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The Fields of Sorrow
Nathan, Age 15, Ooty, Tamil Nadu, India

‎The battle-scarred soldier looked across the flames at the shapeless bundle huddled close to the fire. He sighed and asked himself how he had ended up trying to keep a young soldier boy and himself alive in the middle of a jungle with enemies on their trail trying to kill them. And the only weapon between the two of them was the knife in his boot. He laughed grimly to himself as he went over the events that had caused this unlikely bonding between two sworn enemies, a Xhasu and a Caelician.

It began when a report came to camp saying that the frustrated natives living in the lands fought in by the Xhasu and Caelician militaries had formed their own army, and would attack both sides sometime. The camp was told to be on guard. But they were not told that the army had been training secretly for nearly two years, and that they were ready to attack that night.

Their attack caught the commando encampment completely by surprise, and it was a one-sided man-slaughter. The small camp could not defeat the huge force, even though they had superior training. The lucky few had escaped into the forest. The rest were either killed or taken prisoner. Brian had been shot in his leg and taken prisoner.

Although unarmed, he had managed to kill his single guard and escape into the forest. But he had known that he would not be safe, even in the forest. The army would not stop until they had gotten every Caelician. Brian had decided that he would continue as long as he could on his injured leg to be safe.

And that was how he had met the young, scared, and completely lost Xhasu soldier. At first they had fought, and then Brian had gently convinced the soldier at knife-point to tell him what was going on. His story had been almost the same as Brian's.

After some thought and talking, a reluctant agreement sprung up between the two. Brian would help the boy survive in the forest and get to a neutral village, and in exchange the boy would help Brian by doing tasks for him and helping him to walk. Brian's wound had only gotten worse because of the long walk and neglect from his captors.

Brian awoke from his reverie and looked at the boy, now fast asleep. In spite of himself, he was starting to like this boy. Indeed, a friendship had grown between them in the week they had spent together. It was disheartening that once they both got back to their respective armies they would be expected to kill each other. Judging by his lack of experience, the boy might not even last a week on the front. Brian sighed, almost wishing that he had never joined the army. It was for lost friends and young lads like this that he wished he had never joined the army. It was for lost friends and young lads like this that died that these battlefronts got their nickname, "The Fields of Sorrow."

Suddenly the face of a lost friend appeared in his mind: a pretty, young journalist, who looked full of life and fun. Her blue eyes sparkled like crystal lakes, and her smile could shatter any barriers. Her hair was silky brown, and everything about her was perfect. He remembered how they met on her first day in the camp, where she was doing an article on the war. It was love at first sight. Some days later, her charred and blackened body was found at the site of an explosion. The only thing which told people that it was her was the locket which she wore given to her by Brian.

Silent tears coursed down Brian's cheeks at the memory. "Oh, Maria, I just can't forget," he whispered. And a sob racked his body.

                                          ----------x----------

Michael woke up and immediately sensed something was wrong. It was then that he realised Brian was gone. Michael, immediately suspecting that he had been abandoned, was filled with seething hatred for the soldier who had tricked him. "And I thought he was my friend!" he thought. Just then the sound of a struggle ensued from behind a bush. He heard a moan, and then silence. Even the incessant animal noises of the jungle stopped. After a few minutes of listening, Michael crept up to the bush and peered behind it. There sat Brian, going through a pack, and next to him was a native soldier's corpse. Michael stared wide eyed at the body. Brian turned and saw Michael's face, and explained what had happened. "The soldier was going to shoot you," he said, "Then I snuck up from behind and killed him." All doubts about Brian vanished from Michael's head, and he realised their friendship was real. He smiled. Brian was his first real friend.

                                           ----------x----------

Sunlight filtered through the jungle canopy and struck Brian's face. Brian stretched. Today they would reach the village, and they would be safe. He shook Michael awake, and soon they chatted idly as they walked. At dusk they reached a clearing in the trees. Ahead were a few small huts. They knew they were finally safe. A villager walked slowly up to them. But then they both realised something: he was no villager--he was a Caelician militiaman! He pointed at the boy and said, "Xhasu?"

A shocked and confused Brian nodded numbly.

"Take him," he said. And suddenly four hidden militiamen jumped the boy, bound him, and led him off at gunpoint to a firing wall.

"Wait!" protested Brian. "He saved my life! What are you doing?!"

The soldier stared at him and said, "Orders."

"What? Who cares if he's Xhasu! He saved my life. Stop!"

The boy looked at Brian and screamed, "Liar! You tricked me!" The men blindfolded him and made him stand against the wall.

Somebody shouted, "Ready? Aim!"

"Wait!" shouted Brian, running towards the condemned boy.

"Fire!"

"No!" screamed Brian. It was no use. The boy fell to the ground in a hail of bullets.

"No," he said again, and sank to his knees. Then the battle-scarred soldier wept for the lives of his dead friends, Maria, and above all his friend Michael. All of them were victims of the Fields of Sorrow. Then he looked up and cried, "Enough is enough!" and drew his knife from his boot. "I'm coming, Maria!" he said, and then he plunged the knife into his heart ending his life instantly.

In the end, he got his heart's desire: to not see any more people die in the Fields of Sorrow.

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