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The Overlords and Their Wizards

Steve Lance is a retired Data Architect. Upon his retirement, he began writing the short stories that run through his head while showering--not during the shower. He towels off first.

The war has raged for 100 years, the peace talks nearly as long. Evenly matched, the young warriors maimed and killed each other day after day, year after year.
The soldiers are told from birth that they must fight. In doing so, they bring honor to themselves. But the battlefields are nothing but a human butcher shop, and they see in their opponents' eyes the same innocence and humanity as their own. And they wonder why they must kill.
Meanwhile, negotiators meet to talk peace in a compound hidden high in the mountains, where the air is cool, the water is pure, and the gardens grow lush. They debate the terms, generation after generation, never coming close to a truce. But over the years, they agree to expand the compound, giving each negotiator a fine house. And they agree it should have every attainable luxury. And that there should be maids, cooks, and butlers to care for their every whim. That all of this is necessary so they can dedicate themselves to the serious work of finding peace.
The Overlords who rarely interfere declare enough. They grow tired of seeing young men hacked to death and watching the mothers weep as they bury their sons. So they instruct their wizards to use their magic and prevent the soldiers from striking each other. They seal the compound and tell the negotiators they cannot leave until a peace agreement is reached.
The wizards travel to the blood-stained battlefield and cast a spell, causing a red carnation to grow wherever blood was spilled. As a result, a thick carpet of red flowers bloomed across the field, testifying to the sacrifices of the last twenty generations.
When the soldiers see the flowers, sorrow fills their hearts. They lowered their heads and wondered how they could have participated in such brutality. The swords grow heavy in their hands, their grips loosened, and the weapons fall to the ground.
The Overlords declare there will be three days of mourning, where the wives and mothers from both tribes will grieve together for their lost soldiers. This will be followed by a three-day festival, where both tribes will join together for feasting and games of leisure. During this time, the negotiators will work out a peace treaty. If unable to do so, it will not be the soldiers who return to the battlefield but the negotiators. If their words cannot solve the differences, they will solve it with their own blood.
On the first day of mourning, the mothers go to their holy sites and pray for all lost souls. They gather with their families on the second day, remembering their loved ones. On the third day, mourners of both tribes come together and grieve for the senseless losses they have endured. They see the sorrow and the love for the fallen in each other's eyes. They vowed to set aside their hatred and forgive one another.
The festival begins with a feast provided by the wizards. A mile-long table is filled with food and drink. Each tribe sits on their respected side but close enough to reach over and shake the hand of their former enemy. The war has left them with meager resources, and this is a feast like none had seen before. They eat and drink together and tell tall tales. On the second day of the festival, they compete against each other in friendly games. They play hard but congratulate the winners. And on the third day, those who wish to take the stage talk about the new friendships being formed. They pledged to put all past grievances aside and go forward with goodwill towards all. The wizards provide music, and they dance well into the night.
Meanwhile, the negotiators, unaware of the events taking place, are confined to the compound and instructed to work out a peace deal. The wizards take away the feather beds and throw straw on the floor. They fill the baths with blood from the soldiers who have died and replace the rich food with a daily ration of gruel.
The negotiators find a lifetime of disagreeing a habit hard to break. Each side demands the same concessions they have demanded for years. They demand territory from the other, but each already has plenty of land to meet their needs. They each demand gold for reparations, but both sides are at fault for continuing the war, and no one can remember who started it. Both insisted the other admit guilt. They have argued for so long; they do not know how to agree.
They were sure, if they compromised, their tribe would remove them as negotiators. So, unwilling to sacrifice their lifestyle, they keep their tribes at war. Even if it means the slaughtering of their young.
After six days with no progress, they are told they themselves will do battle. The last one alive will set the peace terms.
Both sides argued this is unfair. They are not soldiers; they do not know how to wield a sword, and all the rich food they have enjoyed has left their bodies unfit for combat. Their pleas go unanswered. They are given swords and told at daybreak, the battle will begin.
The negotiators remain unaware the tribes have made peace, with no lengthy discussion, only a handshake and the promise of friendship. The negotiators are irrelevant.
The negotiators march into an arena conjured by the wizards. The two tribes fill the seats, not on different sides but intermingled. Laughter fills the arena as they watch the negotiators try to swing the heavy swords. Several swing the sword, only to fall. A couple of them are out of breath from the walk to the arena. Finally, after a few minutes of watching the debacle, one of the former soldiers stands and shouts. These men no longer represent us. We have made peace on our own terms. And as much as we are enjoying this display of incompetence, we do not wish to see these men die. The war is over, and these men's punishment for living in luxury while good men died is to be banished. They are to head into the wilderness with only what they can carry and never bother us again.
Now let us join our neighbors in one more night of merriment.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, November 8th, 2022
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