Fields (Lords of Fate)
by JC Hemphill
Sounds of war awoke the farmer.
He listened as roars of bravery collapsed beneath cries of agony. Swords clashed with swords, armor with armor, flesh with flesh. The farmer sprang from bed, ran for the door of his shack, flung it wide, and froze. Chaos had taken shape. Soldiers in silver poured from the eastern woods to greet the hordes of loping creatures emerging from the high grasses to the west. Flame-tipped arrows hung high above their heads, a thousand lanterns briefly turning night to day before reverting to missile form and completing their deadly arc. All of this--men, creature, fire--came together upon the farmer's field. Where flowering flax had grown was now a crimson tangle of death, a dumping ground for the young, the strong, the valiant.
Dual horn blasts sounded through the night, one from each side of the field. A black river of mounted creatures flowed like oil from the high grass, countering a shining river of cavalry flanking from the forest. The advancing columns met head on, their hooves making mud of those who had fallen. The two forces slaughtered and were slaughtered, an unceasing machine dedicated to flaying life from the living.
The kings and tyrants responsible for the war began showing themselves, lingering in the outskirts of the battlefield, not yet seeing the need to participate but growing anxious as the two great armies neared depletion. They approached the farmer in their desperation, closing on him from east and west with golden promises on their lips. The farmer listened as these lords of fate offered him the Earth in exchange for his allegiance. "One more soldier to tip the scales," they pleaded, both king and tyrant alike, baring teeth at one another, blaming the other for all that is wrong and terrible. "One more log for the pyre," the farmer replied, gaze fixed on what was lost--his field, his livelihood, his reason for being. All that remained was for the kings and tyrants to fall upon each other. And they did. With zeal. Swords clashed once more. Blood flowed. King was made indistinguishable from tyrant, tyrant from king.
When all were corpses at his feet and the flames had burned out and the night plunged into stunned silence, the farmer set about the task of restoring the field's original purpose. The work was arduous but necessary. Graves needed digging; the field needed clearing before the flax could return. For the future held mouths to feed, tithing to pay, and soldiers to clothe.
As it always had.
This story was first published on Wednesday, April 15th, 2015