Chapter 7 - Plight's War
The stubborn determination to keep moving was the only thought I could have—the courage to see this through to the finish. I started this, and I needed to fight my way through, as I always had. They murdered my Sapalulmea and my best friends. They hunted me and tried to kill me numerous times, and I survived. It was time to bring it to an end. It was time to make a decisive statement against the corruption and slavery of my enemies. I preferred to negotiate amicably; however, how could I have talked sense to those who had lost all hope of common sense? That was the only answer, and it was one I had to finish.
It seemed the gods were undecided as to our fate. Good grief, it was cold that morning. My hands were steady, and my heart was firm in its resolve. I trusted that Si-tatious was of the same mind and spirit as myself. He seemed to be. I did not see or feel any doubt in his soul. That was reassuring. I believed the ring would create some uncertainty and confusion on the viz’ir’s part and he would perhaps send a message to the army command. It was heavy and cold on my finger that morning. I would use it to shove down the viz’ir’s arrogant throat the precarious nature of his and the emperor’s position, and then after he had dispatched his messengers, I planned on killing him.
We could not risk having him go back to the Assyrian army command and report all he had witnessed there. He had to die, and his message had to go with him. Once their messengers were dispatched, we would capture and kill them, substituting our own messengers in with our word. Yes, two could play that game.
“Ah, there is the sun. Let the rays of hope rain down on us. May the gods be praised. Well, time for us to head out to the tent of meeting and parley,” I thought.
It would not be revenge. It would be justice and a fight for freedom. I would use my unique talents to bring this whole mess to a final conclusion for my friends and their families. I would not fail. I could not fail.
There he was, sitting in the tent of meeting with his smug condescension, the assured air of a man who thought control was a commodity to be bought and sold as if it were gold or silver. Not that day—not that day or any other day. I would show him what real control was and make sure he understood it resided with those of actual stature and not those of scheming duplicity. The men were all positioned; they knew their respective roles. Nothing more could be done; it was the time for war.
It was incredible how a man could talk and not be aware of what he was saying or of his current position. I could have killed him and his men before they even knew they were in danger, but that would not have created the situation we needed to finish this insanity. His eyes were as dead as those of the Leviathan. What could possess a man to accept a fate of duplicitous favoritism, illogical corruption, and the existence of so many lies? Perhaps it was that they believed their own lies after a while.
“No, you may not cast judgment upon us. Si-tatious is correct in his assumptions and perspective on the situation. You most certainly will die, my nemesis. Yes. As sure as there is air to breathe, you will die by my hand. No mercy will be meted out to you, just as I expect none will be coming from you. Ah, he sees the ring on my finger and raises an eyebrow. The questions have been placed. Now the doubt needs to be implanted,” I said to myself.
“Do you think we are alone in this, Viz’ir?” I asked.
“What do you mean by ‘alone,’ Talmido? It is but you and this rabble of men that I see as your dividing line,” he answered.
“Have you not heard? Surely, your spies would have informed you. Discontent is an ethereal substance, Viz’ir. Only the heart can know it. You, of all people, should know this. How is it that the emperor’s army command can be so compromised? You covet Babylon’s gold, land, and people, yet here you are—chasing us with hot air and bellicosity. Viz’ir, it is time for us to get to business. We are not going to take your offer nor submit willingly to the emperor’s demands. I must take my leave now. Thank you for your time, and may the gods continue to bless you,” I said while standing up and bowing to him. I turned around and strapped on my sword and breastplate with my back to the viz’ir.
He snorted out a breath of derision and turned with a flourish of arrogance, leaving behind the fragrance of lilacs and the poison behind their beauty. He stepped onto his chariot and ordered a retreat back to the Assyrian army camp. My men dismantled the tent of meeting, and we headed back to the militia camp with a tinge of triumph between Si-tatious and me.
Yes, it is hard for a man such as the viz’ir to be refused. Irrational vengeance for a wounded pride is the most lethal combination of any emotion, as it lends itself toward compromised decisions. I hoped he would override his general in a vain attempt to heal or justify his wounded pride and inability to resolve the issue peacefully. In his mind, he would need to explain to the emperor his actions and contrive a story that did not call into question his judgment or abilities. Yes, power was situated on a knife’s edge of control, with one slip being the last—no second chances and no mercy.
A call to arms was issued, and the men scrambled toward their positions. The scouts arrived to inform us the messengers were dispatched and, as expected, were subsequently captured and replaced with our own messengers. The ring was given to the scout to be sent back to the Assyrian army command with the message of treason by the officer in question. It was hoped the situation would incite the commanders to start an inquisition and possibly a purge of the army’s officers.
It was time for Si-tatious and me to take up our positions. It was time to pay back a lesson in humility to those in power. It was time to set free my friends and all the people who had put their faith in me. I would not let them down. I would prevail.
I took my position at the front of the militia. I stood and looked at the men, some of them just boys, knowing many would not see another day. I felt their fear and anxiety, but I also saw their resolve and their stern looks of defiance. My stomach relaxed. I knew we would win with men like them. The soldiers in the Assyrian army were not of this caliber. They were mainly slaves drafted from various conquered nations with no choice but to comply. It was a determined heart that won wars—not the number of men.
“Men, stand up straight. Be resolved in your heart to win this battle or die fighting. Your loved ones are depending on you. The gods are on our side. Do not be afraid, for we will prevail!” I shouted out.
I moved to the front for all to see, set my spear into the earth and unbuckled my shield. I pulled my helmet down tighter onto my head and braced myself for the initial onslaught of men to come.
Horns continuously blared into the pockmarked sky of blue and white, issuing commands to the Assyrian soldiers. The militiamen held their ground and kept their peace. Shortly, the authority for the militiamen to move forward was granted, and we started to march toward the enemy one step at a time; no one broke rank. The shouts of the captains accompanied the horns and the stamping of feet.
Shortly, the Assyrian army came into view with staggering professionalism. They vastly outnumbered our militia. Did we make a mistake on the numbers? No, it seemed to be that way when confronted with so many men from the ground’s point of view. The horns were blowing out a command directing the flanks to move up. The air was thick with anticipation and fear. No man wants to die an early death. Only the insane greeted death with a perverse joy. Those men were ordinary metal workers, leather-smiths, laborers, and such. They had no desire to die that day, and we hoped most would not.
“Sir, it looks like we will have a fight on our hands,” a lieutenant quipped.
“Yes, it does. Let’s give those Assyrians something to remember us by,” I replied.
“We will give them more than memories. We’ll give them death for all eternity, commander.”
“Sounds good to me. Pull the men in tighter. Tell them to lower their shields and make sure their helmets are strapped on tight.”
I motioned for all of them to stop and waited for the Assyrians to make the first move. We did not have long to wait as a shadow spilled over the battlefield and a whistling sound greeted us. I bent down to shield myself as the arrows smashed down on us with a cry of death.
“Men, get under your shields and stay there until the volley is over,” I shouted out over my shoulder.
Cries of pain and shock were flung out to the sky as men were mowed down by four-foot shafts of oak with bronze-tipped heads. The arrows went through armor, splitting bone and soft tissue with assured whacks of triumph. Sometimes an arrow cleaved its way through one man and on into a second. It was not a pretty picture.
We stood up and began to march forward as arrows continually rained down through their uncompromising passages of death. The men closed ranks as the arrows hit their marks, but they continued forward with resolute focus.
A horn blew telling the flanks to begin their charge, and shouts soon rose up from either side as they raced toward the main Assyrian body. We picked up our pace and advanced with a trot, intent on meeting our enemy. The Assyrians splayed out their front in such a manner as a fan would, countering the expected flanking moves, thus weakening their center to our advantage.
“Si-taitious, move those men in closer. Keep the formation tight. Lieutenant, where are the archers? Why have they not fired yet?”
“Sir, they are positioning as we speak.”
“What? Are the archers only positioning now? Send back orders for them to begin their volley immediately.”
“Yes, sir. Right away.”
Another horn was blown to instruct the men at the back of the Assyrian army to begin their fight. Shortly, the Assyrian front line began to falter and reel from the encirclement. The main body started to pull back onto itself to tighten its position and fight with a renewed vigor.
The militia and I reached the main body just before it splayed out to confront our flanking maneuvers. We crashed into them with such a din of metal on metal and men shouting that it soon began to confuse the senses.
A man with dark hair and meaty hands swung at me. I thrust my spear through his animal-hide shield with a twist and pulled it back to shove it again into his shocked face.
“What a waste. Perhaps that man was someone’s father or husband. No matter now. The job needs to be done. I need to become death to these people, or I will die myself,” I thought.
I kicked his shield while pulling my spear out of his gaping mouth and spun around to deflect a thrust from another soldier. Turning, I shoved my spear into the next man before feinting to the left and pushing to the right. Blood spat out of his mouth as he died there, on that unknown battlefield in a strange land.
I began to slow my perception of time down to increase the speed at which I could take on the enemy. Anticipation is the answer to any offensive move made by a foe. A subtle shift in body movement, eye position, or head stance gave away an enemy’s intention, and with those subtleties, I could immediately parry any action, subsequently killing the opponent.
Over the decades, I had honed my abilities to perfection. I knew the strategies to be employed and the countermoves to implement with deadly efficiency. The bodies began to pile up around me as I slew man after man.
The battle shifted from one of an aggressive attack by the Assyrians to a defensive one as all our men threw themselves into the fight with a ferocity that, until then, was unknown to them. The battle had to end that day, and a message saying we would not submit—ever—had to be delivered to the Assyrian army command.
“Si-taitious, watch your flank,” I yelled out while motioning for him to move.
“You want to tell me how to fight now, Talmido? Watch as I teach you how a free man fights,” he replied, laughing out loud.
Si-tatious swung and cleaved off the arm of a young man as he tried to defend himself. Then Si-taitious turned and decapitated another man not even out of his teens. A grin of vicious glee crept onto his face as he butchered those poor recruits.
Slowly the Assyrian soldiers were being hacked to pieces, and the realization of their plight began to dawn on them. Soon men began to lay down their arms—first by lone men and then by groups. I rushed past them toward the tents in the background, wanting to get to them before word of the impending defeat reached the viz’ir.
I ran with all my might—skirting the fighting and confusion with ease, jumping over dead and dying men, flinging myself over carts and crates—pushing with all the strength in my legs to reach the Assyrian command tent in the center of their camp. Shortly, it came into view, so I slowed to a trot. I came upon it with a swift cut to a sentry’s throat and burst into the tent, looking for the viz’ir.
Standing to the right, he looked at me with complete surprise. He began to move, but I jumped over a table situated in front of me and grabbed him by the neck, putting my knife to his throat. The general was backing up, ordering the guards to kill me; however, the viz’ir, to his credit, countermanded the order and told them to stand down, fearing for his life, of course.
“Sound the horn for the army to stand down. Do it now or die,” I commanded.
The viz’ir nodded and gestured to the general, who immediately dispatched the order.
“Do as he says, General. The day is lost.”
“Yes, my lord. Sound the horns,” the general ordered.
Within minutes, the horn was blown, and the battle began to wind down. It was a great day for liberty, a day of rejoicing for freedom-loving people, and a pivotal day for future generations.