The Advance is a look upon the face of war and what it costs...
Grim faced they advanced through the maelstrom of war that surrounded them. Each one of them knowing as he trod across the bloodied ground that each step brought him closer to death, each step a bit closer to victory and home. With each yard of the advance their ranks were thinned by shell and shot. One of the grim faced men would fall wordlessly dead to the ground, his place would be taken by another and the moving mass would move forward unstopped.
At their head the flag fluttered in the wind, a wind that was now grown strong, feed by the breath of a hundred roaring guns. The battle flag lead them on, ever on. Its billowing folds were pieced, torn here and there by the flying shell, and blood stained its once brilliant colors to a dulling brown, the blood of those who had fought before. Those who carried it through a thousand battles now past, some had fallen to the screaming, or perhaps silent shell. Yet now as before, if it wavered or fell in the hands of the dying soul, others would free it from their dying hands and once more lift it anew and carry it on again. Now as then, it flew from the fore, leading the men on to what would be, it was hoped, the glorious end.
The generals at their tables had plotted, had planned this, what they called, "The last great offensive", and like so many so-called the same from the ancient past it was destined to not be the end. True, for now the battle may be won and the soldiers home again, but the bloodied staff and flag would someday, once more, lead a new generation in war, to death again. But for now, and as then, the battle maps had been drawn, like the lines in the sand. The plans inked upon the map, pins placed with precision, each placed to mark the meeting of the end, "It was our destiny", they said. But only death awaited there at the end.
The orders now were written, bold words put on paper with a pen, flowery promises of victory and glory contained therein. Promises of peace. And there hidden between the lines, like a serpent in the crack, lurked the promise of death for many of the men. But yet the soldiers knew their duty to country and the God above, knew naught of glory, but of the want of those they loved. They girded themselves once more for battle, wrapped themselves in honor and prepared for their final dash.
Rank upon rank, row pon row, the column formed, then began to flow. Was it to the hollow drum beating from battles now long past, or perhaps it was the staccato cadence of the firing machine gun, maybe nothing more than the beating of their own faint hearts they marched to as the battalion filed past. Ghosts danced there among them, some from the past and some that were yet to be, pushing them on, leading their way, fear was there too, cowering from the light of day, but each one of them, like soldiers should, silently filed past. The generals stood there watching, praying they would be right, while at their side was Ares, on his blackened war-stead, with it's blood-red eyes, knowing the answer they sought, but not saying.
At their front on the fateful march the reaper stood with his scythe, planning for the harvest that would be his this long, lonesome night. Yet they marched on, all believing they knew what lay ahead, some almost eagerly, young men to foolish to yet fear death. Some marched with a fateful gait lead on by the mass, but yet there were those who marched among them who knew, knew that perhaps it was only death that awaited there...
And the flag still lead them on, limp in the still, unmoving wind.
They marched on, each step taking them closer to the end. The guns began to roar, breathe their breath of death that sought to take mens souls. Silently, slowly they advanced to front, the machine guns twinkling in the failing light. The column continued marching, moving like a great beast in the smoke filtered light. Grim-faced now they advanced...slowly, steadily into the fight.
The last great offensive is over now, the great guns stand silent there upon the field. The torn and tattered bloodstained flag flies victoriously in the pallid, smoke filled sky. Across the mown field they lie, each one once living, breathing, each now, one that has died. "A glorious battle was won this day." the generals say, and in the future the books will read of the glory of the day, but now, here at the grave, the new young widow holding the child at her side, weeps.
Across the darkening sky, a laughing Ares, on the blackened war-stead with the blood red eyes, flies, and there alone now in the field, the reaper reaps...