Like a body of water, the grass drinks me down.
I have been drunk on gold grass and blue sky for weeks. I am parched of trees, of hills, of ponds and streams, as if I were living only on wine, deprived of meat and bread. Our company wades through the grass, hacks it down with sword and axe, until it seems that the prairie is become less like a lake with no shore than a forest without end. Men snap at each other. They cry out and fall to their knees, protecting their heads from the sky that hangs above us like a great blue rock. Some men cheer for towns and keeps that are only lines of clouds rendered solid by desire.
Why are we here?, we ask our lords when they ride through our ranks at the close of day. Sunset glints bloody on their armored chests. Sweat pours down their temples in rivers, a spiteful mockery of the green land we left. Tell us why we have ventured so far from our home.
For the glory of Itarra!
But most of us don’t ride, and we eye the lords’ panting mounts with distrust. Instead, we walk. Brambles snatch our skin. Grass blades slice sharp as knives. The sun is a white hammer that beats us like metal every day.
The farm I left was a sweet, green place in the lee of a hill, where the wind broke on oaks and hickories.
This prairie wind is like a demon trying to crawl inside you.
I once tried to hold my farm as a salve against my heart, but then the grass closed in and the memory cut too deep to heal. A woman lived on that farm, and children, and a pack of good hounds.
I have been trying to forget them all.
Because I am riding to the glory of Itarra. Brilliant as sunset, the lords promised us that glory would be, twinkling with gold. Coins for our women, honor for our children, stories and comrades to warm our old age. We’d rout the thieving Enhala in their nest, in the very prairie that birthed them and hid them, and no more would we have to fear their tattooed bodies, their faces yellow and green, their arrows in the night. No more would we have to bolt our gates and guard our children inside.
But in this grass, the Enhala are like the wind and sun. We can’t take hold of them, and yet they are relentless. They disappear into the yellow, and they fall on us in our sleep. Again and again we lash back at them, but what do we gain?
All we find are camps of women and children. Without gates to bolt, or houses to protect them.
Bloody sunset runs over our armor.
And the only gold is grass.