It's finally here! I have never actually finished a story this long before, so while it did take quite some time, I am happy I got through it! Enjoy!
Raising a clenched fist to the sky, Margus cursed at the sun. Nothing had been going right. A massive headache plagued him since the beginning of the day, making it very difficult to think and strategize. He had sent a contingent of cavalry to try to head up and around where the slope wasn’t as steep, but Joshua had anticipated such a move and held them off. Now when it finally looked as if his men might take the slope, the sun came out with such a heat that both armies had been forced to back off before the men were cooked alive inside their armor. It was as if someone or something was against him, and Margus did not like one bit.
He strode back into his tent and slammed his fist onto the table as he glared at his commanders.
“We have the advantage of soldiers and my brains, so why don’t we have that slope? Why are we instead hiding inside our tents?” The others said nothing, knowing that while their leader was in this mood the best course of action was to stay silent.
After he calmed down, he stared at the maps on the table. “What direction is Joshua’s position compared to ours?” he asked, an idea formulating.
A heavy built man named Kroshan answered as he adjusted the patch over his right eye. “They are to the east of us. My lord, if we back off and—”
“I don’t need your opinion, just the answer to my question. I’ve hired you as a mercenary, not advisor.”
Kroshan glared and clenched his fists.
“It might just work,” Margus said as studied the maps one more time. He strode outside and glanced around in every direction as a slightly crooked smile formed on his face.
“Not a cloud in the sky. It’ll work! Every strategy has failed so far, but nothing can make the sun disappear. Gresh, Thryken!”
Two men stepped forward and saluted. “What are you orders, sire?”
“Get your men ready for battle. When the sun begins to set and beginning to angle down upon the slope, I want you to march forward. The sun will be in the eyes of our enemies. They won’t be able to use their archers and their foot soldiers will be greatly hindered. Now hurry! The rest of you stay here. We have some other preparations to do.”
Joshua sat in a large pavilion, finishing his small meal. Every man, including the generals, ate sparingly as they did not want to fight on a full stomach. His generals stood around, waiting for their orders.
“How is Kern doing?” inquired Joshua.
“The wound in his chest isn’t too deep,” replied Kyfe. “Though he won’t be able to fight for quite some time, I’m afraid.”
“That’s a pity, he’s our best fighter. No offense to any of you, of course.” Joshua said with a slight smile.
“None taken. We all have our strengths,” Nigel stated as he began looking at maps. “What’s our next move?”
“That’s what I’ve been pondering. Margus is obviously waiting for sunset when the sunlight will be in our warriors’ eyes. Unfortunately, we can’t do much about that. There’s not a cloud in the sky.”
“Actually, I see a small one moving this way,” replied Striker, who was leaning against a tent post while glancing at the sky. “Though it’s hardly big enough to block the sun.”
“Perhaps God will make it grow. But I do have one risky idea. Nigel, I want you to take your entire cavalry troop. Find an easy way to get down and circle around Margus’s men. Attack hard and fast, then disappear before they have time to react. You don’t have nearly enough men to take them all on.”
“Yes, sir! I know the routine. I better head out right away if I want to make it before nightfall.”
“Go, and may God be with you!”
Nigel saluted, and quickly marched out, barking orders to his men.
“And our orders?” asked Kyfe.
“Kern’s second-in-command was a man named Paulus, correct? Tell him he’s in charge of Kern’s men while he’s down. I want both of you to get your men into defensive positions. Striker, you position your men where you think best. I’ll join you all in a bit. I want some time by myself right now.”
As his commanders left the pavilion, Joshua knelt onto the ground and began to pray.
“Dear Lord, I thank you for the help you have given us today. Please continue to be with us. My commanders and I need your strength and wisdom in order to lead our men. Give us the victory in a way that will give You the glory. Protect these valiant men as they go into battle. Confuse Margus and his commanders. Thank you for everything you have done.”
A few hours later, Margus stood in his tent, fitting his last piece of armor on. He gripped his large sword and swung down hard and fast, severing a chair in two. He grinned; his blade was nice and sharp. As he marched out, his soldiers began to chant and beat their shields. Grinning, he raised his sword high into the air, silencing them.
“Tonight, we battle one final time. We have had setback, but with my superior intellect and our strength, we will have the victory. Joshua cannot stand against us. They will be ours to spoil!”
A cheer arose from the men. Many were mercenaries hired with promises of wealth, and as such they were eager for the looting after the fight. The promise of spoils was all they need to follow anyone.
“Gresh!” Margus called as he mounted his horse. His commander soon came to his side.
“Are the men ready?”
“Yes, sir, they are,” came the response.
“I sense a slight hesitance in your voice. What is wrong?”
“Nothing, sir. Except, have you noticed the sky?”
“Yes, it is as clear as can be.”
“Look over there, sir.” Gresh replied as he pointed. Margus squinted and followed Gresh’s finger. He gave a slight snort.
“So there is a small cloud in the distance. That’s nothing to worry about.”
“It’s about twice as large as it was a few minutes ago. Darker too. Have you noticed the weather? It seems to be getting cooler quicker than normal. There’s a slight wind picking up too.”
“You’re afraid and imagining things. Now get in position. I’m ready to move out and take this slope.”
Joshua quickly gathered his army together and prepared for the attack. Using stone and dirt, they had made an embankment as added defense. Striker’s archers were in the front, bows strung and quivers full.
“Archers are ready, sir,” Striker announced to Joshua.
“Make sure they don’t fire until my command.,” replied Joshua, watching as the enemy drew closer and closer.
“Do you remember that cloud I spotted earlier?”
“Yes, I’ve been watching it. It is quite large and dark now, isn’t it?”
“It’s moving fast, too. In just a few minutes it’ll reach the sun. My hopes are that it’ll reach before my archers need to shoot.”
Kyfe made his way over and motioned to the cloud. “I could swear I just saw lightning. We may have a storm on our hands soon.”
Joshua began to think. “If it begins to rain, the slope will be the worst place to be situated. The water will run down make it muddy quickly. We must delay them somehow.”
“Right,” Kyfe replied, a determined look on his face. “Leave it to me.”
Joshua grabbed his arm. “Don’t do anything dangerous.”
“Dangerous? We’re in a war, in case you haven’t noticed. Everything we do is dangerous.”
“I mean, don’t do anything stupid.”
“Don’t worry, it should work.” with a quick smile Kyfe quickly marched off before Joshua outright refused.
After quickly gathering about two hundred men, Kyfe set out down the slope. He and his men formed a tight formation and hit hard and fast. The enemy immediately halted their advance to try to retaliate, but Kyfe’s contingent had already backed off and hit another section. These quick attacks resulted in the army almost completely halting as they tried to cut off their annoying attackers.
Kyfe wiped sweat off his brow after another attack and glanced at the sky. The cloud had formed into many, all ominous and dark. The tip of the formation was just starting to cover the sun.
“Sir,” one of the other men called. “We’ve lost about a quarter of our men and there’s a group of them about to cut us off from the top.”
“Then I think it’s time to leave. Men, retreat!”
Quickly, Kyfe and his remaining men made their way back to the rest of the army. Striker and his archers took position. Unhindered by the now-obscured sun, they unleashed their arrows upon their enemies just as bolt of lightning lit the sky and the first few drops began to fall.
Within minutes, it began to pour. Joshua ordered his men to take refuge, as it was now so dark that almost nothing could be seen. A chosen few were to keep watch. Matthias was one of these selected men.
He huddled in a small makeshift tent, a cloak draped over his armor. The rain continued to pour down, turning the ground to mud. Nothing could be seen except when a bolt of lightning flashed across the sky. It was during these flashes that Matthias would quickly scan around, but it was obvious that the enemy had halted their advance and most likely retreated.
Margus paced back and forth in the mud, muttering under his breath while clenching his sword. His officers stood nearby, none daring to utter a word. Margus had already severed the table and two chairs; no one wanted to be his next target.
The attack had turned to a complete disaster when the rain came. He had tried to urge them onward, but the ground was too soft for the stumbling troops to progress. Then when the once-dried riverbed overflowed its banks, drowning several of his men, he was forced to retreat. But when they arrived back at their campsite, they found all their tents crushed by the torrents. Many of the supplies were drenched and ruined. Moral among the soldiers instantly declined. Now that the rain had stopped and sun was beginning to rise, they huddled in groups trying to start fires with any dry wood they could find. Margus was furious as he sensed the despair in his troops.
Finally, the mercenary captain named Kroshan broke the silence.
“Yesterday you promised us spoils and loot by sunset. Where is it?”
Margus whipped around to face him, eyes full of fire.
“Still up on the hill, you idiot! If your men weren’t such cowards and didn’t fall back at the first sign of rain, they would have spoil.”
“You know as well as I do that no one could get up that muddy terrain. You said Joshua would be an easy victim, yet he’s outsmarted you every time.”
“No one outsmarts me! It’s not him that stops me, but something else. Everything I try starts to work, then it’s as if some hidden force ruins everything! But I promise you we will win!”
“I have had enough of your empty promises. I was foolish to ever follow you. I’m taking the remainder of my men and heading back to the canyon.”
Several of the other mercenaries murmured their agreement. Margus looked around, rage causing him to tremble.
“Listen to me! We made a deal. We get that hill, I promise you and your men all the loot. I refuse to let you leave.”
“Nobody is asking for your permission, Margus.”
Margus raised his sword and pointed it at Kroshan. “The only way you’ll leave is by going six feet underground.”
Kroshan glared as he drew his sword and spat. “Those who want to still follow this maniac, go ahead. It’ll mean more loot for the rest of us.”
Most of the mercenary leaders quickly joined Kroshan while the others moved over to Margus.
“What loot? You yourself said you didn’t have any. And if you think I’m going to give you any after this rebellion, you’ve lost your mind.”
Kroshan’s mouth formed an evil smile as he pulled a horn from his tunic and gave a short blow. “Oh, you’re going to give us loot, one way or the other.”
Immediately the whole encampment was filled with the sound of fighting as the mercenaries of the canyon turned on the rest of Margus’s army. Kroshan had been planning his rebellion for a while, and the previous night’s failure was exactly what he needed to turn many of the others to his side.
Up above, Matthias was doing his best not to nod off when the sounds of clashing steel and cried of men reached his ears. Joshua rushed out of his tent, sword in hand.
“What’s going on? Where’s the fighting?”
Mathias pointed down the hill, unable to see much without the use of a spyglass. “It’s coming from down there.”
Striker had joined them, staring through his spyglass. “There’s all sorts of fighting going on down there. It’s too early for Nigel to have reached them, especially with that rain. What do you think is going on?”
“I have no idea,” replied Joshua. “But I want every soldier up and ready for battle. If Nigel makes it, we must be ready to aid them.”
Nigel and his men had spent the night circling around behind their enemy. Because they had gone to the north, the storm had not reached them, though they could see and hear it in the distance. By dawn, they had come into view of the enemy encampment. They stopped in their tracks at the scene in front of them.
The encampment was in total disaster. Men were fighting each other everywhere, and many lay slain. There was so much confusion among the fighters, that they didn’t know friend from foe. Mercenaries were attacking each other, along with Margus’s men. They were destroying each other. The sight gave Nigel new hope and energy.
With a shout, he raised his sword and charged, his men following right behind him. Past the encampment, he could see Joshua leading the rest in a charge down the hill. They had their enemy caught between them.
The fighting among Margus’s men and the mercenaries was so vicious, they didn’t notice the charging armies until it was too late. Before they could react, they were surrounded. The fighting amongst themselves ceased as they realized their dilemma. Joshua’s voiced echoed out.
“I give you one chance to surrender! When I lower my sword, those you haven’t will be shown no mercy.”
The sounds of weapons dropping to the ground were soon heard. They knew they had no choice but to surrender. Quickly, Joshua’s men began rounding up the prisoners.
“Has anyone spotted Margus?” Joshua asked Nigel as they tied up the last prisoners.
“Kyfe did. He’s dead along with most of his generals. Seems some of them had a difference of opinion and decided to fight it out with swords instead of words.”
Joshua let out a sigh. “Then it is finished. The war is over!”
A cheer of victory rose from the soldiers. All were exhausted, but jubilant that they had won!
Joshua motioned for silence. “My soldiers, today we have received victory against our enemies. But let us not forget who gave it to us. If it were not for Almighty God, surely we would have been defeated. There were many times where our end looked inevitable, but God miraculously delivered us. To Him goes all the praise!
“Let us also remember those who died these last few days. Many good men have given their lives for us. May we never forget their ultimate sacrifice!”
Matthias lowered his head and let his tears fall for his friend, Franklin. If it were not for him, Matthias would surely be in hell that moment. Silently, he prayed that God would use him to spread the story of Franklin and his faith everywhere.
Exactly five years later, Matthias stood at Franklin’s grave, as was his annual custom. His wife stood beside him while his young boy sat in the grass playing with a beetle.
“I wonder if Franklin will ever know,” Matthias murmured half to himself.
“Know what?” replied his wife.
“How much of an influence he had, though he died so young. Here I am, with a Godly wife and young child. God is using me to share the truth throughout our kingdom. Many have received Christ because of it. All because Franklin not only told me the truth, but showed me. He told me over and over about Christ’s sacrifice for me, but I never accepted it until he showed me with his own actions. He lived out the verse in James that states ‘Be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only.’ He lived his faith, not just spoke it. Because of that, countless have received Jesus as their Savior. If only every Christian could be more like that: living the Word.”