Won without Victory



"Won without Victory"

by Jamie Burns

          The red sun finally peeked over the crest of the massive mountains, orange light flooding the field below. The warmth of it instantly relighting the hope in the men's hearts. The beautiful sight brought a second wave of energy and confidence. They had survived the night and won the battle.

        The battle had changed once Erian, their captain, had killed the beast as well as their commanding officer. Many enemies could see the way the tides were turning and began to lay down their weapons to surrender. The men were more than happy to accept, being neither ruthless nor an unforgiving people. Most of the men only wanted peace. They had no desire to slaughter an entire army. They only wanted to ensure their family's safety from the ever growing reach of the Groven Clan that controlled the east.

         As the men walked through the now body covered field looking for their wounded. Trenton stopped, he looked over his shoulder to see if anyone was close. When he was sure no one was watching, he faced the sun and closed his eyes. Letting the heat and bright rays wash over him. He had made it through the night. A battle he was so sure he would not return from. The youngest and least skilled among them and he had made it. He would see his mother and younger brother again. With Captain Erian to command their people they would be able to keep the Grovens at bay and out of their valleys.

         Erian had saved Trenton many times throughout the night, coming sometimes out of nowhere. The last time was only moments before he had beheaded the beast. All his men admired him especially Trenton. Captain Erian was the kind of commander that was loved by his men, could light a fire under a nation, fight with the skill of ten men, and had the fortitude of twenty. The kind of man Trenton dreamed of growing into. Trenton being only fifteen had very much accepted that he would not come back from this battle but now that it was over the thought returned. Maybe he could still grow into that kind of man. The kind to lead nations. If he could learn to fight from the men around him and watch Captain Erian and learn from his example, just maybe he would someday be the kind of man others could look up to and admired.

            “Soldier!” Trenton heard being called to him. He jumped, turning to see Captain Erian himself walking through the field back toward their command tent.

             “Do not linger here.” he called and beckoned him with a wave to join him on the walk back. Trenton ran to his side. Weaving their way back through the field of carnage. Trenton’s hand started to sweat as it rested on the hilt of his sword. Was he allowed to speak? Or was is disrespectful it be the one to initiate conversation with a commanding officer? He couldn’t remember.

            “We had many losses today soldier.” Erian said to him “We might say the battle is won, but no battle can ever truly be a victory when so many must die to claim it.” Erian spoke with his head held high and straightforward. Trenton looked up at him, a full foot and a half taller than himself.  Erian meant to make his face blank like a stone, but the pain over the loss of so many was just under the surface. Trenton could see it and took his first private lesson from his Captain. The loss of men would never be a true victory. This only deepened Trenton’s respect for his captain. Trenton said nothing in return, fearing he would only make himself sound foolish.

            They walked on, Trenton a step and a half behind Captain Erian as was proper etiquette. They were only twenty yards from the edge of the battle lines when Trenton saw a flash of movement to his left. So close it might have appeared out of thin air. An enemy soldier had pulled himself up out of the carnage. The sunrise showed a glint of light flash in the enemy’s hand. He had waited till Captain Erian was just past him, out of his line of sight. The enemy lunged forward toward Erian’s back, the knife held high aloft. “Captain!” Trenton was able to call out just as he too lunged forward and turn toward the enemy.

            The knife sank deep into his chest, Trenton felt his back hit hard on the ground. Opening his eyes to see the sky now painted in soft blues, pinks, and oranges. Stepping into his view was Erian thrusting his sword forward into the enemy with the sky peaceful in the background, a confusing contrast for Trenton as this moment. How had the Captain drawn his sword so quickly? The Captain pulled his sword back out of the enemy and Trenton felt a body fall across the lower half of his, which was quickly pushed aside.

              “I need aid!” Erian called back toward the command tent. Erian bent down to the side of Trenton and pressed his hands to the wound. “Hold on soldier,” Erian looking at him to assess the damage and then back up to the men running out to help. For a moment the pain in Trenton’s chest turned to a warmness, spreading over him, then the warmness grew cold like a sudden chill in winter. Erian pulled Trenton up so his shoulders were propped against him.

             “I wanted to be just like you sir.” Trenton said with broken gasps between words. Erian moved his hand from the wound and took Trenton’s.

           “You are a brave man, and a better one than even I.” Erian said with sorrow and thankfulness thick in his voice. The grip on Trenton’s hand went slack and Erian placed it gently over his wound. He looked up to the sky and was glad it was the last thing the boy would see.

            In the six years of peace that followed that battle Erian often saw Trenton’s and many of his other fallen men's faces, in the faces of the townspeople. The families of these brave men lived on and carried the memories of their fallen loved ones with them. With their sacrifice it was ensured they would not be ruled over, and would remain a free people.