Dead Man's Tale | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 08, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, November 08, 2018

Dead Man's Tale

The valley that echoed the screams of a thousand men, reverberated the clash of swords and shields, and bore the hooves of thrashing horses a few moments ago, lay ominously silent. The green of the meadow was speckled with bloodied bodies bereft of life. A wise man would have thought the war to be over. A wiser man would have walked a bit further to find the crowd of soldiers in despair huddled in a circle.

The soldiers stood with their heads hung low and weapons sheathed, the colours of their uniform clashing just like they did not so long ago. The same people who were trying to pry open each other's throats stood shoulder to shoulder under the common denominator of grief and shock.

“Are you absolutely sure he's dead?” the question came from an elderly general, absolutely befuddled by what was in front of his eyes. A soldier from the opposition camp held up the arm of the dead body in question and let it fall. Any last hope of the man snapping into life faded as it thumped right back on the ground. Although one might say the arrow piercing his temple should have been proof enough.

With a long sigh the general wearing the emblem of the Northern Realm finally stood up and looked around him at the crowd of men. Silence ensued.

“How do you all even look at yourself in the mirror?” he uttered, each word laced with vitriol. Both the men of the Northern Realm and the Southern Empire stood in silence. “This man… no, this hero, was supposed to be our saviour. He was the one who was supposed to end this war we've been fighting for generations!”

“I heard he killed a lion with just his feet once,” murmured someone in the crowd.

“Yeah, but that was nothing compared to the time when he rode a shark to cross the ocean,” added someone else.

“You got it all wrong, he crossed the ocean on alligators,” argued a soldier with blood painted on his face.

The murmurs slowly began to turn into a full on argument.

“Silence!” shouted the general of the Southern Empire, standing side by side with his counterpart, an adversary a while ago but a friend in this time of need.

“For hundreds of years we waged this war. Do any of you know why?” he bellowed.

The crowd of soldiers stood in silence.

“Well of course you don't know why, none of us do!” He shouted. “But there was one thing that we all knew whether you wore the blue tunic of the North or the red stripes of the South. And that was…”

“The hero will put a stop to this war and start an age of enlightenment,” the Northern General finished his adversaries sentence. “This man was what we were waiting for, the man of whom every prophecy spoke of. And just when he was riding into our battle, to finally relieve us, you shoot him in the head?”

Someone among the soldiers murmured, “We didn't think we'd actually be able to kill him. We just, played along, you know.”

Both the generals stood baffled. The sound argument that the anonymous voice made infuriated them, but also made perfect sense. Technically they were all playing along. No one expected the champion of mankind to just die. Not even the most amateur bard would end a tale this way.

“So what do we do now?” asked a soldier, his sword still glistening with the blood of his last victim.

“I heard the food in Falcon Inn is great. It's just a quick horseride away,” suggested someone from the back.

“Aye, my uncle always took me there. Did you try their shepherd's pie?” added another.

The conversation slowly started to drift away from the morose advent to the intricacies of the shepherd's pie.

The two generals sighed as they felt the crowd around them slowly dissipate.

“What do you say, old enemy?” said the General of the North. “Care for some pie?”

“I was always more of a soup kind of person,” jested the General of the South hiding the fatigue of war behind his smile.

And thus, an hour later, the sullen battlefield lied truly abandoned. Except for the corpse of a thousand unknown men and one hero of ages, who in the end turned out to be quite the disappointment.

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