May our fallen be jolly, raised for as high as their souls will permit and leave us victors the spoils of battle. What cruelty is this to leave burning in our minds the memory of glory and a lifetime of irrelevance? Now we will close our eyes and remember the day of our victory…
For eight long months and under the most cumbersome of conditions, the siege of Hessen castle had reached its climax. No less than eight thousand troops, marching under allied banners had surrounded the walls, thoroughly cutting the enemy off from the outside world. Now running low on rations had the enemy made one final and desperate plan for their last battle.
With their newfound vitality, the last army of Hessen, in one single and tremendous stroke, rode out on horseback eight abreast and ambushed our most elite units. With a savagery not seen before in the entire war our best and most heroic fighters were forced out into the great Fulda River where they were weighted down by their armour then indignantly slaughtered.
But our armies would never surrender from only a single stroke of luck. In our finest moment every pikeman we could allocate with the upmost haste formed into a line, four men deep and with a width long enough to completely envelop their last fighters. The enemy, in their last act, charged in perfect order towards our lines, nothing had been more terrifying than that calvary charge and only our faith could ensure the formation. At once the full force of the castle garrison ran into our pikes, their horses in horrific consensus then squealed and screamed as they recoiled or perished from their impaling wounds, only piercing our first two ranks and having ran out of momentum they attempted a retreat.
Not squandering the chance, our ranks parted and from this our lancers sallied forth. Disorganised and without hope, the enemy were broken by our riders seeking only total victory and revenge.
Upon seeing our valour, the castle opened its gates and cut down the banners of their old allegiance. All at once fate had granted our final victory. Gleeful and reckless celebration filled the days and then the week after the siege but as the leaves fall from the trees so too was it necessary that these times of joy had to come to an end. On the first day of the new month every soldier was paid for the last time and disbanded in perpetuity.
Since that day myself and many of the senior officers now roam around the shrewd and grasping halls of the court. A place for men without valour who have never know the striking of iron or weight of armour, for these men be tested on the battlefield would surely burn away the weakness within!
Today we are like ghosts, men of an old era in a time of the new age, old comrades now pave the roads where they had once marched and raise the cattle they had once slaughtered but can us officers so hastily put away our swords and enter the new day? Still, we lurk around the stables and garrisons and when we meet, we only talk of the old times, move our bodies as we did in battle then clash friendly swords until we remember the fire and the pain.
I believe my brother James can still be seen in the shadows, a great friend killed by the most wretched men of Hessen outside of the immortalising field of battle as he laid sleeping in his tent. When I sit by the lake at night, I see his figure faintly in the water then when I hear the prisoners, I hear his voice as well. Only his sword remains of him now, sitting above my fireplace, a sight which inexplicably fills the heart with sorrow. This is what us draggards will become, men soon to be trapped in the statues and the relics.
And I sit out in the forest, hoping for the battle, for the faint glimpse of metal in the darkness under the firs, for the shouts of an unknown enemy to cut through the air and to knock the leaves from the trees. Then we can be ourselves again, warriors like our fathers able to protect life with our own, to bring death by our own hand and to balance on this edge with our foes. The King does not thirst for war, he is a man who only sees its cost as he empties his coffers and fills the graves. He is a man who only fires a bolt for the hunt, a wise leader and old soldier who has long lost the love of the fight and if he became what I desire, he would be hated as a warmonger. Only the echoes of battle exist in the King’s hunt, even in the sound of the royal fanfare, the terror in the animal, the skill of the rider as he fires from horseback and in the thrill of the pursuit.
Six days ago, our youngest general walked off into the forest. I remember his voice clearly. During the final battle, without his clear and decisive leadership to take up a phalanx formation against the enemy, many more men would have been granted passage into the next life that day. Every day the times move on without us, the young general saw this too and so he is now headed south, over the Frankfurt River and into the next province. If he leads men once more to a glorious victory or dies on the front line is immaterial to him, as the dogs run towards the fox in hut, so to will he run to be warmed by the fires of war.
I see this man and my brother too, they both stand together, hold my sword and call my name. Tomorrow I will cast off my titles and leave the castle, I will honour you, my brother.