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    Tuesday, November 16, 2010

    The Battle

    I had travelled far to meet my old friend before we set out to the bloodthirsty task we both knew lay ahead of us. I arrived in good time for the feast that all old warriors of our cut and vintage partake in as a matter of ritual. However, once we stood together, my old comrade told me this would not be any mundane or hurried affair. He had, and out of his own pocket, laid down a plan for us to share as magnificent a repast as any we had ever enjoyed. Indeed, as the servers brought out the food, I knew he had spoken true. The meat and wine were red and the portions plentiful and all of it as well prepared as any delicacies either of us had ever tasted. During dinner we talked little of the coming conflict but, as old friends are want to do after long separations, we spoke largely of our lives since last we were last together and of mutual friends one or the other of us had not seen in what seemed an age. We toasted the present company and the coming clash and ate until neither of us could eat another morsel.

    After that, we set off on foot to the battlefield itself for well we knew better than to ride out and risk being unable to ride back. It was night now and the air was cool but he told me milder than usual for the time of year in that region. The walk was long and gave us more time to reminisce but not so long as to be tiring. Which was good, for soon, we both knew we would need all of our strength. As we walked, my old cohort of many such crusades expressed his concerns about our advancing years and mixing it up with the young hellions were we certain to meet in battle that very night. I jovially eased his mind telling him I intended to slay the first of them quickly, that he should plan to do the same, and after that, I declared; “The devil may take the hindmost!”
    He laughed at this and we arrived on the battlefield in high spirits and thirsty for warfare.

    We met the enemy and, by virtue of our vast experience, sized them up quickly. Among them, I noticed at least one Titan and being an old hand of many wars I set my sites on him firmly and, as I had promised not a quarter hour before, ended him quickly and while I was still fresh. My friend ran ahead laying into one of their common soldiers who had the misfortune to cross his path. As soon as this first blow struck, he smiled back at me and yelled that all his reservations had died by that mighty blow. He took his time and slew his adversary. I had moved on to another target I spotted on the field. For there I spied a foppish character they called “the Brune”. I know not why they called him thus but he was as flamboyant and as brilliant a swordsman as any opponent I had ever faced. I saluted my adversary, which he returned, and we began circling each other warily. Soon our swords were fairly singing and members both companies near us stopped their own battle to watch the dance. After a fair time I put the man down and the mêlée resumed in earnest. My old friend had marked another Titan in our enemies’ ranks, following my example; he set upon him like a berserker of old, and dispatched him straight. That left the more common, rounder members of their company and although they were well clad for fighting and they knew it not, their cause was already long lost. We worked our way through them, each of us following the lead of the other, first him, then me and so on, with the steady efficiency of veterans from a thousand such campaigns.

    Later we walked away from the battlefield and made our way back to the safely and warmth of his home. Quite in our cups, we traded stories admiringly of the fight and quarreled good-naturedly about the exact numbers.
    “It was at least a dozen,” I declared.
    “Not so,” he answered laughing, “it was no such matter, but then again” he relented, “it was close enough I would say.”
    We reached his home and I remember sharing a toast to victory with Old Fezziwig who had been waiting there for us. In truth though, by this time, the battle had taken its toll and I had spent my aging vitality. I fell asleep where I sat and shortly had lain down on the floor before my chair. My old companion mocked my fatigue but then had the lack of good sense to drink one last toast with a treacherous Irishman. The next day I was back on my feet long before my old comrade in arms, but I kept the watch until he found his feet again later that evening.