[WAR XI] Faces of the Moon [Judged]
((Just a heads up, this is a historical fiction. I'm sure none of you really care but these are Prussians, and this takes place during the Seven Years' War, for all you nerds out there XD))
Why did some people hate guard duty again? Lukas could never understand it. What was there to dislike about a nice, dark, quiet place to sit where you could think over your thoughts without anything to disturb you? He sat back against his post, which was the edge of the bridge he and his comrade were guarding. The bridge was lined with torches on each end, since lanterns simply did not provide enough light, but even then the torches just barely illuminated the edge of the forest. The dancing flames made it seem as if the shadows beneath the trees were actually moving, and more than once Lukas saw a pair of eyes staring back at him, but instead of frightening him they just put him more at ease. He knew that if anyone was actually coming up the road them they would have frightened the animals off and most likely made much more noise doing so.
Armand obviously didn’t have the same sentiments as his Lieutenant. He kept glancing about nervously and tapping his musket against the ground, occasionally chewing on his lip. Lukas would have asked him to stop but he knew that it was pointless. He knew that something about going into the middle of a dark forest made Armand nervous and almost—dare he say it—afraid; he wasn’t scared of the dark or a forest, but putting the two together made his fellow Prussian as nervous as a mouse being stalked by a cat.
Lukas glanced over at his comrade for a brief moment, words on the tip of his tongue, but he did not say them and turned away. He knew perfectly well that he wasn’t very good at consoling people, especially when he was so detached with his own emotions. He wasn’t like his brother, who practically oozed charisma and charm and happiness and seemed to know exactly what to do to make everyone around him laugh and have a good time. He sighed very quietly and looked behind him. Deciding that the edge was wide enough, he quickly hopped onto the railing of the bridge and settled himself there to rest his legs for a while. He still had hours to go before the replacement sentries were due, after all. His horse, tethered to the bridge, snorted as he moved.
Armand had seen him, he knew, but he ignored it and continued to stare off into the darkness. The moon above managed to give a vague outline of the trees and road that were not lit but the torchlight, but it was only at best dark silhouettes peeking out of a slight-less-dark background. Lukas doubted that even if an Austrian did stumble upon their territory in his white uniform that they would have been able to see him. And in all honesty, Lukas knew that the chances of that happening were zero. It was the hussar’s job to go out to the farthest reaches of their territory and scan for enemies, he and Armand were just here in case the alarm was raised and they needed to go back and alert the camp. One of those extra precautionary measures that would probably never actually have to be used but were still kept around just in case.
The dragoon suddenly snapped his head up, his instincts warning him of something. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Armand glance at him, startled by the movement. After a few moments he realized that the forest had fallen utterly silent, the sounds of insects and animals scampering around gone. His horse snorted again, tossing her head nervously, and seconds later he heard the sound that she had picked up before he did: horses’ hooves.
“Who’s there?” Armand called out, hearing it as well. His hard voice was a jarring counterpart to the long minutes of silence that had been present before, and Lukas nearly jumped upon hearing it.
“Friends, Weber,” a familiar deep voice called out from the darkness. A few moments later the riders came into the circle of light, their bright red and blue uniforms revealing them to be hussars of Zieten’s. “Back from patrolling,” the leader said, the markings of his uniform showing that he was a Lieutenant. The man turned to Lukas, a sharp smile on his face. “Lieutenant Kleist, stuck on guard duty again?” he asked teasingly. “Who did you anger this time?”
Lukas gave his older brother an equally sharp smile. “No one, Lieutenant Kleist,” he replied smoothly. “I, having a good heart, decided to replace the man that was supposed to be here, since his sickness had been bothering him lately. My intentions are entirely noble.”
“Tsk, such a bleeding heart,” Hans Kleist remarked, a few of his hussars chuckling behind him. “Well, have fun out here with your chivalry. I shall be heading back to the camp.” He urged his horse forward, its hooves clacking loudly against the bridge. The rest of his detachment followed him, some greeting Lukas or Armand as they went by, and the noise became so loud that it was hard to think. Then it was gone and the soldiers were all riding off, the sound of their harnesses and swords and gears clanking off into the distance until it all became nothing more than echoes.
Even though the silence was back everything seemed more unsettling now. The tranquility of the night had been broken and it could not slide back into place, leaving an oddly disjointed feel behind. Lukas’s fingers tapped against his musket moodily. On one hand he did indeed like his silence and his solitude, but the appearance of his brother had reminded him that things were happening elsewhere and he was not contributing to them by sitting around. He would be reprimanded though if he left his post, so he was forced to sit there. His blue eyes gazed upwards at the moon, her oval face looking pitilessly down upon him. Deceitful Luna, with her many changing faces and treacherous light…
An owl hooted somewhere nearby. Armand started the slightest bit and Lukas was jerked out of his thoughts. Time must have flown by rather quickly for the owls to return. How deceitful time was as well, to seem long and drawn out but in reality is was flying right by you without your notice. Just what time was it anyway? Lukas took out his pocket watch and checked it; a quarter past three. Damn. He slipped it back into his pocket and straightened up when he heard hoofbeats yet again, but this time they were coming from behind. He turned and felt his eyes widen when he saw his brother casually riding his horse across the bridge once more.
Hans saw him and smiled, but he turned to Armand instead. “Sergeant Weber,” he said cordially, “I hope you don’t mind me coming to replace you.”
Armand looked a little surprised, but he quickly shook his head. “Not at all, Lieutenant,” he said, saluting. “Am I needed somewhere?”
“Oh no, I’m just taking over the rest of your shift. I already spoke with your commander, so you do not have to fear his disproval. Just go and get yourself some rest, you look tired.” As usual, Hans’s words were laced with warmth and charm, which few people were able to resist.
Although he still looked confused, Armand saluted again and went to his horse, freeing it from where it was tethered and vaulting into the saddle. He gave Lukas another salute as he rode by, bade them both a good night, and was soon swallowed by the darkness as he rode off towards the camp. Lukas watched him go, and then turned to Hans. “What are you doing here?” he asked curiously.
The hussar was busy tying his own mount to the vacated post and making sure the poor beast would be comfortable. “What? I’m not allowed to see my little brother anymore?” he asked, the smile evident in his voice.
It was hard not to smile back. “Not when your brother is on duty,” Lukas said, trying to sound stern. While he wasn’t technically the “responsible” one, he certainly was a bigger stickler for the rules.
“I’m on duty too,” Hans said, mirroring him and jumping onto the railing as well, lithe as a cat. He settled himself into a comfortable position so that he could look at Lukas and talk at the same time. “I just happen to be sharing it with you now. You look tired and Armand was ready to bite off his own lip, so I thought that I might come to cheer you up.”
“I’m flattered,” Lukas replied, his words sincere despite the almost sardonic way he spoke them. He knew his brother well enough to know that he wasn’t going to be able to concentrate on his duty any time soon (not that he was doing it in the first place) so he simply turned as well to face him.
Hans grinned at him again, that amused quirk of the lips that could easily call an answering one out of the people he was talking to. Well, all except for Lukas. “How is your side doing?” he asked suddenly. “Still giving you trouble?”
Lukas’s hand almost subconsciously went to touch his side, and a phantom twinge of pain curled around the spot where the bullet had gone right through him. ”If it was then I would not be out here,” he answered, although his words lacked any sarcasm. “It’s healed up enough for me to ride out here, but I can’t do any hard riding like you hussars do. The doctors say I’ll rip the wound back open if I do. I’ll be stuck like this for about three more weeks before I can go back to campaigning with the rest of the army.”
“Heh, with the pace we’re moving at now it’ll be just that long before anyone even thinks about marching,” Hans remarked. He stroked his mustache thoughtfully, a habit of his, and craned his head back a little. “Strange, isn’t it? How in an instant you realize just how weak and fragile you are, and that things can go from good to bad in an instant.”
Wait, what? Lukas raised an eyebrow at his sibling, unused to hearing him sound so…philosophical. “Yes, it is,” he agreed. “And then you learn that no matter what, you can’t let this little crack in your life break you. You just have to patch it up and move on, like the rest of us do. But you still have that knowledge in the back of your mind that life is tricky, and that it will show you many different faces within the blink of an eye, and sometimes those faces will try to destroy you.” The words flowed freely from his lips, like a soft rain.
Hans nodded in agreement. He seemed to think over something, then he hopped down and walked across the bridge, coming to Lukas’s side within a few seconds. There he hopped back onto the railing so he could be closer to his brother. “Smoke?” was all he said as he fished his pipe out of his pocket and held it up.
“Of course,” Lukas responded, grinning as he brought out his own. He had resisted the urge earlier because he knew that Armand didn’t like the smell of smoke, but his brother could happily imitate a chimney. He let Hans fill both of their pipes and light them by putting a stick into one of the torches and using that as a match, and soon the air was filled with the aromatic smell of pipe smoke.
“And are you planning to go back to duty soon?” Hans asked after a long minute.
Lukas nodded. “As soon as I can ride again. Like I said, you have to move on.” He observed his brother for a moment, then he smiled. “What, are you starting to play the role of big brother again? You haven’t done that in years, Hans.”
The hussar puffed up a little in indignation. “Pah! I never stopped!” he exclaimed, poking him in the shoulder, hard. “Especially not when you turned out to be such a cheeky little brat.”
“Which I learned from you,” Lukas quipped, biting on the stem of his stop to stop his laughter at Hans swatted at him playfully.
“Hmph, an ungrateful little brat as well,” Hans said, rolling his eyes. He turned his head up a little and seemed to stare at the moon, just like Lukas had been doing earlier.
The younger of the two was quiet for a few minutes, watching his brother, then turning to the moon again, then back. There was that faraway look in his brother’s eyes that meant that he was thinking about something deeply, which Lukas was resolved to break. He snapped his fingers in front of his face, bringing him back to reality with a loud snap that made Hans jump. “Mind sharing your fascination with me?” Lukas asked, this time being the curious one.
Hans blinked at him, and then shrugged. “I was thinking about the moon,” he said simply. “In a way it reflects life, since it has so many faces that are constantly changing. And sometimes when it’s full its light is used as a guide to find your way.”
“But sometimes the light lets you be seen by enemies, or it shows you things that you would rather not see,” Lukas responded, knowing how the string of thoughts went. He had been educated in poetry and literature, after all, and he was more than aware of the moon metaphors that existed.
“Exactly,” Hans said, “or when it’s dark. You lose your way and no one can see you, so you’re left all alone, and you either find your way out or you lie down like a turtle inside of its shell and wait for the darkness to either pass or consume you.”
Lukas raised his eyebrows a little. “Careful now,” he said, a slight hint of humor coming into his tone. “You might turn into a poet if you keep talking like that.”
Hans gave him a look, but obviously noticed that he was joking. “Hah, let that go to someone else in the family,” he said, waving his hand dismissively. “The two of us, right here, are soldiers. Always will be.”
“Of course,” Lukas agreed, leaning back so he could better view the moon and her ever-changing faces.
Guy 1: I wasn't that drunk
Guy 2: Dude, you were in my fireplace yelling "Diagon Alley"
C/ ▪ |▪|░✧░
███ █░░░ This comment reminds me of a puzzle...
Dear Edward Cullen,
You sneak into little girls' rooms and you live forever.