The First Arrow

By Ivan A.

Hej marched.  Hej marched laboriously.  He had never, not once, thought that marching would have been this hard.  Hej remembered how when he was younger, he would hike in the mountains near his village, but that now seemed a distant memory in light of recent events.  Hej longed for those times, before the war, before the army, and before the old man. He recoiled as he suddenly remembered the old man.

“What’s wrong?” Fich asked.

“Nothing,” Hej responded in a dreary tone.

Hej wished that he could tell Fich, tell his best friend , but the old man had forbidden it.  He could only tell people that the old man was his uncle and that the arrows the man had given him were simply lucky, not of importance.  Of course, he really couldn’t tell anybody because he didn’t know himself.  Hej reasoned that if he wanted to know, he would have to figure it out himself, and could have no help or guidance.

Story of my life he thought drearily.

“COMPANY … HALT!” cried the heavily muscled lieutenant.  In fact, “cried” doesn’t do justice to the guttural holler produced by that giant.  Why now? He thought. Why here? Hej wasn’t very sure if he was asking about their stopping place, or about the war.

It was a civil war, he had learned; he also learned that “civil” did not refer to manners.  He had heard the separatists called anything from “misguided” to “blood-thirsty barbarians.”  All that could be incontrovertibly established was that there were some with the old government, some with the new, and some who wanted nothing to do with either.  Hej was with the old government.

The group, the small assembly of comrades armed with bows – like himself – swords, and spears, stopped directly in front of a two-story ruin of a mud-brick house.  This, Hej thought, must have been the only sign of habitation in the giant desert through which he mucked.

Then, Hej saw the reason they had stopped.  On the shimmering horizon he could discern figures walking towards them.  He drew one of his arrows, preparing for confrontation.  “LOWER YOUR WEAPONS!”  the lieutenant ordered “ALLOW MASTER KARRAL TO HANDLE ANY FIGHTING!”

The rest of the group slowly lowered their weapons.  Then, suddenly, an arrow could be heard, piercing the air with a whining whistle.  It flashed towards Karral, directed at his heart, but his blade was too quick; he nimbly sliced it in twain while it was a mere foot from his heart.

“That wasn’t a very gracious greeting, Rieba.” Karral said, mystically.  The statement was mystical because there was no one who it could possibly have been directed to.  Then the intended recipient of the words showed herself: from the upper story of the mud house walked a tall, beautiful woman, clad in purple and wearing black armor.

“I see you and your blade are sharp as ever, Karral.” the woman said.

“Why do you try to kill me, without any warning, without any reason …”

“Don’t you see, you deluded fool, we are on opposite sides of a war! If one of us doesn’t die then hundreds of others will!” Reiba said, forcefully.

“Must we be, though?  Must we die?”

“Yes, Karral.  We all must die.”

“All nine?”

“All nine.”

“There is no justice, is there?”

To this, though, there was no response.  Rieba had vanished and Hej’s arrow whizzed through the space she had previously occupied.  A star shined bright, even though the sun was still in its final blaze before day died and night triumphed over her domain.  And thus the first Arrow was laid, the Arrow of Sand had not found its mark.

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