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Brave Soldier Boy
Chapter information
Chapter

One-shot

Written by

Johny316

Release date

December 13, 2014

Word count

1,458

The sun was setting on Ba Sing Se in the 598th day of General Iroh's famed siege. Within the trenches that laid between the conquered outer wall and the middle wall, young commander Lu Ten and his men shivered in the cold. They sipped hot drinks and huddled beside fires. Less than a hundred feet away across a war torn battlefield, Earth Kingdom soldiers huddled together for warmth. As night approached the sounds of the city beyond the wall began to die and silence began to take its hold.

It was Her-Ping, the day of Peace. Not a rock had been tossed, not a flame had been thrown since the sun rose that morning. But as the stars appeared tensions began to rise, war would soon begin again. Lu Ten looked at his weary men. They were tired and sick of this war, they wanted to go home and see their families, he knew that just stone throws away from him, and there were hundreds of enemy soldiers wishing the same.

"Any movement?!" Lu Ten whispered to one of his men.

The man took a quick glance overhead. "No sir," he said. "But I have a feeling something's coming."

The young commander peered over himself, "I think they are as tired as us lieutenant," Lu Ten said with sympathy.

"Nonetheless, we must keep a watchful eye sir," the man replied.

Lu Ten sat down and rubbed his hands to together for warmth. He breathed a deep sigh. Suddenly, he heard a noise, the sound of singing, coming from enemy lines. It started quietly, and then grew louder. Every man, both in red and green dress stopped what they were doing to listen to the words of this earth soldier.

"My love she lives far away
and I travel farther every day
and if I die along the way
send my love to her

send my love to her
send my love to her
and if I die along the way
send my love to her."

The song ended and all was once again dead silence. The mist floated across the battlefield like an eerie ghost, but another voice cut through it, singing the next verse of the song, this time it was a fire soldier. He closed his eyes and leaned against his spear.

"My love she lives far away
but I travel closer every day
I will not die along the way
I'll give my love to her

I'll give my love to her
I'll give my love to her
I will not die along the way
I'll give my love to her."

A few moments after the man finished, there came the sound of shuffling from the enemy side. The Fire Nation soldiers listened carefully, something was coming. Spears were raised and benders lit their flames. And just then, a head appeared out of the enemy trenches. Lu Ten shouted commands "Prepare men!" The soldiers quickly organized and prepared for the worst. But instead of flying rocks, it was one man, he stepped out of his trench slowly with hands up. The other earth soldiers were tense, some of them told him to come back, but he ignored them and advanced.

"Sir, what should we do!" came the voice of a soldier to Lu Ten, and then several others, "Yes, sir, what are your orders."

There was a pause. "Hold your fire," Lu Ten said softly but firmly. The earth soldier stood in the center of the battlefield with his hands up. Lu Ten watched him closely, and then began to climb out of his own trench.

"Sir!" His lieutenant began. "It could be a trap!"

"Then it was nice serving with you," Lu Ten replied quietly, just as he took his last step out of his hole. On the other side he could rocks lifted ready for battle, in case something went wrong. Nevertheless, the young commander slowly inched toward the enemy soldier, until they stood face to face. Lu Ten put his arms down and relaxed. The earth soldier smiled and did the same. Both sides strained their eyes to peer through the dark.

"My name is Cheng," the soldier said as he bowed to Lu Ten.

"I am Lu Ten," the young commander replied, bowing in return.

"I see your men know my song," he said with a smile.

"Yes, we sing it ourselves. When we are weary and long for home," Lu Ten replied.

Cheng tensed and looked behind Lu Ten. Several Fire Nation soldiers had joined them. They held their hands up to let the man know they meant no harm. Cheng calmed down and Lu Ten introduced his men, and soon several earth soldiers came out and the small group began to laugh and talk. Cheng made some seats of earth and the firebenders made a fire for warmth. Others followed their leads, and from the outer walls you could see small fires appearing on the battlefield, where earth and fire soldiers had come to meet each other, and share a night without war.

"This is my daughter, Jin," Cheng said, showing Lu Ten a portrait of a little girl, no older than ten. "Do you have children, Lu Ten?" Cheng asked.

"No. But I do have a little cousin that I adore very much," he replied with a smile.

"You must miss him very much," the man said.

"I do," the commander said softly.

Laughter spread through the battlefield as men around different fires put aside their differences to enjoy each other's company on that cold night. Instruments began to play and voices rose up off the field. Despite the happiness, Lu Ten was sad. He wanted to apologize for this war he was fighting against good men, and against good families, it was the war of his forefathers, it was not his. He looked at Cheng sadly, and cheng returned his gaze. The soldier was not ignorant, he knew what Lu Ten was thinking, but he did not say anything, instead he smiled and began to sing.

"Winter, spring
summer and fall
winter, spring
summer and fall
four seasons
four loves
four seasons
four loves
I promised them
I loved them all
in winter, spring
summer and fall"

Lu Ten laughed and felt eased. There was no war that night, is what he said to himself. Cheng finished his song and looked to Lu Ten. "Do you play?" He asked, offering Lu Ten an instrument.

Lu Ten chuckled and declined, "Oh yes, but you don't want to hear me sing!" He laughed.

"No, no we insist!" Cheng bellowed, followed by a cheer from a few fellow soldiers. "Come on Lu Ten, play us song!"

Lu Ten took the instrument from the man's hands. He began strumming the strings softly, creating a beautiful and soothing tune. The entire battlefield fell silent.

"Leaves from the vine
Falling so slow
Like fragile tiny shells
Drifting in the foam
Little soldier boy
Come marching home
Brave soldier boy
Comes marching home."

Cheng urged Lu Ten to sing it again, and when he did Cheng joined in, followed by all the men at the fire, and then all the men at another fire, until the entire battlefield was singing in unison.

"Leaves from the vine
Falling so slow
Like fragile tiny shells
Drifting in the foam
Little soldier boy
Come marching home
Brave soldier boy
Comes marching home."

The song made its way to the far trenches that were still filled with men, and they too started singing, both Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom, until the war ballad creeped up the great walls and reached the ears of the men upon them. In every heart there was a longing, a longing to march home and leave war behind.

Lu Ten finished, and the song ceased. No was laughing anymore, they simply sat together by their fires, and enjoyed the company of familiar spirits, just wishing for peace after months of fighting.

As the hours passed, conversation faded as men grew tired and returned to their holes, fires died, and seats emptied.

"Good luck brother," Cheng said to Lu Ten as he grasped his hand tightly. "Watch your head out there.

"I will. Good Luck to you, and whatever you do, get home to your daughter," Lu Ten replied sincerely. The two men parted ways and prepared for battle in their trenches. It would only be a couple hours before Cheng would strike down a Fire Nation soldier in the heat of battle, not knowing it would be the young commander he called brother.

As the sun rose, fire and rocks began to fly and men began to fall. But that is war, blood and tears, sadness and joy, friends and enemies...soldier boys, all marching home.

(Inspired by the WW1 Christmas truce of 1914. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_truce)

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