On the battlefield, there's no such thing as God.
That was the first thing my instructor taught me when I joined the Legion. Fresh from the Monastery, I didn't believe him, then.
Of course, how could I? Faith was everything to me.
Back the ways of the glorious mana, gifted by the First King. Taught the hymns and structure of the miracles, each one a precious work of art, passed down over the ages.
Those were my life.
I could form [Barriers] of will, mend cuts and bones with a simple [Heal] or a greater [Restore.] I had saved lives- many lives, through God's will and my own personal conviction. By the will of the Light, I had changed fate. By my two hands, I believed that I could shape destiny.
Then, I went to war.
I went to war, and I learned I was wrong.
Over and over, I hear the shout. More a howl than a cry, it calls to me, and I pass it by as I walk. Brisk, efficient, I clear my way through the mud and filth.
The old me would have stopped to help by now. I know it, with each step, as my boots sink in and escape the muck. The sand moistened by the false rain brought from bombardment. Only added to by the vomit, the piss, the sweat and blood. With a horrible squelching sound, that gurgles as much as the man I'm passing by, my boots continue.
I know the old me would have helped, but that's not how things work any longer. I'm part of something bigger, more important. I have my assignment. I'm supposed to be helping someone else.
So, I don't slow. I don't turn.
Among the ruins of stone and earth, brown and red: there's a white tent up ahead. White, at least, as anything can be in this terrain. There are stains up along the edges, splashed from the rain and tainted weather. Burns and blackened portions too, where fire has reached us.
It’s so close, yet so far.
I'd run if I could, but I know I shouldn't. If I run, I'll get tired, and if I get tired... well. It's best that I don't. When I first came to this place, I used to run. Just like I used to stop.
Now, I know better.
I step inside, and my boots stop. Faces stare at me, some hopeless, some desperate. My hands find their places, pressing against red.
The gurgling... that's back. Ragged, heavy, exhausted: always the same, as of late. Like the mud, like my boots.
I hate it, so I try to make it stop.
For a moment, I am as I once was. Held in the arms of Light and Faith. Held and embraced, loved by the only reason these men here can even pretend to tolerate my presence. I let the mana run through me, until the noise stops.
Just words, excuses. This time, it seems I wasn't fast enough. My fault, but I don't feel guilty.
There's no way to feel guilty and survive in a place like this.
I get up to leave with a shake of my head and a false gesture of respect. I ignore the curses that earns me, stepping back and heading the direction I'd come from before. The tent flap gives way as I return to my steady gait.
The shouts trail after, but soon fade.
They don't matter, and there's nothing I can do. Nothing they can do. There are always more who need help. More tents to visit, and not enough people like me to visit them. Curse me all they want, but it won't change a thing.
The Eastern Fronts are like that.
My boots squelch once again, as I travel. Thicker, with the rain. Not heavy, but not relenting either. The shouts for help still haven't stopped.
"Healer! Please! Healer!"
I can see them there, still slumped in the dirt, watching me. Face filthy, expression wild. Both wounded, the person beside them is covered, more red than grime.
Begging for what? A chance to go back?
Looking past them, over the trench beside this pitiful excuse for a road, I can see the front. I can see the flashes of battle. Of Mages throwing fire, of soldiers hammering back at the enemy. Thousands of paces off and I can see it, clear as day.
How long did it take for them to make it back from that, I wonder? One wounded man carrying another, stumbling through the broken ground... Hours?
I don't know the answer, but it doesn't matter.
I pass them by.