Fear destroys that which feeds it.


The fleet rode on the quiet waters of the bay. The vague outlines of its multiple shapes were indistinct, grey and shadowy, constantly changing like some fantastic creature from worlds of legend. Muffled sounds made their way through the morning air as hull plates cooled by the long night began to expand in the warmth of the rising sun, strangely emphasizing the sounds of wakeful men completing the work of this all important day. For today, after endless years of preparation, the most powerful fleet ever assembled would set out on the mission longed for since times long past, times of which only legends and a deep, all controlling fear remained.


Untold ages before, from far across the water, had come an invader so fierce, a foe so ruthless, that even the merest whisper that it lived caused brave men to look behind them and mothers to clutch their children more tightly to their breast. So great was the dread of this evil that to this day it remained a nameless terror casting its shadow over all life.


High on the hills behind the harbour, beneath the shadowed ramparts from which long metal fingers extended in a restless search for strange and sudden ships, lay the preserved ruins of the old city, physically all that remained to bear witness to the events that had made this people what they now were. Scattered monuments drew attention to an act of wickedness so vulgar as to make even the cruellest shudder. Few came here by choice, save on the regular days of remembrance. Certainly none ever danced these flowered slopes in spring. That these monuments existed at all, that some nameless, deathless foe had caused such terror, was sufficient to cause these people take precautions that it should never occur again. Not now, not in the adulthood of their children, nor in the adulthood of their children's children on through countless generations. Fear moved them. Fear was the reason for the great fleet waiting in the harbour. Fear exchanged the pleasure of the heart for the desire of safety. Fear would move these ships at last to sail across the waters they had always, ever only sailed along. Today the fleet built by fear would venture on its single act of voluntary aggression, to seek out and destroy the nameless, faceless enemy so that fear could no longer cloud their minds or guide their plans and joy in life again could live.


Slowly, without fanfare or parade, the fleet awoke. Tiny craft wound their way to and from shore as personnel and supplies were carried to the ships and received. Silent figures along the wharves bore mute testimony of the families that the fleet was bound to protect, those who would remain, remembering loved ones in endless prayer. Quiet waves and whispers, in some cases a long and tender embrace, tears scarcely held back, all shrouded in the grey blanket of mist, as final farewells were made to beloved friends, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters. No trumpet sounded its call to arms, no marching band guided the warriors onward. All was silent lest the enemy, warned, would make provision and put to an end this plan of generations. Beneath the fort on the hill families and friends on the wharves looked on as the fleet slowly came alive and was guided out to the open sea by the multitude of tugs and pilot vessels, shrouded in black and dusky greys by the mist. Those the fleet would die to save, watched as it sailed silently out to the horizon, seeming to hesitate at its edge and then was gone over the brink.


* * *

They came from beyond the horizon immense, silently, without warning, no sign to mark their presence but the sudden bursts of flame from innumerable weapons. Seconds later shells screaming overhead shattered the silence of the early dawn. Great fountains of earth mingled with flesh and wood and stone erupted skyward destroying peace and casting it aside to be borne away on vast columns of smoke and dust. For a time that seemed eternal the thunderous assault poured its wrath upon the unsuspecting city, casting its shattered ruins upon the hills where no foot would ever again dance in spring, sowing the seed of fear whose harvest would never cease.


* * *


But Jesus said to him, "Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword."


Matthew 26:52