Fallacy of the Last War
-The City of Smaena-
My men slowly approached from behind. Over the last few years most semblances of military decorum had faded away, and although they still saluted me and called me their Legate, at this point I felt I treated many with them as my own sons and brothers.
Legionary Hader spoke first:
“Sir, we were thinking about heading down below to see if we can offer some assistance to the civies, a few lads from the 3rd were down on Copper street running a tent patching 'em up and making' em some soup.”
I had been losing myself in thought, I realized. I had felt a million miles away from my duties, and even as I had been snapped back to the present, the thoughts of my family were still all that occupied the space behind my eyes.
Nonetheless, I found my mouth leading the way, shaping me up to sound like the resolute Legate my soldiers knew me as.
“As you are men, dismiss, report back with news from Copper street by dusk. Have Jorian and Gabe post up on this position.”
There was silence; it was short. It was a silence that might have seemed entirely ordinary to any civilian, but as their Legate my men were expected to respond quickly after I had dispatched orders, affirming they had understood with an immediate and emphatic reply of “Yes sir”.
Had my men truly become lax? I know we had dispensed with much of the ceremony of rank in these desperate times, but would they really forget something so essential? Such a simple gesture of respect that should have been well drilled into them since they had joined falling to the wayside was enough to fully divert my attention.
I leaned off the railing, turning to face them, perhaps they needed a firm reprimand to remind them that I am still their superior officer.
When I met their eyes though, expecting to see glazed over ambivalence, I saw instead something I had never seen in the eyes of my men.
A different king of concern, perhaps even an ounce of pity.
It was fleeting, when they realized they had been caught they both shaped up in a blurring fraction of a second, and before I could utter a word they belted a firm “YES SIR!” before sending off the customary salute and racing off down the stairs.
I was left somewhat stunned, my mouth hung agape before I brought myself back to where I was, now alone atop the watchtower.
Gods, had I truly looked that distant, that morose? Had I lost myself so much that I had been sitting here contemplating my brothers, looking as helpless as that wounded mother on the streets?