For The Cause: Chapter 16
Reynus came to me after the battle.
“Another strong effort, sir,” he said.
“Yes it was.”
It was just the two of us sitting in my tent, about to go over what would come next. We were going to press forward, but we needed to determine how many days rest we would give the men, as well as decide who would be going back to the Main Village, both wounded and non-wounded; the non-wounded would be needed to help escort those who had been hurt back to the village.
We also needed to decide what we would do with the men who had died. Usually, when we encountered an enemy retreat, leaving us with both our dead and the enemy’s dead, we would separate the corpses into two piles and burn them, giving our pile of men a sending off ceremony before setting fire to them. This time, however, we had so swiftly and efficiently defeated the enemy that our fatality numbers were very low.
We eventually came to the decision then, that after setting fire to the enemy’s dead, we would give our dead men a ground burial.
It was of course my constant desire to have my men be focused, and I wanted them to treat their duties and their loyalty to the Cause as seriously and devotedly as they could. But there were times when I knew they needed to loosen their minds and bodies and lighten their focus for a short time, so that they could experience life in a way that didn’t make them feel like they had a sort of chained and forced devotion to always having to accomplish something. I wanted their devotion to be true and genuine, and while I knew I wouldn’t be able to accomplish that goal completely, the willingness to try, I felt, did help with the men’s well being and was one of the reasons we had achieved as many victories as we had. Giving the men a chance to grieve in the proper way, while no doubt a sad experience of life, was still a chance for the men to experience life fully and genuinely, without a planned script.
“Losing as little as we did puts us even further ahead of my goal,” I continued talking with Reynus, after the decision for a proper burial had been made… “If we can continue to achieve a few more successes like this one and keep the enemy on the run, we may continue to find ourselves in these advantageous positions.”
“It does seem that way, sir,” he confirmed.
I still wanted to be cautious, though.
“That said, what I have just told you I want you to keep between the two of us. The men have a drive right now that is unlike any I’ve seen in them. They are not content or satisfied with what they’ve done. They’re hungry for more. They’re not angry or disgruntled. They just want more, and that, I believe, is what is leading us to these victories. That, and our God, of course. I don’t want to say anything to them that would cause them to let up in this spirit.”
“Agreed,” he replied, “Are you at all worried that us giving them these couple days will cause them to let up some?”
“I do not.”
I had good reason to believe in my reply to his question, but I was not yet ready to tell Reynus what was behind the belief. He would find out the next day, along with the rest of the men, as I spoke to them during our burial ceremony.
“Get some sleep, Reynus. We will quietly reflect tomorrow morning, mourn in the afternoon, and thank God in the evening... and then, we will plan to press on.”
The next morning was quiet in feeling and in presentation. The night before, as the sun set, the sky lit up with a dark red. Blood red. As if to typify the blood that had been spilled in the days before, rising higher and higher into the heavens and then either vanishing forever into darkness or simply turning into a black night sky. Whether it was vanishing for good or transforming into dark forever, the blackness meant that those whose blood had been spilled were gone. Never to be heard from again.
But how could we make it so they would never be forgotten? How could I convey to the men that the blood was not in vain? That the men who had died did so with cause. For the Cause. As the sun rose on this morning, the light in the sky was no longer the blood red from the night before but instead it was a light pink. It was reflective and simple and it helped my mind experience reaffirmation in the reasoning behind why I felt confident in the men not letting up. For in my mind, I had been devising up a speech that I would give to the men before we said our final goodbye to our fellow warriors, those who had given the ultimate sacrifice. As I have stated before, I did not lead much with my feelings and nor did I motivate with eloquent words, but I did realize that there were times for these types of tactics. Here, again, was one of those times.
I had already begun to form what I was going to say as the previous day’s evening hit, but the blood red sky added further and deeper emphasis for me, as it caused even stronger feelings within me as I peered into the simultaneously beautiful and ugly sky. Then the light pink of the next day helped me remember and reflect on those feelings, as well as simplify my complicated and wandering mind while creating more distinction and articulation behind the words I planned to give.
And so when the time came for the speech to be given, I gave it.
“Men,” I began, “It has been said that they whipped Him. Over and over and over. That they spit upon him, directly in His face as he suffered. They mocked, they laughed, they kicked. And again they whipped him, over and over as blood began to spurt from His body. And it didn’t just stream down his body slowly, it rushed out of Him. We know the sight. We’ve experienced it. We’ve even caused it. But never in the midst of battle have we or our enemy stopped to laugh and point and mock as the blood shot out.
“It is also said that they placed a crown of thorns upon His head and that the blood ran down His face, getting into His eyes and mouth. And then He had to carry His own cross, and we can imagine how difficult that was while being blinded by His own blood. Whenever He breathed, He smelled blood. When He opened his mouth, He tasted blood. When the nails were driven into His wrists and ankles, blood again squirted out. And as He hung there on the cross, the old blood stained to his body as new blood continued to run down. His hair was tangled in blood. Blood was dripping from His nose, bubbling from His mouth. They took a spear and stabbed Him in His sides. More blood.
“Can you see what I’m describing, men? There was blood everywhere, and this is a sight that we’ve become accustomed to. Something that we saw just a few days ago. We are fortunate to have spilled more blood than we shed, but we did lose some of our own and that is why we are standing here at this time. These men were our fellow warriors, our friends. We’ve fought alongside them for many battles and years. They fought valiantly, bravely, and, most importantly, they fought with cause. They did not die in vain. Their lives should not be looked at as worthless. They did something that deserves our honor, and we honor them by continuing to fight. Their memory will live on through us, though only if we strive to become more devoted to the Cause. For the Cause was their cause, and it did not die along with them, because it continues with us.
“We… may also die. But that is why it is altogether more important for us to remember these men and honor them, so those who come after us may do the same for us. You see, it all began with the blood that our King shed those many years ago. It is our duty and honor, then, to live for Him, and living for Him means that we must always be willing to fight for Him. Fighting for Him will cause us to bleed, and sometimes even bring us death — but not without cause. He died so that we could live, therefore we must press on. And so, men, we say farewell to these men, these fellow warriors. But we should never forget them. And when you do remember them, think back to the ultimate bloodshed that came from our King and think on what He did for us, and what we must do in return for Him. Let us now bow.”
I didn’t need to ask the men what they thought of my speech. I didn’t even need to ask Reynus his opinion. I knew what the reception was immediately after I had finished. I knew because of what I heard. Because of what I saw. And most of all, what I sensed. It might be assumed that what I mean by that is that I received a rousing applause. Or that perhaps the men stood tall, looked to the heavens, raised their hands, and gave glory to the Most High. Or maybe that they not only bowed their heads when I asked them to but that they also fell to their knees, buried their heads in the sand as tears streamed down their faces, as I had done once before.
But no. I didn’t hear applause, praises being shouted, or verbal agreements being given. I heard nothing. I didn’t see tears, bodies dropping to the ground in honor, or the men standing tall portraying direct devotion and loyalty to our spoken Cause. What I saw was that the men were not moving at all; instead they were living, breathing statues made of flesh and blood. I didn’t sense great inspiration or motivation stirring within the blood veins of each man. I instead felt that they were experiencing a numbness.
To me this numbness was good. Because I was certain that, although the men may have been paralyzed for a time, later that night as they laid their head down to sleep, the numbness would eventually begin to break, and what came after it would be a certain feeling: a feeling of restlessness that would begin in their toes and their feet.
And as that feeling became stronger it would be impossible for them not to move their toes and feet up and down, back and forth. The feeling would then creep up their legs and into their arms and neck. They would then begin to shift their body back and forth and flip over repeatedly while lying there on the ground. Once the feeling got into their head it would spin around and around within their consciousness, and their entire mind and body would permeate with this feeling and they would love it but also hate it. And they would know that there was only one thing that could cure them of this annoyance, this drive, this restlessness. They would need to fight it out.
Fight it out through actual physical fighting. They would feel an urge to fight. They would want to fight. They would not be cured until they had achieved another victory on that battlefield. I knew this is what would happen to them, because it’s also what happened to me as I laid my head down that night. And this is what I wanted.