Herd stood on a low ridge overlooking the chaos in the Ocker’s camp and waited. The slingers and archers were harrying the Ocker pickets, running in to loose stones or arrows then darting up and away. The Older Man wondered if it had always been like this. This love for war men have. The friendships blood-soaked battle engendered. He wondered if the Younger Man would make it through the day unscarred and unscathed. Indeed he wondered if he himself would.
He’d seen war in his own youth, when the Ockers turned from trade to piracy and the coasts became unsafe for man or beast. He remembered the cadence of the small battles and the terrifying, glorious thrill of it. He remembered the exaltation of throwing the Ockers back into the sea and the sand soaked red and rust for weeks. The endless tales of exploits and bravery of the Herd in the face of the Ocker terror, of dodging great war axes that split shields and arms like kindling, of luring Ockers into traps to be crushed with boulders, or to fall in pits. The joy of surviving the onslaught.
And he remembered the endless biting hunger, and the starvation when the crops couldn’t be brought in, or were burned. And the death of kin and kind. And what they had to do to survive.
Yes, men had always loved war. And always would. Because despite the misery, the heartache, the horror; moments like this enthralled generation after generation.
He pulled his helmet lower on his brow. The men had started to chant. “Hah! Hah! Hah!” their weapons knocking their shields, or knocking spears and spear-throwers. The blood was rising. The Ockers would be gone soon.
Parker stepped from the crowd, raised his arms for silence and the Herd obeyed, the gathering roar dropping to the occasional shout. He points to a Tawa Man who steps forward, two poles raised in the air, a head spiked on each. The Tawa Man drives the poles into the ground, the grisly tongues of the heads lolling towards the camp on the beach.
“Men of the Herd!!” He shouts, “They came again! The murderers came again! Came to take your children! Came for raping and murder! Came for our crops, or stock! Come to kill us all!” He pauses, “Will we let them take it?!”
The Herd roars its dissent, a hundred voices raises to shout abuse at the Ockers, who seeing the threat are gathering in the front of their ships, a short line forming, a wall of shields. Parker raises his arms again.
“We are Men of the Herd!” shouts Parker, his voice rising to fever pitch, “We remember! We remember that THEY are the children of the Lying God! THEY are the children of Deniers! THEY lit that fires that drowned the World! THEY brought the death to us!”
The Herd roars again, men stepping forward to charge the Ockers, barely restrained by Parkers hold on them. He raises his spear, points to the sky, his eyes wild with anger, bloodshot, his body quivering with rage, “IS THIS LIFE?!” he bellows
“IT IS DEATH!” The Herd screams, the men are shaking, waving spears, holding shields above their heads.
“IS THIS LIFE?!”
“IT IS DEATH!!! ”
“IS. THIS. LIFE?!!”
It is death.