Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori
Susan Waterflower Bell
The Fifth Miscellaneous Tale
James withheld a deep breath and his breath frosted before him. It was clear to him now the war would not be won before Christmas and promise of a Christmas leave was yet another hollow lie the staff told them to keep there moral high. It did not matter anyways soon all of them would possible be listed among the fallen. Yet he had his orders and as an officer it was his job to carry out those orders.
Slowly he looked over his shoulder and the sight the greeted him caused a sudden chill to shadow his heart. The once noble 22nd was nothing more than a shell of its former self. If one was to peer into the eyes of the men that stood behind him one would notice a hollow look about them. A look that they have seen the end of the word and lived to tell the tale. There was no burning life in there eyes only a cold deadness.
"22nd Kyoto has been ordered along with her sister platoons to charge the German lines as soon as the shelling stops. Are objective is simple yet deadly we are to bite and hold. If we succeed in this attack its quite possible the key to Rhineland will be are pockets along with the key to winning this bloody war and going home." Called James toward the men. His tone of voice was hard way too hard for one as young as him.
James could feel the hollow eyes of his men peering at him. Some smiled a little smile quite sure that they have at last found away out of this mess of man and that way out was a simple pine box. Other just shook there head and looked to the heavens as if to seek forgiveness from some higher power and others just took a deep breath and closed there eyes as if trying to find a measurable amount of peace before they themselves went over the top.
And then the shelling started. The boom of the cannons broke the calm of the winter air. Soon the very ground upon which they stood shook from the force of crashing and busting shells. Small pieces of earth and charred wood rain down above there head as the shells found there mark.
And though it might have been a sin each man hoped and prayed that each crashing and busting shell found there mark and finally when this storm ended and it was there time to go over the top. That crossing that hellish landscape called no-mans land would be like a cake walk of there youth so long ago. And then as soon as it had started it stopped.
James took a deep breath and quickly he reached for his sword. With a quick flick of the wrist he unsheathed the fine metal blade and lifted it into the air. He peered over his shoulder and gave his men a nod of the head. Acting on this non verbal command the men reached to there sides and pulled there long thin bayonets with the skill of a seasoned solider each man fitted the thin blade to the nuzzle of there rifles.
"Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori." Cried James standing up and brandishing his sword. He phase he spoke was a Latin one, and for once he was thankful for the two years of Latin his school required him to learn the phase could be translated as such. It's sweet and fitting to die for one's country. And soon his battle cry was join by countless others, no matter what the scholars of later generations would say here upon this field the burning heart of manhood was alive and the willingness to die to bring honor to ones country had once more replaced all feeling of hunger and dread.
In good order did the men of the 22nd Kyoto and her sister platoons move forward. Like one massive tide of dark brown mixed in with ivy green. It was easy almost too easy and then as if a higher power had smiled on them they found themselves in the basted and torn trenches. James peered around him and then he smiled they had reached there object whole and sound as could be. Then it happen the counter attack.
Then from the north came a sound that can only be compared to a thousand screaming demons as it seemed men just sprung from the ground. There eyes burned with red with hate and anger in there hands they held swords and rifles some even only armed with old drink bottles.
"Form battle lines, twenty wide two deep, first rank knee and second one shall fire. Keep a steady stream of fire going. I do not want to spot any signs of flattering weakness in line of fire." He cried snapping the heel of his boots together and pointing his sword toward the oncoming tide of men. He took a deep breath now was his chance to win honor for his family. Slowly he withheld and then with a sign he said once more.
"Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori." He said softy as he brought his sword down and the first rank released a deadly salvo of fire toward the oncoming human tide. Back and forth the two sides exchanged fire with each salvo traded the ranks grew thinner and thinner.
"Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori!" James as he lifted himself from his sleep. Quickly he looked around him, his breathing was deep and laborious like a man who had ran a good many miles in a very short amount of time. His forehead gleamed with sweat and his light cotton night shirt seemed to be glued to his body.
"Bloody nightmare… Oh good why do I keep reliving it. Why do I?" He said placing his head in the open palm of his hand. He took a deep a breath in hopes of once more gaining control of his breathing it worked to a pointed. But then like always did the tears so long held within him swelled to the surface and formed two small rivulets down his cheeks.
Then he felt a hand upon his shoulder, a sudden rush of warmth and safety flowed from the hand and into the rest of his body this feeling warmed him from the inside out. And then a tone of voice so pure so gentle it could only be compared to one of an angle spoke to him.
"Honey, are you okay."
"No…" Said James turning his head toward the tone of voice. Through the haze of his tear stain eyes he could clearly make out the outline of a young woman around his age. Her long thick brown hair was tied back in a neat sleeping braid that hung lose over her shoulder. Her sapphire blue eyes sparkled with concern and compassion.
"James you lying to me, your shaking like a leaf in the autumn breeze, and you just screamed a freaking Latin phase. So something is very wrong with you." She stands throwing the thick cotton covers aside. Quickly she climbed atop of him and soon her sapphire blue eyes where locked with his sapphire pink eyes.
James took a deep breath and slowly he withheld. "Jennifer I'm fine, I just at a little nightmare that's all nothing to worry about they happen quite often." He said smiling toward his young wife. They had only been married a few months now. He had married her on Christmas Eve of this year one year to the date the Kaisers war had ended and he had returned from his roving career.
"You lying to me James Waterflower Bell, I can see it in your eyes, there something haunting your soul and I aim to find out what it is one way or the other do you hear me." Said Jennifer folding her arms under her breast. She gave her husband a cock eye.
"I was back there." Said James shifting his eyes toward young wife. He took another deep breath and once more he slowly withheld. "I was in that trench again, along with the remains of my platoon. Even though it was nothing more than a mere dream I promise you I could feel the early winter upon my skin as it whooped around us." He said trying his best to recall the fleeting replay.
"Oh…" She at a lost for words. It seemed even though the battle had been won on the field it had been lost in the minds and hearts of those had been there and witness the blood bath of modern war fare. "What happen then…?" She said placing a hand upon his shoulder. Jennifer like so many young women at the time had done there fair share by enlisting as a battlefield nurse, though she herself never saw fighting she had seen the results of such actions countless times.
"And the field it was covered with the bodies of the fallen, but for every bloody one we killed it seemed another one would come forth to take its place, there was no end to them, I mean what courage or madness could have possessed these men to charge at use armed sometimes with nothing more than a broken bottle or a hunting knife. Was the pool of men that deep?" Asked James turning toward Jennifer.
"I have no idea, but those days are behind you, you need to learn to let your past be confined to the tomes of history. Life for the present and the future." She said moving her hand in a small circle upon James back.
"Bloody, bloody hell." Said James brushing away her hand and standing up. He jumped out of bed and started toward the window. "You don't understand it was on my orders those men held that blasted piece of land. My orders along do you hear me." Said James turning toward Jennifer small tears where starting to form at the edge of his eyebrows.
"What do you mean your ordered them to hold? Said Jennifer sliding out of bed.
"Only those whom have seen the confusion of a battle can truly understand the inner workings of it," Said James turning toward her.
"Then tell me," Jennifer took a deep breath. "Tell me the confusion and hurt through your own eyes, I care not of the number of dead or missing or the movement of troops or the tactics used by the field marshals, I care only for what you saw." She added placing her hand once more upon his shoulder.
James took a deep breath and peered once more into her sapphire blue eyes. "Promise me you will still love me."
James breathed in the evening air. He peered around him, the fighting was starting to dye down now. The ground before them was covered with the bodies of the fallen attackers. The once sandy brown soil was now starting to take on a strange reddish tint.
"We've held them sir." Called one man from the ranks. There was a mock tone of humor in his voice. "Does this mean we can go home now and enjoy what's left of the holiday season." The same voice added this time in a much darker tone of voice.
"Squad leaders, take roll, I want a complete count of are current strength along with the names of the fallen and there tags if can recover them." Called James. He took a deep breath, there would be no end to the killing it seemed no end at all.
One by one each squad leader reported there loses to him along with commendations for orders or honors. James nodded making a mental note of each name. He was sure most of these would be lost in the paper work that followed and even if they did get to the right people he was postive the man that had performed such deeds would long be dead or missing the staff did not reward the dead with a medal.
Then a sudden voice knocked James out of his daydreaming.
"Sir, the 18th Campbell is on its way along with the 19th Wright, even with there added support it would be foolish for us to hold this ground are scouts report a massive counter attack building a few hundred yards from us, we will simply overpower us and kill us to a man." Said the voice to him. Though the news was grim there not a trace of fear could be felt in the mans ice cold tone of voice.
"We have are orders." Said James to the voice without evening open there eyes.
"We can withdraw the other units are already withdrawing if we stay sir, we will be surrounded on both sides with no chance of escape, this trench will become are grave." Countered the voice.
"Then it will simply become are grave." Countered James to the unknown tone of voice.
"Sir this is madness," Cried the voice.
Finally James could take it no more his eyes flew open and he gave the harden solider that stood before him a glare that could melt through a block of solid ice.
"Colour Sergeant!" Cried James quickly spotting the scarlet sash wrapped around his shoulder that marked him as his company's colour sergeant. The old veteran snapped his heels together and raised his sword in salutation.
"Following the British defeat in the battle of Isandlwana a Zulu impi thinking it would another ease victory attacked a small outpost of the British forces at a placed called Rorke's Drift. Though the four hundred odd defends where vastly outnumbered they not only held but they through back the Zulu attack. We shall not withdraw from this position if this is to be are grave then a higher power as seen fit for it to be are graves." Said James toward the colour sergeant.
"As you command sir." Said the colour sergeant saluting him and returning to the line.
Soon the light ivy green flag of the 22nd was joined with the bright blue and white of the 18th and the dark green of the 19th. It was under these banner the men would fight and die, each one being a source of pride for its unit each one willing to be killed to a man before there colors fell into a hand of foe.
And then drawing his sword and lowing it once more toward the massive wave of human attackers he opened his mouth and from it came the old Latin phase suiting for such a time as this, one that will set the coward heart ablaze with honor and courage.
"Ave Imperator, morituri te salunta!" He cried bringing his sword down as the first salvo of shots speed through the cool winters air toward the on coming tide of attackers dropping a heap of them in there tracks.
But they kept coming, and coming and the roar of rifles and cannons filled the air like the howls of a might dragon. Countless times James faced death and countless times it seemed a higher power guided the bullet aimed for his arm or head away sometime striking the man behind him or to his left. As the second melted into the minutes and minutes melted into hours the thin line of the defenders wavered like a palm tree caught in gale force wind.
And finally it was over, the bodies of both friend and foe lay on the ground side by side in some places. The air above them was filled with a pale gray smoke from spent powder and cannon shells.
Slowly he shifted his eyes around him. A sudden coldness fell upon his heart. As he lifted his eyes toward rising moon. Without speaking another word he stood up and pointed his sword toward the river Rhineland a river that lay just beyond there sit. After a few minutes of just standing there and pointing he finally muttered a signal word.
"Forward," And then it swelled up from somewhere deep within him. " Erin-go Bragh" He cried thrusting his sword forward as he held his hand out for the company colors.
For a minute the men stood there speechless and then with a earth shaking cheer they added. "Faugh-a Ballagh." And with that the guarding of the colors handed them over and with a look of a harden solider James scaled the trench walls and stepped into the hellish waste of no mans land.
He was followed by shattered remains of the 22nd and 18th. Soon other units took up the battle cry and soon the whole of the allied arms where on the move. Using the night as cover they attacked and won a key victory that to this day still amazes the scholars of history.
"See, I ordered my men to hold that god forsaken area of dirt, I'm nothing more than a cold heart killer, sending those boys to there death.." Said James turning to face Jennifer. Tears where starting to reform at the edge of his eyes. His sapphire pink eyes where tinted with frustration and long held in anger.
"Come along." Said Jennifer as she reached down and wrapped her figures around his wrist. Gently she started to pull him toward there bed. She knew what had to done now. He clearly needed some for of release and the only effective for him to release was to cry out his sorrow and pain.
James allowed himself to be lead toward the direction Jennifer moved him. Her objective soon became clear as she sat down upon the soft mattress of the bed. Then with a sudden show of force she pulled her sniffing husband over her lap. Quickly she removed his thin cotton sleeping pants reveling his bare French vanilla cream bottom to the cool bedroom air.
"You should know better than to old such things in husband." She said placing her open palm upon his bare bottom. She narrowed her sapphire blue eyes toward him. And then without saying another word she raised her hand above her head and in the blink of a eye her open palm came crashing down upon his exposed backside.
A sudden wave of sting rolled into James bottom as the open palm of his wife came into contact with his bottom.
Jennifer allowed a bakers dozen of seconds to tick by before she once more brought her hand crashing down upon his bottom, sending yet another wave of sting plowing his bottom like the blade of farmers blow.
James eyes flew open as he felt this second powerful smack upon his rear end he could feel his soft flesh slowly melting into a rose red under her might open palm. Once more the tears fell like rain drops form the corner of his eyes.
"By now," She said gracing his bottom once more with a stingy swat. "You should have learned." Another stingy swat came crashing down pushing the rose red to a shade darker. "That you had no control over it, none at all," Following the pattern as before another stingy swat landed upon his bottom sending yet another shockwave of sting and pain coursing through his body.
"But…" Said James is mind now a emotional hurricane.
"No" Cried Jennifer as hand came crashing down once more upon his bottom sending a second wave of sting through his bottom adding to the already polished Washington apple red bottom. "Ifs" Another stingy swat came down upon his bottom sending a third wave of sting soaring through what seemed like ever fiber of his being. "Ands" And again a fourth wave of sting "Buts." And finally the fifth wave of sting the wave that broke him.
"Yes ma'am.." Crooked James going limp over his wife's lap and then like a small child buried his blushing and tear stain face deep within her lap. "Forgive me.." He whispered to her.
"Jane, I choose to married you because you have a tender heart, trust me when I say this, you are not the only one whom has nightmares of the events that unfolded upon that field or countless other fields of that very dark time in are history." She said stroking his shoulder length coco brown hair.
James peered toward her with his tear gazed over eyes. He sniffed it never struck him that he would not be the only one suffering from such night terrors. With a fluttering heart he smiled toward her he could feel her love shining out from her two deep sapphire blue eyes.
"Now no more tears," She said reaching down and gently pulling him into her warm embrace.
There is no cure for a soul scarred by the shells and horror's of war. Some turn to the bottle for comfort yet others band together and form clubs where they can freely express there feelings among those who also saw the shells and the horror's. But for James there will be no club or the bottle for him it would simple be the loving hand of his best friend and soul mate.