Ere Wu Yin (A Fable)

There was once an army,
A most efficient killing machine
Forces twice as large as their own,
They readily crushed under boot

Conquering the mightiest strongholds
And everything that lay in between
Naturally, the other half of the realm,
They decided to rip apart and loot

Launching upon this new,
Shrewd campaign of extended war
They marched upon a city by the river,
A city known as Ere Wu Yin

A simple place, the home of farmers,
Craftsmen and miners of ore
As a military target, it was easy enough
And seemed nothing too difficult to win

General Tsu implored:
Let us, instead, forego this place.
We should pass it by, as it surely holds
Nothing for us that’s of too much worth.

But General Xi said emphatically:
No. Behold that wall, so high that no trace
Of anything is seen, on the other side;
Of most excellent construction and girth.

It is entirely probable that
These meager farms, outside
Are nothing more than guile,
Concealing armaments, with a crafty ruse.

Inside the fortress, there’s likely
A whole brigade, well-supplied.
They may be highly trained, well-armed.
Should they flank us, we would lose.

Furthermore, I would assert, brother
If there are no troops there, to surprise,
No arrows or cannons or spear attacks
To be, upon our heads, set loose,

Then we’ll occupy this circular fortress.
It will be a link in our chain of supplies,
Storage of food and munitions.
For this, for us, it will have great use.

General Tsu nodded and agreed
But with a somber caution, said: True…
But there could be a whole division, inside
For the circumference of that wall is vast.

If we send in multiple waves of attack,
One by one, as we usually do,
We could be slowly cut into ribbons
Reduced in number, we’d not long last.

They put their heads together in thought
And strategized about the matter
Then decided that the whole of their army
Would launch in unison; one, great assault

They’d breach the mighty wall
If necessary, by rope and ladder
And until the last of their troops was slain,
They would not slow the charge, nor halt

Two generals lined up all their brave men
Readied the weapons and on, they rode
With ferocity, straight at the city gate
Full speed and with a deafening roar

The simple farmers put down their tools
And signs of surrender, they showed
But a few of the men ran to the wall,
To lower the bridge and open the door

The generals assumed this to be proof
Indeed there was an army of Ere Wu Yin
Who were inside the wall and soon, they’ll
Rush to defend home against plundering

But no army appeared, no cannons fired
And no arrows flew out, from within
Saw nothing inside and the only sound,
Hooves of their own horses thundering

The generals, being experienced warriors
Knew it best to press on with the charge
For it could be that the soldiers hid
Waiting for them, right behind the wall

Conversely, if there were none present,
Victory would be swift and large
But they dare not assume it was the case
That the city would so easily fall

So, they cheered and they roared
And went ahead with the original plan
Generals demanded the men be vigilant,
Ready for the defenders that lay in wait

The whole of the army stormed right on in,
Every last, mounted cavalry man
But they met no resistance at Ere Wu Yin,
Not on either side of that towering gate

The whole of two divisions, now inside,
Those of General Xi and General Tsu
Coming to stillness, they puzzled fearful,
Suddenly realizing, they were all alone

There was absolutely nothing, whatsoever
There was no one inside, no fighting to do
Nothing but empty land and themselves
Encompassed by a thick wall of stone

Their minds raced back and forth,
Grasping at any and every straw
Had they won? Was it over? Would an
Army soon pour in, slay them and gloat?

The cavalry of Generals Tsu and Xi
Saw that here, there was none to outdraw
The front gate slammed shut and locked
Drawbridge pulled away from the moat

A peculiar sound, like a crack of lightning
The sound of a myriad of unlatching rows
Thousands of doors, opening all at once
Mounted in the very top of the wall

And out from these doors, sprang up fast Thousands of men, with rifles and bows
Evenly, shoulder to shoulder, all around
Looking quite dire; not very nice, at all

They set sights on the cavalrymen,
Who’d stumbled into a clever, death trap
So many, they could kill them all twice
And possibly, several times more

Keenly aware that they would soon die,
Generals straightened coat and cap
Sat up straight in his saddle, ready to die
This genius gambit, they could not ignore

Tsu spoke loudly, with a steady voice:
It’s an honor to die in battle. Much more so,
At the hand of the superior general,
One who is so skilled in the art of war.

It was custom to fight to the death
If a meager chance at victory did show
But one should lay down his arms, humbly
If defeat was certain, if hope was no more

And so, the generals ordered their men
To show honor, even in this awful defeat,
Surrender and to be put to death
Soon, they’d all be with their departed kin

Two, proud generals dismounted, kneeled
Laid treasured weapons down at their feet
Bowed their heads low in surrender
Dutifully but with a sadness, chagrin

Each of the soldiers then followed suit
Left their saddles, laying down arms
Silently kneeled, prepared themselves
To render the price that they must pay

Humbled in the dust, thought of the wives,
The children and all the world’s charms
All the things that they were about to lose
Because of the trap Ere Wu Yin did lay

After prayers to ancestors and gods,
The vexed soldiers were not at all harmed
Cautiously lifting heads, were astonished
To find their captors had all disappeared

The rear door of the stone fortress wall
Open, unguarded; the farmers, unarmed
The back drawbridge was lowered down
And the way out was thoroughly cleared

Bemused generals ordered the troops
To gather weapons and mount up again
And slowly, tepidly, they rode on out
The side opposite the way they’d come in

They rode slowly past the farmers, who
Tended their crops; only if or when
Soldiers came close by, would they stop
Offering a friendly wave and gracious grin

As the army rode out, General Xi fumed
He felt shamed, disgraced and humiliated
He suggested they return again, later
This time with more men and a plan

He proposed to come more prepared
Ere Wu Yin’s tricks now anticipated
Laying siege to the city, starve them out
And then to kill every last, living man

Tsu fed his horse a carrot and said:
I think it best to forget about returning.
Let us go home now, thank our ancestors
With every breath and each horse’s trot.

These people possess a strange secret.
A sublime wisdom, within them, is burning
Ere Wu Yin’s people terrify me, brother.
They know something… that we do not.

Copyright 2020 Kevin Trent Boswell

Author’s Note: this is an original story, not based on any historical persons, places or battles. The names and events are pure fictional.


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