Padaver, a kal in the Nusallean army, shivered as he crouched by a group of six other men, huddled into each other for warmth. He could make out the occasional limb protruding from beneath a communal blanket made by their cloaks. It served to keep them dry, a necessity, as they couldn’t risk lighting a fire, so close to the Vindavians.
Originally born of the Magpie tribe, he joined the army, not to fight so much, as to die. His wife found everything he did to be an annoyance. He would never raise his hand to her, nor would he repel her abuse with harsh words. According to village culture, for him to do so, would make him appear the abusive spouse in the marriage.
Free from retaliation, his wife’s tongue grew sharper and more vehement, gradually eroding his self esteem, to the point where he could no longer call himself “a man.” His only joy came from spending time with his young son. Uraban seemed listless, a product of his mother’s overbearing nature, but he always offered a faint smile in his father’s presence. It pained Padaver to have to leave the boy behind. When he turned from him, he marched along the road with other men of the Magpie tribe. They carried on their conversations, leaving him alone with his thoughts, and his tears. He knew he would not return. Even if he didn’t die in battle, he could never return to an endless source of misery.
But could he abandon his son? That would crush the boy, leaving him with unanswered questions throughout life. If he didn’t return home after the war, people would forever accuse him. Even if he migrated to another land, he would not be able to refrain from accusing himself. He had only one alternative; the hope that a Vindavian sword would end his life.
Peering hard amongst the trees, he could make out glints along the southern bank; the fires of Natas’ army. He could not bring himself to hate the southmen. Somewhere among them lurked a sword that would offer him blessed release.
Heavy rain began a week ago. Ruscatron Traya at the time, asked for a squad of volunteers to scout out the southern bank for Natas’ forces. The river swelled within a day, cutting them off from crossing back. Tarb Nanaleed, the commander of the patrol had already planned to leave during the night. Before they did however, they would harry the Vindavians with a parting defiant act. They would poison some of their grain stores.
Padaver offered to take watch, giving the men time to rest.
He shook the droplets of water from his brows. They have slept long enough.
He pulled back a section of the cloaks. Nanaleed and another man snapped their eyelids open, and began to rouse the others. As they did, Padaver walked to their picketed horses and took hold of the reins of his grey mount. The rest of the patrol did likewise, then walked their horses through the trees together.