Saturday, November 22, 2003

T h e L a s t B a t t l e

Ever wondered what is the final battle you fight ? No it is not with death. It happens much earlier. After this battle, you are pretty much a useless vegetable.

T h e L a s t B a t t l e

".. The commander stood up and looked in through his field glasses. The terrain was rough, and he could see several thickets where the enemy could ambush. His troops had a fatiguing journey, the last few months being the ones which demanded extreme vigilance and efforts.

He put the glasses aside and looked at his troops. A few were trying to eat what remained of their morsels; their rations were quickly running short. The others were lying down crouching on their backs. But everybody was awake.

The commander rose to speak to them, his voice was deep but very clear.

"Soldiers. You shall rest today. However I need a few of you to help me survey the territory - carefully avoiding the eyes of the enemy. And by this late evening, we shall be ready with the plan for the offence. But we cannot afford to make any mistakes now."

The weather was rough, the early onset of winter brought with it the cold chill from the plains below. A thin shower of snow put a coarse blanket in between the two fighting parties. There was no interruption in the weather in the past week. This had tremendously delayed the battle, and the soldiers were growing restless. His troops had survived major losses. Some of the commander's best men were lost in the last battle.

Their army was outnumbered by the enemy, but had crucial advantages - in weapons and training. But they were losing out on the most important factor. Time, and it was running fastly against them. The commander could feel the fatigue of his troops. Yes, he realized, the soldiers did not have the energy that they possessed before. He did not anticipate that the offence shall be delayed by this long.

His senior lieutanant approached him, with his report on the weaponry. But before he could speak, he stumbled upon the eyes of his captain. They were not the same.

He knew his commander for long, and deeply admired his calibers. And he remembered the twinkle that always rested upon his eyes. But that day, those eyes were different, and spoke nothing of the childlike excitement that he always felt. They were dark instead, and were reflecting the dark clouds which were looming overhead in the sky.

There was something in the air, something very ominous. And this something made the lieutenanat sad.

"Lieutenant, I wish to speak to you in private"

"Yes Sir"

"These are my orders. Listen with attention."

"Yes Sir"

"In the case of looming defeat in the battle, collect all the weapons and take half the best men in your command."

"Yes Sir"

"Immediately evacuate the frontier and lead them back into the plains. Do this when I am still fighting."

"Sir. But this will be paramount to defecting."

"You are right Lieutenant. But this is what I am ordering you to do."

"Sir. This will be against my alleigance to the army."

"Lieutenant. Do you have the authority to question my intelligence ?"

"No Sir. You are my superior."

"And this is my command."

A cold wind started blowing from the hills. The soldiers started moving towards shelter in the rocks.

The commander squatted down to the floor, and begun thinking deeply. He was planning for the offence, the lieutenanat knew that. He always felt awed by the conquests of his commander. But he had never seen him so tired, so helpless, so eager for ... He wished the next day will turn in their stride.

But they never made the offence the next day. The offence was made by the enemy. And that was done meticulously in the night. The next day turned out to be the last day of the battle."

"And what happened on the last day ?", asked the little girl.

"So dear, that was how your grandpa got married."

"But grandma, you are not telling me what happened on the last day !"

"Hush darling. Now go to sleep. Because it is too violent to tell."