Well, this is the fourth and final part of the little delving into fiction that I was inspired to the other day. I hope it makes for some interesting reading; or though-provoking in some way; or something. At any rate, here it is. Special thanks to my friend Kim Salo who read through and helped me with some detailing. He’s a good guy.
Someone has said that we must look out for ourselves first, because if we won’t do it, then nobody will. I know that someone will. Someone else has said that our enemy, in this war, will succeed if we stop resisting. I know otherwise. This enemy has already been defeated; this war has already been won; this foe has already been routed. To stop resisting would make one a casualty of the enemy’s retreat; to press on resisting, in the prince’s armour, will make me a victor. Some people, of noble heart, will lay their lives down for friend or family, though there seem to be few of these left. I will offer mine in the service of the prince who has already offered his for me. I will not look out for myself; he will. I will look out for those he has given to serve under me, however.
The gibbering shouts of our enemies reached my ears, and I drew the sword that now hung by my side, from the belt that had formed around my waist in my vision. I was equipped for this war as I never had been, in the gear of the prince himself, and I was ready for whatever the enemy threw at me. As I ran toward the source of the sound, a pair of boots with deep, aggressive cleats formed on my feet, and when I broke into the clearing where my brave soldiers held their ground against a force thrice their size, I could see relief in their eyes – and desperation.
My initial onslaught was calculated to inspire fear in the enemy, to push them back and give ground to my soldiers. It took them by surprise – both by the quarter it proceeded from and by it’s ferocity. Some swung their weapons at me; swords, spears, maces; some actually made contact with me before they retreated beyond arm’s reach. I felt no impact. The various implements that touched me shattered. I made my way across the front line of my soldiers from one end of the field of battle to the other.
There were two results from this: first, the prince’s forces got physical relief from battle, of the same kind that they’d received emotionally when I had arrived; second, the enemy (who had initiated the battle – an aggressive assault against a small contingent), the enemy trembled. They trembled and ceased their advance. When I turned and faced the field, back the way I had come, I saw many of them slain. At the time I thought it was strange – I hadn’t swung my sword against them. I made my way back to the centre of the line, and called the troops to take their places behind me. They rallied themselves quickly, and fell in.
It is a peculiar capacity that we have, and which our enemy lacks, to gain such resources from another – such heart, such confidence, such nobility, such fortitude. Perhaps our prince’s fighting on our behalf would be of no benefit to us if we had no such capacity. The flip side of this is that we also have the capacity to drain one another, and to despair. It is this side that our enemy would profit by, if possible. But this was the time for us to shine.
What had been a scramble for our side to lose the least ground possible, and to take the most time they could in doing it, having been caught unawares, became an advance against the enemy line. I could hear my lieutenants calling orders. We had no strategy for such circumstances. Our tactics, our marching orders, had always been to hold and call for help when outnumbered, never to advance. Now, outnumbered by a ratio I had never before experienced, we advanced. We gained ground.
I wondered if they mistook me for the prince himself. I was sure I must have looked like him, to them, decked out in his armour. They fled before me, and this fuelled my interpretation. They fled before all of us. At some point though, I was sure they’d realized that I wasn’t actually him. They must have, for they regrouped and faced us – the hillside below them, where we continued our advance, was filled with their slain. Had they thought I was him, at this point, I doubt they would have been foolish enough to stand against us in such circumstance. None can stand against him.
A champion broke through their ranks, through their hordes, and the sound of war horns filling the air spoke of reinforcements arriving from their rear, to bolster their already-superior numbers. Their champion, clearly someone of some import among them, roared at me, “When you fall, the rest will scatter.”
I opened my mouth to answer him, but didn’t feel the words coming from my throat… yet they were my words, weren’t they? “These do not fight for me, and they stand against you if I am with them or not. I lead them against you now, but I am not their leader. The one I follow is. This is not my army. I will not fall this day.”
Was it disgust or terror in his face? I could not tell. He pointed at me and snarled, “That one.” At those words, they launched a counter-assault to our counter-assault. Our whole force would be surrounded by their incredible numbers if we weren’t careful.
“Remember who you fight for. Know who fights for you.” The words I opened my mouth to call, though they sounded on my ears without being uttered by my mouth.
As I watched the enemy before me, it became clear that their main force was directed at me. I dug in my heels and called to their champion, “I stand here.” Where did that voice come from?
With shouts and screams their hordes came on, running and leaping – eager to engage in combat with us. His voice roared above them all, “You will be cut down there, then.”
At first we held together. The first wave of attackers broke against us like water on the seashore. We were unmoved. But over time, as wave upon wave struck, fatigue set in. We had pursued them, slaughtering, for some distance, and many of these enemies were fresh reinforcements. In places our line began to buckle. My feet hadn’t moved. Their strategy was shown to me. They cared little for defeating my allies. They thought that they could break their spirits by defeating me. I knew better.
At times I was able to glance around the field and see how my friends fared. Their trust in our leader was displayed in this: many of them now wore small shields on their arms. They would be alright. As I continued to hold against those enemies who came against me, I wondered how many of my friends would be visited by our prince that evening, and offered a suit of armour. I wondered how many would take it from him. I wondered how many of them would let him remove their personal armour.
A voice thundered above the clashing of weaponry, “You’re undone – you stand alone, and we are legion!” Their champion appeared out of the throng, a head taller than any other, and ploughed his body against my shield.
As the blow came to me with full force, I made my reply – or I meant to. It was my voice, and my words, but somehow… “The one with me is greater than all you can muster. You err in this – I am never alone!” Though, I did note that they had managed to separate the entire entourage from me, driving them away in different directions across the hillside.
It is not unreasonable to expect that when one body hits another, as his hit mine, then the second will stagger back. I think that, for the would-be champion’s size, that was the least he expected. More likely, he thought he would knock me to the ground. But these boots weren’t made to go backwards. It wasn’t in their design. There was the noise of a loud impact, and the wind was visibly knocked out of him because of it, and my posture and position remained unchanged. Under the sound of that impact, had I heard another war horn – this time, of our reinforcements arriving on the field of battle?
“I will not falter. I will not back down. I will not be shaken.” I thought those words, but I heard them audibly spoken. It was my voice, though there was no breath in my mouth. We two pushed against one another, a gridlock of might; of prowess; of will. “I will stand. I will not fall.” Others attacked me, thinking that I was distracted and that their chance had come. Blades shattered; handles splintered; nothing phased me – all they threw against me came to naught. “I am not a destroyer, but a conqueror – nay, more than a conqueror, because of the prince’s gift to me.” Many enemies piled behind their “champion,” and aided him in the struggle against me. “I do not fear you. I have let go of that way of thinking.” I heard the sound of marching in the tops of the few trees where we were. “I can do this, not in my might and effort; but his.” More of the enemies circled around me – I thought they meant to attack me from behind, but those attacks never came. What became of them was not obvious until later.
The pushing match came to an end. They fell back. The standstill finished, I advanced. Pushing many before me, I heard screams from behind and from further ahead – the cavalry had joined the battle on multiple fronts. Finally, I heard my first lieutenant call to me, “Sir, we stand with you, the…”
I stopped him short when I finished his sentence for him, “…the prince himself is here.” I turned around, and found the prince standing behind me. It was he who had spoken my words, in battle. It was he who had slain the foes that I could only irritate. It was he who had guarded my back in the thick of it.
He smiled, and said to me, “There is no backplate. But when you wear my armour, I am, to you, all the rear-defense you need.”
The remaining enemies turned and fled as best they could. It occurred to me that this was how we were always to have faced the enemy. Why hadn’t we done so before? Would we remember, and do so again?