Chapter 8 The Spoils of Liberty
Surrender was never easy for an army. The surrender of the Assyrian army group was no exception. Pockets of men kept up the fight for a time until the inevitable outcome and the crushing weight of the encirclement became clear to them. Once all the opposing soldiers had been disarmed, they were marched a short way from the main battle area and made to sit down in the heat of the day. Guards watched over them as the cost of the battle was calculated.
In the end, the battle left 3,296 Assyrian soldiers dead and 1,140 Assyrian wounded compared to Talmido’s 2,824 killed and 1,783 wounded. Yes, it was a good battle, and the militiamen proved their mettle. They did not break under overwhelming odds or their lack of experience.
The men began the work of stripping the dead and burying them. The weapons and armor were cataloged and piled up for transport to the caravan. All the animals were collected and corralled for further processing. Each Assyrian prisoner was registered, given a wooden shovel, and told to bury their comrades. The work details took two days of uninterrupted labor to get everything ready to move out.
Meanwhile, Talmido and Si-tatious had the viz’ir and the general under tent arrest while being interrogated. The viz’ir was in denial of his predicament and could not come to understand that he had no negotiating position or power to effect any change in his circumstances. No amount of gold, land, or favors could change Talmido’s mind on the viz’ir’s ultimate position. Shortly after that, the viz’ir was marched out onto a public podium for execution. To his credit, he stood tall and defiant while looking out over the crowd with a sneer of condescension and pure hate. He was kicked to kneel and his head placed on a chopping block. The executioner brought his ax up high to effect a clean cut, and then swiftly cut off the viz’ir’s head, quickly throwing it into the pit of Assyrian bodies.
The general, however, decided early on to accept the defeat and move forward with the new circumstances to cooperate with his captors by providing all the Assyrian army’s strategic, logistical, and numerical information. The amount of information was quite significant and held considerable value.
All the Assyrian officers were incarcerated and separated from the Assyrian rank and file so as not to incite an organized rebellion. The soldiers were all interrogated and kept under arrest in a separate stockade. Once Talmido and Si-tatious had all the information and prisoners they felt they could reasonably attain, the order was sent out for the army group to move toward the caravan, positioned southeast of them. By that time, the convoy should have moved seventy-five leagues, if all had gone smoothly.
With whips snapping in the air and whistles cast out into the sky, the army group moved out, leaving behind a valley of graves, turned-up soil, and the odd belt or satchel lying about as evidence that something of significance had happened. After a season or two, nothing would be noticed as out of the ordinary, and neither the land nor the animals would remember the battle and the struggle of two opposing wills.
Talmido contemplated those and many more thoughts of substance, wondering at the futility of it all and the subsequent why. He shook his head with wonder and looked around himself at the tide of shuffling men and animals. Dust billowing up from the footsteps of thousands of men flew up into the air, blocking out the sun yet giving little relief to the biting flies. He wiped his brow and took a sip of water as his horse walked on.
This had been a great victory for his people, for justice, and for freedom, but for how long? He did not know and could not fathom what future events would befall him—not with such sweet victory hanging about his neck like a garland of flowers wafting their fragrance of mixed beauty into his mind’s consciousness. That day gave as much as one day could, and he was going to savor the delicate promise of future happiness. He did not want anything to interfere with that state of mind, so he laughed out loud, smiled broadly, and thanked the gods for the victory and the blessing of being alive, to live another day.
“What is so humorous, Talmido?” Si-tatious asked.
“The unbelievable temerity of it all,” he replied. “We have beaten overwhelming odds, Si-tatious. We have prevailed despite such adversity. Right now, we are alive and heading back to our loved ones and to another day of all that life can bring. What an unbelievable circumstance of fate. The gods must be smiling upon us. This must be their will, Si-tatious. Otherwise, what else would it be?”
“Yes, it must be due to the gods’ will, Talmido, and our perseverance, courage, and determination.”
“Of course, of course. Nothing would have transpired if we did not take matters into our own hands and take those decisive actions so many weeks ago.”
“Yes, the temerity of it all, Talmido,” Si-tatious said while slapping him on the shoulder and laughing along with him.
The men turned around in query, wondering at those two stalwart soldiers of adventure’s quest and liberty’s determined persistence. They too began to laugh; at first, they laughed in fitful starts, but eventually, the laughter moved up and down the ranks, releasing the built-up tension as the men marched south toward the open arms of their loved ones and the mourning of their lost friends.