Friday, 28 December 2012

Lord Of War - Friday Flash

The warlord took the hem of his hanging animal pelt and wrapped it round his bloodied sword. He drew the blade through the furry fistula. His sword re-emerged purged of gore, but still dull in its silvery lustre. He resheathed it in his girdle. A tear escaped from the levee of his reptilian scaled eyes. He swatted it away. If any of his Generals noticed, none dared remark on it.

But the tears continued to stream. They ploughed through the soot and grime on his face, washing away to reveal the pink flesh beneath. His confederates had never witnessed such a sight of their great leader.

"Noble Lord, has perchance some shrapnel flown off into your eye to make it water so? In a clash of swords, a fragment snapped off and lodged there in the flesh?" The man immediately stepped back from the enormous reach of his superior, but the warrior didn't move a muscle. Save for the discharge slithering down his face, his mighty frame that had been known to eclipse the moon when he was addressing his troops on the eve of battle, now utterly frozen.

"I weep... I weep for mine enemy".

His comrades were shocked as they looked round at each other for verification of the evidence of their ears. Had their all-powerful champion lost his voracious appetite for blood?

"W-w-w-weep for them in pity? Just imagine the atrocities they would have wrought on our clan and nation had we not overcome them." The belligerent nodded even as he brought the heel of his hand to his eye to dam up the tears. "Sire, we had to demonstrate our intent. A certain ruthlessness of power, did you not teach us that? Does our Lord believe we went too far perchance? Perhaps in the campaign across the first continent, when we slew their host even after they threw down their weapons and sank to their knees, hands clasped together in entreaty? We agreed with you their weakness was undeserving of being honoured by mercy."

The pugilist shook his head.

"Perhaps it was our exacting experience on the second continent? We simply couldn't take their women folk with us into our clan, for our supply lines were already overtaxed. We absolutely couldn't carry them, we had no other choice. We had to cull them."

Again the chief shook away the suggestion. His throat rattled with some strangled emotion, but no words were forthcoming. This was embarrassing, when every officer here had steeled their own men to remain undaunted even when lying mortally wounded on the battlefield. None of them ever moistened around the eyes. Breaking into sobbing and pleading for clemency at the end of the point of a sword, was behaviour confined to their adversaries. The indomitable Emperor himself had insisted on this mark of election.

"Could it be that almost fatal error we committed on the third continent? Constructing that everlasting pyre of their animals and to slaughter their livestock so they slowly starved to death while we advanced on to continent four? We almost cut our own throats with that decision, marching and fighting on empty stomachs."

It seemed as if the commander was considering that recollection for a moment, until he balled both fists and rammed them into his eyes. "Continent four was a bitter pill to swallow Majesty, but we had to admit such medicine to those bandits, else they would never have submitted. Poisoning their wells and springs was very much a last resort after all other tactics had failed to snap their will. That their children also died is almost certainly a good thing, since they won't be able to draw up future armies to confront us behind the lines."

The eminence nodded his head in tentative agreement, even as he let out a sonorous wail. "It must have been this last continent then, the one that allowed us to cincture the whole globe? This straitened populace who were unfortunate to be remote enough to be our final conquest, yet not sufficiently far away for our reputation not to precede us. They knew surrender would yield them no leniency. Therefore they would have fought like beasts. We had to forestall that. We had to burn every inch of their land. Their farms, their towns, their homes. It was the only way to bring these savages to their knees. We had to eclipse their austral sun behind smoke. To extinguish their gods. Make them bow down to us in the ashes."

"But that's just it, don't you see?"

"What, that we have dared ascend to the status of gods?"

"No. I weep for mine enemies... because I have no one left to conquer..."


Katherine Hajer said...

Poor Alexander... or whatever this one's name is. Wait until he finds out about the bureaucrats he'll need to manage the ongoing administration.

Lovely use of irony in this one.

Icy Sedgwick said...

In a lot of ways it makes him more monstrous that he doesn't cry for the atrocities he's ordered, but for the fact he's won. Nicely done.

Steve Green said...

Someone crying for the slaughter that will no longer be available is indeed a warrior through and through.

Great writing as always Marc.

Simon K. said...

A good build up to the final line. The use of the word 'shrapnel' bothered me, but I enjoyed the piece.


Tony Noland said...

They can always turn on each other in fratricide...

Tim VanSant Writes said...

Too bad it hasn't occurred to him to conquer his own violent nature. Nice one.

Cindy Vaskova said...

Superb writing! I automatically inserted a dramatic tune into the read.

But joke aside, his first-world- problem moment here is quite terrifying actually. A man who has no one to fight against can only become a man trapped by madness. Or so I think :)

Enjoyed the story!

estrella05azul said...

What a great concept, nicely written! And, surely there were quite a few of these people all over the world in real life, too...