Night was creeping on the horizons, weighing heavily on the land. Before long, it would be even tougher to see who was an enemy and who was not. The two armies took notice, but could not devote too much thought to it for fear of being picked off by the opportunistic archers lining either side of the valley. All it took was a single lapse. Just a single hesitation.
The training had never prepared them for this. For one, the superficial simulations seemed efficient enough, but there was always something in a real fight that the cadets never accounted for in their fantasies, and usually, they eventually succumbed to it. For some, it was the incessant cries of combat, and the dull moans of the dying. For others, it was the worry of death, bearing down on their soul, making one’s heart heavy. But thoughts of death and pain were usually absent during battle, pushed off to a forgotten corner of the mind and continuously resalvaged for the rest of a man’s life, however long that might be. Each of these soldiers accepted death when they enlisted. In the end, war would claim them all. The lucky would die on the field, ending the pain and supplying a resting point for excess honor. The others would taste the poison that has no antidote, and carry it with them until they, too, faded.
None of them remembered the real cause for fighting anyway.
Garet tossed a Sparker, waited for the explosion, and fitted an arrow to his bow. He had been assigned to guard the northern hill. In other words, he was to make himself as much an impediment as possible, even at the cost of his own life. He had been taught that self-sacrifice was a noble thing, but he never truly believed it. A martyr was just as dead as the sinful barbarians they were slaughtering. Their method of death did not effect their destination, wherever that might be.
He caught sight of a bare, hairy chest, and a few seconds later, sent a thin wood shaft straight through it. The wounded man fell to the ground, but started to get back up. By this time, though, Garet had looked for another target. The enemy was a hardy race, but it would be simple drill work for the frontline to dispatch the weakened man. Garet was not well-learned, but he knew enough of the human body to figure that he likely hit something very important. Two similar figures popped up, and each were knocked down by the same bow. Garet was quite good at what he did.
Because he was so well-protected, Garet lapsed into boredom, as the mind is prone to doing when afflicted with assumed safety. He had trained with these soldiers for months, and had been subjected to the same bitter simulations they had. He felt invincible. A swift, unseen sword-strike corrected that error, though Garet wasn’t left any time to realize his mistake. The same figure that he had shot with that arrow delivered the killing blow, leaving Garet’s body to litter the bloody ground. Six similar arrow wounds and a ridiculous amount of scars were all that the young man saw before his life spirit and his body divorced. He never saw the god’s face, nor heard him whisper the only eulogy he’d ever have.