At War's End Prose in Linebound | World Anvil

At War's End

The long road to peace.

"Amani," spoke a deep voice. "Come over here."   "Mommy says I can't go over there," responded a much higher voice.   "Just this once, we don't have to tell her."   "OK," said Amani before running over to her father.   She jumped at him. He caught her, spun her around him, and hoisted her above his head. Amani stretched her arms out like the wings of a bird and began flapping them.   From here she could see off the edge of the island to the storm below and to the other islands in the distance. She could see everything. But that is not what she thought about. The brilliance of the world didn't cross her mind. She just enjoyed the time she spent with her father.   "Be careful you two," came a woman's voice from behind them.   "You're no fun at all," complained Amani's father.   "I just don't want to see you hurt," she spoke welling up with tears.   Amani's father brought her down to his chest and walked away from the edge.   "Don't worry. Amani is fine," he said, "And I will be too."   He kissed his wife on the forehead. He set Amani down and the three walked away from the edge and towards their home. The parents held hands as they walked. Amani ran around picking the small flowers that grew by the edge.   They had a big lunch that contained all of his favourite foods. Amani really enjoyed the meal but she didn't at the time recognize the melancholy nature of it. After they finished her father got into his uniform. A simple outfit with a symbol on the shirt. He held his shield, sword, and pistol. The light reflected from the metal of the shield got in Amani's eyes.   She rubbed her eyes and when she opened them her father was kneeling infront of her.   "Amani. Make sure to take care of your mother while I am away. She works too hard."   "I will."   "Do you want me to pick you up?"   "Yes!"   He picked her up over his head, stood up, then spun around. She was so small. He could only hope that the war would never reach her. While he was turning he saw the soldiers who had come to pick him up. He hoped that Amani would eventually understand why he had to go and forgive him for it. He set her down and put on his best smile.   "Please come home safely," said Amani's mother barely holding her tears back.   "I will. Take good care of Amani."   He smiled at his family as he walked away from them. He turned toward the soldiers and joined the group. One last time he turned to see his family. A smile did not make it to his face. His worry was too great. What if this was the last time? He thought.  
  Yanik darted quickly behind the stable and was as quiet as he could be. He soon heard footsteps coming from the other side of the building. The footsteps stopped. Yanik was too scared to look and see.   "Found you!" someone screamed.   Yanik almost jumped off of the ground.   "Ezel you don't have to scare me like that," Yanik's frightened voice replied.   "But you are always so funny when I do," said Ezel.   The two started to walk together back into the center of the town.   "It's mister Tadel!" Ezel said loudly.   "Oh, hi kids," said Tadel quickly putting the bag he was holding behind his back.   "What do you have there?" inquired Yanik.   "Nothing you need to worry about. Just a little gift for myself."   "A gift for yourself?" said Ezel.   "That's strange," Yanik added.   "Alright, alright. I'll show you," Tadel said taking out a bottle. "This is very difficult to acquire. It comes from far away."   "Can we have some?" asked Ezel.   "Yeah, can we have some?" asked Yanik.   "When you're older."   "Oh come on," the children complained.   "I won't give you any now get going. Yanik, I heard your parents were looking for you. Your father sounded pretty mad," said Tadel as he put the bottle back into the bag and walked away.   "Did you forget something?" asked Ezel.   "No," said Yanik defensively.   Ezel stared at him. Yanik was never good at keeping secrets.   "Fine. I was supposed to help my dad."   "You are going to be in so much tro-" Ezel started.   "Yanik!" a voice boomed from down the street, interrupting her.   "Oh no," Yanik spoke shakily.   "You're in for it now," Ezel said before she hugged him and ran off.   Yanik wanted to run but it was too late. His father was infront of him but his eyes were fixated elsewhere. He turned to look at Yanik.   "Hanging out with Ezel?"   His voice was softer than Yanik expected.   "Y-yeah."   "I remember being your age. My dad had to chase me through the streets and catch me," he said looking back down the street as if in a memory. He turned to look again at his son.   "I said right then that I wouldn't be like my father. I know that sometimes my temper can get the better of me."   "So I can go play?"   "Hey, you're not getting off that easily. I still need your help and you still need to learn about responsibility. You will need to if you want to be a good father..." he paused and took a deep breath.   "A better father than me," he said seriously. Then his expression changed.   "I can see it now. You and Ezel with ten. No. Thirteen kids running around!" he said cheekily.   "Dad no," Yanik began to blush as he looked away.   "Come on Yanny. Let's fix up that fence before the horses get out."   Yanik caught up to his father. Every step his father took Yanik needed to take two. He tried to take steps as big as his dad but he was slower when he tried.  
  Dear father,   I was really happy to read your last letter and hear that you would be coming home soon. I couldn't wait for you to get back, you are so far from home. I really miss you. Mom does too. She tries her best and acts happy. I let her think that I don't know. This spring has been very wet. Clouds fill the sky above and the puddles won't seem to go away. We finally got a bright cycle.   They think I don't hear them but they have started talking about marriage for me. Please come home and tell them no for me. I don't want to...   "Amani," called her mother, "I need your help in the kitchen."   Amani stopped writing. She would rather write than go help but she set down her quill and went downstairs.   "What do you need me to do mom?"   "Could you work the dough?"   "Alright. I was just writing a letter to dad."   "About what?"   "Not much has happened. I just want to know how he is."   "I am very grateful Amani. You know I can't write. Most people around here never learned. You should thank the merchant for teaching you."   "It's not a problem mom."   Then there was a knock at the door. Amani's heart jumped. It jumped every time someone knocked since her dad had left years ago. She always hoped it would be him even though she hadn't expected it to be him for a long time now.   "I'll get it."   "Alright," said Amani.   Amani went back to working the bread dough. It was sticky and the smell was strong from the yeast. She heard her mother open the door. Amani heard the voice of the courier who worked this region. Her mother gave him a few coins for the letter and returned to the kitchen.   "When you're done with the dough, could you read the letter?"   "Of course."   Amani worked the dough quickly. She was excited to open the letter. She picked it up, it was heavy, then opened it. She pulled out the contents and unfolded it. A slip of paper fell out onto the table. Then she heard the sound of metal hitting the table. A simple metal token lay there.  
  "Ezel, Ezel wake up."   Ezel rolled over. The sheets were warm and she did not want to get out.   "Ezel, come on. I brought milk."   Ezel opened her eyes.   "Yanik!?"   "You don't have to scream."   "What are you doing here?"   "I brought milk," he repeated.   "I mean what are you doing in my room?"   "I brought milk," he stated, in a very serious tone this time.   Ezel thought his impression of a deep man's voice was terrible. They both broke out in laughter.   "Here, have some while it is still good," Yanik said while pouring some into a wooden cup.   She took the cup from him and drank it all in one go. Yanik had stood up and opened the wooden window. His eyes had to adjust when the ever-present light flooded the room. He could see the mountains of Bral in the distance and beyond that even further away the other islands floating in the sky. A great storm had engulfed one of the far islands before he slept but now had broken from the floor and become a white cloud.   "Hey, be careful."   "Sorry but you can't just sleep all the time. Not even on your birthcycle."   Ezel was confused for a moment, still sleepy, then her internal clock righted itself.   "It is my birthcycle. Still, I will have to have a talk with mother about letting strange boys into my room."   "Ha ha, very funny. You know she thinks we'll get married, right? I can see it in the way she looks at me."   "Y-yeah. I know," blushed Ezel as she turned to stare at a wall.   "Well, there is no time to waste. We should go. The horses await."   "Horses!? Really? I can ride a horse?" her voice was suddenly very excited.   "I cleared it with my dad. I think that he looks at you the way your mother looks at me."   She blushed again but this time she noticed that Yanik was a bit flushed as well. Though it was harder to tell on him, his skin was darker from working outside so much. Ezel could admit to herself that being married to Yanik wouldn't be too bad. She could never say it out loud though.   "Let's be on our way. The horses can't wait to see you."   "You go and wait. I'll be there soon."   "Why? Let's go."   "I need to get dressed."   "Oh," he said going clearly red in the face before turning awkwardly to leave the room. He purposely walked out in a goofy manner and Ezel giggled.   Yanik found Ezel's mother trying to light a candle on a small table. When he walked over he saw that on the table lay a few small items and a hat. These all belonged to Ezel's father.   "Here, let me," Yanik spoke softly as he took the firestater from Ezel's mom whose face was red and wet with tears.   He lit the candle and hugged the person beside him. She was warm and her breaths broken. The past winter had been hard on them. He had passed away slowly from a sickness and there was nothing they could do. Anytime Yanik wasn't working at his house he spent trying to help Ezel's family and his father was proud of him for it.   "Thank you," said a soft voice as she let go of Yanik and composed herself. "I need to prepare some food for the little ones."   "Hey mom, got to go!" Ezel nearly screamed as she ran through the room and grabbed Yanik's arm.   "Have fun you two!"   Many hours were spent teaching Ezel the basics of riding. They had brought some food with them and gone past the edge of the farms out into the wilderness and back. Smiles and laughter followed them wherever they went. The farmers they passed all waved at them and the hunters in the woods stopped to talk and introduce their dogs.   "Thank you Yanik," Ezel spoke sincerely. "I really had a great time."   "After you learned to stay on the horse."   "After I learned to stay on the horse."   They both laughed and then silence followed.   "Well, I suppose this is it."   "I suppose it is," Yanik replied.   Ezel leaned in and kissed him on the cheek quickly. They both went red and looked away from each other.   "See you later," said Ezel who started away.   "Y-yeah. Later..."   Ezel walked past the farms, the houses, the businesses, and crossed the bridge. She got home and went to her room where she got into her bed to get out of the cold fall air. Mom must be out with the little ones she thought. She was thinking about the time she had spent with him when she heard something out the window. Her first thought is that Yanik had come to see her again. That was not the case.   There were soldiers in the streets. They were calling names and she heard the name of Yanik's father. She got up and ran. She left the door open but she didn't care. It had finally happened. The war had come. She had heard stories from merchants who came through about soldiers taking people to join the army.   "Yanik!" she screamed at the top of her lungs.   He was carrying something toward the market and set it down.   "Ezel, what is it? You sound worried."   "The soldiers, they are looking for your father."   "Why, what is going on?"   "They are here to take him away."   Yanik took a deep breath and puffed out his chest.   "Ezel. My dad is too old to go. He won't make it. Tell him to take good care of my brothers and sisters and you."   "Yanik..." she trailed off, looking at him with big eyes.   "My dad taught me that you need to do what needs to be done and this is what I need to do."   "No, you can't go. What about you and me? What happens to us."   "I will return. As long as you are here I shall not die. I will have to come back," Yanik spoke as bravely as he could but Ezel could hear his voice quiver. "Go now, tell my father."   Ezel nodded hesitantly and started away. She turned to see him talking to the soldiers, pretending to be his father, pretending to be brave, pretending to be a soldier. She couldn't go any further and stopped to watch them finish their list and take away the men, Yanik among them. She fell to her knees and wished that it would cloud over or that a storm would come. If it did she wouldn't have to watch him walk for so long. The ever-present light made it seem like the distance stretched out as she watched on her hands and knees. When he finally walked out of sight she slammed her fist into the ground. She would find him.  
  Dear mother,   I write you so you know I am well. I have a job writing, copying, and delivering important documents for the government. I know it isn't the life you wanted for me but it is the one I chose, the one I worked for. I hope you are well and that you don't worry too often about me. Before you ask, no, I still have not gotten married. We are busy now revising drafts of a very important document, there can be no mistakes here. When we finish, so will the war.   I just want you to know that I am happy,   Amani   "Amani, I am happy because you have made the life that you wanted," spoke the woman as if her words would be carried by the winds to her daughter's ears. "My daughter, the woman who ended the war."   The woman was pulled from her reverie by a knock at the door. It must be the other mothers, she thought. Her daughter had taught her to read. She was never great at it, she didn't know many of the words she had just read. But, when the letters came from the husbands and sons far from home, all the loving wives and mothers would come to her to read the letters aloud.  
  The room was silent except for the scratching of quills on parchment. The ink was pulled from small jars at great speeds and put to paper with great skill. To someone not accustomed to such ability it would surely be a sight to behold. However, to the people putting this ink to paper as fast as they could this was normal work. There was one small difference from their normal routine and it could be felt in the atmosphere of the room, a sense of silent drive and awesome achievement. These papers would save lives. The sooner they finished the documents, the sooner the war would end.   Amani realized that they had just worked through the sleep cycle. Surely everyone else here noticed at that moment as well, she thought as she paused to look around the room. The other scribes also looked around at this moment. When they all realized what happened the room broke out in laughter. The atmosphere in the room dissipated and was replaced by a sense of relief. One by one they put their quills back into the ink pots and continued writing. Shortly after that moment of laughter they had all finished their copies of the peace treaty. Each handed their copy to another for review.   "Amani, your writing is beautiful."   "Thank you but I don't think it is that good."   "Read quickly you two. We need to make sure these are ready. The sooner the diplomats sign and stamp them, the sooner they can be delivered."  
  The unending light poured over Ezel as she staggered up the cliff side. She knew he had come up this way. She stepped on a loose stone and fell down landing against the hard stone of the mountain. Getting off of the ground was difficult but a gloved hand offered to help her up. She took the gloved hand and got up. Now she saw the face of the person.   "Yanik?"   He looked very different than when she had last seen him. He was taller, had a short beard, and wore a soldiers uniform the same as hers. His eyes still glimmered like they did when he was a child.   "Yes, Ezel?" he said confidently. "Let's go to the top of the mountain, the view is great from up there."   Ezel nodded and the two walked up the mountain with no difficulty. When they reached the top he stepped over a fallen tree and looked back at her, now wearing a different uniform. She looked at the forest around her and wondered where the mountain had gone.   The unending light came through the window. She had fallen asleep at the store, business had been slow. Ezel decided it would be a better use of her time to go get some food for dinner and left the store. Outside the wind had died down completely and Ezel quickly began to sweat in the unusually hot fall weather. The smell of the marketplace filled her nose and she walked through looking for something. She decided on some vegetables and started back home.   Ezel had to take a moment to wipe the sweat from her forehead because it was getting in her eyes. When she looked up she saw soldiers coming down the street. She scrambled to get out of the way but in doing so knocked over her bag spilling the vegetables it contained. She quickly started putting them in the bag, her heart racing. When she reached for the last one a gloved hand beat her to it. Her heart skipped a beat. She was afraid to look up. What if it was him? Was she ready to see him again?   "Miss, here you go. Let me help you up."   The voice was familiar.   "Miss, are you alright?"   She definitely knew it. This time she picked up on something in the voice.   "Miss?"   It was sarcasm.   She looked up and saw the familiar face of a young man. He looked down at her. It was awkward. What do you say to someone you haven't seen in years?   "Ezel, come on, you can't sit there forever."   "Yanik..." Ezel's voice trailed off.   She started to cry. Yanik picked her up and took her bag of vegetables.   "Ezel, let's get going."   They walked quietly through the streets for a while, both painfully aware of each passing moment.   "Y-you grew out your hair."   "Um, yeah..." Ezel responded awkwardly.   "I see that the town is much the same as ever," said Yanik with more confidence.   "The town looks the same but the people are different. There are new children running around and people have come and gone."   "How's my father? I don't know if I am brave enough to visit him."   "He is as active as he ever was even though his body can't handle the strain. Oh and your two sisters got married."   "How are they doing? I have been away a long while and missed a lot."   This made Ezel angry and she wasn't sure why. Perhaps it was his acknowledgement of his absence or that he knew and didn't write. It could be the tone of his voice that he said it with.   "Yeah. You were gone a long time," Ezel's voice was more pointed than she had intended.   There was a pause. The sound of people walking nearby street seemed deafening in that silence.   "I did what I had to do. It was my responsi-"   "Don't you talk about responsibility!" Ezel shouted. "What about your responsibility to those you left behind? Your responsibility to your father? To your brothers and your sisters?"   "I..." Yanik barely managed to start speaking when Ezel yelled at him again.   "What about your responsibility to me? When you left I told myself I would go find you but I had real responsibilities. I had to take care of my siblings and my mother. I couldn't just run off after you," Ezel started yelling but by the time she finished she was almost crying.   Ezel realized now why she was angry. How could she have let the responsibilities given to her by others get in the way of her life? She was filled with rage but only toward herself. He made a choice to do something and all she did was what people told her too.   "Ezel, I'm sorry," his voice quivered.   "No, Yanik, I am. I shouldn't have yelled at you."   "You're mad that I didn't send any letters?"   "No. Yes. Well, kind of. Hey, you knew it was me as soon as you saw me back there, didn't you?"   "I did. I will always be able to recognize you. Though you have grown quite a lot since last we met."   "So have you, except you still can't grow a beard."   "Hey, neither can you!"   A short pause was followed by laughter. Ezel looked at him. Something was different and it wasn't the height or the small scar on his neck. She couldn't quite place it but it made her feel uneasy in that moment. The moment was cut short when a soldier called for Yanik.   "I have to go. I will see you later."   "Yanik, don't forget to visit your family. They miss you."   "I will," he said as he turned around. "Don't forget your vegetables and don't spill them again."  
  "Amani, be careful," said one of the scribes.   "I will, I will."   "It is strange to see one of us leaving to deliver a message like a courier."   "I have the riding experience and they can't send someone who is sick."   The conversation was interupted by the sound of the other couriers leaving on horseback to deliver their notices of peace. Government officials from Grara and Bral wishing safe travels to the couriers. Amani finished affixing the saddle to her horse, Salam, and then attached the waterproof tubes containing the declarations of peace to the saddle.   "I really must get on my way. We may know about the war's end but many people do not."   The three scribes in turn each hugged Amani.   "Be safe, eat well, and make peace wherever you go," said one of the scribes imitating the nearby diplomat.   "Thank you all. I will see you when I return."   She got on Salam and started off. It had been a while since she had ridden a horse and wasn't ready for the motion at first but quickly got used to it.   "Be safe, eat well, and make peace wherever you go," said the diplomat from Grara very seriously.   "The Emperor thanks you," said the diplomat from Bral as he crossed his arms in front of his face.   Soon Amani and Salam were out in the countryside and she had adjusted to the movement of the horse. She thought that the Emperor could have at least showed up for the peace ceremony. The more she thought about it the angrier and more upset she became. This is the man who started the war that killed her father. These thoughts were not productive and Amani did her best to push them out of her mind to focus on the pursuit of peace. The achievement she had wanted for what seemed like her entire life was finally upon her. In a number of cycles she would deliver the final notice of peace and the war would end. No other young children will have their fathers taken from them, lost fighting an unseen enemy in a faraway place. With these positive thoughts in her mind she continued through the farmland and away from the city along her designated route.  
  Only a little bit of light filtered through a crack by the window accompanied by the chill autumn breeze but the room was empty. The small beam of light illuminated the dust floating in the air. The bed sheets were made and the room silent. Ezel was already outside and on her way to Yanik's home.   Ezel shivered in the chill weather. She wished shortly after leaving that she had put on something heavier but she was determined to get to her destination and wouldn't let the cold stop her. She found herself at the farm before she realized it. Ezel knew exactly how much time had passed but had been preoccupied with what to say when she saw him. She walked by the horses and greeted her favourite. When she arrived at the house and knocked it was Yanik's father who came to the door.   "Ezel, you shouldn't be out dressed like that. You'll get sick. Come on in."   Ezel hesitated for a moment. She was expecting Yanik.   "Thanks," she eventually said as she headed in. "Is Yanik home?"   "Yanik? You know as well as I that he is off fighting in the war but I miss him too."   "He's back, I saw him in the town. I talked to him."   "Never stopped by here," he said with a tinge of sadness. "But I saw some soldiers heading off in the direction of the mountains, not sure their destination."   "Oh, alright."   "You sure it was him you saw? When you miss someone, you start to see bits of them everywhere."   "I'm sure it was him. I know it."   "Would you like something to eat? I've got so-"   "No but thank you. I need to get going."   Before the man had a chance to respond the door had opened and closed and the young woman had left.  
  As Amani left the town where she left the first notice of peace she felt sad that she was not the messenger that would visit her home. She had seen the happy faces of the people. People whose fathers, husbands, and children would soon return home to them. The faces of small children who would know peace for the first time in their lives. Most strikingly to Amani were the faces of those whose loved ones would never be returning, those like her. She wished she could have seen her mother smile with melancholy and given her a hug.   The people had been very grateful and offered Amani food and a place to stay. After eating, Amani quickly borrowed some ink from a merchant and wrote a letter to her mother but with so many couriers busy it may not get there for a great many cycles. She politely declined their invitation for accommodations and continued her travels. Amani knew that as she delivered the message of peace further that it would become increasingly dangerous. This town was far from the fighting, to them the war was a place where soldiers went. Each message would bring her closer to the conflict, one message was to be delivered to a fortress.  
  "Ezel, are you alright?"   "I'm fine mother. Just..." her voice trailed off.   "The soldiers haven't returned. You're worried about Yanik."   Ezel just nodded and stared at the food she was preparing.   "He will be fine. He was always a hardy boy. I don't remember him being sick even once."   Ezel knew that her mom was just trying to make her feel better but comparing illness with battle was absurd. Someone could have never been sick but a blade or arrow through the heart would kill anyone. Her mind began to focus on the terrible ways that someone could die. Yanik died in her mind over and over in that moment.   Ezel's mother stepped closer and hugged her daughter when she saw tears begin to fall on the food.   "The soldiers will return eventually. I'm sure Yanik will come visit when they get back."   "If they get back," Ezel's voice wavered as she spoke.   Ezel wasn't sure if Yanik would come visit. He didn't even go to visit his family and he only spoke with her because she was there when he passed through. She wondered if he gave up everything here when he left or if he lost it during his time in the military. She got a little angry and this time it wasn't directed at herself.  
  Amani could hear the sounds long before she got to the fortress. The sound of gunfire and as she got closer the sound of voices yelling and screaming. She guided Salam to take a wide berth of the battlefield. It seemed that forces from Bral were attacking the Graran fortress. The structure was not the imposing stone fortress she had envisioned but a simple wooden structure with a wall. Arrows flew from towers down at the attacking force who tried desperately to block the attacks with their shields.   Once she realized she had been watching for some time she got moving. The sooner the message was delivered, the sooner the fighting would stop and the less people would get injured. She set up her flag, it was the sign of a courier. That's what she was told to do in this situation. She moved into action. Salam carried her as fast as he could out from behind the building they hid behind and toward the back of the fortress. When she got close she saw that Empire forces had begun to encircle the structure.   Amani wasn't sure what happened next but she found herself on the ground. She was unharmed but Salam had taken an arrow and fallen. The noise was horrible as the horse writhed on the ground. Then it got quiet. Amani grabbed one of the tubes from the saddle and ran. The wind cooled her wet cheeks as she ran. She knocked frantically on the door.   "Let me in! Let me in! I have a message! Grara sends word!" she couldn't scream any louder and despite that she wasn't sure if she was heard.   By some chance there must have been someone behind the door. She was let in but immediately grabbed by two guards.   "What are you doing?! I have a message to deliver to whoever's in charge here!" She hadn't lowered her voice yet.   The guards said nothing.   "Open the tube! The declaration of peace is inside! Get me to the leader before anyone else gets hurt!" her voice was strained, she was not used to screaming.   The guard opened the tube and pulled out the paper.   "She's telling the truth."   Amani was released. She was too focused to feel the pain from being grabbed so tightly.   "This way, as fast as you can."   She ran after the guards towards a structure in the middle of the fortress. On the way Amani almost got hit by a stray arrow as it flew over the wall and into the fort. They arrived and one of the guards opened the door so quickly it slammed into the wall.   "Sir, a messenger brings news. Peace sir. We are at peace."   "What? Peace? How can we stop this battle? The enemy won't listen to us."   "Bring them in. Talk to them."   "How?" the commander inquired aggressively. "If we let them in they will kill us."   Amani wasn't sure how to respond for a moment. Even though she was staring at the ground she was well aware that everyone was staring at her.   "Surrender," Amani said suddenly but quietly.   "What?" responded one of the guards.   Amani looked up from the ground.   "Surrender," she said much more confidently.   The commander watched her for a moment before he turned suddenly to the guards.   "Raise the flag. We surrender."  
  Ezel walked through the streets with her younger sisters. The age difference was only a few years but Ezel felt much older, sort of like a mom, people often said to her that she was mature for her age. Well, they used to before they started asking why she wasn't married yet.   Suddenly, Tadel stumbled onto the main road. Ezel put her arms out in front of her sisters to stop them. They had been busy chatting and weren't looking where they were going. They bumped into her arms and stopped. It was only a moment before Tadel almost fell into one of the buildings.   They continued on their way when Ezel saw soldiers turn the corner as they headed toward the center of town.   "You two, take this and head home. I have something I need to do."   They said something about her as she was almost running away but she didn't hear. She needed to know if he lived and she didn't expect him to come visit. By the time she caught up the soldiers had begun to break up. Ezel ran through the crowd looking at the faces of the soldiers. She accidentally bumped into one while trying to make out a soldier behind a helmet. Something clattered to the ground. It was a bloody dagger. Ezel stared at it for a moment. She had seen blood before, she had helped deliver babies, but this was the blood of someone who died; someone this soldier had killed who had a family of their own.   She looked at the soldier who had dropped it and it felt as though her heart had stopped. It was Yanik. He had killed someone. He looked back at her but he looked different. Ezel could tell that he was stuck inside his own head. He was troubled by war and by what he had to do. She added personal cost to the list of reasons she hated war.   "Yanik," Ezel said hesitantly as she picked up the dagger. "Are you going to be alright?"   She pulled a rag out of her pocket and wiped the blood off of the dagger. She handed it to him and he accepted it.   "Ezel," he responded now that he seemed to see what was in front of him.   He hugged her suddenly but softly. Ezel hugged him back. Some soldiers made loud comments toward them but nothing reached their ears. They parted, still holding onto each other.   "You're alive. I'm so happy," her voice was quiet.   She put her hand on his face and felt the short hairs that had started to grow. It would be many seasons still until he could grow a beard.   "I made it back," he sounded melancholy. "Not everyone did."   "Come, your father wants to see you."   She took her hand off of his face and it left a red mark. She looked at her hand which still had some blood on it. She wiped it on her clothes, they were dirty anyway. Ezel took him by the hand and started to pull him down the street. It was only moments before they heard something shatter and she saw Tadel get pushed out of a building. He stood up holding a broken bottle. He could barely stand and fell toward them. She looked at Yanik but he was focused on something else.   The wind howled in his ears. The wind and rain dissolved the city around him, leaving only rocky crags. Yanik stood there, disarmed and alone. A soldier, no, the enemy, raised his sword at him and began to run towards him. Yanik's mind was moving faster than the wind, he thought of his family, his friends he had lost in the ambush, and Ezel. He could still hear her voice and see her face. He had to get back. Without thinking he took the dagger from his belt, stepped to the side, and thrust.   Tadel looked back at him and then at Ezel before falling over. Yanik looked at the man. He wasn't an enemy soldier. Tadel hit the ground hard and the rest of the bottle shattered the pieces sliding along the ground. Slowly blood spilled from Tadel and flowed around the glass.   Someone screamed. It was Ezel. People started to gather, soldiers included.   "Ezel, I didn-"   Before he could finish Ezel had pushed him with both hands and run off. Yanik couldn't bring himself to follow and he lost sight of her as the crowd closed in.  
  Each step only made the pain in her feet worse. She had never walked this far before and never while carrying so much. The people at the fort had given her enough supplies but they had no horse to spare. Amani kept walking. Only one document left to deliver she thought. Everyone else was likely done by now. She had to make it soon and then the war would be over. Amani stopped for a moment when she realized something. What would she do after this? She had dedicated her life up until now to ending the war. She started moving again suddenly. It wasn't over yet and she would have time to think of her future when she had delivered the message of peace.   A dark cloud, like an arm from the Floor below, was reaching over the land ahead. The roiling clouds blocking the otherwise unending light. A storm was coming.  
  The rain was coming down hard, a storm like this wouldn't last long. Water ran down the streets and everyone was hiding in their homes. During a normal time that would be true but as the rain fell the people were gathered except one woman who was running through the streets.   The door opened and then slammed shut.   "Ezel! Ezel!"   Ezel only heard her mother's voice like a distant echo from a far away mountain. Ezel was hiding in her room under the covers of her bed. The door to her room opened suddenly but closed gently.   "Ezel," the voice was gentle this time. "I heard you were there when it happened."   Ezel didn't respond.   "A soldier killed Tadel. It is a hard thing to witness. Like it was hard on us when your father passed away."   Ezel poked her head out from the blanket and looked at her mother.   "It wasn't a soldier."   "What do you mean?"   "Not just any soldier, I mean," she was quiet for a moment. "It was Yanik."   "Oh no. Ezel, the people are angry with the soldiers. There were always angry with their behavior but this has taken it too far. They are going to fight. They want the soldiers to leave."   Ezel's mind cleared.   "Mom, they will die. I don't want anyone to die, can't the fighting be over?"   "I know Ezel, I want the fighting to stop too."   "Yanik!" Ezel's voice suddenly broke the silence. "I have to find Yanik. I can't let them kill him or him kill anyone else."   "Ezel, b-"   Her daughter was already gone.   Ezel was soaked to the skin in moments but it took less time than that to see that the fighting had already started. The screams came louder than the rain and the gunshots than the thunder. Across the street under the roof of a merchant stall was a dead soldier. Ezel ran over to him and looked at his bloody face. She wiped it with her bloody sleeve.   It wasn't him.   She almost got up to leave but if she ran around the soldiers might kill her. Even the townsfolk might in this darkness. She took the soldier's pistol from his belt. It was cold, cold enough that the metal burned when she touched it. She didn't didn't want to use it and hopefully she wouldn't have to.  
  Amani managed to put one foot in front of the other time and time again. She was worried about being blown away but with her clothes soaked and all of the extra gear the soldiers had given her she wasn't too worried. The raindrops were unusually large and hurt when they hit her face, at least before it went numb.   Amani took a deep breath, some rain got into her mouth, and her nose filled with the scent of mud. She held the air for a moment and let it out producing a white cloud that was quickly dispersed by the wind. She suddenly thought of that last time she saw her father and of the clouds that left his nose while he carried her. She slipped on the edge of the path, her attention had wavered and it was difficult to see. The muddy ground greeted her with a squelch.   Her arms and legs were cold and stiff, getting up felt like a monumental task. Her hands slipped on the mud but she eventually rose and found the path once more. Unlike the last time with her father, she saw the landscape and the sky in this moment. Perhaps really seeing it for the first time. The dark cloud swirled above her, writhing like the Floor below. Out in the distance she could see the other islands in the distance bathed in the unending light. The light that poured over the endless sky far into the distance. But not here and not now.   Just as she had the thought, the rain let up a litte, and then a little more. It was still dark and it was still windy she thought but she put one foot in front of the other over and over. People were really good at that she thought. No matter what happened they would keep moving. Overcoming obstacles and adversities. With newfound determination she increased her pace toward the final town.   She arrived faster than she had thought, perhaps because the rain had stopped or because she was able to pick up the pace. Amani could hear even from here on the outskirts the sounds of battle, mostly screams. She had been too late, if she had just walked faster or not stopped to eat she could have stopped this. Amani would not let this continue and she headed towards the town almost slipping in the mud as she ran.   As she approached, the wind died down and the sounds of battle reached her ears more clearly. The rain seemed gentler without the wind. She saw in the distance the arm of the storm break. The cloud would now begin to turn from a grey and black mass into a beautiful white cloud. The light began to penetrate the cloud and fill the town with a dim glow. The first thing that became clear was two people nearby standing some distance apart.   They were pointing guns at each other. Amani screamed and ran toward them.   "The war is over! Don't shoot!"   The people didn't move. As Amani got close the cloud was pushed away by a gentle breeze. The unending light reached the mountains far in the distance first and then flooded towards them. The light illuminated first a young man who wore the uniform of a Graran soldier. To her surprise the figure opposite her was not a soldier but a young woman who was covered in blood and dirt. They seemed to be about Amani's age. The man held his gun pointed at her but without a finger on the trigger. The woman held the gun but it shook wildly. Amani noticed a few bodies lying around. Bodies of the dead and the wounded.   "Stop! You don't have to fight! I have the declaration of peace!"   "This isn't about the war!" the young woman shouted back her voice shaking.   "This is about us," the man said.   "You killed all of these people! People you know, the people you grew up with!"   "I only defended myself," the mad replied.   His voice was full of regret. Amani thought that he was trying to convince himself as much as anyone else. Amani would not let this continue so she went to take a step forward to get between them.   And then the crack of gunfire filled the air.

Stub Article

This article is just a stub for now and will be expanded upon later.

Old Article

This article was written in the past and does not meet my current standards for any number of article quality, layout, or content.

In-Progress Article

This article is being worked on, perhaps not at this very moment, but it is being worked on.

Cover image: Way Path Outdoor by Free-Photos


Please Login in order to comment!
Aug 21, 2019 23:49 by John Rivers

Great story. I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes!