[Word Count 515]
How many soldiers had died in that last charge, the Captain thought as he wiped the blood and sweat from his brow. The ground ahead littered with the dead, horses and men alike churned into the soil, a sick mockery of a farmer’s field. Even now he saw the enemy forming for another charge.
The sound of the dying played across the land, music to the crows and vultures as they danced in the sky waiting for the final chorus.
“Captain” a young officer said as he pulled up, his breath mimicking the snorting of his tired horse. “I was told to give you this.” He saluted and passed over a piece of folded cloth, a piece of string holding it closed.
“It came from…”
“I know who it came from, boy” The harshness of his words surprising him. He took the cloth and carefully turned it over, the texture smooth against his calloused blood stained fingers. As he tried to undo the knot. He fumbled and almost dropped it. Catching it before it hit the floor passed it back.
“Here boy, you open it, that knot is too dainty for a war horse like me.”
The runner, taking it greedily made little work of knot and pulling the string free he unfolded the cloth. Inside was a ring, plain, simple, made for a small man, it could easily fit a lady. He thought he saw an inscription on its inner surface but the light, now failing was too dark to be sure.
“What’s the colour boy?” he Captain barked
“The ring Boy. What’s the colour?”
“Silver.” He looked up dragging his gazed from this bastion of normality, the cloth and content so clean when all else was sullied.
“What does it mean?” the boy asked.
The captain gave no reply, his eyes now staring off at the enemy ranks forming up on the other side. The signal had been pre-arranged months before. But he never expected it to come to…
“Sir, your orders?”
“What, oh…” He replied finally comprehending the enormity that this simple ring symbolised.
“What’s your name?” The captain asked his tone now softer, his voice barely a whisper.
“Peter, Peter Black Hammer, sir”
“A mighty name for one so young”
“I will 16 next winter festival, older than my pa when he enlisted” A steely edge of defiance appearing in voice and reflected in his face.
“And I am sure he would be proud.”
“I need you to take this to my wife.” The captain pulled at his finger, a ring similar to the one that peter held came free and handed it over.
“See she gets it.”
“But, that would mean. I would miss the battle.”
“Are you answering me back Boy? Take it and be gone” The tone leaving no room for argument.
Peter took the ring, shame etched across his face, and without saying another word saluted and rode away from the battle.
At least one sole will survive this day, he thought.
“Prepare to charge” he bellowed. One last time, he added to himself.