The Fourth Day – Second Rewrite

I’m working on a short story called The Fourth Day, rewriting it for the second time.  Here’s some of it:

Dawn grew on the horizon, sunslight streaking golden across the downs. The soldier stood at the forest’s edge, looking down on the battlefield. The grass of the plain swept upwards to the red eaves of the wood, waving in the gentle wind that blew in from the sea. He stood transfixed, one arm wrapped around the slender trunk of a young tree, watching his friends die.

He saw them fall in the russet grass, one-two-three, as the dark archers on the far berm loosed their last volley. He saw them, in a perfect line, horn bows to the heavens, the sun in his eyes when the arrows hit. He saw the prosecutors rally from the flank and heard the cry of a segan as a dart took him through the throat. The time seemed to stretch. He watched the small figures below him struggle, like valorous ants on a rotten log.

He set his teeth and waited, the distance between them lending a feeling of unreality to the fighting. From time to time he looked up through the red leaves and let the sunslight warm his face.

It’s a choice, Kashen had said. A choice you make.

He tried not to lie to himself. He tried to look at it honestly, tried to watch it happen, take it as it came. You could accept anything, if you let yourself. He had accepted worse.

Standing there in the shade, his spear still in his hand, his greaves still wet with morning dew, he found that he could accept this, too. It’s a choice. He stared, the fray coming in and out of focus as his eyes wandered. He felt a brief moment of shock when he realized his unit was gone. The battle had moved on. Time had passed. The suns stood together in a robin’s egg sky.

He could see bodies matting the grass, a stippled rash of gleaming bronze on the reddish plain. The wounded had been trampled under the enemy horsemen as they broke the line, the remaining officers caught suddenly by the knives of the sneaking Jida clan. He had watched their assassins stealing the flanks. A banner, still vibrant in black and white, jutted haphazardly from a pile of dead. The Great Conquest had finally been blooded.

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