A response to Nathaniel Lee's "Prompt: Fall of the Berlin Wall" in Mirror Shards.
Once upon a time, two kingdoms lived side-by-side. The kingdoms' princesses and princes married and intermingled their blood. Until one year, that changed. Princess Buttercream had returned home with her husband, Prince Angus, for her brother Prince Avocado's wedding. Some said that it was sibling rivalry, others said that Prince Angus had committed an unpardonable act of sedition. Prince Angus and Princess Buttercream fled back to their kingdom and needled the king until he raised an army.
John was but a kid. He'd been sitting on an upturned barrel in the village peeling peapods and throwing the perfect green spheres onto Main Street when Prince Angus and Princess Buttercream's carriage swept through town. Soon afterwards when the first proclamations for the draft came through, boys lined up to march off to the castle. John joined at the end of the line, but a helmeted soldier, his arms decked out in cold armor and feathers wagging from his helm, placed a gauntleted hand on his shoulder.
"It's not your time, son."
John thought it would've been fun, but instead he was left with doe-eyed girls who moped over their absent boyfriends and mothers that had already begun to grieve for their boys.
One day, John climbed one of the rolling hills behind the village. The cerulean skies brought a smile back to his face. He climbed a tree and looked at the fallow fields that surrounded them. He wasn't usually in the practice of talking to himself, but a strange mood had overtaken him. He looked up almost expecting clouds or haze to have gummed up the sky. It was still sunny, but it no longer felt that way inside.
"Why is everyone so sad?" It was a rhetorical question, John wouldn't have known what that meant, but he didn't expect an answer.
"War wends its way through the village. Boys leave and bloodied bodies will return."
John glanced to his side, he'd thought he was alone in the tree. A tall wizened man, skin brown like the bark of an elm tree, played with the chest-level tufts of his white cloudy beard. His other hand held an intricately carved staff.
"Hi," said John. "Where did you come from?"
"I live here."
"I see." John didn't see, but he thought he ought to say something. He decided to change the subject back to his rhetorical question. "If war is so sad, why do we fight?"
"The answer depends on who you mean by we. I don't fight, I'll watch and maybe burn if the fighting comes here. You, don't fight now but will eventually because war is easy to start and slow to stop. If you mean the Princess, she won't see the bloodied bodies. Unfortunately, she could stop the war."
John swung his legs and the tree branch he sat upon swayed with a creak. Clouds skipped across the sky. "Can I stop the war?"
The old man sniffed his staff. John hadn't known anyone to act quite like this old man. This was his tree, he'd climbed it, and didn't see any reason why he should go somewhere else. The man put the staff down and leaned on its tip, his back stooped. He rummaged in a pocket and brought out a small button-like bit. "Perhaps. There is one way to end the war."
"What is that?"
"Take this seed." John cupped his hands and the old man dropped the bit in his hand. "You must plant the seed on the border on a night when the moon shines full."
"Seed?" The man raved, it was fine for children to climb and swing from trees, but a grown man? He also made little sense. Yet, John needed something to do and this sounded like one of the quests from the tales that the storyteller told.
"A seed for a wall." Walls grew from seeds? They must have done it the wrong way in the village all these years. "Not any wall, but a wall that will be indestructible and tall, unclimbable. A wall that will separate the two kingdoms."
No one knew where the wall came from. Mere days prior to both armies marching, there were reports of a wall. The tallest thing that many of them had ever seen before, taller than the turrets on the castle. There never was war, and the doe-eyed girls rejoiced by grabbing their boy on summer moonlit nights with wild flowers in their hair and they sat underneath the limbs of a gnarled old tree on the hill.