Vignette #6

The border was flung into being seemingly overnight. A traumatic severance of previously unbroken countryside. A fortified line that seemed to rise with as much suddenness as the revolutionaries it stood against.

Our leaders were afraid, that much was certain. In the church and the town square, we heard an endless succession of proclamations. They levelled invective and rhetoric against the revolutionaries on the other side of that border. They had violated the natural order. They were leading their people to ruin. They stood in defiance of God and all that was holy. They were children who wailed and cried rather than obey their parents. They were commoners risen above their station. They were doing the work of Satan. They were in the pay of far-distant empires. They slaughtered their countrymen. They were kingkillers, priestslayers, murderous barbarians who held no life sacred.

We listened to each and every proclamation, as we were obliged to. The local criers and militia uneasily banged on doors and called men and women from fields, as our local leaders and a succession of travelling notables and functionaries stood atop stage or behind pulpit to lecture us. I dare say many of us nodded in agreement with each and every statement and accusation, just as others nodded out of the knowledge that this response was expected of us.

Stronger than these fiery words, however, was the regular sight of soldiers marching through the town.

Most stayed briefly, if at all. Having fought in the holy war of my generation I had some knowledge of the difficulties in supporting large numbers of rootless armed men. Only small units were billeted here overnight, and were given little opportunity to harass the locals by being moved on the next morning. I and a few other veterans could tell their commanders were driving them hard. And they were always moving west. West, where the new border was now marked. West, where ditches and fences and forts were rising.

And, I knew deep in my chest, the knowledge stabbing at me like a heartbreak, where war was brewing.

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