Taking up his sword, just as the Master commanded, Nathan prepared for battle. Sharpening the blade, lifting the breastplate, cinching the belt, donning the helmet, he prepared for more than just the physical confrontation. As he cleared his mind, the Master’s commandments filled him, boiling up through his mind and cascading down his flesh, cleansing him within and without.
Stepping into the chill evening air, Nathan was overwhelmed by the solidarity of his comrades-in-arms. The land teemed with hundreds of his brothers, girding themselves for the fight. Fires burned in their eyes and their hearts – fires that could not match the vengeance their Master had promised to wreak upon their enemies that night.
The men looked to Nathan, their Commander, for orders. A warm, foul wind blew from the north, carrying the stench of their foes across the land. Breathe it deep and remember it well, Nathan told himself, for by morning it will be gone.
With the quiet attention of his brothers, he vaulted himself atop his warhorse. Each of the men gathered their reins in their hands, ready for his command. The earth was silent before them. A whisper would have penetrated the darkness for miles, but when he finally spoke he raised his voice strong and clear so no fault could be made in the hearing.
“Tonight we reclaim our lands. Tonight we cleanse ourselves of this insidious stain. The battle will be long; it will be fierce; we remember that we fight not for ourselves, but for the future, for the purity of our sons and our daughters. We fight for the Master who has commanded us. When the swords of our foes rise against us, when their armors seem impenetrable, recall the innocence of your children and allow their beating hearts to propel you. When you reach the precipice of death – for surely many of us shall – remember the Master who has called you and promised to lead you to victory, and in that moment, with the light of glory descending to bless your final breath, know that your life was ordained from the beginning for such a time as this.”
Drizzle fell from the sky, burdening his words with the weight of the heavens. Eyes closed, he withdrew his sword from its scabbard and lifted it high. “Mount, my brothers. Let us ride. Let us take back our land.”
In unison, the body of brothers mounted their steeds and rode into formation. Sweat glistened on each horse’s flanks as if the beasts, too, anticipated the hour. The men rode into battle.
When they crested the hill, they saw the village of their enemy spread throughout the valley. Nathan halted until the entirety of his force could amass behind him. Though darkness had descended and the night was maturing, candlelight twinkled in dozens of the homes as mothers and fathers bid their children goodnight and tucked them into bed.
The clouds shifted, obscuring the moon, and the world was for a moment shrouded in blindness. Nathan’s heart raced and adrenaline rushed in his veins. He squeezed the pommel of his sword and withdrew it. The sound of the steel, eager for the river of blood it had been promised, pierced the night. His men, hearing this announcement of battle, drew their own swords and the entire valley echoed with the prelude to war.
Without waiting for Nathan’s command, the front line of soldiers lit their torches. The fires, stretching endlessly to either side of him, illuminated the men’s solemn faces. They looked to Nathan for the fated command.
Today was the day that had been prophesied. Their destiny lay waiting for them to claim.
The men were prepared to expel the blight from their land and demonstrate the power and authority of their Master. With a yell, Nathan kicked his steed forward into the valley. A chorus of voices behind him mixed with the stamping of hoofs and the ring of steel. Their fires lit the way.
The men reassembled, the last few embers of the village dying behind them as dawn peeked over the horizon. The battle had been delivered into their hands just as their Master had promised. The villagers had mounted nary a defense against the divine will imposed against them and not a single soul had been left alive. The smell of burning flesh would serve as a staunch warning for all others who dared stand in opposition to their Master.
As his men gathered back into their ranks, Nathan counted the numbers of his brothers still living. File after file reported complete survival – not a single man had been lost. How was that possible with the ferocity of the fight? It was a miraculous victory indeed!
As one they marched their horses back up the hill to return to their homes, their wives, their children. Purity, with the stewardship of its protectors, at Nathan’s command, had vanquished another foe.
“Falling on the Sword” is a prose version of the story I first told in the poem “The War is Coming!“
I also wrote up a quick description of how I have interpreted this story myself here, although, as is true with all art, it may speak to you differently.