Our Vast and Inevitable Death
by S. Boyd Taylor
On the tenth day of the battle, in the before-dawn lull, I see our leader, Warlord Grig, walking
the pickets alone, staring at the distant campfires of our enemies the way I have stared at them
myself. Not with fear, not with desperation, but with a hard and empty soul. There are only two
thousand of us here, wedged between the everwhite slopes of the Varrashan and the perfect cone
of the Krazelshan. But out there, down in the pass and out on the plain, the camp fires stretch
unto the horizon and past, so far that I cannot tell them from the stars.
I am nobody, a peasant from a village. Son of a pig farmer. But I hesitate only a moment before
going to my Warlord and placing my fist on my heart.
He nods to me, and I relax as he looks out again at the campfires -- at our vast and inevitable
death -- and says, "My arm is tired, Pikeman Hellar."
"Sir?" I am surprised he knows my name. I have only talked to him a few times, as few as any
other pikeman or halberdier may have. Passing greetings, small opportune conversations. He
must know all of our names.
He says: "My arm is tired. My shoulder, my elbow, my hand. I have cut down eight-hundred and
twenty-six Boskee. I can barely move my fingers even to scratch a flea, they are locked in the
shape of a pommel. You were a farmer -- pigs, wasn't it? -- no stranger to hard work. What
would you suggest I do tomorrow?"
"Use your left arm. Sir."
He smiles at that, and looks away from Death's dark eye and into mine. "We won't get out of
this alive, you know."