Burning sacks of straw illuminated the dawn sky. Three minutes before the beautiful spectacle, I had been stuffing my face with a stale biscuit. Given that I may not be long for this world, I would have preferred a spread of peppered beef and sweet rolls, but an enlisted man soon learns the limits of battlefield cuisine.
The morning conversations were stilted. There was small talk and nervous laughter as the soldiers prepared themselves, but most of the men were trapped in their own minds. My thoughts drifted toward those facing us in the distance. I knew the men perched upon the parapets were just as nervous as us, if not more so. We were fighting for our honor. They were fighting for their homes and livelihood.
Were they thinking of their families? Thinking of their wives? Their own Rebeccas?
In the end, such thoughts were fleeting. I didn’t truly care what those inside the walls were feeling.
No, the enemy could do their own worrying.
Black smoke was starting to rise from the stables and castle yards. There was fear in my mind, but not in my heart. If I could rip my head off and still swing a weapon, I would have done it long ago. The anxiety was often overwhelming. Enough so, that I sometimes hoped I would not last to see the battle’s end. The time when adrenaline evaporates and the soil is painted with bloody flesh and excrement.
But any minute now, the commander would give his big speech, the horns would sound and swords would begin to pass judgement. Any thoughts in my mind would give way to a single, throbbing idea — kill or be killed.