A Day of War

Oct 12, 02:52 PM

he sun came up sluggishly over the hills, like a child who doesn’t want to be woken up, revealing the great plains that stretched in every direction. Iqbal stood at the front of his unit shuddering a little in the cold wind. Right in front of him stood the enemy. Thousands of foot soldiers from the neighboring kingdom of Azar that they would battle today. Commanders of various units rallied around, shouting war cries that filled the air. Iqbal and his unit had one job: to protect the king.

Iqbal remembered the days before this war. Long back, when the kingdoms were united and he used to visit his relatives in Azar. He remembered running off into the numerous hills of Azar with his cousins and friends playing made up battle games. They didn’t know at the time that they would continue the games as adults.

Then came the division. A feud in the royal family, some tactless moves, then the final stroke: a murder, and a kingdom that had lasted for three thousand years was suddenly divided into two. Iqbal was too young to understand when this happened. He wondered for a while why they stopped making the long trips to the cousins, but soon they forgot. War became part of everyday life.

The war horn rang loud. Soldiers leaped at each other as arrows from both armies filled the sky. Iqbal and his unit went into the formation making a long arc around the king. The plains were soon red with dead soldiers lying everywhere.

Iqbal surveyed the field anxiously in every direction. Suddenly, he noticed a man making a circuitous way towards the king. He was dangerously close when Iqbal intercepted him and threw his sword at him with its full weight. The man was alert and met his sword with a spar. They engaged in a duel. As their swords clanked, Iqbal noticed a familiarity in the face, then with horror realized that this was Sarfaraz, his cousin from Azar. Sarfaraz smiled at the look of recognition, he had recognized Iqbal long back.

Iqbal was torn. A thousand memories leaped across his mind as he mindlessly battled Sarfaraz. It felt like one of their games from long back. But this was real: someone was going to die.

Sarfaraz smiled mischievously, Iqbal didn’t understand. Suddenly, Iqbal saw an opening in Sarafaraz’s defence. Was that an error or a deliberate move? Iqbal couldn’t tell, but his years of training made him instinctively aim his sword towards the open area. He made contact, blood gushed from Sarfaraz as he dropped on his knees. He looked at Iqbal, his smile unfazed. Iqbal didn’t know if the drops on his own cheek were blood or tears. He raised his sword and severed the head in one final blow. He looked back, a maddening storm of emotions blinding him. The king was safe. He had done his job.


Rahul Jha

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