There was once a Kingdom whose King had sent his army to a far away land. None of the people of this kingdom had seen this far away land, it was too far away. The people heard little of this land, or their army whilst the war was happening. Their lives were full of the things that fill our lives. And they didn’t seem to have the time to think any more on it.
Then one day the first soldier, his name was Leader, arrived back from the far away land. He was limping. He was hurt, wounded. The people of the kingdom rushed out to help him. Bringing him water and food and medicine. Leader told the story of his battle. He told the stories of those who had been killed in the far away land and of the beauties and horrors he had seen there. Quietly and in small fragments as he saw fit.
The people were hearing these stories for the first time. They were hard for them to understand at times, sometimes too sad to hear, sometimes Leader would laugh at things that no one else found funny and those moments were the most troubling for the kingdom’s people. Though they cared for Leader’s wounds they stopped listening to his stories. They were too difficult.
Before too long more soldiers started to arrive back. Some were too wounded to walk, carried by their friends. A soldier blinded held the hand of another whose arm had been ripped from his body. They came in pairs and small groups, looking after each other until they reached the kingdom where the people would lift them from their feet and place them in beds and special places to rest. Still they wouldn’t listen to their stories, but they did care for them, gently and with respect.
The return of the soldiers came to the ears of the King. He rushed to the resting place to see them. When he laid eyes upon his soldiers he burst into tears. So sad he cried as he pressed his face to the face of each of the wounded soldiers.
“What sadness King?” exclaimed Leader. “Sadness for our brothers laid in the soil of a far away land. Sadness for those that wont return. But we are returned.”
“Then we shall build this man new legs.” replied Leader. “You shall be the eyes of this son of yours. I will lift the cup of wine to this man’s lips if he has no arms. And we shall cry with this man so we might shorten his weeping sentence with each of our tears. We shall be an army of brothers. We shall be an army made of courage and invention”
The King was stunned. Few beyond his own mother spoke to him in this tone.
He thought for a moment, rushed to Leader and hugged him to his chest. “You are right, this we will do” said the King.
The King commanded that the finest scientists and inventors and magicians came to the resting place for wounded soldiers. “You will listen to their stories,” commanded the King. “And then you will do as you need to.”
The scientists and inventors and magicians sat with the soldiers, listening, making notes in the way such people do. They asked what the soldiers wanted. “This man” said Leader, “needs new legs. But not the ones he had before. He has asked for legs like the cheetah, so he can run with the power of a cheetah.” A scientist leapt into the air with a yes! I know how to do this and was gone.
“And this man, he is blind and fears both loneliness and falling over. He has asked for a dog to be with him as his eyes, to guide him, to be at his side always, to know the ways of man.” Aha cried the magician this one is for me. And he was gone in a poof of smoke. And so slowly but surely each man was tended to, not just his wounds but his future too.
But still the people of the kingdom kept a caring distance. The stories of Leader and the others were too much for them to hear. Some in the kingdom thought there should never have been a war in that far away land. Others would cry that the stories were the burden of the soldiers to carry alone. There was a division, not just between the soldiers and the people but between those who had never had cause to tell their story to the scientists and inventors and the magicians and those who had. Leader saw this divide and asked to the King to command all the great story tellers of the land to come to the Soldier’s place.
It was months before the story tellers were seen again, holed up in the soldiers’ place. But unexpectedly one day there was a large announcement, all people of the kingdom were to come to the very middle of the kingdom.
The moment it got dark the place burst into lights, sparks rained down from the sky as the inventor’s did their thing. The soldiers appeared now, their cheetah legs replaced for ones that let them fly above the stadium. Magic dogs danced in time to the music, men who had lain prone for too long a time stood proud high up above the people with voices strengthened by story tellers and magicians. They told the stories of Leader which the people had not wanted to hear before- the people now listened, their hearts moved by the simplicity of his tales. And in turn they told the stories of each of the soldiers. Not just of the war but of themselves, of each of their battles, not with the enemy but of their journey home. In magic fire and angry song, velvet words and impossible flight not just the soldiers story was told but the whole kingdom’s story was told too.