The Game

edward-iv

The endless War

No one knew the reason why the ritualistic war had begun. Or indeed, who started it, and even more to the point, why it continued. The endless winter months were spent in brutal and bloody battles between the people of Farren and the Tribes of the River in the wide plains of the valley. During the spring, and summer, right through until the harvest was gathered in the late autumn, peace reigned across the land, and then the completely crazy cycle of destruction began once again.

~~~

Idrell stood on the smooth ice covered rock, protected from the biting winter winds by his warm bearskin cloak, shielding his eyes with his hand from the reflected sunlight coming from the blanket of virgin snow that covered the wide plain. In the distance, he could see the Tribes of the River as they formed up in their straggling ranks, their weapons glinting in the sunlight. He turned to his companion.

“Gar, why do we do this, what purpose does it serve except to keep our numbers down?” he wondered. Gar looked at Idrell with a puzzled expression on his face, “because the Tribes of the River are our enemy,” Gar replied, “what other reason do you need?”

Idrell shook his head in disbelief at Gar’s reply as he climbed down from the icy rock and mounted his horse. As the two friends rode back to the head of the Farren army, Idrell’s mind filled with endless questions.

~~~

Idrell and Gar were lifelong friends. Idrell’s father Briam was the king of Farren, and Gar’s father Drevi was his lieutenant. Both men were now too old to participate in the ritualistic war, so their sons acted as leader and lieutenant in the endless bloody winter battles, while the two old friends remained in the old castle keeping warm by the roaring fire in the great hall.

~~~

Idrell withdrew his sword from its scabbard beneath the warm folds of his cloak and reluctantly signalled the advance, leading the way with his horse slowly trudging through the knee-deep snow. Gar rode along and through the ranks of old and young men and boys, driving them forward with the flat of his sword. Idrell wasn’t the only one who often wondered about the war, half of his army felt exactly the same way.

As both sides closed the distance between them, they broke ranks to form smaller fighting units. Soon the sounds of sword, battleaxe, and war hammer striking their deadly blows filled the air. Injured men on both sides were trampled by their comrades as the battle reached its bloody climax.

Both the Farren army and the Tribes of the River were once again locked in the deadly ritualistic battle, neither side giving an inch in the struggle to dominate the blood soaked battlefield.

~~~

Idrell looked across the heads of his troops to where his opposite number, Riana, Queen of the Tribes of the River, sat on her horse. They looked at each other for a moment and then both bowed their heads and saluted each other with their swords. Battle horns blasted the air and both sides withdrew to their own lines to lick their wounds.

Hundreds of men and boys lay mortally wounded or dead in a tangled bloody heap. Their warm breath, mixed with the warmth given off by their sweat-covered bodies formed a low misty cloud that gently spiralled into the crisp air of the cloudless sunny winter’s day.

~~~

Briam looked up and stared at his old friend Drevi. The cold winter winds howled and made the ancient building creak and groan. Both men nodded in agreement. “Idrell, Gar, wake up boys, it’s time for bed,” Briam said, as the two men looked at their young sons lying at their feet on the warm bearskin rug in front of the roaring fire.

“Who won father?” Idrell asked, as he yawned.

“Neither of you son, it was a draw,” he said, as he picked up the chessboard and put away the pieces…

😉

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