Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: MAIL (02/18/16)
TITLE: One Small Part
By Pat Small
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“Please, Claudius, won’t you reconsider? You don’t need to go to war unless they conscript you. Volunteering is foolhardy.”
“That may be, Mother, but I still feel as though I have an obligation. Our country needs young blood – men who are willing to do what is necessary.”
“You’re my only son, Claudius. I cannot help worrying about you. I do not know what I would do if anything happened to you.”
“It won’t. I feel sure of it. But, if it does, we must accept it as God’s will.”
“I will be praying for you, son. I look forward to the day when I see you walk back in this door, safe and sound,” she said as she hugged him one more time.
He gave her a kiss, said, “I love you”, and strode confidently down the street to join his comrades.
They made Chain Mail from interlocking rings, creating a mesh-type design. When the circles were riveted together, it resulted in an almost impenetrable covering. It could tend to make a warrior over-confident, forgetting he still had vulnerable areas. He would wear leggings under the armor, but they provided little protection. Some wore mail on their heads. Many did not, partly due to the weight, which could reach twenty-five quilos.
Claudius soon discovered that talking about war, and actually wading into conflict, were very different. As his company advanced, he saw hundreds of horses and riders bearing down on him and his fellow soldiers. The aim of each man, no matter which side he was on, was to kill as many as he could while avoiding being killed himself. The sun glinting on hundreds of blades was blinding, but there was no time to consider that. His horse, also wearing armor and energized by the thundering hooves, charged unflinchingly ahead. Claudius jabbed his weapon repeatedly. It was impossible to take aim. Just keep thrusting, keep moving, and don’t think, he told himself.
Thus far, his mail was doing its job. He kept moving forward without incident. Some blows had hit his coat and bounced off. He was thanking God for his protective gear when a sharp pain shot through his left leg. A quick glance revealed blood seeping through his leggings. Nevertheless, he rode on, thrusting wildly at anything his blade would reach.
At last, the two sides rode off to their separate encampments. It was only then that Claudius removed the leggings and inspected the wound. It was deep, and he was still losing blood. He tied a rag around his leg, above the knee, and the bleeding finally stopped. Lacking a basic understanding of proper hygiene, he failed to take necessary precautions. Infection set in.
Claudius could no longer continue his headlong rush into battle. He lay on his cot, watching a fiery red line snake up his leg. His fellow soldiers loaded him onto a cart, and hauled him unceremoniously, over a bumpy, torturous path, to a hospital. The doctor examined the wound. He shook his head sadly, as he spoke to the young man. “My boy, I’m afraid that leg has to go. It is badly infected. It’s the only hope for saving your life.”
He cried and raged, but in the end the surgery was completed. Claudius steadily improved physically, but his mood vacillated. There were days he could accept his fate as God’s will. There were other days when despair overtook him. If only he had been better equipped, if only his armor had been complete, protecting his limbs, if only he had listened to his mother. If onlies did not bring his leg back.
His injuries healed, and he returned home. “I’m so glad you’re back, son. I prayed for you every day,” his mother said as she hugged him.
“A lot of good it did,” he muttered. “I’m worthless now – a cripple. What am I going to do?”
“We’ll manage,” she smiled encouragingly, hugging him again. “You’re alive. That’s the important thing.”
It took a long time for Claudius to come to grips with his injury. His mother’s prayers kept him from total despair, and helped him move on. He confided to her one mellow day, “War is hell. You never fully recover. My missing leg is just one small part.”
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