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Terra Firma (1 Viewer)

Ramen 6378

Senior Member
Hello, everyone. This is my second story on these forums, and it too was written some time ago. Unlike the Dream World, this story is a short story focusing on the Battle of Thermopylae. Just to avoid possible confusion, the story is told from the point of an eagle living near the battle site. For storytelling purposes, I had to give the eagle some omniscient powers, mainly long life and knowledge of who the two sides were. Nothing really that serious. Comment, criticize, and enjoy!

Terra Firma

Golden sunlight shone down onto the grasses of Thermopylae. The shadows cast by the sun blanketed the narrow pass. The clear, cheerful chirping of birds is audible to your sensitive ears, and they swoop and dart among the trees. From the southern side of the pass, when looking up, you see mountains surrounding both sides of the valley, framed in black. The faint, jagged outline of forests also becomes noticeable to the trained eye. You turn to the north, and see a contrasting image: the serene, sapphire-blue waters of the Gulf of Malia. Having seen the north and the south, you turn your head to observe the west and the east. But, what is this? From the west, you see a rippling heat wave of sorts. Straining your eyes, you see a great army, armed to the teeth with shining shields and swords. War machines rumble and follow in their wake. You turn to the east, expecting another gargantuan army. Yet you only see a small force of men. Tall shields and spears are noticeable, and they seem to be setting up a perimeter.

The day slowly passes; the sun moves throughout the sky. Sitting in your perch, you see the eastern force, consisting of the alliance of Spartans, Thesbians, and Thebans, facing off against the vast Persian armies. On the first day of battle in Thermopylae, they engage the enemy right under your perch, yielding a wonderful view of the bloodshed. The great joy one finds in the heat of battle sweep over them; swords and spears pierced the enemy’s armor and flesh. With the Phocian wall looming over them, the Greek alliance mows down the advancing Persian army, effectively holding ground. You hear their laughs ringing out across the pass as the enemy falls to their weapons, their fallen armor glinting in the light of the sun. Far off into the distance, Persian war machines fling boulders and flames towards the Greeks. Confident in the imminent victory, the Greeks shrug off their wounds and continue to fight. The light shining over the pass faded slightly as clouds begin to obscure the ever-setting sun; the grasses and trees nearby are charred with the flames and fury. After what seemed like millennia, the onslaught fades away. The opposing army falls back to the entrance of the pass, as the Greeks cheer and wave their swords in victory. Then, they too fall back to their camp. Finally, blessed silence blankets the pass, but it is not the comfortable, peaceful silence that reigned before the battle. You instead hear the tense silence, like a bowstring about to snap.

Night falls and goes; morning arrives. Yet, as you look up towards the sun to cry out, the light is dimmed, obscured by gray clouds. The mountains behind you look ragged; some of the trees near the base of the mountain have fallen. Patches of grass around you have the smoldering remains of fire tingeing the rims of the leaves. The waters of the Gulf have dust and ashes clouding the surface; one can no longer see the various species of fish swimming around under the water. Wait, yes you can. Several fish are floating belly-up on the water. From the way smoke sizzles and billows out from the water, you conclude that stray fires must have spread from the previous day’s battle. The chirping of birds is tentative and afraid.

Morale seemed high for the Greeks as they woke and assumed formation on the second day. They had defeated the Persian advance last time, so why couldn’t they do it again? Once again, the two armies face off under the humid, gray clouds. You decide to wait out the fighting to avoid the bloodshed, fluffing up your nest in the process. However, curiosity forces you to your high perch. Blood and sweat flies, arrows whistle, spears pierce, armor dents. All was going well for the Greeks this day; their morale and confidence serve them well. You hear the victorious cries and shouts as the Persian force wearily retreats. However, this overconfidence is fated to be their downfall. During the retreat of the Greeks to their camp, you spot with your eagle eyes a lone soldier, hanging back and running to the safety of the rocks. Ephialtes hurries along the pass, sneaking past the sea of bodies and blood. You can see the shine of extraneous sweat lining the edges of his face. He carefully edges over into Persian territory under cover of darkness. Softly, rain began to pour down from the gray, stormy sky. Uncomfortable, you fluff up your feathers to get rid of the dripping water. Ephialtes also seems to be uncomfortable; he shifts his armor slightly, and then seems to have second thoughts. He stands there for a few moments; you almost lose track of him since it’s so dark. After a minute or two, he strips off his armor, packs it into a crevice made by two rocks, and hurries over to the Persian encampment. You can barely make out the shape of the figure as he goes into a large, elaborately-decorated tent.

Losing interest, you fly back to your nest in the mountains and decide to sleep for the remainder of the night. The next day, the rain has stopped, leaving behind a moist, earthy smell. Flying out and gliding to the high perch, you let out your morning caw and listen to the echoes as it bounces off the mountains. Suddenly, a clammy, putrid stench clouds the air. You shake your head vigorously to get rid of the dreadful smell, recognizing it for the odor of decaying human bodies, coated with coagulated blood, mixed with the moist, damp earth. Some of the bodies and blood have, overnight, fallen into the water of the Gulf; now they float grotesquely on the surface, mere remnants of what they once were. The dented, tarnished armor still clings onto them like a parasite. The entire air, despite the recent cleansing of the rain, seems clogged and claustrophobic. You can even observe clearly the soft rays of the ascending sun shining through the air; it’s that thick. Looking down from the perch, you see the grass closest to the battle site has receded back into the main forest; it has been burned to the core. There are no birds chirping this morning.

As dawn comes and leaves, a strange sound comes from the west, right below the perch. You look down and, to your amazement, see a force of Persian soldiers advancing up along the mountainside, using a heavily-covered path to conceal their movements. There was a radical change in them; their faces wore expressions of hope and confidence, not despair and defeat. Another thing catches your eye. A far greater force is coming up from the Persian encampment, ready to meet the Greeks in battle. You quickly deduce that there has been a change of plans, and the Persians have a flanking maneuver to outwit the Greeks. Sure enough, the Greeks charge out of their base. Even from this distance, you can see the hopeless, lost expressions behind their helmets and tall shields. Clambering over the barrier of bodies, both sides charge at each other, yelling battle cries. The Greeks, wearing the mask of despair, throw their spears with all their strength towards the Persians; when those ran out, they draw their swords and start to battle hand-to-hand. When the sun was high in the sky, the Greeks slowly fall back to a hill behind the broken Phocian wall. You then avert your eyes to avoid seeing all the death and gore, but instead you notice the troops on the mountainside. In unison, they pull out their bows, notch arrows, and let loose towards the Greeks on the hill. One by one, they all fell.

Many days passed, many nights came and went. You are still here, on this perch, watching the landscape as always. Birds have begun to chirp in the morning light again. The bodies of the armies have long since decayed, the blood in the water dispersing and drifting away. No more deathly odors, and the air is clean. But to the trained eye, the battleground is still visible. You can see, if you look closely, the fragments of rusted armor lying half-buried in the earth. You can see the crumbling remains of shields, swords, and spears. And most of all, everyone can see the sea of blood underneath the surface of the ground.