enough we were able to make our way into the city through the bolt-hole and clear the way for our companions.
The tunnel into the city started as a natural formation in the rocks. It was too small to really be considered a cave. We were only able to enter one at a time through the narrow opening. Even then we had to duck low and a few of us had to wiggle in order to squeeze our frames through. Once inside the opening had been carved out to allow two people to stand abreast. There was a tunnel leading under the city walls that had obviously been carved out by hand. The tunnel must have been started early on the war and was intended to reach out more than just under the city. We didn’t have time to completely explore the side passages, but now that we’ve taken the city we will be able to use the passageways to our advantage. We will expand it and build our entrenchments under the city.
Every moment we were in the tunnels I kept expecting to be attacked. I wanted to open my heart to my God, but every time I tried to pray my heart seized and the tortured faces of the dead burned through my brain. I knew when we reached the end of the tunnel we would either be meeting our death or dealing the death blow ourselves.
The tunnel led to the back storeroom of a bakery. An empty bakery. Most of the shops on the street were empty. Most of the streets in the city were empty. The few soldiers left in the city surrendered as soon as they saw they were outnumbered. They are locked in the tunnels with the rats and empty storerooms. I would be concerned about the health of the prisoners but when I saw the faces of the townspeople my sympathy waned. The baker and his family had the same fearful, staring expressions of the dead bodies in the trenches. It was nearly as startling to see the expression on the faces of the living as it was to see it on the dead.
We will fortify the city on the morrow and prepare for incursions on the other cities. Our scouts have reported these cities are as poorly defended as this one. Attacking both cities would mean dividing our troops three ways. I wouldn’t know which city I would want to attack first. Perhaps I will be with the troops staying behind to defend the city we already have. The least we could do is offer these people food and safety. We would offer to shelter their pets as well but I haven’t seen a dog or a cat in any home. There are no animals beyond a stray rodent or two and I have a feeling those have ended up in some kitchen-wife’s stewpot yet.
I will find out my destiny in the morning. In the mean time I will enjoy my meal and try to find my voice for prayer. Perhaps there will be some miracle in the morning and the enemy will surrender. My deepest desire is to return home and see my children grow. I imagine my son is learning to roll over and is exploring the world by sticking everything he can grab into his mouth. I have been looking around the city for a child near the age of my own two, but I haven’t seen a child under the age of five years anywhere in the city. I wonder if they were being kept hidden away so they didn’t interfere with the soldiers. Tomorrow we will explore the city and discover its secrets.
Friday, June 10, 2016
We have come to the shores of our enemy and now it is time to confront the evil they have brought upon us. There are the mechanisms of offensive power in front of us. With these weapons we will be able to breach walls, attack from every angle, dig deep into the ground, set traps, spy and destroy any who come against us.
All my companions have followed my example and have named their weapons of war. As we move forward we will be riding on the Dragon Slayer and Demon Seeker. Our forward phalanx carries their weapons with pride, polishing them until they shine.
I am ready to face the hordes. The beaching was hard. There are nests of enemy buried along the beach. They are prepared for us and they know this land. Our shiny weapons with their fancy names don’t help us much when the enemy is able to hide from our attack. Our forward progress has been halted by the enemy lines spread across the beach. We are holed up in an encampment in a copse of trees.
The enemy lines are spread thin to protect the border and we have found the high ground. It will take time to sniff out the nests of the enemy and eradicate them. I fear the toll these nests of contention will be more than any of us should give.
We sit here by the soft glow of the lantern and study the faces of my companions. I want to know more about them, but I’m afraid if I get close I will feel nothing but sorrow and pain when they lose their life.
Today we routed out a nest of contagions and fired them up with every weapon in our arsenal. The light from the resulting fire flared into the sky and burned the foliage for miles around. Even now the memory of the screams of fear and pain from our enemies echoes in my soul and pierces my brain. I wonder if killing them is really necessary, but then I think of leaving an enemy behind is as we move forward to pick away at our rear guard and know the only way to protect ourselves is to destroy every hiding place and burn away any weapons and supplies they leave behind.
My companions. They come from all corners of the land. Each of them are seeking their own glory. Each has their own reason for fighting the enemy. I had never met any of these soldiers before making their mark on the conscription papers. I wonder what name they used to sign the papers, or even if they remember their real names. We have all been given names more fitting for our roles.
They call me the Spearhead, because I am first in when it comes to fight. I decide where and when we attack. My voice is the one they hear as we approach every enemy outpost.
My closest ally is the man they call Bull. He is built like his name, big and fearless. I have seen him grab a man by the throat with one hand and crush the life out of him. The enemy weapons seem to have no effect on him. I’ve seen blades turn aside before they can penetrate his skin.
There is one here we called the Old Man. He followed his son to the recruiter, begging him not to join in this time of war, and joined himself when he realized his son was ignoring his desperate pleas. His mark is on the paper so even though his son died in the first rush at the beach, he had no choice but to stay with us. He said he had no desire to return home to his wife and daughter only to tell them about the of death of their son and brother. Now, he watches over all the young men and tries to teach them ways to defend themselves from attacks.
There are many others here. I wonder how many of them have left loved ones behind. How many of them have a wife or a sweetheart? Do they have children or a mother sitting at a table begging for news of a child she may never see again?
Even now, as I try to sleep, I am hearing the screams of my enemy echoing in my mind and I wonder who they have left behind. How many members of their families will never hear their loved one’s voice or hold them in their arms?
I remember holding my children in my arms and comforting them as they cried. My enemy was someone’s child, too. Some woman labored for hours to bring them into the world. Held them when they cried. Let them go into the world. And now, because of a moment of anger and hate, will never see their child again.
Wednesday, June 8, 2016
I went to the temple to pray today. It was the last bastion of hope I had. I wanted to pray to every deity ever imagined in the history of humankind, but as I knelt before the alter with the only thing I had left to sacrifice, my own heart and hands and life, I couldn’t think of the words to say. How do you take all the fears of war and pray them away?
What am I supposed to ask for when I pray for war? Do I ask for the ability to win at any cost? I’m sure, somewhere across the seas and over the hills and mountains and rivers and lakes and every other body of water and expanse of land there is another soldier kneeling in a temple, praying to the same God I am praying to now. The God may hold a different form and have a different name, but aren’t all Gods the one God or isn’t the one God all Gods? Sometimes I don’t even know to whom it is I pray.
God can guide my steps and keep me safe and lead me into the right paths, but can he truly preserve me in the face of mine enemies? What would it take for me to be safe when the wolf is at the door? Will it help when I take their life if I think of them as no better than the wild creatures who threaten my home and livestock?
What if my enemy is praying for the same guidance as me? What do you pray for in war?
I will pray for safety. I will pray my family is cared for in the face of devastation. I will pray for the ability to take the next hill, the next town, the next target, even if it means taking a life. I will pray for strength and courage and pray the enemy isn’t praying for the same things.
Which one of us will the Gods listen to when we pray? Am I in the right in going to this war? Am I right to bring God into this war? Sometimes I wonder if God even has a hand in the field of battle. I know my God exists. I have felt the power of the hand of God lifting me to the heights and supporting me at my lowest points. The path has made clear before my eyes, and the power of the Gods has been revealed before me.
Can the might of a God overcome the strength of the enemies’ weapon? I don’t know how much good a prayer will be when the enemy has a blade at my throat.
I brought my armor and my weapons to the gate of the temple to be blessed and imbued with the power of God, but they stopped me at the gate. War needs to be stopped in the gates of the Gods.
I pray the offerings I bring to the temple will satisfy my God. I have little to offer except my heart, my head, my hands. I need my lands so my family can be cared for while I am away. There is nothing more I can give. I hope it is enough to save me.
I am marching into battle with armor and weapons and companions, but I fear I am moving forward without my God. My faith is strong and I will continue to offer sacrifices upon the alter of the temple as I push forward into my death. Will my God be with me as I go or will my enemy’s God prove to be all powerful in the face of destruction?
I did not bring my armor and weapons into the temple to be blessed. I prayed to my God and asked if he could bless the armor even without the priests and priestesses to sanctify them. I begged the Gods to strengthen my arm and give my heart courage, even if they can’t be beside me in battle. I prayed to all the Gods, even the ones I didn’t believe in because I can’t take any chances.
So, today, I put on my Gods’ blessed armor and strap on my weapon. I will call it Redeemer. Without my Redeemer I will be lost and alone. When I am deep in the heat of battle I will call upon my Redeemer and he will save me. It may be my only hope.
Saturday, June 4, 2016
The time has come. They have called for me to join in the battle and this time I cannot escape my fate. The enemy has approached our shore and if I do not go out and join in the battle everything I hope to give my children will be destroyed. I thought they would never come and we would be safe, here in the home I built with my own hands. But now I know I had been deceived. I cannot trust the fate of those I love in the hands of others.
The first time they came for me I begged for time to make sure my fields were in order and my crops were planted so my family would be assured of a bountiful harvest. I did not know how long this war would last and I wanted to make sure there would be food on the table no matter how many years I was away. They sent me a crew of young boys and old men to sow my fields and return for the harvest season. The promise of help assuages much of my concern, but what will happen when they call for the old men and the young boys?
The second time they came for me I cried out ‘But, my children needs their father. My wife needs her husband. Shouldn’t we put our families and homes before our duty to the government.’ They reminded me my government is what allows me to have my family and my home and if I did not do my duty everything I loved would be destroyed. I studied the face of my daughter and my son and I knew I could not allow the enemy to land upon our shore.
And when they came for me this, the third and final time, I tried to find a reason I could not go. There were no words I could find to express my fears and prevent them from taking me away. I belong to the War as my father did before me and his father before him.
My daughter clung to my robes and cried out to me. Even now her cries echoes in my soul. ‘Father, don’t go. Don’t let them take you away.’ Her tiny fingers wrapped themselves into the fabric of my sleeves and her tears dampened my bosom. They had to pry her from my arms before I could join my column and march away from the shelter of my home. I could not look into the eyes of my beloved wife for fear I would find my destiny swimming in their depth. The last image I had of my home was of my wife standing in the entryway with my son in her arms and my daughter clinging to the gate, tears streaming from her eyes and the puppy huddled at her feet. I gave her the puppy so she would have something to hold in the night while I was away.
Even now, as I entrench myself in the training grounds, I am begging for the chance to return home. This war is not for me. I have no stake in the game. The enemy will strike out at military targets before attacking fields and homes. As long as the battlefield was across the sea I could believe this was true. But now, as I see the damage the attacks have caused, the scars the enemy has left on the very earth itself, I know I am deluding myself. The enemy will not stop at the killing fields, picking only the soldiers who defend the land.
The enemy at the gate will destroy any thing standing in its way. That is what they say, these men who are teaching us the best way to kill. Our fields will be left bare. Our wives will be raped and killed or killed and then raped. Our children tortured and left orphaned and starving or dead. I find the last image of my family shifting in my mind and I close my eyes so I don’t have to picture the broken and dead bodies of my wife and children against the backdrop of a sky blackened with the smoke of my burning crops.
I will fight to protect my family. I will fight to protect my land. This is the banner we cling to as we learn the ways of the enemy.
Thursday, June 2, 2016
The call has gone out. All who are able must come and fight. Messengers are being sent to the far corners of the land to gather all able-bodied soldiers to the training grounds. It is impossible to refuse the call. Even as the words reach across the abyss of time, I can feel them pulling at my soul and telling me my destiny lies upon the field of battle.
You, my son, you are too young to understand. Even your sister, with her fresh, young face and innocent eyes, can comprehend a little bit about the fear spreading in the world. I think she can sense our fears, mine and your mother’s. It is too much for her little heart to take. I understand when she wakes up in the night, crying out for fear of the monsters who destroy her sleep and threaten her peace. No soothing words or checking of the dark hiding places assuage away the terror coming for her in the night. I wonder who she will call out for in the night when I am no longer here to comfort her?
They are not calling for me, yet. There is time for us to be together, to be a family. The war is far away and does not touch our shores. As long as we stay here, quiet, and don’t interfere in other’s battles we will be safe. This war may be over long before they call for me. They are calling for the young, those without families, those without responsibility to come first. Like any war, they will take all who come to fight, but they don’t need me, yet. Maybe they will never need me.
When will this war be done? What damage will be inflected upon the world by the mechanisms of battle? How many young lives will be sacrificed upon the fields of glory before they call ‘mercy’ and beg for peace?
There was war in my grandfather’s time. There was a great battle and it was fought only a few days’ journey from here. My grandfather fought in the battle and he was left with scars upon his body and mind we could never understand. He took us there once and showed us the ground where his generation watered the crops with their life’s blood. I was expecting to see deep trenches lined with the bones of fallen soldiers and the dark stain of pain and suffering marking the ground where an entire generation lost their innocence, instead we found a field of grass and cows placidly chewing their cud.
I asked the farmer “where are the battle scars? Why are there no monuments giving homage to the unnumbered dead?” The farmer looked at me and said. “Why commemorate the battle field of a lost war?” My heart broke in two as I thought of the loss my grandfather suffered and realized the world would forget the pain war causes if they refuse to remember.
The world has forgotten the pain of war. Even now I can hear the hateful words spewing from the mouths of those who should know better. The names they call the enemy vibrate through the air, warning children to fear anyone and anything that is different.
“They are not like you. They will take what you have and destroy your way of life.” The words seep into the minds of the future generation, teaching them to hate. We are not born hating another. We need to learn hate and fear. I learned the hateful words as I sat at the feet of my grandfather and listened to the stories he told of battles fought so long ago only to be relived in his memory like a diseased fog taking over his mind.
I do not want to be my grandfather. I do not want to hate for hates sake. I want to teach you and your sister of nothing but love and peace, but how can I teach you a concept I barely understand myself.
I can hear the war drums beating. They are not beating in the streets or calling from the shore. They are vibrating in my chest and pulling at my gut. I want to answer their call and drive the enemy back into the hole they climbed out of before they tear apart the world.
Would you be able to forgive me if I went to battle when you needed a father to show you what it means to be a man? Maybe we have moved past the time when a boy needs a father. How many generations of fathers before us have been claimed by war and yet we still have an entire world full of boys who learned what it takes to be a man without their fathers to guide them.
I will not go away tonight. This will be our time together. Maybe I will be able to stay forever. They haven’t called for me and I will try to find a way to stay.
Come to my arms and I will tell you the stories of my father and my grandfather. They proved themselves in fields of battle so the future generations would not have to fear the evils of the world. But, now we are here again. The next generation being called to action. I will answer the call, if it comes and hope you will never hear the drums of war.
Wednesday, June 1, 2016
The War drums are beating my son. Yes, on this, the day you were born, the trumpets have sounded and War has begun. I had hoped to spare you from the horrors of this world. You were to be born into a time of peace and prosperity. And now all you will know is terror and fear.
I knew war was a possibility. A person cannot live in the world and hear of the destruction and hate one group of humans have for another and believe war isn’t a possibility. Will there ever be a generation born into this land that never sees the bloody bane of war? I don’t think so. My generation won’t and it looks like neither will yours.
I had blocked out the happenings of the world in the last moments before your birth. For just those moments I was so terrified. Your mother was in so much pain I thought she would break into pieces. I was afraid you wouldn’t be perfect. I was afraid I would drop you. I was afraid I wouldn’t know what to do. I thought this is the most scared I will ever be. I thought ‘Nothing can frighten me more than this moment right here, right now’. Now, I know better. Now, I know what real fear is.
I heard the word ‘War’ and I knew they would be coming for me. My entire life I have trained and learned and developed into a fine specimen of manhood. I am a leader amongst men, a soldier, a fighter, a real man’s man and I am terrified. Oh, I’m not afraid of war. I’ve seen bloody battles. I’ve even had the blood of my enemies on my hand. I felt the faint pulse of fading life as I held my companions in my arms as they lay dying. It is the nature of this world to baptize our young men in the blood of our enemies. I’m not afraid of dealing out death. I’m not even afraid of dying. I’m afraid for you.
What kind of a father am I? The only thing I have to offer you in my strength, my body, my mind and I won’t even be here to give you those precious little gifts.
I don’t know what this war will do to me. I have seen battles tear soldiers apart. They come home with scars from the battle field on their bodies and their souls. Every weapon ever invented is designed to do as much damage as possible to the human body and leave the victim as torn and afraid as possible. Even this, the most recent attack, even this has left damage on every living creature in its wake. We may not have bleeding gashes on our bodies or open wounds, gaping and spilling our guts on to the ground, but we are all damaged. The injuries we have sustained as a people drives deep into our minds and our souls. It makes us afraid. It terrorizes us until all the best we can do is board up our houses, gather those we love close to our hearts and huddle in a corner.
Do you think if I do hide us in a tiny little corner of our home they will leave us in peace? Maybe if we are very quiet they will not even realize we are there.
No, they will find me and they will drag me from the corner as I kick and scream and cry out I don’t belong to them. You won’t remember me, my son, but your sister will and your mother. They will know I was afraid, that I didn’t want to go. Your sister will cry tears of fear. She doesn’t yet know what it is to show a brave face to the world. Your sister, four years ago I sat with her like this, in my arms, promising her I would protect her for all of my days. Now, I know my days will be short. Your mother will have to be strong enough to protect you both until I come again. If I hide with you in a corner your mother will look at me with sad eyes. Not really blaming me. She will understand. She will not want me to go to be a soldier to maybe bleed out my life on a foreign shore. But she will know I was afraid and then there will be no more trust in me.
It will be your blood I spill too, when I die. I know I will die if I go to war. It is written in my destiny. All men must die, even me. My blood flows through your veins, making you strong and healthy. You have the blood of a warrior running through your veins. It will be a long time before you need to take up arms and defend your life. Maybe this war will be the last war. I doubt it. We will never see peace in our lifetime.
As long as there is hate or desire in this world there will be war. The only words I hear in the world are words of hate and desire. The enemy hates your way of life and wants to destroy you. The enemy wants what you have and since you won’t give it them they will come and take it, by force. Hiding with you in the corner would be inviting them to take everything I have to give you to keep you happy and healthy and safe.
Your mother will be here for you. She will have to be mother and father, too. She would want to go and fight. If the war is long enough she may yet need to take up arms and fight a battle or two or more. If the enemies come to our shore she will need to pick up a weapon designed for war and defend this family, too. If I am called, I will make sure to leave enough weapons for her to defend our home. Will it be enough to sustain you through life when I die?
I don’t need to go, yet. I won’t need to go until they come for me. Maybe they won’t come for me at all. There is time. I will sit here and enjoy you for the moments I can be by your side. In this moment we can find perfection, you and I. You are my perfect little son and soon you will be able to meet your perfect older sister.
There is no need to talk of the war. They haven’t come for me, yet.
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