She Names a Nation - Conclusion

Content Warning: War, violence

The waters of Lake Van shone still and clear as the sun rose over the mountains. She gazed one last time into its bright blue depths from high up on the slopes of Bol Daği before turning her eyes southward, to where the army of Eridu had encamped in the valley below. Bel had amassed a mighty host to meet her in battle, a well-armed and well-fed military at least three times the size of her small band of starving farmers and fisherman, armed only with sharpened tools and a few bows she had managed to craft for them in the short time since the outlying villages had alerted her to the invasion. Soon they would attack, and she could feel the dread of their onslaught permeating the ranks of the men behind her.

Glancing to the right and to the left, she saw whitened knuckles gripping sickles and mattocks, determined even in their terror. She turned and surveyed her meager army, and all eyes shifted to her, hope flickering like a guttering candle on each panicked face. Taking a deep breath, she raised her voice to address them.

“I know you are not warriors, but you are also not slaves. Even if we die today, we die on our own land, as our own masters. You have all shown you were willing to do anything to be free, so you have only to continue as you have begun. I will go before you, and one way or another, the Hay will have victory.”

Even as she spoke the final words, the clash of weapons and the cries of charging warriors sounded from below, and, turning, she saw Bel running toward them at the head of his army. Though still far away and far below her, she saw the wild joy of battle igniting in his eyes, and she reached into the quiver at her back to draw forth an arrow.

“Stand and wait!” she called to those behind her. “We have the high ground, and we will not give it up until we must.”

She fitted the arrow to the string, then reached back for another and laid it beside its sister. When she had nocked a third arrow, she raised the bow and sighted along the triple shaft toward Bel. As yet so far off that she knew he could not yet have identified her face, he thundered forward at the same determined pace, spear flashing back and forth in his hand as he ran.

“Stand!” she cried again to her men. “Wait for my command!”

Still following Bel with the points of her arrows, she forced herself to concentrate on his steps, to take in the rhythm and power of every footfall, to slow time for herself so she could calculate the speed and angle and direction of her missiles, could will them to find their long-awaited home in the heart of the king she had served and deserted. With a hasty, half-thought prayer to the Lady of Heaven for victory, she loosed the shafts and watched as the arrows sped away into the emptiness that lay between her and the charging king.

Bel came on, the battle-fury consuming his whole mien as he ran straight and true. He never noticed her single shot, nor observing her arrows in flight. He only sped forward, straight forward, until some flicker of movement or sound of feathers in the air caught his attention and pulled his eyes upward. His steps faltered, the spear in his hand froze, his eyes widened in surprise. Even as his foot turned to leap to one side, three arrows thudded into his chest, penetrating the tough leather of his cloak and embedding themselves half-deep into his body. He tumbled back without even a single cry, and fell to the ground, dead.

The army of Eridu wavered, and stumbled, fear and doubt gripping them as their king fell upon the grass, and she looked over her shoulder at her own men. Thrusting an arm forward into the air, she cried out, “For Hayk, and for the Haïer! Forward!”

Hurtling down the side of the mountain, she heard the thunder of their feet behind her, and as they raced toward their bewildered foes, they cried out with a single voice, “Hayk! Hayk! Hayk for the Haïer!”

Thus concludes “She Names a Nation”! Look for the full story at the next update.