Pacing my tent I once more reflected on the foolishness of this war. Last night two of my men had died and another was not expected to last the day. Did they die in some great battle? No, it was just another border raid by the Handrin army, another attempt to throw our line back one or two meters. They died defending what is essentially a line in the sand. Sure, many would say they had died defending country and home, but I had seen too much war and I knew it for what it was. It all came down to that line in the sand.
Traditionally, the river marked the border between our land and that of Handrin. On any map this would prove so. But the war had been going on for some time now, and the hostilities even longer, and just what we called ours was fluid, changeable with time. Last night we claimed 5 meters beyond the river, tonight only 4. Tomorrow it might be more or less.
Others treated each gain of a meter as a great victory, and each loss as a defeat. These skirmishes were treated as if they actually mattered, and yet even they knew that in the end it would come down to a great battle, or several. These skirmishes would mean naught in the long run, the loss of life was so pointless.
Sitting at my desk again, I stared at the blank parchment, it glaring back at me, its lack of words clear. As a general it was my job to write home, to inform the mothers, the widows and the children of the loss of their loved ones. It was not a job I relished but it was one I took seriously. I knew others wrote a stock standard letter each time, only adding the name. But these women deserved more than just a name scrawled on the same letter everyone else would get. Their men had died for this war, surely they deserved more than just a few seconds of my time.
And yet as I went to pick up my pen, my eyes fell upon another letter on my desk and I frowned. It was from Eliza and had arrived only a few days ago, despite its sending date. Letters got lost in the war or delayed. Briefly I wondered about what had happened to Jon Hathway, he was always able to deliver messages in a timely and efficient matter. Yet he had been reassigned and so I had to deal with other messengers and pray my letters would reach their mark.
Quickly I reread the letter from Eliza, once more suspicious of its contents. According to it, my Eliza had grown bored of country life. She was going to travel to the house of a friend and spend at least some of the season at court. Moira, her maid and a person to be trusted beyond any other, had added a note at the bottom, saying she would ensure Eliza did not get up to too much trouble. All in all, it was a perfectly ordinary note, one which should have reassured me.
And yet I knew Eliza better than any save Moira knew her. I knew that the reason why we had retired to the countryside was because she had grown tired of playing the games of court, of the deceit and illusions that were played daily by both the ladies and gentlemen. I also knew that she had no desire to take a husband yet, a fact I was glad of. While a husband would ultimately be her destiny, if it could wait a little longer I would not complain. And this talk of staying with friends. While Eliza did have a few women who she called friends, I knew that she didn't really trust or like any of them. They were the women of her status who she was expected to be friends with, and not much more.
And yet, while returning to court didn't seem like Eliza her growing bored of the countryside was very like her. Perhaps, without me there, she had grown so bored that a season at court had suddenly seemed an enjoyable prospect. It was a possibility, and yet something within me had me suspicious. Eliza was too much like her mother, when she set her mind to something nothing could change it, and I knew this trait could get her into trouble too easily. Whether Eliza had returned to court, or was somewhere else I knew Moira would look after her. And yet I could not help feeling worried, and wishing I could return home to find out just what was going on.
However that could not be. Putting the thought out of my mind, I once more returned my attention to the letters I had to write, and the pointless loss of the life this war had caused.