Heroes of the Fallen: Prologue

Prologue: The End

Late summer 385 A. D.

The Land of Cumorah

With the bitter sweet music of battle over, I found him at dusk, buried amid the mass of his ten thousand. He and I, the last of his legion. Taking my general back up the great hill, halfway up we surveyed the apocalyptic scene. Twenty-three legions in all, completely decimated in a matter of days. He wept. I cannot, there is nothing inside anymore but a burning sadness. His last son, amazingly still alive, came and helped on the final ascent up the steep palisaded graveyard. We spoke little that night, watching the blood red moon rise and reverberate.

Dawn is breaking. Strange to see how closely the color of the vaulted sky matches the raw ground. Red, black and white, twisted shattered shapes everywhere. The cross-guards of swords jutting from the ground, the broken hands that used to hold them. Torn banners, ripped and clutching their rotten fingers at the copper-scented wind. It is the end of a borrowed summer, yet everything is dead like a hard given winter, reflections of our people’s collective wicked choice. What else brings this corrosion, this destruction but our own choices? The heroes tried to hold back the tide, but it’s we few against the many on the devil’s side.

My grizzled old general was wounded, deep in the hip and shoulder. Some say the hip wound was lucky; it had not cut his life giving artery to end his mortal coil. The same with his broad shoulder wound. A little more force on the enemy Lamanite warrior’s part and he could have been cut clean through to the heart. But we do not believe in luck. The dead hold their worthless charms, rabbit’s feet and lucky golden spoons. Sorceries, witchcraft and magic, does it matter if it works or not? They are dead and can keep their reason, fear and doubt. We are alive, we have our faith. Some say prayers, I say mine.

We stand tall or lie broken, atop the lonely beaten hill, formerly called Ramah, now called Cumorah. All twenty-four of us, the last of a fallen people. These last mighty warriors, all men of indomitable spirit, we will not be beaten, nor defeated. Not yet.

“My Lord General, the dawn is breaking,” I said, still clutching my war hammer and Ramevorn, the infamous sword of honor.

“Thank you, Amaron. I see it. I was awake, I should have slept, but even with the blood loss I could not. Too much still to record. They will be coming soon, for the last of us. Just as soon as that morning star’s light fades away,” he said, pausing from his record.

“I remember. They abstain from war while the morning star shines. Out of respect for the Christ; funny how they hang onto some traditions despite all else.”

“They’re his children too, our brothers. So much has been forgotten...I hope in time they will remember,” said the General.

“What a life we have led, and here it will end,” said the General’s son, Moroni.

“Not all of us; not just yet,” said the General. He looked upon us, squinting through a congealing gash on his forehead. I could see both the physical and spiritual pain of his heart. An entire people destroyed; countless bodies and bones to bleach upon these hills. The ground would be fertile with life, once death was far enough away. This won’t be in my remaining lifetime. Yesterday, before the crimson sun had set, the carrion birds blackened the skies, and the white howl of the wolf painted the scene of death.

“Your hair, Amaron, is still long and black as night. You could be mistaken for a Lamanite in the right light,” said the General. “And you the eldest man left,” he laughed before a spasm of pain made him wince.

“I am only six years older than you, Gray-Beard,” I joke with him. His life has taken its toll, he looks twenty years my senior.

“I am only thinking out loud, there is always a purpose, always a way through with the power of the Lord God. Zelph would never let me forget that,” said the General.

“Yea, I never knew any men so righteous in all my days as you, Onandagus and Zelph. I wish they were with us now,” I said.

“General, the star is nearly faded,” spoke another warrior with a great spear. His name was Gamaliel. The name was ironic to me, Reward of God. Is that what all this is? The reward of apathy, of wickedness, of evil?

With his son’s help, our mighty general props himself against the base of a tree and overlooks the desolate battlefield. “I can hear the call of their horns, the beat of the drums. They will be here very soon,” he said before coughing up some blood. Leaning upon his great broadsword, he looked to these last few men under his command. “My son, you will take the record and go. I surmise from the sounds and the last formations of yesterday’s battle, that you should go to the southwest. Their lines are weakest there, I know you can get through if the Lion of Wrath goes with you,” he said, pointing at me. That had been my grim nickname for years. “Moroni, take the Sword of Laban. It is mine no longer. You must also take the Urim and Thummim.”

Moroni, the General’s son, took the valued artifacts with a reserved air, reverent and silent as ever since his own young family had been slain.

“My Lord General, my place has ever been at your side, I would go down in battle beside you,” I declare.

“The Record must get out.” The general, has a strange look in his eye. “It will get out and be preserved. If the truth is saved and ultimately told, then all will be worth the heavy price paid. It is my final order to you. Assist my son by all means necessary to make sure the record is safe.”

“I hear and obey,” I say with a grudge on my chin. I have never disobeyed an order from him, not even when he was a pup of a commander at sixteen. He had proven himself since a young boy that he was of God. A rare enough thing anymore. I admit to feeling robbed of my destiny--to go down fighting beside him. But it is true, the record is more important than any man's destiny. Its message will live on for another day, another people. I was to be mentioned once within it, more than I deserve. Much better men than I are not to be found within its heavy gold plates.

Already the son has his skin pack buckled, now heavy with the record, but he is almost as big and strong as his father, still young and in the prime of life though his people are now dust and wind. The father and son must have planned for this all last night when they were writing the outcome of the battle upon the record.

“Let us go,” I growl, as I adjust my own sparse pack and heft my great- grandfather Teancum’s trusted broadsword. Forged of meteoric iron, it has sent more men to the other side than any judge. Any ten judges.

Father and son hug goodbye for the final time, and I clasp hands with the great general. “I will not fail you,” I promise.

The General smiles at me, for the first time in a long time. “I know that neither of you will fail me. God be with you till we meet again. Watch and pray.”

“Watch and pray,” I repeat.

The wind blows his long gray hair about him in a fury. The drums are close, and the sky is blistering from deep azure to mournful red. The morning star fully fading away, doomed like us, by dawn’s early light. We bid the fallen Nephite nation a somber farewell.

We, the warrior of renown and the young general, Moroni, make our way down the sharp fortified hillside, hanging low, doing our best to ignore the sickening stench of the battlefield. Already the worms of the earth are supping upon our fallen friends and enemies alike. We knew the numbers of our own that had fallen but the slain enemies could not be counted, a wine-dark sea of bodies stretching out into infinity.

We go a good distance from the Hill Cumorah when I could hear the last battle atop it. Looking back like Lot’s wife, I was frozen. The scourge of Lamanite's washed over the hill in a relentless tide of destruction. I would learn later that even as they slew my general, they did greatly venerate him. They will bury him with dignity, as they would honor a great king.

With tears, Moroni says, “Let us not tarry, we must put distance between us.”

I am a cold one, dead inside perhaps; I have not shed a tear in years. Not since Adira. I remember all the lost souls I have slain; they call to me. I keep walking and they keep calling me. If not for my orders, I would go back and face the Lamanite horde and then welcome death’s sweet embrace. But we move on.

We keep a good pace but the blood mad howling behind us rises and shakes the Earth. Deafening is their rage.

“They have spotted us,” said my companion as he drops his heavy, precious pack and draws forth the great sword of Laban. It is known as such, for its true name too sacred to be repeated.

“Pick it up and go on; I will deal with them,” I tell him. “Pick it up.” I am getting angry.

“There are too many.”

“There are never enough for what they have done.”

“Your lack of...”

“Forgiveness is my greatest fault, yea, yea; I will work on it. Get moving or it is for naught,” I said, urging him toward the edge of the dark forest.

As the record bearer disappears into the tree line, dozens of vicious painted bodies charge toward me. The first few bold ones close on me and I grant darkness to swiftly take them on the end of my grandfather Teancum’s sword. More pour forth, a river of red flesh and black steel and white bone.

I have a sacred duty--the son will escape and fulfill his destiny. The great golden Lion shield is hindering me. I drop it and pull my war hammer in my left hand. I swing right and left. The river is damned. Blade, hammer and claw conquer.

I let the smoldering rage boil over me, for what was done to our freedom, our peace, our wives and our children. Yet how much was done by ourselves? We allowed our religion to become a forgotten archaic ship that sank in stagnant waters of neglect.

I swing right and left; I am a whirlwind of devastation as I shout, “Behold, Sons of Laman stay back. My blades know no mercy, my mood is black, and white hot vengeance knows no other.”

They refuse the generous offer and charge on. I stand alone swinging victoriously in a losing battle. The war already lost, I slay for what seems hours. Fierce, painted bodies lie sheared all about me, my arms ache, my heart has already stopped caring. I have lost all strength. I can fight no more.

The Lamanites have stopped as well. A tall strong Lamanite painted as red death himself stands before me. His body, black like the grave, his face bore the white death’s head grin of a charred skull. “You have always stood beside him. Yet you did not die beside him, we know why. Tell me, where is the record?”

I don’t respond.

“I am the mighty Chief Mastema, the Destroyer. I am chief servant of the King, True Great Jaguar Claw, and you will tell me,” he thunders.

“I will not. You will never take it. Everyone will hear of it and then let them decide for themselves what is truth.” They hoped to destroy it as Apophis of old had so wanted.

Mastema snarls like a caged animal, though I am the one surrounded. “Destroy him!”

The waves crash around me once again. As the bloody sword strokes drink my life and my soul was about to flee from this shattered mortal coil, I see the portal of light opening. I see everyone I know there, beckoning me to join them. Adira reaches out for me.

“Come feast in the tabernacle of light! Know you have done your duty! Fulfilled your honor, your mission. Let go and sleep.”

Seeing them, I thought back to my youth, remembering how it came to this.

The rest here was deleted though I like to think of it as the end of the piece.

When was the beginning of the end? As a warrior poet I remembered what had been forgotten.

The fallen people, how the dream turned round,
And the song ran hard and into the ground.
This saga of those mighty lost souls,
They whose Empire is dust, cold have gone the coals,
Trodden under the foot of revenge and justice.
Mercy where art thou?
Sword in hand, darkness sings, on Cumorah’s land.
Black hearts and the Hand of God, kills the King that would stop his work, sing!
Faith trumps doubt but it doesn’t mean truth won’t bring the pain.
Run cold and hold that inside, words of honor are sound.
Remember, when the torches fade and cannot be found,
Within the hearts that are true, the Lights remain

I reached forth and took Adira's celestial hand and was pulled through to the other side.