They tell us that we are brave, claiming that it is the reason we are on the front lines. I take up my duty with honor despite my knowledge that these claims of bravery are but one of the many lies that they feed us. We are told that there is strength in numbers, that we are just as important as any other fool who dares to step onto the battlefield, and that we won't die.
My brethren and I, we know the truth; we are expendable. Although I am well aware that my kingdom values my life as much as they would a pesky, pintsized fly, I defend it to no ends. It is not because I too am dismissive of my very existence, but because I am convinced that I am worth more.
My hair, black as night, straggles over my eyes like a frayed shoelace missing its aglet. I have a rounded face that chose not to be defined by a forceful jawline or brooding eyes, but by an inability to produce facial hair. The lines that would be defining what little muscle I do have instead resemble protruding bones and malnourishment. Upon first glance, I am neither a large nor intimidating man, but I am a man with a shield. The shield that I hold bears the mark of my King whom, by orders of my Queen, I stand before at all times. It is my duty to protect him at any cost – even if that cost is my own life. I carry out my duty with honor, for there lies within me the hope that I may one day be the hero. Perhaps that day is today. Let the battle begin.
The front men move out first, as they always do. In any strategic battle, it's better to make haste and send out some of the expendables. Unexpectedly, the Queen from the opposing side joins the fight. Her beauty is overwhelming. Her hair wavers down her slender neck and runs almost seamlessly along her royally pronounced collarbone. Although white from age, a brief encounter with the sun gives it a nearly silver shine. A daunting squint causes the wrinkles at the corners of her eyes to stretch to the far end of her face. She has a target in sight. I follow her glare across the still barren battlefield so it is not difficult to see which poor soul has captured her attention. Swiftly, she slides through the legs of her own Bishop and leaps in a cartwheeling fashion over a steed and its rider. He transfers his own sword into her hand. Upon landing, the Queen steadies herself on a single knee and, in a single motion, decapitates one of my brethren. No one so much as bats an eyelash. As I've said before, we are expendable.
The Knights are all alike. They are admired by many, celebrated for each battle, and mourned when murdered. Most Knights have a chiseled jawline and extended facial hair. You'd think they would learn how to share some. After a few of my kind are eliminated from the equation, the Knights decide to take charge. Two of our own surround the enemy Queen. I am curious to know if they are as enchanted by her beauty as I am. They circle her, swords drawn but not yet held upright in a threatening position. The stallions crisscross their hooves as they complete each round about the Queen. Every so often, the bushy, golden tail of the coffee colored one and sleek, black tail of the other flick to the side in unison. Also in unison is a quick exhale of air mixed with a deep grunting sound, like a single beast that has finally cornered its prey. They are taunting her. The Queen is far too wise to fall for such an old trick. She can see that it is a trap; a Bishop waits in the distance, watching with keen eyes. He is ready to attack if the Queen so much as tenses a pinky nail. With a silent signal of the eyes, the Queen calls to a front liner. A nearby Bishop reads the signal as well and approaches carefully. With an expendable and a Bishop at her side, a passing smirk resides at the Queen's lips. The stallions grow uneasy, now realizing that they have become the prey. Without a word from their riders, they instinctively begin to retreat. Fortunately, our Knights are not complete fools, so they do not object to the intuitive nature of their stallions.
Swoosh! The sound of a fired arrow whispers a rushing wind into my ear. Looking to the right, I can see the bobbing head of one of our archers at the castle's peak. The archer continues to blast a variety of arrows. Some glow red with a raging fire while others, based off of the oddly colored tips, appear to have been dipped in poison. The arrows are all aimed at the Queen. It's a rookie mistake. Amid no visible hesitation, the Queen breaks into flight and turns the tides on our young archer. She transforms his bow into her own personal paintbrush as she darts past one of our frontline men and quickly paints him into a flaming target. The poor man dies in agony, screaming until his very last strand of hair is singed from his scalp – which does not say much, considering that he was nearly bald to begin with. The Queen feeds off of this burnt flesh odor, inhaling it so intensely that her cheeks begin to glow rosy with war. She uncaringly rips the still flaming arrow from the man's chest and, in what would be considered a javelin throw of impossible strength, launched it towards our archer. I would have assumed that the arrow to the eye killed him instantaneously if I had not seen the flailing arms that accompanied his fall from the tower. The Queen stands satisfied, marveling at her new blood manicure. I wonder, does she notice the small scratch above her lip? It oozes poison with each passing smirk. The Queen is wounded.
Our Knights once again take center stage. Only this time, they are joined by the equally pompous rival Knights. What should be a grisly brawl instead becomes an irrelevant competition of manhood (one I would never win of course). After approximately ten minutes of measuring the heights of each other's stallions' leaps, the sharpening of swords against metal breastplates, and a few deeply coarse grunts, the first clang of shields and swords clashing is heard. It is a piercing sound, similar to the chiming of a cracked bell. My kingdom's Knight, the one who rides the coffee-colored stallion, is first to strike. He thrusts his sword at the enemy with great force, but the impenetrable armor only allows a minor nick to be seen. Believing that they are superior, the opposing Knights counter with similar swordplay only to reveal an identical outcome. The Knight whose steed owns the sleek and black tail is suddenly overcome by wit when he breaks away from the senseless dance of swords. Grabbing his shield from the edge and positioning it horizontally, he extends his bended wrist and spirals the shield directly towards the head of an oblivious foe. The Knight's silver helmet is swept clean, hitting the ground at about the same time that his head does. The enemy's revealed face somehow looks to be more chiseled with the addition of a bloody, bruised, and broken nose. Almost immediately following this brutal attack, the knees of our coffee-colored stallion buckle inwards. They've been hooked by the staff of a rival Bishop. Bishops are often the most silent of warriors. The fallen stallion groans out in pain in the hopes that his rider will come to his aid. But that Knight breathes no longer. He lies next to his distraught steed, turned pale by the staff that slit his throat. We have only a single Knight remaining and even he appears weakened. The opposing side begins to rejoice in a presumed victory, for they are quite unaware of my Queen who has been slowly making her way into the battle.
My Queen is younger than the other one. Her hair is dark brown, nowhere near the other's elderly white. It is her eyes that hold an equal amount of vigor. Disrupting their preemptive celebration, my Queen charges between the opposing Knight and Bishop. She holds a sword in both hands and gives no mercy as she drives them through the abdomens of the now fallen Knight and Bishop. Still gripping the handles of both swords, she drives them even further into flesh as she pushes down and catapults herself onto enemy grounds. Once there, she comes face to face with her counterpart: the enemy Queen. The other Queen appears sickly now. The once minuscule scratch above her lip has now grown into a series of interlocking green and blue veins. The veins protrude so prominently that it is easy to see the increasing heart rate pulsing through her face. She knows that she is no longer capable of taking on my Queen. Yet, the remaining life in her craves one last kill. With my Queen inches away from slaughtering her opponent's husband, the enemy King, and winning the war, my opponent broke into a blind rage. The white, sometimes silver-haired woman, meets her eyes with mine. I, the weak pawn, am the only thing standing between her and the King that I protect. She storms across the battlefield with her final surge of life. Never before have I seen a woman or man move so quickly. Her feet seemed to glide while her leaps over slain bodies were like small flights of a bird with dying wings. Finally, she stood before me. Looking up close at her wavy white hair perfectly aligned with the symmetry of her collarbone, I thought to myself, "It would be an honor to die not defending my King but at the hands of such an enchanting creature". In a single move, she decapitated me just as she had my fallen brother at the start of this battle. Seconds before my head detached from my body and life officially left my eyes, I managed to catch a glimpse of the King I did not call my own crumbling to his knees with my very own Queen standing triumphantly above him.Checkmate.