talk about the bane of my existence. This image haunted me for almost a year from conception, redo, to finalization... still love the image though. Inspired by the flowing story. Hope you enjoy.
19x24 mixed media (acrylic, watercolor, color pencils)
Story, copyrighted to me
The rays of the morning sun sneaks over the hill, just peeking into the valley. The morning dew lies lazily about as the coolness of the night fades. A few birds shake sleep away and began to sing to welcome the warm rays. They were anxious to get the day started.
In camp, however, there was a different type of feeling. Most of the soldiers have been up many hours before; others have been fighting to find sleep most of the night. Today was the big battle, and the air was full of nervous tensions.
One stallion blinked as the sun rays hit the shield next to him. He snorts to himself as he is snapped back from his thoughts, “They tell us we have to fight, but I rather be in the field… the harvest won’t get done on time without me there.”
He returns to sharping his blade. His thoughts begin to drift back to his home village. He envisioned himself watching his filly and son playing in the meadow. He moves towards them, seeing that her mane was decorated in flowers. His son, still have longer legs than body and not much of a mane, looks up at him as he approaches and smiles. The two stood looking towards him for a moment and then his son began to run towards the stallion that he calls father.
He is snapped suddenly back to reality. One of the captains was shouting orders nearby. The stallion’s ears turn towards the captain, but the orders where not for him, he checked his blade. The blade was old, passed down from father to son for at least four generations. It had a lot of wear on the handle, and the blade was either chipped or rusted in some areas. The soldier had been working to get the rust out, but the sword had seen its days and wouldn’t hold up in a full on brawl. The army had issued him another sword, but he liked the old one, “Nice and sharp,” he said with a smile.
As he looked into his reflection in the blade, he felt like he was home. He felt the sun on his back as he plowed into the soil. His muscles ached as the hoe convinced the soil to stir. He felt the soft earth under his hooves and the biting files on his hunches. He looks up to see his filly offering him a cup of water. He reaches for the cup, thirsting for the water.
Some clanging focused his thoughts back to the blade. Some of the stallion where clashing their swords in a spar. Here, it was the only way to relieve the tension. They would say that they were practicing, or warming up for the coming battle, but everyone could feel the nervousness. He watched the spar for a moment, and then his gaze turned towards another group and hears tense laughter. The stallion put his blade down, and lifted the shield. It was scratched and dirty from the spars during training. “Dirty shield… needs cleaning,” he mumbled to himself. He reached for his travel bag and began to search it for a rag. He pulled out some cloth; some was change of clothes, another was a cloth that he used to wash himself. None of it was worth damaging while cleaning the shield, so he put them to the side. He reached in again and pulled out a rag. It was a small ragged piece of purple cloth. He rubbed it, and twirled between his fingers. He smelled it, and smiled.
It was the eve of his deployment. Soldiers came into his village that day and told the stallions to pack; they were leaving that next morning to fight in the army. His filly was upset that he would have to go, but they shared a night of passion. As dawn neared, he gathered what he needed into the travel bag. She stood with him, so close. He could still smell her, taste her, feel her body next to his. As the soldiers rallied the stallions of the village, she tore a section from her purple robes and tied it to his arm. She reached up to kiss him once more… one more embrace…
The wind picked up and the purple cloth was torn from his hand. He reacted in almost panic trying to retrieve the trinket. The cloth rolled across the ground, until a hoof landed on it. The stallion retrieved the trinket, and looked at the owner of the hoof.
“Thanks,” he said, dusting off the rag.
The other soldier, who was already in full army dress, looked at the rag and smiled slightly, “funny thing to get worried about on the eve of battle.”
“It’s a gift from my filly”
“Ahhh, makes sense now. But when the swords fly, you won’t be able to chase it, if the wind catches it again.”
“She tied it on my arm when I left,” pointing to his forearm, “but the bracers never fit right, and the knot failed it during training.”
The soldier nodded, “Hmhmhm… leave it to a filly to tie a poor knot, I’ll make a knot that will last the battle at least,” he took the cloth and began to tie it to the bracer, “ At least here you won’t need to worry about it getting lost,” He finished making the knot and stared at the trinket for a moment before speaking in a softer distance voice. Almost as an afterthought, “Such gifts from ones filly are important, especially with long lonely nights so far from home.”
“You speak as if you have experience in trinkets and fillies”
The soldier made a face, a mixture of sadness and knowing. He nodded.
The stallion flexed his arm testing the knot, “think it will hold… thanks again.”
The soldier, smiled again and nodded, “No problem.”
The stallion turned to leave, but he stopped and turned back to the soldier with curiosity, “Where is your filly?” he looked towards the sky and half dreamily finished before the soldier could answer him, “I can’t wait to get back home, wish this thing was over.” He was annoyed about the being here; he snorted his annoyance with his last commit.
The stallion looked at the soldier, “That sounded like you don’t want to go home. You do want to hold your filly again, don’t ya?”
The solder looked back; his eyes a mixture of sadness and anger, “My filly was taken from me. She was killed by those basters!” His arms waved angrily towards the horizon.
“I care not if I live or die today. All I know is by the end of the day… I will either bathe in the blood of those who are responsible for my filly’s death, or I shall join her in the afterlife.”
The stallion was taken back slightly by the aggressive nature of the soldier speech. The soldier’s eyes where full of passion, hate, desire, revenge, so much so, that he didn’t even look like one of the other soldiers. He was beyond this realm. His eyes dark and deep, not really seeing, but seem to be seeing past the stallion. It was almost as if his heart had been twisted and broken in ways the stallion could only imagine. A radiance seemed to surround him, and was so strong that it was almost blinding. It seemed that his heart and mind was focused on one thing… the battle with a taste of sweet revenge ahead.
“But you,” he continued, “you have a filly to go home too, I will watch your back. I hate to think of a young filly left home alone. I never want to see a repeat of the Western Vole.” He places a firm hand on the stallion’s shoulder and then turn to leave. The stallion watched the soldier pick up his shield and sword and lost sight of him behind the sparing warriors.
The stallion went back to his tent, but was in deep thought. The Western Vole was one of the first villages that were attacked. Every foal, filly, and stallion where killed in those villages and not all so cleanly. Some were shackled and left to die of the elements, some were taken to be used as slaves, and the rest were burned in their own homes. He remembers the runner who came to his village and relaying the story of the attack. A slight shiver ran up his spine, but he wasn’t sure why.
He sat back in his spot and for a moment he forgotten what he was going to do. He looked at the shield and his sword again. To him the army issued shield was solid, but the sword seemed off. He reached for the army issued sword, and found that it needed to be sharpened a little. He set to the task of sharping the sword and soon found himself drifting back home again. He could smell the cool green grasses from the fields, and could see his village in the valley. It was just as he left it.
He didn’t notice it at first, but the sky was turning red. Then he smelled it… fire. In a panic he raced to his home to find his filly and son going about their daily activities. She smiled at him as he slammed open the door. He cried out for them to follow him, but they just seemed to laugh and ignore his cries. He could see the fire engulfing the fields and the licking outer homes, but no one seemed to take notice. He reached for his filly, but as he touched her the house caught fire. His panic and fearful eyes looked into her indifferent eyes. In a flash she too was engulfed in flames, and as he held her, she turned to ash.
“NO!” the stallion snapped to reality reaching for the purple rag. He was covered in sweat, and his breathing was short. He placed his hand to his head; he wasn’t sure if he had fallen asleep or if he had a vision. He tried to calm himself, but soon realized that the camp was moving to line up. He could hear the Captains calling their soldiers to their places.
“It was nonthing, just a dream,” he snorted to himself. The Captains were calling his unit to line up. The stallion reached for the heirloom sword, but stopped short. To him it looked old and worn. He shook his head again slightly and left the sword behind. For this battle he needed a strong sword.
As he lined up he checked his armor, and his neighbor’s making sure it was secure. The tensions rose as the warriors and their beast snorted and clanked their weapons. He began to shake, but not from the cool air. As he closed his eyes a flash of his filly engulfed in flames dominated his mind. He shook his head to clear it as he heard the Captains make an encouraging speech.
The Captains called for protection of the land, the king will, revenge, and other political desires. The stallion wanted to be home, and cared not for anything the Captains where saying. He touched the cloth again, lost in thought. His filly was running in the field of his homeland. Happy and content in his mind.
He was snapped back into reality with a rough slap on the shoulder. The warrior from before smiled then looked across the valley with clinched jaws. The enemy had gathered. They were a large army. Their cries and calls could be heard over the breeze. The clanging of their swords and spears was deafing. Their beast howled and snarled, anticipating the taste of blood.
The stallion heart dropped, and as he swollen he was glad to have a sturdy sword and shield. All visions of his filly and son were replaced with a fire and screams.
Fire consumes everything in its path. Nothing is safe from fire.
As the stallion looked upon the enemy, their red armor glisten like fire; the rays of sun danced upon the shields and it seemed as if the army was engulfed in flames.
They will spread. Even to my homeland.
His filly screamed as she was caught on fire.
They have attacked unprovoked.
His filly was running across the field.
Not my family!
His filly smiled at him and embraced him.
“They tell us we have to fight, but I rather be in the field… the harvest won’t get done on time without me.”
The enemy sends out their wave of troops.
“They tell us we have to fight for country…”
The archers fire their arrows.
“… for land…”
The arrows find their mark.
“… for the king…”
First wave of the enemy bypass the kill zone, second wave is sent out.
“…, but I will not fight for that…”
The Captains send the first wave of troops to meet the enemy.
“… I cannot fight for that, die for that…”
The two factions clash, the ground is quickly stained with blood.
“… the king can lose his land and country…”
Third wave of the enemy is sent as the second reaches the bloodbath.
“… but I will fight for them…”
Captains call the stallion’s unit up.
“… I will return to her, with honor…”
Arrows fly. Swords clash. Blood is spilt.
“… I will die for her safety…”
Captain gives the order and the stallion’s unit races forward.
The stallion pauses for a moment and his mind becomes focused. A surge of energy shakes its way up his spine. He felt empowered by the thought of his filly’s and son’s safety. He thrashes his head as he makes one final battle cry before he jumps into full charge. His sword flashes as he readies to jump into the fray of blood and pain.
“… Just try to get pass ME!!”
His filly smiles warmly.