I have been on many long marches. Night marches. Quick marches. Marches through the mountains, and marches through swamplands. I have always hated marching.
Marching is transition. Marching is working hard every day with no real sense of accomplishment. When the ground beneath your feet moves yet you seem to get nowhere new. Marching is only redeemed by one thing: the fight at the end.
If there is a fight at the end.
Some men love to march. They love making progress over land and ticking off the legs marked on their maps. They love knowing that for at least one more day they won’t have to fight.
Most soldiers, however, are just plain lazy. They would rather lounge about a camp fire and drink than lug their gear with a captain’s whip behind them. But not me. I’m not lazy. Nor do I love the march.
For me, marching is simply a stall before the real task begins. It serves its purpose, obviously, but it can be mind-numbingly boring. It’s much the same as sitting in a carriage, waiting to get to the evening’s ball. You just want to be there already. Dancing. There’s no pleasure in the ride itself. Not for me.
And with marching you have to sweat. You get blisters. You exhaust yourself. You make the fun at the end that much more difficult and unpleasant for yourself.
To be fair, it’s all worth it when you set foot in front of your enemy and he had no clue you were anywhere near. He thought you were miles away. He thought he was safe. For at least another day, he believed he would not have to fight.
And I love to fight.
I love proving myself the true swordsman. Superior. There are always questions in a man’s mind whether he’s good enough. Whether or not he’s the best.
There are no questions between two warriors when one lies dead before the other. And after an unbroken string of victories, you start to get addicted. Never mind the fear. Never mind the doubts. Those will always be there. You just want to wet your blade again.
Lugging my gear through this jungle is perhaps the greatest punishment of my exile. I have been condemned to the march. There is no end to it, save that which ends all things. There are few fights, fewer still when forced to run, and perhaps none will present themselves at all at the end of this.
There is only the march.
We wake, we pack, we march. We pause to drink, we march. We stop to eat, we march. We sleep for the night, and we start it all over again in the morning.
Someday my march will end. I focus on Salisir to get me to move. On finding his corpse, completing my mission, and returning to the Tetrarch. I dream of that day as I march. I know they say there is no going back for me. They’re wrong. Just as they were wrong to condemn me as they did.
The Old Empire may no longer want me, but it is my home. I will return, welcome or not, even if I have to march every inch of the way back.