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What War Does

by Sam Scott

“We have new guidelines, here’s the scroll!” Reported servant Wilson.

Now the title servant may sound lowly and cheap, but it is a high honor in the country of Vaneer and Wilson’s presence demanded respect. I carefully took the scroll from servant Wilson’s hands and skimmed the guidelines it stated increase production, more shipments, more of everything. A hell of a lot more work I thought. Immediately after processing the information, I questioned,

“Why the sudden changes?”

“Well Frederick, times are now going to get real rough, basically how do I word this?” He says that like he is playing with his food, loving the attention of everyone in the blacksmith’s keep.

“Abstrol has declared war on us.” Suddenly his face changed to fear as if he was hearing the news for the first time.

“War, what for?” said Angor, manager of the blacksmith keep.

Wilson responds, “I cannot spare the details as at this moment, Commander Jenkins is awaiting my presence, just here to lay the bad news and to give you your new responsibilities, Tata and fare-de-well.”

I hated the way he just did that, basically a big slap to the face, and now having to endure that slap and feeling the sting, was not how I wanted to start my day.

“Frederick, give me the damn scroll,” Angor demanded. I gave him the scroll and as he scanned it, his eyes grew bigger,

“What!” he yelled. “This is outrageous, triple the production of weaponry, we already make a lot and Jenkins expects more. This is all impossible.”

I saw Angor’s anger and thought about my family. Probably gonna be longer days in the keep, less time to see the kids, Jimmy and Jamie, and his wife too, Taylor. Angor was probably looking at me in my sad thought and told me, “Frederick, we can’t mope around now!” A sudden change in attitude came to Angor as he continued to bolster, “We got to accomplish this one way or another!”

I reluctantly agreed as the whole work force in the keep matched my reluctant energy to start forging those iron swords. Angor kept rousing the workers. “We have to start now! Jenkins is relying on us!” Jenkins is an ass I thought. Angor continued, “I lose my job if you bozos don’t start something, and so you will!”

Ah so that was what motivated Angor, his own selfish desire to make money. Honestly typically, but I don’t exactly blame him. It is just that everyone these days seems to only care for themselves, which is why I love Taylor so much. She does everything for me and the kids, a diamond in the rough for sure. I kept pounding away at the hot iron, trying to hide my face from revealing my thoughts. I was sad, thinking about my family, and I didn’t want any of my workmates to read that, so I just kept a cool and stern face for the rest of work. Work was extra exhausting, we had so much to do in such a little time, but we managed to do it, and Angor was excited to meet the goal. As I went home, my arms were throbbing in pain. It seemed weird because I couldn't imagine arms as big as mine going through pain, but hey I suppose anything is possible considering the ridiculous circumstances that already happened earlier today. I arrived at our cottage and as soon as I knocked Taylor came flying out the door and jumped into my arms, which is seriously hurt, but nothing beats her love. She kisses me and I rock her back and forth then set her down. She then says, “You alright Frederick, you look pale.”

As soon as she says that, I pass out right outside our front door. Hours seemed to pass as I woke, the sky darken with the crescent moon out. I was on the cot in the living room, I suppose Taylor hauled me in from outside. Both my boys were in my lap poking and prodding their fingers on my face,

“Why hello boys!” I wailed in excitement.

“Daddy was really tired and needed to take a nap.” I lied. Jimmy and Jamie are twins and both were of the age of 5. They were thrilled to see Daddy awake,

“Are you going to tell us a cool story tonight?” Asked Jamie.

“Please Daddy.” Pleaded Jimmy.

“We shall see,” I replied. As soon as I finished saying that a furious pounding on the door occurred, as if 10 hands were punching the door. Taylor, as if nothing unusual has occurred, confidently stated,

“I got it.” as she went to the door.

When she opened it, big men, around 5 of them, in metal armor and swords in their sheaths hanging from their waist side. The swords looked like the swords we made earlier today, which made me angry just thinking about it. Instinctively these soldiers came in and grabbed my wife and carried her off, no explanation. Without thought I chased after the guys carrying my wife, as she was grunting and yelling to be put back down, and when I did I had three of these soldiers pin me down. Jimmy and Jamie became very scared and their voices quivered as they both asked,

“What is going on Daddy, why are they taking Mommy?”

I had the same question but truthfully I didn’t know anything either.

“I’m not sure boys.”

One of the soldiers let go of me and now that I just had two, maybe I had a chance to break free. What I didn’t realize is that the soldiers were big enough to grab the twins and take them away too. I started to thrash like a worm, trying to break free of these soldier’s iron grip. But alas I could not, and I was lying there defeated on my own living room floor, one of the slides began to talk.

“War is upon us, we need to keep the women and children safe.”

“Where are you taking them? My wife, my boys!” as tears welled up in my eyes.

“Somewhere safe.”

“I think I deserve to know, I made those damn weapons!”

“I can’t say, Commander Jenkins does not want anyone to know.”

“Well I don’t care what Jenkins thinks.”

“Doesn’t matter you are a nobody, just keep making swords.”

I wanted to punch them so bad but they still had me pinned down.. My body was worn out, caked in sweat, my whole upper body swollen and throbbing with the utmost pain, I couldn’t find the energy to hit them. They laughed and sneered, I hated every bit of it. I couldn’t quite process what exactly was going on. Like why me?, and why now? I had to go to work in a few hours and I didn’t exactly know what to do with myself. I didn’t have the desire to work anymore. I worked for my family. Now I don’t have that. Also I didn’t want to make weapons for soldiers. I think I am gonna quit my job. Yeah that will show em! I decided that I would quit my job first thing when the sun rises.

My eyes are heavy waking up this morning, but I willingly walked to work. I couldn’t wait to move out and start a new great life in another land. I was so prepared and confident to tell them to quit but instead of that, I went to the blacksmith’s keep and found a flyer which stated: “Meet in the middle of town square, or else” and it was signed by Commander Jenkins. The job was only 5 minutes away from town square. I didn’t feel so compelled to go, I wanted to get revenge on the higher ups of Vaneer, they been treating me like dirt the last day or so. So I went. What ultimately surprised me when I arrived was: 1. The noise was an absolute uproar, as if there was a chariot race going on and people were placing bets. And 2. I saw the flyers on every public commercial facility starting to meet in town square. The noise began to subside as Jenkins and his servants were trying to quiet the crowd. I then realized all the people in this mob were men. Did they take all the women and children from town? What is going on?

Then the loudest pitchiest scream I have ever heard came from Jenkins, “SHUT UP! YOU MANGY FOOLS.”

Jenkins had an impressive figure, 6 feet, 7 inches, tree trunks arms and a posture that just says ‘I’m a leader.’ He is handsome, but his heart is one of the ugliest in human history. The crowd settled down, but it took a while.

“Now you are probably wondering what happened to your loved ones.” Jenkins teased. The men roared in anger, as they probably had the same experience of having the higher ups take away our loved ones. “We have them safe, they will not be engaged in war. It is just we going to be under siege anytime now, don’t you worry, that is why you brutes are here to defend the proud land of Vaneer.”

I couldn’t care less about this country and what it represents and the history that it has obtained. I just cared about my family and some of my friends, like Angor.

“You will now go to outer walls, join the militia there and they will tell you what to do, they will provide armor, gear and that of the sort. Just run there as fast as you can, you must be hasty, Abstrol wants us all decimated, to perish and to be forgotten. We cannot let that happen! And one last thing before you go. If you decide to hide and chicken out to protect this country that has been so perfectly made and led, then I will send the German Shepards to sniff you out, and they will attack if you are not running toward the walls of Vaneer. Is that clear?!”

The German shepherds are chained up with Jenkins and higher ups. The crowd shuffled everyone trying to run. I did not see the haste in this, but eventually I did run with the rest of the pack. If I wanted to see my family again, maybe I better start running. As I did, I didn’t really realize how big and spacious Vaneer was, I mean compared to Abstrol, Vaneer is a slice of bread compared to the whole loaf of Abstrol. But still it was going to take a grand majority of the day to get over the walls, around 8 hours time. The crowd began to separate into groups of people and some groups went to the lake and drank water, others went onto the farmland and stashed ears of corn into their bags, some went to raid the empty inns. The message was clear from Jenkins, no one was going to hide from this war. Maybe I should be taking this more seriously. Maybe this really could be the end of life of the way I have known things the last thirty-three years. Fear started to creep on my skin and seep into my body. All of a sudden I felt like maybe I should start caring about what is going on. I was with this group of about forty people, and they all seemed determined to get to the walls, and so I decided to stick with them.

We only took two breaks so far on this eight hour journey, and we had this leader/ figure of our group. His name is Robby and Robby kept the group sane and focused on the task at hand. The more I heard from this guy, the more I believe he could run for leader of Vaneer, but I could be saying that too soon as we could al just die in the next few days or even hours. Some of the people in my group were old, in their seventies and eighties, but they were keeping up with me and some honestly had more endurance than I did. Robby was fun, relatable, and a firm leader. He was almost too good and those types of people tended to irk me, where they just seem to fit with anyone, anywhere, and any situation, the ones that all the teachers or parents would be like, ‘See Frederick you should be more like Robby.’ I couldn’t tell if I was envious of Robby or if I have gone insane from all the life altering events and that Robby is insane for being so calm and emotionless throughout all this. Either way I was really quiet, not really talking to anyone in the group. I was so worried about Taylor, her sweet voice, her beautiful hair, her kindness and protectiveness over the family. I also worried about the boys Jimmy and Jamie are so cute and they are so young, please I hope that they are safe. Knowing what Jenkins can potentially do, made me worried that they could be in trouble. I wonder how the other people’s families are doing, and how the people and my group are doing too. I wanted to ask but these group of men seemed determined and rough skinned to want to deal with their feelings of sadness and grief.

It took longer than I would ever imagine but we made it to the walls of Vaneer. These walls were scaled up high 20 feet tall and 2 feet thick. These walls were made hundred of years ago and still stand the test of time. All of Vaneer’s militia were here loading catapults, arming crossbow towers, and such. As we got there we would soon join and become the militia. Once we got there our journey group sort of disbanded naturally, not that we were any close.

“Grab your armor, grab your sword, you only get one of these so take care of them.” Said one of the soldiers.

“I want some food.” I complained as hunger struck my stomach as sudden as war was struck on us.

“We got nothing for you by rations, and those can’t be handed out till morning, for breakfast.”

This already felt like torture. It felt like being sent to camp or scouts and having some idiot instructor change the way you feel about the world, the only difference is you really don’t have a choice to sign out of this one.

The soldier continued, “You want to see where you will be posted for the war, let’s climb the walls.”

And the lasting image of his grin will forever brand my mind. As we climbed the ladder to scale up the large walls, I began to realize that I have never seen the world outside Vaneer. I was hoping to see this otherworldly landscape when I got on top of the walls, but I saw nothing but barren landscape, tumbleweeds floating about, the dirt flying in the light breeze, the earth looking terribly tended and cared for outside the walls. The earth outside the walls looks as if it hasn’t been sen in years.

“See the world outside the walls. Not pretty right?” The soldier thought for me, “Well that is where you will be posted soon enough. Tomorrow we have training and we shall see how long that training lasts, but every lesson that you get will be the most important lessons in your life.”

I thought about that, the most important lessons in my life. Well, if my life were to end tomorrow, then you are correct, soldier, you got me. Otherwise I would have said a hundred different things I learned from my father who came before me.

Soon it became night, and we were sent to cots. These cots were madly uncomfortable, you could feel the wood stick on you in certain spots on your back, but I heard about half the population had to sleep on the ground near the Vaneer walls. They may have the more comfortable ground but at least I had the luxury to have access to a pillow and blankets. My night here was of course restless as have the last two nights have been, and I kept thinking about how lonely I feel without my family and how I envy the version of me from the past, the one who had a pretty good life going. If old me knew that this would be me now, it would have run away in fear from it, would have avoided everything to not get this outcome, sort of like how the old Greek heroes would try to avoid the fate of the Oracle but alas there was truly nothing you can do about it.

Morning came as it always should, and we were given food. Finally I was so excited, it has almost been 24 hours since I had anything to eat. The rations were of hot oats, so basically oatmeal, which is not my personal favorite, but I wished I could have seconds after I inhaled it. The oats sat well in my stomach at least, it would keep me satisfied from starvation in the next few hours. After it was training, out in the barren wasteland outside the walls of Vaneer. I was out here with hundreds of men all in the same armor and all with the same dreadful motivation to serve the country in war. No one cared for Vaneer, but no one had another choice. Everyone wanted their old life back.


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