Blood of Angels, Wings of Men, p.1Jon Jacks / Fantasy
Blood of Angels,
Wings of Men
Other New Adult and Children’s books by Jon Jacks
The Caught – The Rules – Chapter One – The Changes – Sleeping Ugly
The Barking Detective Agency – The Healing – The Lost Fairy Tale
A Horse for a Kingdom – Charity – The Most Beautiful Things (Now includes The Last Train)
The Dream Swallowers – Nyx; Granddaughter of the Night – Jonah and the Alligator
Glastonbury Sirens – Dr Jekyll’s Maid – The 500-Year Circus – The Desire: Class of 666
P – The Endless Game – DoriaN A – Wyrd Girl – The Wicker Slippers – Gorgesque
Heartache High (Vol I) – Heartache High: The Primer (Vol II) – Heartache High: The Wakening (Vol III)
Miss Terry Charm, Merry Kris Mouse & The Silver Egg – The Last Angel – Eve of the Serpent
Seecrets – The Cull – Dragonsapien – The Boy in White Linen – Porcelain Princess – Freaking Freak
Died Blondes – Queen of all the Knowing World – The Truth About Fairies – Lowlife
Elm of False Dreams – God of the 4th Sun – A Guide for Young Wytches – Lady of the Wasteland
The Wendygo House – Americarnie Trash – An Incomparable Pearl – We Three Queens – Cygnet Czarinas
Memesis – April Queen, May Fool – Sick Teen – Thrice Born – Self-Assembled Girl – Love Poison No. 13
Whatever happened to Cinderella’s Slipper? – AmeriChristmas – The Vitch’s Kat in Hollywoodland
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It’s the last village before the new border; how many of our dead troops have they seen come forlornly walking back through here?
You can sense the fear, the hopelessness here.
Is it any use me asking them if they’ve seen Bjorn?
He’s dead, I’m sure of it. Every soldier who’s gone out to the new border has only ever come back dead.
But I’m also sure he’d want to get a message to me; that he’d want to deliver it himself, if possible.
And now I’m so close to where he must have fallen, there’s an even greater chance of me meeting up with him once again.
Even if it’s only for him to repeat what he’d told me when he was still alive.
That my regiment should turn around. That, if they don’t, then I should desert my troop.
They’re all going to die anyway.
One less amongst their number is hardly going to make much of a difference.
I slip down from my horse with a grateful sigh, taking off my helmet and letting my hair tumble free, relishing the coolness of the air.
All around me, the other girls are doing the same.
Not that we can rest just yet. The horses have to be fed, watered, and gradually cooled down themselves to make sure they don’t fall prey to any maladies.
We ignore the iron-hard stares of the villagers.
Any solider is hated, but the female troops are abhorred far more than the men.
You could see that loathing in their otherwise blank, joyless eyes as we rode in, the lack of any horns rising up from our helmets the only thing to differentiate us from the male troops, but enough for them to regard us with an extra dollop of scorn.
The villagers know our sacrifice is a hopeless gesture. They don’t admire us for trying to keep the enemy at bay; they loathe us for our inability to send our foes falling back to wherever it was they came from.
And therefore they blame us for the danger they’re in.
They know that soon – even though they’re not trained for it; they’re just farmers, fishermen, carpenters – they’ll be the ones left to defend their village from whatever onslaught eventually comes their way.
The women, even the children, will be expected to lay down their lives in a vain attempt to prevent the village from falling. That’s why the women hate us so; because, of course, being mothers, they would prefer that their children at least were spared. Yet as girls like my troop have demonstrated that we can fight – that we can die – as well as any man, then they have no excuse to flee.
As for the men of the village; we make them feel even more especially worthless.
Girls defending the borders; while they stay home to plough the fields, or their fat little wives.
What use is food to keep us alive in a land that daily falls to the enemy?
What use offspring if they are soon to die?
If the children lived long enough to fight – then they might be of use to us!
On the sour faces of the villagers gathering around us, I can see they are thinking the same as I am; what’s the point of it all? All this striving to gain a living from a tormenting land, only to face death at the hands of a merciless foe.
They know we’ll leave only to – probably less than a week later – forlornly return, walking blankly through their village as we make our way home. Seeking out our loved ones, to see them one last time before we at last give up the ghost.
When the souls of the dead walk by you like this, it’s a disconcerting experience; if they pass through you, you’re left feeling cold, clammy.
There’s no warmth to them. No joy.
Their new mission is only to say goodbye, and they don’t wish to be interrupted from their self-appointed task.
Yes, you can stop them if you wish, to ask them the most fleeting of questions: ‘Is everyone dead?’ ‘Are you from the Eighth Legion?’
But what’s the point of asking such questions anyway?
You know the answer to the first, while the second answer will hardly enlighten you in any meaningful form; if the Eighth Legion were the last to pass this way on their way to the front, then the chances are the dead filing past you are their returning souls.
As the dead had silently passed trough our troop, I’d naturally looked out for Bjorn.
I’d flattered myself that it would be me that he would be searching out to say his final goodbyes to; not his parents, his brothers.
I must have been wrong, for I never saw him.
I have heard of the legend of the Twentieth Legion and the Ninth Troop.
It happened so long ago, supposedly, that no one could be really sure if it had happened or not.
I’d like to think that it did happen, of course.
As the women of the Twentieth had made their way into battle, the men of the returning Ninth had flowed through them; and there were so many lovers amongst them that both formations briefly came to a tearful halt as the living and dead enjoyed a last embrace.
Unfortunately, it seems there’ll be no such last embrace for Bjorn and I.