by Monim Wains
The muddied ground sagged with the weight of weary legs. Dazed bodies stumbled around, groaning and aching, trying not to trip over the lumps in the soup of soil beneath their feet. It was too dark and wet to tell what they were stepping through; the huddle of the melee had left everything half-buried in the earth.
The general flexed her fingers, unclasping them out of the claw they had become having gripped a hilt all day. Every time her eyes rose to the horizon, the memory of the horde flashed in her eyes. A great mass stampeding towards them. A tide of humanity rising with rage frothing from its lungs.
It barrelled towards them, distant thunder rising in volume until her ears rang red, rushing with the blood pulsing through her thumping heart.
The had held steady, just about.
It had taken the whole day, and many a soldier had fallen. They had withstood nonetheless, as a whole. Though they would have to mourn those who would never return home, they had to remember the victory as well.
The general surveyed her troops, leaning against one another in vague clumps of what were meant to be units. Their faces dulled, worn down by the months of marching.
She wondered what she looked like herself, limping slightly from the bruise across her leg. Her crested helmet would have stood out against the light of the fading sun. Her soldiers would see it all when they looked up to the peak of the hill. They would see everything she did.
The general stood taller, straightening up her posture, wincing over the pain in her leg. She turned and walked, with deliberation to her tent, calling over a soldier. He walked out a few moments later, sending messages across the plane. As the word spread, the soldiers gathered, eager to hear her words.
It was past dawn by then, and torches started to be lit, dotting the field here and there. The troops lined the bottom of the hill, spread over the field they had just won. Once arrayed in position, they waited.
After some time, the flaps at the entrance to the tent flung open, and three figures processed out. Two bore torches, looking straight ahead, as the light bathed the general in the middle. The grime had been cleaned away, leaving her armour shining in the night, throwing back the soft glow of the flames.
They walked towards the army, leisurely it seemed – a point to show the distance from danger that used to exist now.
The general stopped short, still above the level of the rest, so that her stand on the hill would be seen by all.