The strain of a tired body, the sting of dirt and sweat running into dry weary eyes, and the stench of blood, decay, and human waste that weighed heavy on the wind. These were the signs of a battle, a gruesome affair that left bodies mangled, innards strewn over mud made from rain of the passing storm and the many who fell to the deathly bite of refined metals, and the tortured cries of the injured or the mourning.
For ages, humans have cherished battle. They say it is an art form, the work of a deity of war through the hands of mortal men. Yes, watch the grace and power as a man in a gleaming shell charges along the battlefield, eager to wet his blade with the blood of the enemy. His muscle flow beneath tanned skin marred with various scars, treasures of war won in the past, his breath is heavy and even, his sword poised and ready to strike. Yet it isn't his enemy, but him who fall, the sky is suddenly all he sees, the shock of losing his left leg from a mighty blow leaves him numb as the next soldier strikes. His throat is cut, his once proud huffs now garbled and sickly as he fights for life.
Death comes agonizingly slow for the man stained in his own blood, his blurring vision clinging to the sight of a perfect sky, the din of battle nothing more than white noise as he fades, his bowels loosing as his bodies finally goes limp. The stench is subtle at first, but grows swiftly as more and more men are hacked and gored around the corpse.
Yes, battle is beautiful thing, beautiful as crimson flies through the air, the ill sounds of crunching bone, inhuman screams, and spilling organs music to assist the artful form of those fighting. Another man, injured, fighting to win, to survive lets loose a horrible yell, more animal than human as he struggles the wrench his blade free of the skull he nearly split in two, his eyes locked on the incoming attack. He foregoes his sword and dodges the attack, moving like water across polished glass, his hands forming claws, nails ragged and crusted with dirt and blood sinking into his attackers eyes, rendering him blind, but not before he lands a blow to his tormentor's ribs, biting into his lung. The one who lost his sword gasps and stumbles, cutting his palms as he fervently scrabbles at the blade lodged in his side, the blinded man falling before him due to an arrow in his throat. Both choke, both gasp and thrash, drowning in their own blood like the first man to fall, the first to run eagerly into battle.
There is no glory here, no true victory. Both sides were evenly matched, each losing a hearty portion of their valiant men thirsting for battle due to greed for land. One man, wounded and leaning tiredly against a scarred tree, grasped at the fertile earth beneath him, rubbing the cool soil between sword calloused fingers. His cloudy vision drifts to the waning battle. Is this what he sacrificed himself for? Is this bloody land, filling so swiftly with the corpses of friend and foe alike, what he left his home for? Was he to die on a field foreign to him just so that his ruler, his king, could have a few more measly acres to tax?
To all that, the answer would be yes. He died, painfully, slowly bleeding out as his punctured stomach ate at his innards, all because two men couldn't face each other. The kings wasted time, money, resources, and lives for a scrap of land they wanted to claim, to add a few more miles to their border. They trained, fed, and sent men out to die, their greed growing when a victory was claimed, their desire to conquer and crush swelling with every loss. Families torn asunder, the land poisoned by so many dead, and all because two men of supposedly great power couldn't fight for it themselves, couldn't leave their lavish homes to at least discuss a compromise.
With all that said…is war, battle, truly an art form? Or, is it an excuse to shed blood, to cut down the rapidly growing population of the human race?
Time passes, the scars upon the land heal, the soil fertile and dark, the breeze gentle and sweet…sweet until the scent of blood, decay, and human waste once again taint the air. Yet, it is not the noble charge of armor-clad warriors that stampede towards their enemy, it is the thunderous cries of guns, the hiss of unseen bullets slicing through the air. What little nobility of war is gone, a soldier downed by a bullet will never meet his killer, will never test his true skills. Instead, he aims, pulls a trigger, and hopes the weather doesn't lead his bullet astray.
In the place of iron shod hooves and metal clad feet are the bombardments of explosive shells, some small and carried by hand, others heavy an launched from monstrous machines, shredding the enemies and allies alike. There is no honor here, the war is alien and cold, only the need to survive and return home victorious and in one piece keep the soldiers warm and fighting.
In this twisted form of battle, there is no question of art or no art, there is no man swinging a blade, thrusting spears, knocking an arrow, swinging a hammer, or even guiding a horse. No one dances a deadly dance of grace, strength, and instinct. They crawl and writhe, sneaking along the ground like serpents or behind obstacles like rats, waiting for the moment to strike with a silent bullet and a deafening bang.
There is no art, only greed masked by good intentions, only thinly veiled excuses to shed blood upon the land. After all, a victory is a victory no matter what it took to get it, to avoid looking weaker, to avoid being the loser. As for me…well, I'll take death at the hand of a sword bearing warrior over a cold somber victory I can't even enjoy.