The night was dark, with only the red glow of a setting crescent moon. The long grass on the plains, rippled and danced with a light breeze, and the low hills in the distance are dusted with a light silver sheen. The hoot of a distant hunting owl’s answered by his mate, and the low cough of a fox follows soon after, primordial, untouched and tranquil.
Along the road, down by the river, a soft rhythmic drumming disturbs the peace; a rider travelling fast, head down, shoulders hunched, a twitch and a sharp thwack of a crop, forcing the laboring horse to greater effort, the rider passes on. Minutes pass, the owls fly low across the river, landing in the branches of a great oak, the fox can now be seen sniffing at the deep divots settling from the horses passing. The foxes head lifts with a start, and it scurries off into the grass. Horses again, a group of seven riding at a canter moving out of the night and then slow to a stop. The largest man, sporting a bushy beard, dismounts with a clinking of armour and bridle, takes a long look at the flat grassland and says something to his companions, a tall skinny youth turns a restless horse and rides swiftly back along the road. The quiet men dismount, leading their horses a short distance into the grass and start to set a long picket line, unpacking securely bound travel packs from behind their saddles. The bearded man stretches, sits down on the bank of the slowly moving water, takes out a pipe, fills, tamps and lights it using a tinderbox, then starts to puff slow thoughtful clouds into the night.
Thirty minutes pass, the scouts have set their tents and fed and watered the horses and are lighting a fire, a sharp relaxed laugh punctuates the night, just as a low rumble becomes audible. Time passes, lights can be seen wavering side to side towards the woods the roads lets from. A lone rider drums the earth, as the skinny youth returns, dismounts, ties his horse and sits gratefully by the fire. The sergeant stands from his riverside reverie, seems to sigh and drifts over to the fire just as the pot’s lifted from the stand. They eat. The noise increases, a group of seven riders approach, drawing to a halt, the bearded sergeant stands, wanders across, says a few brief words pointing north up the road, and the second party of scout’s moves on.
The vanguard of the army can be seen more clearly now, 200 men riding horses lead the way, followed by laboring foot soldiers, behind them carriages sporting rich textured tapestries and stretching off into the distance thousands of souls all gathered for one purpose, war.
A large group of unarmored, men and women move ahead. A large man in a long robe starts barking instructions, the carriages, hastily moved forward, are directed to a small rise 50 yards behind the eating scout’s enclave, where men start to clear the ground, erecting tents and start fires.
“Ruminating on a novel start, or should it just be a picture.”