It was a morning like any other. I woke early and carefully went about my routine, quietly slipping out of the door to avoid waking my family. As I approached the top of my station, the sun began to peek over the stone wall. The shadow it cast grew shorter, until I began to catch it’s glare from the helmets of the other guards, positioned further down the walkway.
Our’s was a mighty fortress, built generations ago by our ancestors and proudly protected by my father and grandfather, before me. As time went by, our adversaries seemingly moved on to more attainable targets. Our walls were firm and life became predictable, consistent, safe.
In these moments, I would often gaze over the distant cliff, watching the glimmering water rise up and crash against our shore. I would pass time by thinking of my wife, young daughter and the child we were anticipating. Suddenly, my daydream was interrupted by an unfamiliar sight. There was smoke beginning to build over the rocks. The black cloud grew and started to move. I shielded by eyes, as a fleet of burning vessels began to emerge, floating out to sea.
A crowd began to gather around my station, shocked at what they saw. There had been rumors of a great invading army, a destructive league of barbarians that sought to conquer, occupy, and kill. It soon became apparent that the legend of distant lands had now arrived at my doorstep. The burning ships grew greater by the minute and it became apparent that these invaders would not be retreating. We had a battle awaiting.
I instructed another to sound the alarm, as I ran across the village to warn my family. I threw open the door to find my wife sitting there, holding my daughter’s head to her chest. She looked into my eyes, resigned to the actions I would have to take. I kissed their foreheads and darted out, without a word. The horns grew louder and archers began to fire over the walls, signaling an approaching force. I ran from door to door, gathering others to help me fight. We had amassed a large group of heavily armed combatants by the time we arrived at the gate, which was already under siege by the opposition.
We held fast for a time, when we began to spot other ships arriving in the distance. We were already cut off from supplies. We were beginning to grow hungry and were down to just a few boxes of arrows. Once the enemy realized our position, they would break through and we’d be destroyed. In desperation, I penned a note to the King. I explained that we were in a critical situation and had overestimated our ability to handle it alone. We needed urgent reinforcements and supplies. I handed the note to a messenger and sent him out under the cover of darkness. This was our last hope.
The invading troops camped inside the forest and plotted their next move. The next two days were filled with brief, small scale attacks to keep us off guard, tired, and to test our capabilities. Finally, we were left with no more arrows. When we stopped firing, one of our attackers let out a scream and the entire army came flooding out of the trees.
In the days of intense battle, I thought about our message frequently. I wondered if the King would choose to help. I sometimes wondered if He’d even received the note. It seemed that I hadn’t ate for days. I took continuous shifts fighting over the wall and at the gate. Although we had cycles of rest, I would just lie there and ponder what our life had become. There were no more thoughts of the future, only of the fragility and mounting hopelessness of today.
Both sides had taken heavy casualties, but it was becoming more obvious to me that our fortress couldn’t hold much longer. At first, my men and I would easily strike down all on comers. Now there were too many scaling the wall, too many pouring into the gate, too many of our own dying. In those moments, only my family kept me fighting. It seemed my answer had come. There were going to be no reinforcements, no supplies, and no King.
The thought enraged me and I began fighting like a madman, swinging my sword uncontrollably and looking in vain to end the entire ordeal one way or the other. I took out quite a few when, in my haste I overextended myself and was caught by surprise. I was hit to the ground with my face in the dirt. I began to get up, when I saw my enemy eye to eye, standing over me. I was resigned to my fate, understanding this was a battle I wasn’t prepared to win.
Then, I heard the sound of another horn. It was deafening and resolute. In that moment, both sides stopped and turned. In the distance, I could see our messenger riding at full speed with his arm triumphantly raised over his head. Behind him, a sea of soldiers.
The entire time I’d been fighting and losing faith, the answer was already on it’s way.