War - A short war story.

She stands at the words he speaks. Their country is going to war. They need soldiers. We always knew this might happen, he says. He must fulfill his duty to his country. To make the future, their descendants' future, a safer place. But so soon, she replies. Not enough time. So many things left to do. So many places to visit together. Now, just tonight. He leaves in the morning.

* * *

The battle before the city is over. But now a mustering of an Army is called for. Every able-bodies man to the gate ruins. They march to confront the Enemy on his own doorstep. To strive against the Shadow that has covered their city since before she could remember. There is a King now, he says. They pledged their allegiance together, and now he must fulfill it. No time, she begs. So many things left to do. So many dawns to enjoy together. So many dreams left to fulfill. Now just tonight. He leaves in the morning.

* * *

She wakes early with him. Makes breakfast. Walks with him to the car. One last kiss. One last look. He is gone. She sinks to her knees and cries.

* * *

She packs his saddlebags and fills his canteens. One last kiss and he mounts, newly polished sword and sheath glinting in the Dawn. She watches from the wall as the Army moves away, line by meager line, disappearing into the oppressive Shadow. She sinks to her knees and cries.

* * *

Life continues. The bills must be paid, the house cleaned. The newspapers say the war is going well. Progress is being made. Minimal casualties. She receives a letter from him every week, saying otherwise.

* * *

She helps the Healers roll bandages, wash and repair linens, anything to keep her mind and body busy. There have been no reports, no messengers, only darkness.

* * *

The letters stop coming suddenly. The last one said his unit would be moving soon and coming across a postal service would be rare. Many have died, he says. Many of his friends from training, now on their way home in wooden boxes. She can tell he is changed. That things will be different if...no, she tells herself, when he comes home.

* * *

A day comes different from the rest. Darker, but coupled with an intense feel of relief, as if one knows this would be the last day of sorrow. An eagle flies over the city. The Enemy has been destroyed! The Army is successful! Rejoicing fills every heart, but none more than hers. Her beloved is coming home.

* * *

A day comes no different from the rest. She is re-reading an old letter, when there is a knock, soft but insistent, on the door. A strange man, dressed as an Army colonel is standing there. She pauses, all emotion draining from her.

* * *

She must help the Healers. Many wounded will return that will need further tending. She holds a flower. A rose. She will give it to him when he returns, as a sign that indeed the Darkness is past. A man comes in asking for her. He is dressed as a Gondorian Guard of the Citadel. She pauses, all joy draining from her.

* * *

We regret to inform you, says the uniform...

* * *

M'lady, I regret to inform you, says the armour...

* * *

...that your husband died in service to his country...

* * *

...in service to his king...

* * *

...in Baghdad, Iraq.

* * *

...before the Black Gate of the Dark Lord.

* * *

She clutches the door frame for support, muffling a scream with her now empty hand. The letter lies, now crumpled, on the ground.

* * *

He catches her as she falls, muffling a scream with her now empty hand. The rose lies, now crumpled, on the ground.

BOTH SOLDIERS. BOTH FIGHTING FOR FREEDOM.

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