Morality of War

Charles spat, sitting on the rock in the middle of the battlefield. The fight was finished, they won or so people said, and Charles was just too tired to tend to the corpses and soon to be corpses. The youths could do that, along with the peasants at the nearby village.

He spat blood, which trickled down from a wound on his lip. There was a cut over his eye, as well, leaking down his temple and cheek, a gift from some forgotten punch at the wrong end of a lobster glove. It was slight consolation that the man was likely dead.

A boy sat by Charles. His name was Ricken, and he was nearly twenty. The boy fought like a demon, though he was naive, unable to keep his head after a mug or two, and most certainly unwitting to a woman’s body. Saving himself for his betrothed he’d say when they went to a new town and the women went to him.

Ricken said, “Sir Charles, do you need assistance? I can help you off the field.”

Charles spat again, “Nah, boy.” He surveyed the bloody field, watching the people work over the goods. “I just like to remain in the moment. Remember the people lost.”

“Our people? Your friends?” The boy sat down on the ground. The blood was going to seep into his britches, but he’d realize that soon enough.

“Nah, boy.” He pointed to a corpse. The man wore red, when Charles’ leather was green. “That man there, you think he has a family back home?”

Ricken shrugged, “He was the enemy. Does it matter? One more bastard who will be poorly trained and thrown in as fodder.”

“Watch your mouth, boy. You could have been that man’s bastard.”

“No. I’m not on their side. I’m not in their country.”

Charles nodded and thought for a few moments. Ricken wasn’t special. Charles was once that way, but then he lost a lot of friends. Something just clicked when he came home to see three boys suddenly without a dad. He pointed to a man in green, “What of him? He left a bastard.”

“He’s a peasant. They rut whatever they can get in. Little better than dogs, but harder to train and less disciplined.”

“For a religious boy, you’re a right prick, Ricken.” The man grinned, then laughed. “I was like you once. Remember, everyone you killed, they’re fighting for the same reason we are.”

“Horse shit.”

Charles laughed harder, “Why are you fighting, boy?”

“For the honor of our kingdom, because they attacked us, and for the good of the faith.”

“So are they. Hell, they’re not even heretics. They read the same damned book we do. They hear the same old men give the same crusty message, something from thousand years back. There is a shifting line in the sand, and when we were conscripted, we happened to be on this side.” He stood, using his flamberge as support. “Toby over there,” he pointed to a man in his early thirties, carrying bodies, “his village is now on the other side. His family needs to swear allegiance to the other bugger on a throne, while he guts and kills on this side. When he goes home, he’ll strip his armor, wear peasant’s clothes, and pretend this never happened.”

“He’s a traitor,” the boy exclaimed. The enthusiasm was giving Charles a headache.

“To whom? His king a thousand miles away sitting on a throne made of fresh wood, with velvet under his ass? He’s a good king, make no mistake, but the man does not know Toby. He knows me because I’ve killed a good many in his service. He is a good and just man, I do like him, but he doesn’t know Toby. Toby doesn’t know him. You know who Toby knows?” The boy, wide eyed, shook his head. “Toby knows his wife and three kids. So is it better to be a traitor to his family or to his king, according to the faith.”

“I…I don’t know,” he stuttered. Something was breaking behind his eyes.

“Book says to hell with kings. Says love and family. I would pick family every time, and I consider the king my friend.” He slapped Ricken on the back. “You should be dragging corpses, though. Get to work.”

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