Somewhere in Northern Africa and A Long Time Ago…
Last night’s rain had dried, but had left the dirt heavy. The soldiers could see across the field and in the distance the tents of the Roman’s camp. These soldiers faced battle with resolve. The older veterans relied on their experience. The newer soldiers relied on their strength. They all relied on each other. These soldiers had faced many foes on many fields and always held. Today would be no different, they had faced these Romans before, and they bleed like other men.
A terrible noise came from the right. Down the line and over the hill, they could not see what was happening, but that was not uncommon. The soldiers must not be distracted. The soldiers must face what is in front of them. The noise, a deep wail that sounded like a horn blown by a giant. The soldiers of the kingdom both young and old, that noise unnerved them. Without realizing it themselves, the formation tightened and men stood closer to each other taking comfort in their fellows. The soldiers were no longer proud lions as the warriors had been before the noise, but instead they were now like herd of antelope, like prey.
The unit to the right broke after the first screams of terrified soldiers echoed over the hill. The unit to the right was a group of mercenaries, they did not have mettle of the regular soldiers of the kingdom. Although something had obviously gone horribly wrong, when the command to right face and reform came soldiers executed it superbly, but were disbelieving what they saw rising over the hill.
It all began with a single armored man firing arrows into the retreating forces. Though he stood still he was moving fast. The young men almost had time to scoff at how easily the mercenaries ran, before the oldest veteran who had known that noise but had not spoken its name in hope that it he would be wrong. The veteran now knew he must sound the alarm.
“Elephants!” he bellowed in voice that did not crack despite the sudden desperate situation.
The younger warriors now had a name for the grey monstrous beast that was on the hill before them. From the rear echelon, a cloud of arrows descended upon the elephant. The archer ducked into his basket and the elephant driver turned to protect the animals face and eyes. The young officer in command smiled as arrows fell. It seemed as every archer in the army had fired at once, nothing could survive that massed barrage.
The smile faded as arrows began reaching the grey monster. They bounced off the hide of the elephant like water off a tiled rooftop. The archer did not again emerge from his basket, but the elephant driver remained, though he could know only hang desperately to the enraged animal. A few of the arrows had found purchase, and stuck here and there into the elephants grey wrinkled hide. Though the elephant was hurt, it was not badly injured. Over a ton of meat and malice turned back towards the unit of soldiers and charged.
Does a fly do battle with a horse? Does a mouse do battle with a hawk? Does a man fight a war elephant? In the case of the fly, mouse, and man if they are smart, their answer is no. These soldiers of the kingdom would have faced a legion of Roman soldiers bravely, even a cohort of cavalry, but against the war elephant they ran. The hope of victory replaced with hopes of mere survival.
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