The cannons roar, and shells pound the ground around me; sending huge plumes of dirt into the air. Screams and shrieks fill the air. And I watch idly as the angels battle.
I stand on elevated ground, surveying the scene below without emotion. We are getting slaughtered. Any fool could see that.
I summon my inner peace and think calmly. Quickly, but calmly.
An aide appears at my side.
“…sir?….” The question hovers in the air.
I finish my thought, before turning to look at the young angel at my side. I stare him in the face. I see fear. Courage….but fear.
“……I have been where you are my brother……”
But I don’t send him the message. I keep the thought to myself.
I stretch my arm out to clasp him on the shoulder, and flash him a reassuring look. His visage changes – the fear departs and he begins to smile hopefully. Questioningly, but hopefully. Hopefully. That is the main thing. Hope will see us through.
I don’t need to speak. I twist my gauntleted hand into a gesture of defiance, and make two short pumps into the scream laden air. Then I turn away to survey the battlefield again.
The young aide disappears to fulfill my orders, only to be replaced by a presence I know all too well.
Hope’s silvery chimes within my mind never cease to fill me with joy.
I nod shortly.
“Yes. Left flank. Dying.” The words deserve to be spoken aloud.
“Let’s go then!” replies Hope brightly.
I reward my greatest asset with a look of pure love.
“Let’s go, old friend.”
She beams at me.
I withdraw my sword for the millionth time. My sword. Another old friend.
I dig it point down into the dirt and stiffly kneel before it, before reaching out and grabbing a handful of dirt. A habit I acquired eons ago. I briefly close my eyes and send up a prayer as I feel the old familiar sting of power flow through me.
My eyes snap open again. I am ready. I spring to my feet.
“Aide!” I shout.
“Are we ready?”
I turn to survey my guard. Each angel sits proudly astride a white stallion. Their armour gleams; their heads remain erect. Ready to die. One thousand beautiful souls.
I send them a message of thanks.They nod in unison and a silent, respectful acknowledgement. They will follow me unto Hell.
My charger is brought before me and I mount. I take my sword and grasp it tightly. This is it. This…is…it….
My charger, sensing my mood, rears in anger. I stroke her flank reassuringly before uttering my command.
I never need to utter it. She knows. We have done this before. Countless, countless times. But I guess I do it out of habit.
She lets loose a surge of power and we are off. The air begins to rush and before I know it we are at full gallop. I turn my head slightly and the reassuring pounding sound of my guard galloping after me reaches my ears.
The left flank of my army is about to wipe. I can’t help but suppress a feeling of utmost pride. They never fold. Only wipe. They fight to the last. They do not understand retreat.
I pick out the thickest of the enemy line and direct my charge there. My guard form a protective shell around me.
They don’t see the charge until the last moment – such is our speed. The impact is quick and jarring. The demons that stand before me scream in horror upon seeing me. I feel an involuntary surge of satisfaction.
The front line begins to fall back before the braver ones at the rear attempt to take us down. I become fluid in my being. Left. Left, left, right. Left. I hack and slash. I exercise no discrimination. All shall die. The brave as well as the weak and foolish.
All shall die.
Amid the screams and wails, I hear a low chuckle of joy flutter across the battlefield. I turn in the direction of the sound.
I behold Hope in all her glory; bedecked in her familiar blue, pulsing armour and sitting astride a steed the colour of which reminds me of the most glorious sunrise. She has cut a swathe through the enemy and it is at that moment I know – I KNOW!” – that we will carry this battle.
A bedraggled cheer arises from my dying left flank, and my troops regain the initiative. Instead of dropping back further, they begin to press again.
“HARDER!!!!!!!!” I bellow. “HARDER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
They obey. They acquire an aspect of invigoration and joy as they commence to slay everything in sight.
The enemy turns to flee. My troops begin to follow. I choose not to restrain them. I am not in merciful mood. Let them wipe this scourge from the face of the earth. They proceed to do so.
The enemy, up until now relying on its strong right flank to carry the battle, now realizes that all is lost. It begins to retreat.
Suddenly, I sense eyes on me. And I look in the direction from whence they came.
The most malevolent presence I have yet to encounter watches me in idle amusement from across the battlefield. Its armour oozes blood. And tears. It’s mount screams in agony but cannot escape the burden of horror being carried.
The presence looks upon me and I evenly return its gaze. Suddenly it raises a mailed fist in salute.
“……congratulations…..” it whispers, before breaking out into a bray of laughter.
I do not salute back.
“I will never salute a coward.” I think. Yet as soon as the thought comes into being, I change my mind.
My mouth has filled with the coppery taste I know to be blood. Something, somewhere managed to clip me. Not enough. But enough for what I am about to do now.
Without removing my eyes from the presence before me, I deliberately let lose a stream of warm blood upon the ground in its direction.
The thing stops chuckling and issues me a look of absolute hatred, before turning tail to vanish into the maelstrom beyond.
My troops give a cheer of joy. It is a joy I do not feel, although I am happy for them.
I climb off my mount and kneel again. And again I grab a handful of dirt. Today, this dirt has tasted the blood of too many good souls. I throw it away in disgust.
How many more battles. The enemy need only be lucky once, whereas I need to be lucky always.
Then I shrug.
So be it.