The troops were assembled. Flame was well trained. The armor polished, the swords sharpened, and the warriors well rested and fed. The king was old and therefore not present. I wondered why Flame still hadn't asked about his parentage. I understood why the king had not spoken to him, of course. Once a child enters adulthood, at age thirteen, their parents may not come in contact with them until they earn their name. Flame was handed his name, but he still had to fight for it. Luke, I knew, was hoping this would be the battle that would earn him his name.
I had noticed that Flame had grown up quite a lot, ever since the death of Eva. I had been afraid that it would break him, but on the contrary, he was more focused and serious than ever. The silly questions had stopped ("Why is everyone here either a read head or a light brunette, like me?") as well as the complaints of pain. He was fighting better too. He almost matched me, in fact. Almost. I called him over. He looked particularly somber today. He walked over to me, and before I got a chance to say something, he looked at me and asked, "What's the point?"
The question scared me. Terrified me actually. I knew exactly what he meant, but I still asked "What are you talking about?"
He looked at me, his eyes full of a kind of sadness only a much older man should know, and said. "What is the point of this war, of saving people? What is the point of life? Why can't we just let everyone die? Wouldn't that be better?"
I looked at him sadly, questioningly and asked "Do you know the legend of Sisyphus?"
"Has something to do with Greek gods, right?"
"Exactly. Sisyphus was a king, but he did many cruel, horrible things and tricked and defied the gods themselves. The gods, not liking it when humans got around their rules, sent him to the underworld. There, his punishment was to push a massive boulder up to the top of large hill. Every time he gets to the top, the boulder rolls right back down to the bottom and he has to push it to the top all over again."
He looked at me suspiciously. "You're not about to tell me that Greek Gods are real, are you?"
I laughed lightly, but quietly so that he understood what I was saying was extremely important. "Not even close. But all myths have a lesson or a question. And the question here is, is there a purpose? Is there a purpose when Sisyphus puts his hands up against that boulder?"
I left him to think about it.
I slammed my fist on the table.
"What do you mean, we can't attack yet?" I said, loudly and forcefully. "If we don't fight now, they will get us first! We'll have to evacuate!"
I was at a round table, with other officers and commanders, as well as the chief of them all, the only man who has some portion of power over me. But only during war time.
That damn strategist.
He looked at me angrily, knowing that he always has trouble persuading me to see things his way. I see things my way. The right way, to be precise.
"Because" he said, his voice terse, "They know that we know. And they'll be prepared. We must wait."
"How long?!" I demanded to know.
"A week, maybe more." He said, not meeting my eye. Pathetic wimp.
I groaned in frustration. "And that is plenty of time for them to come here, which is what we need to avoid under all circumstances! Don't you get it? We want as little casualties and deaths as possible! Forgive me for wanting to protect my people!" Tamwyn gave me a squeeze on the shoulder, telling me that he agreed completely and would back me up. Good choice, Tam. Usually, I'm on my own. And usually, he picks the right side. Damn him.
He smiled at me cockily out of the corner of his eye, as if he had read my mind. I sometimes wonder if he can. If he said he could, I would believe him. He sure does understand everything about me, and know exactly how to calm me down. I could feel his fingertips gently resting on my hip. I grabbed them, knowing that I would never be able to make my case with him distracting me like this. I gave him a cross look, but he just laughed quietly in my ear. Damn him. Damn how he loves me, and how I love him. Damn him.
His hand moved, my anger returned, as well as the reason behind it.
"We cannot afford to lose a week! We must strike NOW!"
"Well then how do think we'll go about doing that?" He countered, looking mightily irritated. "I assume you have some brilliant plan?"
"Of course not!" I scoffed. "That's your job, isn't it? Get working on it! I'm already pulling more than my weight!"
"Excuse me," interjected some nameless, useless officer. "But I don't think that's a very fair statement, that you're pulling more weight than you should have too."
"How so?" I shot at him. "I didn't see you trying to whip up an ignorant, scared little teenage boy into a warrior, a prince at that! He was lazy, and unsure, and not in fighting shape! Not only did I have to train him physically, I had to teach him everything about our culture that I could, because he knew literally nothing! NOTHING!"
That shut him up quite efficiently.
I turned back to the strategist. "Well, what now? In the end, you're the man that makes the decisions." I added bitterly.
He sighed loudly and dramatically, for added effect, I'm sure.
"I suppose, that tomorrow would be as good a day as any."
I smiled triumphantly.
The plans were set. First, we were going to march calmly into the Water Tribe, a tribe of people who assumed we detested them all. We were going to march calmly, waving blue and red flags for unity between the two.
Basically, the rest would be made up on the spot.
But it's a better plan than nothing, in my opinion.
We traveled for some days, because even by air it's not a particularly near bye place. We reached the outskirts of the place, not surrounded by thick trees like ours, blocking us from view, but no, in plain sight, was a deep, wide, bright blue sparkling lake. Or maybe better described as a moat, as it surrounded their entire city, but it was so large that it disappeared around the bend and out of sight. In the middle, even from a distance, you could make out a shining white castle, glittering in the sunlight.
"So." Said one man, who I recognized as Jack. "What exactly do we do now? We can't swim in that, can we?"
"No, we cannot swim," I replied tersely. "First, where is Flame?"
"Right here." He called, walking through our small crowd toward the front.
"Good. You will need to lead us into the city, holding the flag with red and blue mixed together."
"But that doesn't solve our problem," piped up Jack. "We still can't get into the city!"
I turned to glare at him, before saying, "Maybe it also needs spoken requests, like our land."
Tamwyn turned and looked at the bright castle and said in the ancient tongue, "We are friends, here to make peace. Please, for the sake of the world, allow us to enter."
And low and behold, the lake split, leaving ground between the two halves perfectly dry. We walking through, two by two, carrying our flags high. We passed many lakes, in which small children splashed around and watched us curiously, before returning to their games. So young, so innocent, I thought, before moving on to the task at hand.
We continued marching, keeping a steady slow pace. We passed houses, also made of glittering white stone. People came out, watching us in surprise. Some spat at us in disgust, while others marched with us, heading straight towards the castle. A small girl with jet black hair (though all Waters have black hair) smiled at me and took my hand. I was so shocked that I froze up and didn't know what to do at first but keep moving. After a minute, I noticed how soft and warm her hand was, and I finally looked down and smiled back. Her grin widened, showing dimpled cheeks. I laughed from sheer joy, and I think, hope. I finally saw some hope in this dammed war.
Hope is a funny thing. You can't really lose it, for it's a hard thing to misplace. I guess it lurks out of sight, waiting to be noticed and thanked for saving the day. And it always does. Save the day, I mean. Hope. It's an interesting thing, a unique emotion, hope.
We marched on, gathering more and more followers to march with us. We passed a small group of women polishing their swords, watching us. They sheathed their swords and marched in front of us, making sure not to block Flame. One of them looked back at me with one eyebrow raised, wearing a look that clearly said "You better not screw this up." I respectfully nodded at her, and she looked surprised. I knew why.
"I am not inhumane, you know. The legends and stories are exactly that - legends. I may be a fighter, but I am wise as well as kind. Do not mistake me for a monster, please, for I am a living being too."
She said nothing, but smiled warmly and openly, and I knew that this woman would fight for our cause, because she wanted peace just as much as we did. They all did. Even this little girl, still hooked on to my arm, had some idea of what was going on and simply wanted it to end, for her world to turn back to the simple, happy thing it was before. She had hope. So did this woman.
It's a funny thing, hope.
We were close now. As we neared the castle, I hissed in Flame's ear "When you see their king, you must kneel before him until he tells you to stand. Do you understand?" He nodded almost imperceptibly, but I knew he understood extremely well. "Be extra polite. We cannot afford to make enemies. Peace is our one goal. Don't you forget it. Peace is the only thing we want from this man. Do you hear me?" He nodded. "Good. Otherwise, let Tamwyn do all the talking." Flame cocked his head.
"I thought you would be negotiating, Starfire."
I laughed lightly. "Let's be realistic. We all know what I'm like if someone doesn't see things my way. It's better to let the man who can keep his anger in check to speak to the king."
He smiled and nodded.
"Hmm," I said, teasingly, "You were a bit too agreeable with that statement, I see."
He crossed his eyes and stuck out his tongue at me.
I laughed, but turned away, because there simply was no time for childish games. There are more important things to focus on now, as we were entering the castle, the guards letting us through, nodding at the women in front and looking at us curiously. "Chins up high," I whispered to the group. "Show no fear, but show no anger as well. Only that we want peace!" I couldn't possibly stress that enough. Peace.
It will save us.