Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Fog Of War

The sun shone brightly over their heads. There were no clouds today. The great works described it otherwise, he thought. Not like this. There were to be no dark clouds of battle, no ominous fog of war. It was a hot, baked summer day, and as he trotted his horse in front of the flank cavalry charge, he could see a stirring against the far horizon. They knew what was coming. Everyone had heard them long before. The co-ordinated, precisely trained march of a hundred thousand foot soldiers. The clatter of steels as shield and armor clanked together. The bellow of war-elephants. The bass, dull thuds of their feet, taught to approach in unison.

He looked intensely. It was a growing, black line which grew thicker and thicker against the horizon. In these vast flat plains, they seemed to be infinitely long. Did that line even have an end? And how many more behind them?! Was this young king sure of his tactics?

No. There was no time for doubts or hesitations. Plans of battle crumbled as soon as the first swords clashed together. Experience had taught him that. But today they would have to hold. Everything rested upon it. It was a glorious day promised them by the young king. And he had faith in the king. Alexander would lead them to victory again, as he had against the vile Greeks!

Faith. Faith is important. He turned to his battalion. Sun-burnt, war-scarred cavalry. He had hand-picked them for this strategy, from amongst the Hetairoi, the Companion Cavalry. He had taken away these few hundred vital men from ranks that were already outnumbered 20:1. But he must have faith. The young king had spoken it, and it must be true. Victory would be theirs. And glory.

He cheered his soldiers. He prepared them for battle. The enemy comes! Ready your horses! We fight for our motherland, my brave Macedonians! May she rise forever and be the light and glory of the world! May we have our own glory today!

Heroes! Heroes we shall be!

The line of command would be followed down to the last man. None would break ranks. The horsemen mounted. They checked their armor, subconsciously, as the years of training did to every man.

The Persians had became more visible now. He could see the front ranks, those unending masses of footmen spawned by the barberous lands. The line was endless. It could engulf them from all sides. How are we to fight this?

Faith is important. He thought of the ages to come, the thousands and millions of lives ahead. They would remember this day, this sun-baked cruel day of sweat and blood, as the day when their mighty empire was forged. Hundreds of years from now, the children would read of them in texts and in epic poetry. The first great Conquerors. The army that would fall to no one.

The Persians came upon the meagre Macedonians. They charged like animals! There was no discipline. There was no sign of any organised attack. Oh heavens, there was no sign of any body armor! What kind of leader could do this to his own men? Just how many could he afford to lose?

His own orders came swiftly. Alexander's orders to march out to the right, attack them from the left. Oh heavens. He had never heard of a more dangerous strategy. Nothing in the histories of war. Today, with his ingenious plan and the approval of the young king, he would write history. The hetairoi charged, but away from the scene of battle! Around the hills they would come, flanking the Persian army! Darius wouldn't know what hit him, until they were standing right behind him!

The cries of war were behind them, chasing them, as they raced. Shrill cries of men pierced with spear or sword. The mighty elephants' roar, mad in the delirium around them, as they trampled whoever came near. His horses galloped at twice the speed he normally ran them. Time was their most crucial factor.

The horsemen reached around. They were behind the Persians. The scene of the battlefield beckoned them. To join their brothers, and kill the vile army of Darius. They bent low on their horses, letting the air flow over them. And they charged.

Spears were thrust into unseen bodies. The resistance of flesh and tunic was the proof of success. Swords unsheathed hacked at a wall of footmen, terrified of the horses and the shining armor. They could not back away from him, they were pushed forward by the masses behind. The hetairoi charged on, through the swamp of shrieking, bleeding bodies.

He could feel the cuts on his arms, warm blood oozing out of the gashes in his skin. But they charged ahead, the delirium of war upon them, a blood-thirst that could not be satisfied. He charged ahead of them all. For many a year, this day would be remembered. His name would be etched in stone on the pillars, one of whom would stand in this very ground! Forever!

They had reached deep into the Persian ranks. And there he was! The man sitting on his ornate horse ahead, surrounded by a personal guard of the Immortals! Darius! With a cry that was heard above the din of battle, he charged at the Persian king. The Immortals defended, expertly, for they were the best of the millions in the Persian lands. He tried to slash through them, only half his vision on the armor-clad soldiers in front of him, the strength of his gaze on the vicious ruler himself.

I shall have him! Me! Victory to Macedonia! To Alexander, the Ruler of all -

The swords had pierced him already. But it was now that the pain shooted up, and paralysed his muscles. He twitched as he saw the multiple shafts sticking out of his stomach, through his battered armor. The Immortals. They pulled the shafts out, the bloodied shafts. And he fell to the ground.

Lost. I'm lost...

From the corner of his blackening vision, he saw Alexander on his steed, charging at Darius himself. The young king would slay that vile Persian ruler.

Remember my name, oh great king. It was I who led your flanks. It was I who planned these wild strategies. They worked. We will be forever! Remember my name, oh king. For the future generations. For the Macedonia to come...

His eyed closed a last time. The life of 40 years, of education in the Macedonian empire, of battle-training through wars with the Greek-states, of love and loss and duty and honour, faded away into black.


"Chapter 3 of your history books, everyone. Alexander the Great. Read from where we left off. In a bold and daring move against Darius, the mighty Persian ruler, Alexander led a small but trained brigade of his Companion Cavalry to attack the Persians from their flanks. In the ensuing surprise attack, he reached right upto the middle of their ranks and fought Darius himself hand-to-hand. The Persian monarch, terrified and shaken, fleed the battlescene."

"Cut the next two paragraphs. Description of the battle not important. Next, Alexander marches to the Hindu Kush..."

1 comment:

kyra said...

History should be taught like this. :D