Breath before the storm

    “They are coming!”

    Mirt looked out the narrow slit in the wall and watched the oncoming flood of enemy troops coming toward him.  There seemed to be many more than the scouts had reported.  There was easily twenty thousand troops advancing over the field, and still more coming out of the forests.  Their mismatched armor made it seem as if there was a shining flood of steel flowing up out of the forest.  What can turn back such force?

    “Mirt.”

    He remembered how just eleven short months ago he had been greeted by Lord Harmton as Mirt entered his home.  What a jolly time that was, sitting in his great hall, eating roasted pork with the rest of the men.  Hearing the tales his bard sang as the bard spun them into the story through the power of his harp.  Oh, that was night to remember.  How could those days have turned so swiftly from friendship to war?  How could one fatal accident lead to such a grim response?

    “Mirt!”

    He again heard someone calling out his name.  He slipped out of his memories and turned to the young man standing beside him.

    “Are they coming? How close are they? How many?  Is it true that we will be overrun?”

    Rather than answering the sandy haired, blue eyed man who was resting his hand on the wall as he spoke, Mirt stepped away from the window and gestured with his hand.

     “See for yourself Pierre.”

    He turned to the opposite side of the narrow room.  The long room was cramped and dark, and it took him a moment to adjust to the darkness.  Being inside the walls of the castle felt like being in a cage.  He longed for the open fields, and the cool forests of home.  Stepping around another man peering over his friend Pierre’s shoulder he strode to the opposite side of the room and picked up his arrow sheath.  Slinging it over his shoulder he slowly strapped it tight across his chest so it would not fall off.  He paused as he looked up at the man next to him who was fidgeting with his armor, snapping and unsnapping the leather clasp holding on his steel arm guard.  Like the rest of the men, they were all ill at ease, pondering the battle to come. How long will it be until this war is over? Will it end here, now?  Or will it drag on to another day, another fight, another room full of mourning woman.  Mourning over the death of their most loved.  He picked up his bow and gave it friendly bend.  How long will it be until I am using you to send one more man to his grave?  How many will it be today? Or will this be the day I pass on out of this world?  He hugged the reassuring hardness of his bow and closed his eyes.  What will be my end?

    An armored hand on his shoulder broke his thoughts.  He turned to see Ben looking down at him.

    “You’re a brave lad Mirt.  ‘nd full of promise.  Another day will you see son, so don’t yee fear death.  We all have to face it sooner or later, but for some of us it comes sooner rather than later.  Yee have a stout heard me lad, and a keen eye.  Both will give mighty service our King in this battle.  Now get yourself to your place and don’t fear.  Let your bow serve you as well as it served your father.  It was an honor knowing him, and it will be an honor fighting along side his son.  Not because of who his father was, but for who he is.  Be proud of yerself lad, you’re a good man.”

    Mirt nodded to the older man and placed his hand firmly on Ben's shoulder in an act of friendship.  “Thank you, sir.”  He managed to whisper.  Ben smiled and turned away, working his way down the room giving the men encouragement as he passed.  Mirt went over to the slit in the wall.  Pierre stepped aside as he approached, and Mirt walked up to the window.  Crouching, he drew an arrow from his quiver, fitted it to his bow, and looked out onto the field.

The End

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