The army of Morn and the army of Troon had been involved in a bloody war for many years. On the eve of its decisive battle, one small scouting party of ten Morn fighters had become isolated from the rest of their forces.
Trapped behind a ridge, miles from safety, pinned down by the enemy, there seemed little chance of escape. Worse still they had discovered that Troon’s army were suffering greatly. If their army attacked now, then surely the war could be won. Yet only if they brought this news to their general.
To one side of the ridge there was a river, so wide that it would take too long to cross before archers hailed them with flaming arrows.
To the other side there was a forest, where cover and camouflage would surely be enough to make their escape.
The unit’s captain crept up to the edge of the ridge and lifted his head above it just long enough to try count the enemy’s number. As he did so, an arrow whizzed past his ear, killing one of his men instantly.
“Well that was stupid!” said his second-in-command. “It was obvious that poking your head out would provoke them to fire at us!”
The captain glared at the man but held his tongue.
Next, the captain whispered to his unit that they would make a break for the forest.
But as they sprinted for the trees a hail of firebolts rained down on them and two of their fastest men were cut down, forcing the rest to run back to their place behind the ridge.
“That was insane!” said the second-in-command. “Anyone could have predicted that we would run for the trees!”
The captain was angry and all six of his remaining men knew it.
Minutes passed by while the captain tried to think of a solution. As he did so, flaming arrows continued to rain from the sky like thunder bolts. One man caught one in the eye, another in the chest. Both lay dying before them, quickly despatched by further showers of falling fire.
“Sitting here is killing us!” the second-in-command declared. “If we just sit here then eventually all of us will die!”
Finally, the captain lost his temper.
“Fine! If you’re the military genius here, then you be in charge!”
To this the second-in-command became silent.
The commander now turned to the rest of his men.
“Anyone else think that they know better than I?”
Again, there was no response.
“So, each of you agree that you will trust my orders to get us out of here alive?”
They all nodded.
For a few brief moments the enemy relented, perhaps waiting for the inevitable surrender that was to come.
Then, suddenly, a flaming figure ran from the edge of the ridge, sprinting for the river at incredible speed. The startled archers were dumbfounded for a second, then, under the screams of their commander they lit their arrows, aimed their bows and fired them into the sky. The darts peppered down on the enemy and it was difficult to see whether the water or the arrows had reached him first.
As they watched the body of their enemy rise to the surface of the river liking a floating pin cushion, a shout from their commander drew their attention elsewhere. On the other side of the ridge the rest of the Morn fighters had been running for the trees.
And though the Troon archers loosed arrow after flaming arrow into the forest beyond, their enemy had escaped and with them their hopes of winning the war.
Upon entering the camp, the captain and his three remaining men made straight for the general’s tent.
The captain gave him news of the weak Troon army, of the men who died in battle and of the heroism of his second-in-command.
“He sacrificed himself so that we might live, great general. He took responsibility for our lives when all looked bleak. He volunteered for an act of courage that few men could contemplate. Further still, great general, he gave up praise and reward for the survival of those he fought beside.”
The general broke into tears; a mixture of great sorrow and still greater pride.
“What you say is most tragic, captain. For each of the traits that you named, all of the words you used to describe my son, are those that define great leadership.”
And, saying nothing more, the captain silently nodded.