Morals of a murderer
Hi, this is the first draft of chapter one of my novel "Morals of a murderer". Please critique it with as much detail as possible and give plenty of critisism. Cheers ;P
Screaming, shouting, and crying, groaning, screeching and moaning are all ways to express man’s emotions through speech. Screaming and or shouting would mean that the person is angry and venting out their frustration and in some cases, to give themselves strength in the face of adversity. Crying would indicate deep sorrow or pain and self-pity, or perhaps the extreme pitying of the plight of others and in some cases would placate the emotion of vengeance, much like screaming and shouting. Screeching would usually indicate the same as crying, one screeches usually in times of pure angst or pain. Moaning and groaning would usually indicate pain, internal or external, physical or emotional turbulence.
These six methods of expressing emotions are all driven towards negativity, very rarely are these used in times when there is joy, save for unusual circumstances, such as seeing a long lost love, relative or friend, or defeating an enemy and revelling in the glory through the loud of their voices. Very rarely however, are all six used at the same time, in the same location by the same set of people. What could possibly be so full of angst, sorrow, pain and suffering that the six methods of showing the most elegiac of human emotion was being implemented all at the same time?
The battlefield. That was the one thing. And as the general in black, so different and tall above everybody on the battlefield saw, these six forms of expression dominated. Men cried as they charged fearlessly into the ranks of enemy spears. Screams and shouts of men as their comrades died around them and as the enemy enclosed around them. Screeching as they saw the slaughter around them and knew that their end was inevitable. Groaning and moaning as men lay on the beaten mud, pain echoing through their bodies as dismembered limbs, broken bones and the red of blood littered the battlefield.
And with this sight the general in black sighed. He despised war, fighting and killing, contrary to popular belief. Being good at something, something brutal such as this did not mean he enjoyed it. He watched as humanity was stripped to its essence, tribalism. Man hacked down man; human hacked down human in an unforgiving brawl of evil proportions. The black general’s officers sat on horse next to him, but not as tall as they sat in silence, nobody daring to ask the black general what the next order was to be, more letting the slaughter unfold in front of them, as they watched.
Time passed, as the crying, screaming and shouting, screeching, moaning and groaning of men continued. Though nobody noticed, the black general’s hand was quivering, waiting and contemplating, knowing every moment he lingered meant another poor soul lost forever yet if he struck too soon the result would be indecisive and more casualties would be obtained and the outcome of the battle would be lost. His brow was full of sweat, not fully due to the excessive heat which of course did have an impact, but the sheer nervousness of when to act. More time passed.
Finally he raised his hand. “Ameroth, make your way to the centre and call forth commander Amicitia from the frontlines.” His voice was hollow, devoid of any human emotion but was forceful, decisive yet almost bitterly cold. The commander nodded with a quick mutter of “Yes my lord” before riding down the hill onto the large green plateau where the chaos and fighting was taking place. The general in black and his officers each tracing the path of Ameroth, following his movements as he rode through the rear of his line, dismounted and began the frantic search for his other commander.
The general in black watched as he saw Ameroth grasp a figure on the shoulder, who was still cleaving and clawing and hacking at the enemy in front of him. The man finished off the enemy he was fighting, turned around, and shared words with Ameroth before nodding and following him. Both men mounted upon Ameroth’s horse before riding back up towards the mound of green earth which the general in black was saddled upon. The general in black watched frustratingly as the horse seemed to almost trudge its way up, its movements were slow and laboured, as if it were tired and could not move any faster. It needed to move faster, the speed of that horse defined how many more men he lost and that figure was increasing by the second. “Damn it!” he silent cursed. “Why won’t that damn horse move any faster?”
After what seemed like an eternity to the general in black, the horse arrived carrying the two officers. Both jumped off the horse and briefly saluted to the general. The general did not even spare a glance at their direction but continued to survey the battlefield. Ameroth looked at the ground, without any idea as to what to do at this stage and was completely clueless as to the motives of the general. Amicitia however was staring at the general in black, a smirk across his face; as if he had nothing to fear and that they were equals, something which nobody in the entire battleground at that moment could dare to think.
“Commander Amicitia, report on the front,” the general in black asked, his voice unchanged, face still facing the red grass plateau.
“My Lord, the lines has reached a stalemate; neither side can move forward, strategic manoeuvres and tactical reinforcements are rendered useless as both sides have been jammed into the centre of the grass plain. Both sides are completely exhausted,” Amicitia instantly replied, without hesitation and stuttering, fully confident in his own judgement.
“And the casualties on both sides?” The general in black asked, for the first time his voice showing concern and anxiety.
“Our officers estimate around five thousand dead on our side, maybe double that number on the opposition side; however more men are likely to be rendered unfit for fighting. I’d estimate that our fighting strength would have been depleted by around ten thousand.”
The general in black visibly shook, as he suddenly stood up straight and a sharp intake of breath was heard. For a few moments there was silence, yet to the officers, barring Amicitia, it felt like a whole eternity.
Finally he spoke. “Ameroth, you are to replace Commander Amicitia in ordering the centre of our line.” Ameroth immediately bowed before waveringly speaking the necessary formalities then began to saddle his horse.
“Wait!” the general spoke. No emotion, empty, cold and hollow like a shell.
“Yes my lord?” Ameroth questioned, fear evident in his tone and rather frail appearance.
“Who said anything about riding that horse? Leave the horse here. Go down by foot.”
“Err, yes my Lord, of course my Lord.” Ameroth immediately jumped off his horse, his foot tripping on the rope of the saddle, and he sprang forward like a frog onto the green unstained grass with a yelp. The rest of the officers began to laugh and Amicitia’s mouth formed a condescending smile. The general in black did not even stir, nor did he avert his gaze from the battlefield, his head turning left and right at regular intervals to see what was going on.
Ameroth, his face red as the plateau beneath him donned his silver helmet, which had fallen off him during the embarrassing incident and began to run down the hill. The general in black watched then, to all the officers surprise, again barring Amicitia, sniggered as he watched the clumsy and fearful commander run down to join his comrades on the frontline.
“The rest of you, order the cavalry to retreat, back to camp, do not engage no matter what, you are to join them back at camp. I say again in case any of you do not understand, do not engage. Amicitia, you are to stay here.” The officers underwent the formalities as quickly as their babbling mouths could guide them and began galloping off to where the cavalry was assembled, on the right side of the hill, overlooking the battle.
Amicitia and the general in black watched as the masses of horses and men began to gallop away from the main force, mashed mud left trailing in their wake as the hooves uprooted the bright green and as of yet untainted grass and the sound of thunder filled their ears as the sound of thousands of galloping stallions ran full speed in a single direction.
“Well, now that the bloody incompetent fools are out of the way, I’d say we’ve got a rather important battle to win, wouldn’t you say so?” The general in black said, his voice suddenly sounding more jovial and rather warmer and embracing than before.
“I would have to agree, my Lord, however, I do question you order to send back the cavalry, and you do realize I wasn’t exaggerating regarding the situation on the frontline?” Amicitia replied, confident and brash, fully unafraid of his superior next to him.
“I retreated them because if we had used them more lives would have been lost, I have no doubt that the officers would have caused more problems than they would solve, thus I sent them back to camp.”
“Then, how on earth do you propose we win this battle?” The general in black temporarily paused, as he viewed the battlefield, then his gaze rested upon the tall mound of earth on the opposite side of the plateau, past where the enemy line was.
“You see that hill over there?” the general in black asked his commander.
“Yes, I do, the one overlooking the enemies side of the battlefield?”
“Yes, that’s the one, that is where the enemy general is at the moment, and I’m pretty certain if we kill him then his men would lose heart and the field will be ours.” Amicitia gave a wary chuckle as he gazed upon the hill where the enemy general was at.
“With that? Sure you’re not losing it my Lord? What do you think is going to happen, us two go on a two man army crusade and kill the enemy general whilst cutting through enemy lines at the same time?”
“Ah, Amicitia, always the realist. No, you see that forest to the west of the hill? We go there first. Ride with me but before we do that there is something I want you to help me do first.” Amicitia looked at his general like he had finally gone mad.
“Right, whatever you say my Lord, are you sure any of your trainers didn’t give you a good whack in the head prior to this battle?” The general in black gave a wary chuckle, before stopping abruptly as he remembered the situation.
“No time for humour my friend, the faster we do this the more lives on the frontline we save. Our men and theirs. Help me remove my armour; the enemy must not recognize who I am.”
Amicitia duly responded and the general in black got off his horse and as Amicitia began to remove the black steel plated leggings the general in black removed his jet black helmet. The face under the mask was what nobody would ever expect for a man of the generals stature.
Long black hair nearly touching the shoulders encompassed the back of his shoulders and the front of his hair was combed back and tied down in the middle so that it did not touch his forehead. But was most striking was his age, he was no more than an adolescent. His skin was quite smooth and there was very little in the way of facial hair.
His mouth was wide and his nose narrow yet high as was his face. His features and face was sharp and thin and handsome. Yet his eyes were what was most striking. They were dark brown, almost black, full of energy, exuberant youth but one could also see sorrow and pain, like he had seen and experienced something somebody of his age should not have seen.
His junior commander was young, but that was to be expected due to the circumstances, but people who did not know the identity of the general in black would have not guessed his appearance and age to be that of such delicacy. As the general took off his chest plate he placed all his armour into a sack, tied it around his mount then saddled on. He motioned for Amicitia to do the same.
“Quickly, ride as fast as you can to the forest to the west. The faster we go the more lives we shall save.” Not understanding the logic behind his generals words, but not having the urge to argue he nodded and then with the neighing of the horse which was once Ameroth’s. The general quickly followed.
In what seemed like no time at all, they reached the shadow of the hill near where the enemy general was stood, alongside his bodyguards and senior officers. As expected, they were too concentrated on the battlefield for them to notice to stray figures on horseback riding past the now red plateau and its surrounding hills into the forests nearby.
As they reached the interior of the forests the horses naturally slowed down to avoid any collisions with the trees and other vegetation or shrubbery. Amicitia was still intent on knowing what was going on.
“My Lord, what are we doing here? The battle is behind us, we are not fleeing the battlefield are we?” the junior commander shouted amongst the sound of hooves and neighs.
“You will see, straight ahead, another couple hundred meters, you shall see.” As they galloped further, Amicitia noticed there was slight fog in the lower levels of the forest, slightly condensing their vision of what was ahead.
“Stop.” Ordered the general. Both horses immediately slowed down and then stopped on order of their masters. “Hush,” the general whispered to his commander, “what do you hear?”
Amicitia stopped and listened intently. The odd cricket chirp ringing into his ears, followed by the singing of some birds. “Nothing that is of use, my Lord.”
He listened again, even more intently. The birds were still singing and the crickets were still chirping, he could also hear rustling in the leaves up above, most likely stray birds flying or making nests. Then he heard it, something that was completely out of place, unexpected and a sound one would not usually associate with forests.
Amicitia could have sworn he heard, in the far distant tree’s, the neighing of a horse that was not his own.
“A horse, my Lord, I hear a horse!” Amicitia told his general intently, unable to contain the excitement in his voice.
The general was also pleased to hear this news. “Good! Well done my friend. Victor!” he shouted, the voice carried forward by the echoing of the trees. “Come forth, it is I, your general!”
There was no response, there was no shout back as Amicitia had expected. He waited for a few moments, then disappointment ran through him as he looked to his general.
His general stared into the fog of the forest and then a smile broke through onto his mouth. Suddenly, the sound of a thousand hooves broke into the ears of both men and then out of the fog rode hundreds upon hundreds of men, in heavy white silver armour, their horses protected with the same, spears in their hand that were taller than themselves and a shield in the other hand, on it the flag of their nation. They cheered as they saw their general, and the man at the front riding out towards the general and his commander had his arms open wide, as if greeting two old friends.
“My Lord, its General Victor, and Shadow Company!” Amicitia shouted excitedly. “I thought you said that the emperor did not allow Shadow to travel to this campaign as they were needed to defend the capital in case of an insurgency?”
“My friend, what the emperor does not know, will not hurt him. Do not worry, I have the full loyalty of Victor and Shadow, I personally selected the men of this company, none of them will tell the emperor.” Amicitia nodded, happy with the response.
They watched as the man in front, rode up towards them and dismounted as they did the same. The man grabbed both of them in a huge bear hug, laughing jovially, much unrepresentative of the situation and then letting go.
“Victor, your armour is hurting me!” laughed the general, as he greeted his fellow officer and friend.
“My Lord, Amicitia, it’s been a long time, this campaign has dragged on for too long, we rode here as quickly as we could my Lord, as soon as we received your message,” the officer called Victor asked, in a continuous cheery voice.
“I have been well, for most part, however now is not the time for pleasantries, help me don my armour, we have a war to win,” the general told his officer, as he grabbed the sack that was tied to his horse and began to unravel the contents onto the mud and shrubbery. He began to assemble the infamous black armour around his legs and his two trusted officers assembled his chest plate. After a few moments, he picked up his jet black tainted helmet and slowly placed it upon his head.
The helmet represented who he was. It was the only one of its kind in the entire continent, and one view of the helmet would instantly put fear into the hearts of most mortal men. Two golden horns protruded from the side of the helmet, curving twice left and right before it reached a sharp point past the side of the helmet.
There was a huge rectangular shape which gave the general in black his eyesight, four vertical slits underneath the middle of the rectangle, for ease of breathe. Where his mouth was there was four more horizontal slits, protruding slightly outwards so that his voice was carried over a further distance at a higher volume. The metal itself was one colour, black, there was no further decoration, no flag, sign but there didn’t need to be, for it was obvious who the identity of the general in black, and the nation in which he served.
“My friends, how do I look then?” the general asked, as he saddled his horse.
Amicitia looked up and smirked at his general.
“Frightening, my Lord.”
Everything was a blur to him. The green leaves of the trees around him flashed past before he could look at them clearly. But he was not even trying to look at them clearly; he was staring straight ahead, glaring into the every bright light that was in the distance of the forest, leading him out.
He kept his head high, contrary to what most around him were doing. They were afraid, they were afraid of being hit by a stray branch in their body, causing severe injury or even death, so they crouched behind the long neck of their horses in case of any debris flying in their faces. But he did not fear this. He rode forward with his head held high.
They broke forward out of the forest into the light, and the speed was like lightening, the sound like thunder as they charged towards the hill where the enemy general sat, perched, as of yet oblivious to the peril that was drawing ever so close towards him.
And that it struck him. The horror on his face was a sight to see as the thunder of a thousand hooves turned him sight to his right, only to see the hordes of glorious silver horsemen in their steeds, spearheaded by a man in full black armour. It was as if death itself was riding up towards him.
They came so fast that the enemy commander had no time to even think of a retreat before they swarmed around him, a tight circle enclosed around him like a hive of ants closing in on their prey. The enemy general shuddered and the officers around him whimpered and many of them trembling in fear of what was to come, most having already decided their inevitable fate.
The general in black rode towards the enemy in the centre of the circle his men had made around the enemy. “You have one chance to surrender, give up and retreat now and order your men to retreat or I will kill you all,” the general in black said, there was no compromise, it was either lose…or die.
The other general hesitated; looking towards his other officers to gauge their reactions, then looked around the circle of adversaries, as if trying to find a possible deus-ex-machina so that he could save himself, maybe his officers as well if he could, but they were not important, his own life was first.
Looking around he saw nothing, no possible escape route or any form of leniency or mercy there was to be had. There was no choice but to surrender to the renowned general in black. There was no shame in defeat to the huge looming figure in front of him, surely his emperor would understand that if he managed to ever escape, he was not the first and was not going to be the last.
“I accept your conditions, general; if you let me go down to my men now I shall send the order for the retreat.” The general in black gave a brief nod before raising his hand, which were covered in sharp black gauntlets, dark spikes protruding out of each of the four areas which protected the knuckles, and the contraption was connected to his main plate body through two black clips on either side of the wrist.
The circle broke very orderly and disciplined, horseman scattering off to either side as they formed a tunnel for which the enemy general and his officers could leave. The officers were hesitant, intimidation clear in their expressions as the general in black lingered his gaze over them, his eyes not visible yet oh so glaring underneath the rectangle on his helmet.
As they began to trot slowly forward out of their apparently doom, another voice interrupted them. “Close the circle!” shouted the young man who was the only one without a helmet. He was perched on his horse next to the general in black, looking not quite as deadly as his superior, but also not looking out of place.
His hair was blonde and unorganized, save for a single long ponytail at the back which ran down to the back of his chest plate. He was of relatively smaller build than his commander, but nevertheless stood proud. Blue eyes shone brightly against the backdrop of black and silver. The boy had no facial hair or any bruises or scars on his face but his expression was that of a slight smirk, most likely involuntary, almost like he knew all the circumstances of what was going to happen in the back of his mind and was unknowingly portraying it on his face.
The horseman immediately responded, riding back into the places where the green grass was visible, plugging the tunnel and cutting off the road to freedom for the enemy general. “Amicitia, what are you doing? The sooner we get this over and done with the more countrymen we save!” the general in black explained to his subordinate, the sheer tenacity and rush in his voice apparently to those around him, friend or foe.
“My Lord,” Amicitia began to explain. “If we let these men leave now they could continue to order their men to fight, this would cause more deaths on our side as the battle prolongs, if they retreat, no doubt they will reform at another point and we would have another battle on our hands. We should kill them, then charge the rear of the enemy, then end this fight today with the least of our countrymen’s lives lost.” The enemy officers gasped and again, the enemy general visibly shuddered, sweat dripping from his brow into his armour, and his back also began to sweat cold droplets that was definetly not because of the heat.
“Please, my Lord, spare us, we are of no harm, we are your prisoners now, capture us, just please, spare our lives!” the enemy general pleaded as he got off his horse. He ran, but more dragged himself through in his dull grey armour as he arrived in front of the horse of the general in black. He sank to his knees, without any sort of self-pride, it was a disgrace in any nation to sink to the knees begging to another general, but this general did not care. He valued life over honour.
“Enough!” spat the general in black, disgusted at the antics that were being displayed in front of him. He sat on his proud red-brown steed in silence, silently contemplating the best decision, painfully aware the longer he delayed the more comrades would lose their lives or be bitterly crippled for the remainder of their malevolent lives.
Then he spoke, as the enemy general along with his officers collectively held their breathes awaiting the decision. “Amicitia, what you are suggesting is excessive and brutal, and it would be testing my morality and beliefs to the limit were I to go forward with that order.” Collective sighs could be heard as the enemy generals and officers decided that the decision was to spare them.
“But, I have decided against my better judgement that what you are saying is correct and that more lives will be saved with the deaths of the few. Men, kill the general and his officers, and then assemble a wedge.” He did not wait for a response, but merely slumped his horse to turn away from the enemy general and slowly trotted out of the circle, as his men made room for him.
“Please! My Lord, please! Spare us!” But they were of no use as the general in black ignored them and continued to trot away, his back turned. Amicitia turned to his general and followed him as in the background the screams and shouts of the men about to be mercilessly slaughtered rang in their ears.
“I am sorry, My Lord, but I feel that the lives of these men are to compensate for the lives of many more,” Amicitia explained. The general in black stirred then turned to his compatriot.
“Fear not, my friend, you are correct, but I still regret having to make such a monstrous command, those officers didn’t want to die, they were harmless.”
The sound of metal swashing through the air pierced into the general’s ears and there and then he knew it; the deed was done. He let out a shaky sigh as he lowered his head and closed his concealed eyes. It reminded himself that it had to be, it was his people or them. But it went against every single thing he was raised by his mother to believe in and he hated that, it was essentially a choice between the right thing to do and the best thing to do.
Why did it have to resort to that? War was simple enough for the general to understand. There is no right and no wrong, both sides are indoctrinated to believe that they themselves are fighting for a just cause, when really both are as guilty as the next. The military men were not responsible, but the old corrupt and volatile politicians and kings and emperors and warlords that sat behind a gold table with a map of the world basking in the safety or a hundred thousand spears.
Yet it was the military men who had to suffer, they were the ones who had die, had to give up on loved ones and their family had to grow without seeing fathers, husbands, uncles, brothers and cousins. They were the ones who had to go through the torment to please the politics. The general in black knew this, but he never fought against it, he was born into it. He had never hated an enemy military soldier or officer, but he despised the politics behind it all. If it were a toss between death of a general and the death of a king, he was certain to be executioner of the king.
Hate your enemy, but treat your defeated adversaries well. That was what his mother always reminded him. Yet the command he was given often contradicted in this belief, such as just then. What was he supposed to do? Follow his duty and responsibility or follow his own instinct?
“My Lord?” Amicitia queried, interrupting the generals stream of thought. “Shadow has formed a wedge; we need to charge now, to save as many lives as possible. Like you mentioned, time is of the essence.”
“You mean we need to murder more innocents?” the general in black venomously struck to his friend, who almost flinched at his outburst, almost. There was a pause, and then the general in black turned his head back round to his friend and sighed.
“Apologies, my friend, I forget who I am sometimes, you are right, there’s a battle to be won.” Amicitia nodded and ignored his commanders small outburst, not that all surprised at the generals reaction. The two of them rode to the front of the wedge of the heavy bright horsemen and gazed down onto the struggle beneath them. They were positioned directly behind the rear of the enemy lines and a full charge would prove catastrophic.
“Amicitia, to my right, Victor, my left. Men, for our nation and for the lives of our comrades, ride!” the general in black shouted, drawing his gleaming white blade from his plain black scabbard. And they charged forward, down the hill, the hooves warning those below of the certain death they were to face.
They never saw it coming; they couldn’t possibly have, until it was too late. The rear guard turned this heads at the sound of hooves, expecting their own commander only to see an armada of enemy horseman spearheaded by the most feared man in the continent.
It was a massacre. The screaming, shouting and crying, groaning, screeching and moaning of men reached new levels as the horseman crashed into the backs of the enemy, spears jabbing into their unprotected shoulders and unworthy chest plates, swords drawn hacking down limbs as they moved frantically trying to escape the onslaught.
Victor and even Amicitia screamed with every kill as they downed enemy after enemy, the blood of the adversary splashed on their faces, soaked onto their hands and their swords tainted with the red of blood. Some were lucky enough to be given an instant death blow, others not so and had to endure the misery of pain for an eternity of time.
Some had their lives taken away through the sheer brute force of a fully grown steed charge against their fragile bone structured body, others having their heads lopped off by the razor-sharp silver blades of the horseman, others their hearts pierced into two by the spears of the raging bulls.
But the general in black did not shout nor did he scream or cry as he killed mercilessly, destroying soul after soul, his sword swinging back and forth either side of his horse, and the loyal beast charged forward through the enemy ranks, knocking past straggling terrified and deeply stunned enemy soldiers.
Blood splattered his black armour and helmet, as the sound of metal through flesh rang fresh in his already infested ears. He did not know which direction he was charging at but he didn’t care. He did not know who was behind him, friend or foe but it didn’t matter. He was the general in black, he was the strongest warrior in the whole continent, and he was the most feared man to the common people.
And it was times like this he lost his mind, in the raging chaos of war, the general in black did not hold back. It was times like this where duty prevailed over morality and he did not have time to consider his actions, it was the time after where he would ponder.
Almost as soon as it began it was over. The cavalry had split the enemy line in two; causing a brief rendezvous with their comrades in the infantry they began to drive the enemy remnants away from the battlefield. The result was catastrophic. Those who could ran towards the forest in hope of escaping unscathed against the horror that was behind them.
Those who were less fortunate sat their knee caps on the blood-stained grass and their hands sat on the back of their heads, face tilted down facing the ground, in hope of mercy. The rest was a mop up, the cavalry surrounding groups of stragglers, killing them if they resisted, capturing them if they surrendered.
The black general watched as the infantry rounded up the prisoners, others scrounging the littered battlefield for the wounded, and ripping the tags off the necks of their dead comrades so they could be added to the casualties list.
“Ameroth!” cried the general in black, as he scavenged the battlefield for the wry officer. He spotted a man scurry towards him, unsurprisingly his silver armour still pure and un-bloodied, much telling of the character of the officer. The general jumped off his horse as the man approached.
“Yes, My Lord?” responded the officer, after panting a few breaths.
“Ride back to camp, tell the scribe to write a letter to the emperor to be delivered through the carrier pigeon, tell the emperor that the battle has been won and the nation of North Swar has been defeated. Mention that we anticipate to be in the capital within a week,” the general ordered his voice back to being cold, heartless and uncaring, again different to his attitude towards Amicitia and Victor.
Ameroth bowed and then ran to the nearest horse that was vacant and rode fast back to the camp where the main cavalry force most likely was currently resided.
“Amicitia, Victor!” shouted the general, looking for his two trusted comrades.
There was no response, nothing. He waited a few moments, surveying left and right, searching for his commanders. Still no response. Worry began to set in his heart; surely they did not fall in the battle? No, he quickly dismissed that thought; both were far too skilled warriors to fall in such meagre circumstances.
He shouted for the two again. No response again. Now panic really began to take over him. They were always there, every single time he had called; they were at his side, without any hesitation or delay. He shouted again, frantically looking around the battlefield for any sign of them.
After what seemed like a lifestyle, his heartbeat raced back to normal pace as he saw two familiar figures riding down the hill they had charged down not so long ago. They raced back to their general and dismounted.
“My Lord, was there anything you wanted? We were chasing down stragglers in the forest, I think the battle has been decisively won, congratulations,” Amicitia exclaimed to his commander with a smile and grasped the black armour of the generals shoulder.
“Yes, yes, I need a report on the battle, Victor, what are the casualties to Shadow company?” the general asked, turning to his older compatriot.
Victor was an aged man, a veteran of many campaigns. He was the nation’s best horseman, adept at taming any horse and taught the general from a very young age how to ride and fight on horseback. The general had nothing but respect for the commander.
He used to be a handsome man, but war had taken its toll on him. He was leaning towards the middle ages, his skin was darker than his two fellow officers and a huge ugly defacing scar ran down from the top of his temple down to the midway point of his cheek. There were smaller scars running on the tip his forward and his opposite cheek.
His eyes were large and constantly moving, always on edge, like two rotating black and white beads. His face was round and plump, the fat beginning to catch up with him as he aged but he was much larger, and physically stronger than both the younger men. Perhaps not as skilled or as agile or quick but in pure strength he no doubt exceeded both.
“A few horses have hurt themselves, nothing major, a few cuts and scratches on the men, but again nothing major. No deaths or permanent injuries my Lord, the damage to the infantry however is severe,” Victor announced.
The general in black nodded and sighed. “Tell Shadow to return to camp, I want the main cavalry to ride back and help the infantry carry the dead and tend to the wounded. We’ve also got thousands of prisoners, tell your most trusted men to look after them. We’re responsible for them now. You two ride with me back to camp, I want to speak to you two.” The two officers quickly saluted, saddled and rode with the general in black to camp.
The main camp was plain and ill decorated, nothing much glorifying the goatskin tents other than the flags of their nation. There was a sense of exhaustion within the camp, as men helped carried the bodies of their friends and comrades onto the large funeral pyres. They had won, but the atmosphere did not feel like it, for they had suffered. They had fought, had fought hard and they wanted to go home.
The general in black walked slowly towards his tent, which was different to all the rest, it having been painted plain black, strikingly different from all of the others. Men, who would usually jump up in excitement at seeing their commander merely grunted at him before walking off, eyes red with a limp frail figure in their arms.
He watched as men usually bustling with excitement slowly trudged back and forth, bringing medical supplies, water or the remains of somebody they once held dear. A terrifying sight for a mortal heart.
The general opened the flap to his tent and walked halfway in, beckoning his two officers behind him to follow in. The interior was shabby and much disorganized, scrolls strewn all throughout the cream coloured skin carpet, books heaped into one particular area in a pile. Spare swords, blades, daggers and armour lay in another particular heap.
In the centre of the circular tent was a small wooden table, various cutlery placed upon it and a few plates and jars full of leftovers. Around the table were four benches, each placed parallel to the table.
“Sit, do either of you want some wine?” the general asked, looking at his two officers.
“No Thanks, not any of yours anyway,” Victor told his superior, a sly smirk written on his mouth.
“Agreed, it will probably be full of insects and spiders. Nice to know you are still as organized as ever, seems like your mothers finally paid off on you,” Amicitia added, also giving his general a cheeky smile.
The general weakly chuckled and looked to the two officers. “I resent that, my mother does try her best to make me organized.”
“And fails,” Amicitia again added.
The general in black shrugged. “True, but you both know what I’m like.”
“So, general, what brings me and Amicitia here then? Anything important?” Victor said, bringing an end to the pleasantries.
“Well, no, not really, well, I just wanted some company, are either of you particularly busy? If you want to leave, feel free, I don’t want to disturb either of you from your duties,” the general spoke, hesitating and cautious, more so embarrassed by his request.
“Nonsense, we’re more than happy to provide company, we also need some ourselves,” Victor joyfully boomed, Amicitia smiling and nodding in agreement.
“Thank you, well tonight you two shall dine with me and we can talk like the three of us have not done in a long while,” the general said, his face lighting up and a smile broke out.
“Of course, I’ve told the chefs to cook the food, nothing in here,” the general laughed, seeing the scared looks on his two friends faces. The two joined in the laughter and for a moment, the three all forgot the war, their roles in the bloodlust and the duties to their nation.
“Kaicaliph, you seem distant of late, what’s wrong?” Amicitia queried, looking in the direction of the general.
Kaicaliph, yes that was his name, the general in black’s name. He was rarely called it, save for his mother and father and other close relatives. The soldiers all referred to him as general, his enemies called him the general in black or similar, in public even his closest friends had to call him general or refer to him simply as “My Lord.” It was in times like this that his name could be called out. He enjoyed it; it gave him a sense of belonging, an identity.
“I have been thinking, Amicitia.”
“About myself, why do I kill? Ever since I was born my mother instilled in me that killing is wrong, that murder is the worst crime in humanity, yet my father encourages me to kill my enemies that it is the greatest honour to do service for my country. Am I a murderer? Or am I a hero of my country?” Kaicaliph lamented.
There was a small pause, a silence as neither man had anticipated what was said.
“Kaicaliph, you do service for your nation not because of honour or glory, you serve because you are doing all you can to help your people. If killing is involved, then so be it,” Victor responded, causing Kaicaliph to frown.
“So murder is alright as long as I do it in service to my people? That does not sit well with me, if I were to kill a man on the street I would be imprisoned, maybe executed, if I were to kill a man on the battlefield I would be cheered. The result is the same, the loss of man’s life. It works both ways; if my enemies kill me then they would be cheered by their people, but hated by ours. We would think the man to be an evil murderer, whilst their people would worship him. Which side is correct?”
There was silence, as Victor did not know how to respond.
Amicitia however, cut through the silence. “Murder is, like you said, one of the worst crimes in humanity, but it may not be in however many years in the future. What’s the difference between a terrorist and a soldier? Both fight for their countries, both are willing to kill for their country, yet the only difference is that one fights with the full support of their king, emperor or ruler, the other one fights without that support. Yet we all hail the soldier but condemn the so called terrorist.”
Victor and Kaicaliph both pondered at the words, neither of them able to form a response. Seeing the initiative, Amicitia continued.
“See, it’s all about beliefs, what people think is the right thing to do. Sometimes the right thing to do isn’t always the best thing to do. The execution of the enemy officer was not the right thing to do, but it was the best thing to do. The right thing to do also changes with time, just the other day I read scripts about how it was honourable to take as many hearts as they could from the battlefield many centuries ago, that would be disgraceful today, would it not?”
His two friends did not respond again, both edging Amicitia to continue.
“What is most important is you find the right balance between the best thing to do and the right thing to do, we would not survive the world if we always did the right thing, and we would have no heart if we did the best thing. My friend, don’t let other peoples beliefs hurt you, keep to your own beliefs and stick by them, but only if the situation is correct.”
Amicitia finished, looking towards his friend. Victor mouth broke upwards into a wan smile. “Amicitia, always the philosopher, your words are indeed wise.”
But Kaicaliph was still pondering. “Amicitia, so you are saying that although I believe that murder is wrong, sometimes I have no choice but to murder in order to survive?”
Amicitia nodded. “And you are not a weaker man or a worse man for it. The enemies you slay on the battlefield, if you do not kill them, they will kill you. That’s the way it goes, there is no option. You can’t do both, you cannot possibly become a perfect infallible being and stick to every single one of your beliefs and morals yet still achieve what you need to.”
Kaicaliph nodded and understood. He lowered his head and stared at the cream coloured carpet for a few moments, feeling the gaze of both Victor and Amicitia on him. “Let us not speak of such confusing and depressing topics now, we fought a hard victory today, we shall dine and forget such mind numbing topics.”
Both Amicitia and Victor bore large grins as they nodded. With the shout, men began to fill the tent, carrying platters and plates of food, cooked to perfection to satisfy the needs of their commander and his trusted officers.
The night quickly passed as the three friends dined together, drank together and laughed and joked together, enjoying the bliss that was the temporary lapse in memory of their precarious situation. But the bliss was short lived as later that night they were interrupted.
As they sat on their benches and talked a soldier walked into the tent. “My Lord, the burning of the dead is about to commence, do you wish to oversee the proceedings?” The smiles and joy that was so natural on the faces of the three men instantly washed away, replaced by the solemn look of loss.
“Yes, we shall,” Kaicaliph responded, waving away the soldier. The three simultaneously stood up from their benches and slowly walked out of the tent, towards the battlefield where four gigantic traditional funeral pyres had been setup to accommodate the dead comrades.
The three watched in total silence, as did the rest of the huge crowd of men, as four officers raised a brazen torch, climbing the ladder of the crude wooden funeral pyre and threw it, almost reluctantly into the mass pile of bodies that lay unmoving, ghostly and almost innocently in an organized pile.
“So this is the price we pay for victory,” Victor said, his voice a mere monotone, not expecting a reply but staring straight ahead into the four burning piles, not blinking. Kaicaliph and Amicitia did not make any response or make any sort of indication that they had heard but Victor knew the three of them were all thinking the same.
“My Lord, there is a message from the emperor!” a voice shouted, interrupting their thoughts, Kaicaliph recognizing it as Ameroth.
And with a scurry the incompetent officer appeared behind the three who had turned their heads to face him. Ameroth bowed before the three.
“The emperor sends his congratulations to his general for the stunning victory and he is impressed upon the manner of which the campaign was implemented. He wishes to personally bestow honour upon his general’s arrival back to the capital.”
Kaicaliph nodded and motioned for Ameroth to leave but the officer was hesitant, almost afraid to move.
“Is there something more which you would wish to add?” Amicitia enquired.
“Y-Yes sir, the emperor also adds that due to the shortage of provisions in the country and the costs of maintaining this campaign, he-he orders that no prisoners are to be taken due to the costs of feeding them and that any prisoners are to be executed as soon as possible.”
Victor shuddered in shock at the command whilst Amicitia stared at Ameroth, almost blaming him for what he had to do. Kaicaliph however just stared into the ground upon hearing the news.
The soldiers around them heard the emperor’s command and began to hustle and see the development. The look on their faces was all the same. Disgust, bewilderment but most of all fear and hesitation. Nobody wanted to carry out such a command.
Kaicaliph slowly turned his head towards Amicitia and then slowly whispered.
“Amicitia, what should I do?” But not even this time could his trusted friend help him with the decision. He shook his head and looked uncertain.
“I cannot make that decision for you, My Lord; it is yours to take, as the commanding officer in charge.”
Kaicaliph nodded, understanding the implications.
There was silence as all the soldiers waited in anticipation of their next order. All eyes were on the general in black as he continued to stare in the ground. Victor stared at him. Amicitia stared at him. All of the soldier’s eyes were upon him and if the prisoners knew their eyes would be glaring daggers at him.
Finally he raised his head. Then he spoke.
“Ignore that order; anybody who carries it forward shall be executed for treason. I repeat that order is not to be carried out.”
There was more silence.
“I shall take responsibility with the emperor myself.”