Fire… it licked the scorched ground bringing ashes into the sky for them to only fall back down into the lungs of the soldiers beneath. I finally understood what my brother meant when he wrote about the ashfall. He always wrote letters when he went into the war, some of which came daily. Towards the end of his fight he wrote less, maybe once a month. However, when he did write I always loved reading it. His writing was fluid and light, he used to write stories. One of the most memorable was when he wrote about ashfall, and the letter smelled of ash and pine:
I know I haven’t written in a while… I do wish to see you again. However, I hope you never have to see what I have seen. I can’t even watch the sunrise and fall beneath my vision for black descends upon the ground like a black waterfall. The others, who have been here for much longer than I, call it ashfall. In a way, however, it is beautiful. The light glimmers off the ash almost looking like the night sky. However, it chokes many people here. We have to wear masks in order not to breathe the thick, black ash. Many suffer breathing problems after being here for so long. The breach is not for the easy of heart. I wish I could be back with you and working on finishing my book instead of being here. I miss you Joely Polly. Stay safe and curious.
-With all the love Mark 💕
The powerful vibrations of the ground and the ringing of my ears urged me to move forward or to run. I was not sure which I should do. My brother was right, I shouldn’t have to see this place. He was right not to want me to come here. I could not see the sun anymore. The black ash that coated the ground also coated the sky blocking out the sun and the moon. Days blurred into months as the war was fought at all hours. My eyes stung and my lungs choked at the air. The masks we were given were the only thing stopping the ash from filling our lungs. However, the masks prevented breathing normally as well. Dragging myself to continue because if I were to stop even for a second I’m as good as dead.
I watched as fellow soldiers around me fell. Some sick from the ash. Others collapsed from exhaustion and others killed in battle. I was lucky I lasted this long. Many don’t stay here for more than a few days. They were either killed or too sick to continue. It was hard to imagine my brother was here for six years. There was no time for thoughts or quick thinking. My body shook in fear and continued to weave through the trenches. Mud stuck to my boots making it harder to move as flames soared barely overhead. Turning another corner hoping to get away from the rough part of the battle to refill on ammo or even get just enough time to lean on a wall. However, my desperation to escape was cut short when a man in shiny golden armor stood in front of me as I turned another corner.
My face went pale and my breath became shakier than before. I was familiar with that armor. That was no man standing in front of me, but instead a tall slender figure with pointed ears and immaculate skin that seemed to glow. His eyes were a fierce amber that seemed to burn as orange as the flames overhead. An elf. My mind raced as we simply stared at one another. Each of us raised swords waiting for the other to attack. Neither of us moved. Fear boiled even higher on the planes of my face. I’m sure he saw the fear stretch across my face because he lowered his weapon ever so slightly. His contorted in a sort of guilt and unwanting.
Confusion immediately replaced my fear as I slowly lowered my weapon. They always attack. Why is he hesitating? The next moment changed my life for good. He lowered his weapon as well and eventually dropped his weapon. Slowly and hesitantly I lifted my weapon and put it back in its sheath. The sounds of war became background noise as both of us studied each other. Curiosity was evident in the flickering eyes of the strange elf. Now I noticed the slightly blonde hair that poked out from underneath his helmet. His body, with a second look, was muscular, but still slender. I’ve never noticed the strange tattoos that covered the faces of elves. This one in particular had an almost tree-like tattoo that spread from his nose. Not a word was said.
Suddenly snapping out of my trance after hearing footsteps approaching, I quickly darted to the elf shoving into a deeper crevice of the trench where no one would see him. Why am I protecting him? He will kill me when he is done examining me. I’m betraying my people. I am a general. I need to kill him. What am I doing? I visibly fought myself as I propelled myself off of the elf’s figure. His eyes were widened in shock. I opened my mouth to speak but close it again realizing I had no words.
He took a step closer simply saying the phrase in the silky accent of elven tongue mixed with English, “Alab'ran Larthana. M’ name Alab'ran Larthana.” I remembered my brother telling me a story about the accent elves have when speaking English. When they speak English, the y’s and O’s within words are lost and oftentimes cut syllables short to make their language smoother and graceful. I nodded slightly and spoke in only a whisper from my still lingering fear, “Joel Greenwell…” He gave a slight smile and reached to his wrist and pulled a bracelet off. It was made of beautiful wooden beads each with a carving of a creature. He placed it on my wrist barely holding my hand, “Thank… u…. F’r saving me…..” With that, he picked up his sword again and ran out of the trench leaving me in disbelief.
What snapped me out of my thoughts was a familiar voice calling my name, “Joel….. What just happened?” My face went pale at the realization someone had witnessed what just happened. Owen. He is a friend though. He wouldn’t say anything right?
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