- Sep 30, 2006
Prologue Part I
Artur pressed his face down into the cool grass and fought to catch his breath and still his wildly beating heart. Almost without him consciously realizing it, his hands began clawing at the side of the small rise as if he could somehow burrow into it to protect himself. Over the top of the rise, which was really more of a slight sloping of the ground next to an old sunken farm road, and just above his head, the air was filled with the angry buzzing of bullets flying past. Soon artillery shells began landing all around him. Some flew overhead to land in the road behind him and others struck the rise above his head. With each impact came the urge to cry out in fear, and after a while he did so. He forced his hands to stop their useless digging and clamped them over his head as he shut his eyes and gave voice to his fear. His shame was only slightly lessened by the knowledge that no one could hear him screaming over this terrible and deadly storm.
The crackling of a ragged volley of rifle fire came to his ears and he opened his eyes to see his comrades exposing themselves to the deadly rain above them in order to fire on the enemy. He knew he should join them. His rifle was lying next to him and he reached out to grab hold of it. When the time came, however, he could not bring himself to rise up and instead rolled onto his back with a sob, his rifle clutched sideways across his chest.
Lying on his back, he looked up towards the sky and found his eyes drawn by a flicker of movement above him and to the left. There, hovering in the air above him, was the Blessed Virgin. Her hands were held in front of Her chest and joined at the fingertips. Her neck was bent so that She seemed to be looking down at him. He stared at Her, transfixed. Her image fluttered in the wind, sometimes becoming obscured. For just a moment She was replaced by a black eagle before reappearing once more to hover over him, bullets tearing holes in Her gown as he watched.
Suddenly, the drums behind him began beating out a new tune. They were calling for the advance. He saw the Oberst climb over the side of the rise, waving his sword over his head and shouting for them to go forward. All around him his comrades were going over the rise and following their commander. Many fell back again screaming. Others fell silently to lie still.
Artur looked to the Blessed Virgin and saw that She was falling. He cast his rifle away and launched himself over the rise and was able to catch Her before She could touch the ground. He lifted Her up high and charged forward into the storm.