Battlefield

The_Battle_of_Towton_by_John_QuartleyThe victors trudge off the battlefield, no less aching and injured than the opposition. Blood dries brown and sticky on armor. Swords and axes imbued with the power of the righteous during the fight, now sap the remaining energy from the arms that wield them. Heads bowed and faces somber, the soldiers who can still walk make their way through the field—once green and full of life, now strewn with muddy corpses—looking for survivors. Those wearing the colors of the king receive what rudimentary medical services available. Those wearing the colors of the traitor receive the sharp end of a sword.

Night has long ago fallen when the last remaining soldier sheaths his weapon and climbs onto the back of his horse. He surveys the shadows one last time before rubbing his eyes with one rough, weary hand.

“What a waste,” he says to nobody in particular.

Turning his horse’s head, he kicks his heels and begins the long journey back to the castle. He has ordered his men to bunk down in the the next field over, but he can afford no such luxury. The king is expecting a report at first light. Fortunately, he has several hours ahead of him to decide what to say.

His monarch had ordered him to quell this newest uprising quickly and thoroughly. He had managed neither.

The soldier rubs his face with one hand again and thinks of his wife’s warm body lying asleep so many miles away. He thinks of his children, limbs tangled together in sibling affection after a long day of squabbling with one another. He wonders, for a single moment, what stops him from changing direction to join them. He could reach his own humble walls just as quickly as he will reach the opulence of the castle, and his wife’s bed would surely provide a much warmer welcome than the king’s war room.

A lovely thought, but a foolish one.

His king isn’t the forgiving sort. One has only to remember the carnage left behind on the field today to know what kind of reaction such rash behavior would earn. The soldier loves his wife and children too much to return to them now. Perhaps after giving his report, he will request some time to visit them properly.

He trudges through the rest of the night with this dream keeping him company.

*3/26/17, first sentence prompt

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