My time to die

 

Swords still clink in the distance -- the last determined blows of a battle that has waged for days and left most of both sides dead or dying.

I move through the mounds of rotting flesh with no regard.

The vague memory of my boyhood visions stirs briefly, lingering with the concept of pride and glory.

I once saw myself riding on a high steed amid of a flood of flags, my armor glistening golden in the sunlight.

War taught me better.

I hack metal like a blacksmith and meat like a butcher.

My armor is stained with other menís blood as I move through their ranks until I am the last man standing.

Weariness overcomes me though I cannot rest until I find my king among the carnage, to determine if he lives or has died, or if he is in the midst of making his way towards death.

In the dying light I see the faces of the dead, most young on both sides, and with the dark no colored armor to say which face belonged to which army.

In death, sides no longer matter.

Some faces I recollect from the army of young barons and dukes sent to keep their bargain with the throne.

Most are so young had they been fish I would toss them back.

I cannot send these back since war has already slaughtered all the elders who came before.

These are all we have left to hold back the tide of invaders who come to destroy us.

Cut open, with pink and purple inner organs plopping out, they seem a pathetic substitute for glory, and I wonder how I ever mistook them for something noble, and why I never vowed to quit once I saw what war was really about.

Yet I know the aftermath poorly represents what war is.

War is not blood and guts, or even the wounded men begging for their mothers.

It is man testing himself against other men for the ultimate consequence with the winner allowed to move on to greater and more terrible contests later.

The tip of my swords slips passed another manís defense and into his flesh, and I feel renewed as if I has sucked life out of my victim so that I could feel like a god.

I find a few young men still whole as I step over the dead, young men with confused faces and the look of death in their eyes, boys who have met death, beat it back one mighty stroke at a time, seeing.

Me, I no longer see it as glory or a test, but as a job to be one, a matter to be taken care of, a chore to finish before moving on to that sleep people call peace.

I pat the shoulders of the boys, give them words of support, then move on passed them, too, knowing that many I speak with tonight may well be dead by morning, not for glory, not for pride, but for the thrill of pitting his life against another to see whose life will remain when the clash of swords stops.

I think: perhaps tomorrow it will be my time to die.

 


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