A lull fell between the opposing armies. It was an invisible hand that thrust them back and held the teeming masses apart. Pennant and flag still snapped in the whipping wind. Horses dived and reared, throwing their long manes into the riders’ faces. Burnished spears dipped and thrust into the sky, thousands dancing to an unheard tune.
But the two sides were held apart by silence. An unspoken weariness lay between them. Some wore plumes of dyed hair, others had stained their faces to please the gods of war and death. But all shared in a desire to be done with the slaughter.
Heavy silence lay between them, and then the drums began to sound.
Their beats rose at a steady pace. First, the warriors thought it was the sound of blood that they heard, roaring through their ears as it waited to be spilled on barbarian soil. Then the drums were thundering at their backs and they felt the press of thousands behind them. Soon, the rolling crash and din was enough to deafen them.
The silence was broken and the hordes stormed forwards through peace and silence, trampling them underfoot. Those at the back ran in their eagerness to bathe sharp steel in sweet victory. But those at the front were borne forwards like driftwood in a surging tide.
Tripping on the bodies of fallen men, pushing them back into the bosom of the earth with the soles of their feet, the armies came on. They met with a crash that woke men startled in lands unheard of. Enemies were pressed into unwitting embrace, danced together in the throes of battle and were dashed to the earth still entwined.
Hobnails and tanned boots churned the blood red ground into a clinging mire. Spears jostled to block out the sky, rattling together on all sides. Desperate eyes searched for friends and found only foes. Eager blades sought out enemies and met the backs of comrades.
A sharp note sounded and the armies lurched back, pushed apart by an unseen hand. Silence charged back into the breach, lingering over the wall of dead that lay between them.