Falling on the Sword
Taking up his sword, just as the Master commanded, Nathan prepared for battle. Sharpening the blade, lifting the breastplate, cinching the belt, donning the helmet, he prepared for more than just the physical confrontation. As he cleared his mind, the Master’s commandments filled him, boiling up through his mind and cascading down his flesh, cleansing the deepest parts of his soul.
Stepping outside into the chill evening air, Nathan was overwhelmed with the solidarity of his comrades-in-arms. The land teemed with hundreds of his brothers, girding themselves for the fight. Fires burned in their eyes and their hearts – fires that could not match the vengeance their Master had promised to wreak upon their enemies that night.
The men looked to Nathan, their Commander, for orders. A warm, foul wind blew from the north, carrying the stench of their foes across the land. Breathe it deep and remember it well, Nathan told himself, for by morning it will be gone.
With the quiet attention of his brothers, he vaulted himself atop his warhorse. Each of the men gathered his reins in his hands, ready for Nathan’s command. The earth was silent before him. A whisper could have penetrated the darkness for miles but he raised his voice strong and clear so no fault could be made in the hearing.
“Tonight we reclaim our lands. Tonight we cleanse ourselves of this insidious stain. The battle will be long; it will be fierce; we remember that we fight not for ourselves, but for the future, for the purity of our sons and our daughters. We fight for the Master who has commanded us. When the swords of our foes rise up against us, when their armors seem impenetrable, recall the innocent faces of your children and allow their beating hearts to propel you forth. When you reach the very precipice of death – for surely many of us shall – remember the Master who has called you and has promised to lead you to victory and in that moment, with the light of glory descending to bless your final breath, know that your life was ordained from the beginning for such a time as this.”
Drizzle fell from the sky, burdening his words with the weight of the heavens. Eyes closed, he withdrew his sword from its scabbard and lifted it high. “Mount, my brothers. Let us ride. Let us take back our land.”
In unison, the body of brothers mounted their steeds and rode into formation. Sweat glistened on each horse’s flanks as if the beasts, too, anticipated the climactic moment. The men began their ride into battle.
When they crested the hill, they saw the village of their enemy spread throughout the valley. Nathan stopped to allow the entirety of the force to amass behind him. Though darkness had fully descended and the night grew into maturity, candlelight still twinkled in dozens of the homes as mothers and fathers bid their children goodnight and tucked them quietly into their beds.
The clouds shifted, obscuring the moon, and the world was for a moment shrouded in deep darkness. Nathan’s heart raced and he could feel adrenaline rushing through his veins. He touched the pommel of his sword and withdrew it. The sound of the steel, eager for the river of blood it had been promised, pierced the night. His men, hearing this announcement of battle, drew their own swords and the entire valley echoed with the prelude to war.
Without waiting for Nathan’s command, the front line of soldiers lit their torches. The fires, stretching endlessly to either side of him, illuminated the men’s solemn faces. They looked to Nathan for the final order to charge.
This was the day that had been prophesied throughout the ages. Their destiny lay waiting for them to claim. The men were ready to expel the blight from the land and show them the power and authority of their Master. With a yell, Nathan urged his steed into the valley. A chorus of voices mixed with the stamping of hoofs and the chilling ring of steel behind him; their fires lit the way.
The men reassembled, the last few embers of the village dying behind them as the dawn peeked over the horizon. The battle had been delivered into their hands just as their Master had promised. The villagers had mounted nary a defense against the divine will imposed against them and not a single soul had been left alive. The smell of burning flesh would serve as a staunch warning for all others who dared stand in opposition to their Master.
As his men gathered back into their ranks, Nathan counted the numbers of his brothers still living. File after file reported complete survival – not a single man had been lost. How could that be in the ferocity of such a fight? It was a miraculous victory indeed!
As one they marched their horses back up the hill to return to their homes, their wives, their children. Purity, with the stewardship of its protectors, at Nathan’s command, had vanquished another foe.
“Falling on the Sword” is a prose version of the story I first told in the poem “The War is Coming!”
I also wrote up a quick description of how I have interpreted this story myself here, although my hope is that it may speak to you differently.
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