The Captain looks out over the future battleground contemplating his chances of victory.
It was the evening before the battle. It was crisp outside, as though whatever it was that usually kept the nights warm during the summer had fled in anticipation of what was to come the next day. Slowly, in the distance, the last moments of the sun were visible and the entire camp was bathed in an orange/red glow. Soldiers were milling around preparing. Some higher-level soldiers were going over last-minute fighting tactics with their teams. Others left their men to do whatever they needed to do, knowing that they may not survive the next day. Soldiers were seen cooking, cleaning, gambling and many were drinking tankards of ale, laughing heartedly as though tomorrow would be an ordinary day. Once man, the Captain, and highest-ranking soldier at the camp was standing atop a slight hill, leaning against a large oak tree and getting a couple last looks at the armies setting up on the other side of the valley. Of course they had scouts, but he always wanted to see for himself. Scouts could be fooled or given wrong information and of course, commanders could change their plans. He knew that there wasn't much that he could discern at such a distance, but he just felt that if he didn't look, he wasn't doing his job as commander. He glanced down at his muddied uniform. Perhaps if he gave it to one of the women at camp, he would be able to have it cleaned in time for battle. It just didn't seem right to jump into battle unprepared - and that included having a clean uniform.
He sighed to himself and turned to look out over the plain in the opposite direction. General Silvius, along with an additional 10,000 troops were supposed to come and aid him in this battle. His own army had dwindled to just 5,000. Unfortunately, the last scout that had come said that they were a week away but that was over a week ago. The Captain knew that without the help, his chances were slim tomorrow - but what else could he do? His 5,000 men would have to hold against the enemy 20,000 at least until help arrived. He couldn't win this battle but with some strategy, perhaps he could hold out.
From down the hill, he could see a man stalking up to him. It was Lieutenant Erdam, his second in command. Erdam was in uniform - and it was clean. The Captain sighed again - glancing down at his own.
"Sir!" Erdam approached and saluted the Captain, raising his right hand, two fingers extended, to his forehead. The Captain saluted back and Erdam continued with his report: "the men have been given orders regarding formation tomorrow. I believe everything is ready to go."
"How about the weapons?" inquired the Captain.
"sharpened and ready" Erdam answered promptly.
"And the supplies? Water?"
"How about..." the Captain continued but was cut off by the Lieutenant. "Sir, everything is ready. I think, under your command, we are the most organised army in the land. There is nothing else to prepare. Everything is ready, just as you planned". Erdam countered.
The Captain sighed, but accepted Erdam's report, "No news from Silvius?"
"None Sir, but I've instructed that any riders be brought directly to me", Erdam answered and the Captain raised his eyebrows at that. "Well Sir, you need your rest. I don't think I've seen you sleep this week! If there is someone important, I will bring them to you, but I don't want you bothered with unimportant information".
The Captain nodded. He hadn't slept in a while, but he didn't really think he could sleep at a time like this. He never slept well the night before a battle. "Very well. I do have a few other things to check on".
"The point is for you to rest..." Erdam said, but he knew it was pointless. The Captain wouldn't sleep if he knew there were tasks to be done in the camp. Once, he had found the Captain cutting wood among the low ranked soldiers because one of his men had injured himself and they were short handed in building the fires for the camp. When the soldiers protested the captain doing the chores of a low ranked soldier, he had said he wanted to chop some wood because it helped him relax.
Erdam looked out onto the plains were the battle would be fought the next day. The enemy army was only visible by the little lights that marked their fires for the night. "Do you think we have a chance?" Erdam asked.
"Of course we have a chance. We always have a chance. But the chances are clearly against us. It's one to four out there even if we are more skilled. Our objective now is to hold out until Silvius arrives. Hopefully then, they will be able to save the Plains." The Captain answered softly, thoughtful about the coming battle.
The two men looked out onto the dark fields quietly for a time. Perhaps contemplating death, or maybe contemplating life. Thinking whatever thoughts pass through soldiers minds before they walk out onto the battlefield. As they stared out into the now darkness, a young boy, maybe 7 years of age, likely a son of one of the soldiers, came running up. He reached the Captain and Lieutenant and attempted a salute but stumbled a bit and hit himself in the head. Perhaps it was the run up the hill, perhaps it was youthful inexperience.
"Ouch!" he exclaimed, "Sir! Captain! A rider! Just came in! I ran! I'm fast, but horses are faster, Sir! Right behind me Sir!" The boy huffed and puffed his way through his message.
The Captain and Erdam looked out and they could hear the approaching a horse before they could see it. Perhaps it was word from Silvius! The cloaked rider made it to the top of the hill and descended from the horse. The rider walked up to the two men and dropped the hood of the cloak. Before them stood a tall woman with her hand raised to her forehead in the proper salute. It was difficult to make out her features in the dark but both men immediately recognised the woman and saluted back.
"Captain, I have news from General Silvius" she stated with conviction and presence.
"Well, what is it soldier? Is he coming?" the Captain anxiously questioned the rider.
"Sir, the General decided to make camp for the night less than a few hours ride from here. He hopes that this may disguise his arrival from the enemy army and we may have the advantage of surprise. He will arrive just after dawn to join the battle, Sir." She stood proud, shoulders back, hands at her side. Her hair was tied up in a long braid which hung loosely over her shoulder.
"Great news!" the Captain answered. He turned toward Erdam and said, "Go alert the others, let them know that tomorrow, the battle will be ours!" He turned back to the woman, reached out and took her hand. "Erdam, if everything is ready as you say it is, I am not to be bothered for the rest of the night. I am going to spend time with my wife." And with that, he walked briskly down the hill towards his tent his wife eagerly keeping up with his long strides their hands locked together. Erdam glanced over to where the young boy stood with his hands on his knees, still catching his breath. He tossed him a copper piece and told him to make sure the horse was fed and stabled. He looked down toward camp and smiled as he saw the Captain and his wife - his oldest friends - disappear under the tent flap.