On high a peppering of golden, flotsam clouds drifted tranquilly upon a deep-sea sky. In times of uncertainty it is ever man’s way to look to the heavens, just as it is ever the way of a loving God to reassure.
Shoulder to shoulder we shivered through the waning night, awaiting the revelations of dawn. A people of the land, we clung to tools fashioned for the harvest of life, tools wielded now as weapons of death; ax, sickle, and scythe. Bearded men we, nurtured by woman, and weaned on a plow’s handle. Calloused and seasoned, our joys were in life’s labors, being tribally banded in mind and deed.
We had long hoped to be spared this moment, but they were here, the horde, so we stood ready. We knew of the horde from stories told on late nights while the children slept, stories of razed villages, of men slaughtered, and stories of women become slaves and worse, their children adopted into godless ways. Heathens they were, whose horses and heels churned the seeded ground to mud, leaving a tornado’s path of destruction in their wake. We had naught that they wanted save our wives and daughters, but that was enough, so they had come. Though waried by those stories we were tested men who knew our strengths. We were not many, true. And our comforts were few. But what little was ours we would keep. Our fathers had long since laid claim to this plot for both life’s short travail, and for death’s eternal repose. We would not be driven from it.
Behind us were homes built by our own hands, homes kept by proud women who walked beside us, sharing in our triumphs, and our trials. Before us lay a dream of tomorrow, but to realize that dream we must fight with the knowledge that many must die. Curious, My eyes searched the line’s length, wondering which ones it might be, but their expressions foretold nothing.
We heard before we saw them, and felt them before we heard, as the earth shook beneath us from the weight of their numbers. Tens of thousands of hooves thundered from beyond, clouding the horizon with dust enough to blot the glow of dawn, until finally they appeared seeping dark as water towards us, flowing through the hills beyond, flooding across the plains below, their masses driving insects and small game before them, and into our midst.
They were too many.
It was Yevigney stepped to the front. Yevigney, my brother; he of clear head, and a sense for the common good. Twenty paces Yevigney walked before stopping. Twenty paces toward death. Twenty paces that steeled our resolve, so that we stepped out to join him.
They saw us then, those in the vanguard. They bore down upon us in a rush, their screams primal, their faces fierce, their ponies small, but sturdy. A glance showed holes in our line where many were already fallen, but that glance also showed the women of those fallen having stepped into their places, and having taken up their weapons, they being ready to die beside their own rather than to become the horde. Such were our people!
It was an hour only, possibly less. Scores we killed, hundreds maybe, but it made not a dent in their thousands which washed around, and over us, spilling the blood of better men than they to enrich the soil of the plains.
Side-by-side we fought, Yevigney and I, with our booted feet firmly impressed upon the grassy dews, our seasoned muscle allowing blades forged for wheat to mow men as easily.
And back-to-back we fought, each for the life of the other.
When Yevigney fell I went it alone, a young man yet, and reluctant to die with so much still to see, and do. Standing over my brother’s body I held-to with a determined fury, killing with abandon, taking satisfaction from the power behind my blows. There was an urgency in me to make my mark, and to honor those from whom I sprung. I took the blows from their strongest men standing, and returned them with vigororous shouts of rage.
The tempest slowed as the wary devils circled away from my swings and slices, their fight over but for this bloody, railing curiosity that was me. But their kind, being strangers to mercy, would not finish the job. Instead they circled away, giving room to my rage, saving something for the lusts of their women. And when the warriors were passed, those women and children came for me, baring sticks, stones, and vexations. As this noose of depravity tightened around me, I showed them no quarter. My blade bit into flesh time and again, even as the vile women pummeled me, and the filthy children screamed, and the blood-thirsty mob found their own cowardly satisfaction inside the final dregs of the fray.
And when the blows had done their worst, and my body finally wearied, the victors had their way.
That quickly a people vanished. That quickly an insignificant God, watching from afar, despaired at the deaths of his believers directly before vanishing along with the last.
But indifferent to man or God, the horde moved on.
And after, in the wake of evil, as is forever wont to happen, there came a man worthy of those whose bodies fertilized the land... a man with a woman, a plow, and a dream.