There were always reasons.
Halput was sick of reasons. When it was dangerous, deadly or – often – stupid, there were reasons why it had to be done. When it looked like it was something that would help, save lives or – even – shorten the war, there were reasons why it could not be done.
So, Helput and his men sat out in the rain, watching the damp gutter their fires. All wishing they were anywhere else but here. But they were here because there were reasons for them to be here and not any other elsewhere they dreamed of.
Reasons, always reasons.
There were reasons why so many of those he’d once known had died too. Hunger, illness, festering wounds that went bad in the eternal damp and mud. Some of them – the lucky ones, he thought – had died in battle.
Battle seemed the only place where reason didn’t hold sway. No doubt, some smart-arsed philosopher would say there was a reason why that arrow had come out of the sky at exactly the time Halput’s brother, Stanga, had charged into that very same spot during the battle at… at… whatever that place had been called all those years ago.
But that sort of happening didn’t look like any reason Halput knew.
However, there was something about the crazed chaos of the battlefield he found reassuring. It was either kill or die in the mud. Nothing else. There was no place for reason in the midst of the melee.
Emperors, Kings and Lords all had such good reasons for their wars. They all had reasons why their people should march off and fight and reasons why their people should give their lives to some cause or other. Men fought for glory, for their gods, for land and for wealth. They always had a reason for fighting and – occasionally – a reason for not fighting.
But when the sword came out of the scabbard, the arrows were nocked against the bowstring, and the hand felt the solid worth of the spear and shield, then that was the point when reason departed. It was then, and only then, these days, that Halput felt alive.
Of course, he had no reason for that.
The thought made him bark out a sharp laugh. The others looked up at him from around what was left of the fire. Halput did not look up, back at them.
He had his reasons for that.
Too many of the faces around the fire were strangers now. Nameless faces where once men he’d known would stare back at him. They would have known why he laughed like that and would not look for reasons, for explanations, just pass the ale jug around once more and return to staring into the stuttering flames in silence.
Each of them back then had reasons for their silence.
They had a reason now too for their silence. Now they had no choice but be silent. Unless as Asgrath had believed, warriors who die in battle go to a great hall in the heavens to feast and drink with gods and heroes of legend and myth. Asgrath, though, had died of some shitting disease on a march from one muddy battlefield to the next. There was no hero’s death for him.
Halput did not believe in gods anymore. He had reasons for that too, and all the battlefields he’d known were those reasons.