Sunday, April 26, 2015

Shoot the Cannon

Siege of Pyongyang (1593)

It was calm. A soft breeze blew across with various smells of death and sweat along with an intense tension. Han was not alone in noticing this smell. A unit of 50 soldiers stood on the parapet armed and ready to receive the attacking Japanese. He lowered his weapon for a bit and tightened his leather amour. Pyongyang is where the Koreans make their stand and Han was there to help them. He was so far away from home, him and another 30,000 Chinese soldiers were here to help their neighbour.

Negotiations had fallen apart and it was only a matter of time before the Japanese charged on Pyongyang today. Han’s thoughts went to his family who were protected by behind Chinese Walls and land. He would like to go back to be with his wife, children and till his land.

“Attention!” a voice screamed out amongst the unit. In a fluid motion Han picked up his weapon and laid it on his shoulder. A bulky looking soldier walked amongst them in steel armour. That was their Captain, his feet took step inches away from there and his eyes stared into each one of them.

Then, he vanished.

A few months ago, the weapon resting on his shoulder would feel heavy and burdensome, today his shoulder was used to that weight. His fingers were tightly wrapped around the wooden pole of his weapon and the heavy metal barrel was supported on his shoulder. Weighing twenty pounds, it was no longer than four inches. The gun powder and projectiles were already inside. Hand cannons were soon becoming a favoured weapon in the arsenal of Ming. Now, all they had to was weigh and bear the calm before the chaos of battle.

A typical Chinese Hand-cannon
Wanggeom-seong was heavily fortified. Hand cannons were not the only weapons that were on the parapets of the castle. There were soldiers armed with crossbows and bows, and if the tide of enemy soldiers weren’t stopped, there were several carts of rocket arrows. Han didn’t believe it at first, but rocket arrows had the capability of firing two hundred arrows at once.

Forts of Korea were much more different then China. Just like their Japanese brothers, the fort had a low and sloped wall, enough for an enemy to crawl up. It seemed foolish for a defending against enemies, but the longer he stayed in Pyongyang, the more he understood the challenge. The low walls were not a deterrent, rather a challenge to the attacker, a dare, an invitation to take the castle.

Han peered down, he could fall down from the parapet and survive with a broken arm, it’s known to happen. That’s when he heard it, the sounds of many hooves. Japanese warriors came pouring forth on the battlefield, a mass of demon soldiers. Each one of them was dressed in thick metal amour, terrifying face masks and their helmets protruded with horns. Truly, they are demon warriors.

Screams were heard along the parapets. Chinese and Korean soldiers primed their weapons. Bows were drawn, crossbows were loaded and hand cannons were stuffed with gunpowder, then, all of these weapons were pointed at the enemy. The archer let off their arrows first because of their long range. Japanese soldiers tumbled to the ground and those who were injured were trampled to death. Then, the bolts were let off, stabbing those demon soldiers and throwing them off their horse.

“First line ready!” screamed Han’s Captain.

He took a step forward with the rest of the line. The wave of Japanese soldiers was still rushing forward. His hands felt slippery with sweat as he clutched the pole, yet he felt confident, he couldn’t miss.


All it took was a simple clang on the wall to ignite the power on the nip and the projectile burst out. It ripped through at least three Japanese, but Han didn’t notice that the hand cannon was already revolving in his hand. The barrel was big enough to hold three shots and he banged the cannon two more times before stepping back as another line took their place. Swiftly from a wooden container, gun power was poured inside the metal barrel.

So the battle had begun. The air stank of death, the dying and gun powder from hand cannons.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Forgive and Forget Part II

(If you haven't read, Forgive and Forget Part I, go ahead and give it a read!) 

The family ate their grain, finished dinner and the night mat was laid out on ground. The moon already shone brightly in the starry sky and it was time to sleep. His daughter had already dozed away. That’s when he heard a soft tapping on his mud wall. Someone was peeping from the entrance. His face was older, but Hack recognised it. Josef was at his door.

Silently he exited his house, so as not to disturb anyone. A thick, white beard covered Josef 's aged skin which had more lines than ever. “I hope I've not come too late to talk?” Josef asked. The scent of alcohol emitted from his mouth, but it was just drink, he was not completely drunk.

“What do you want?” Hack asked wearily.

“I expected you to meet me as soon as I entered the village.”

“Your business here is no concern of mine”

“Are you sure about that? The past...”

“The past is forgotten. I care nothing for your reasons of being here, just do not disrupt the village life.”

His tongue took a big lick of his lips and Josef concluded their conversation, “I won’t do anything to endanger what you’ve built”. He walked off.


Days and weeks passed. Like every other day, Hack worked in the fields. News filtered on Josef just hanging around in the village, drinking every day. As days and nights passed by, the harvest festival came closer. Hack buried himself more into his daily work. Chopping down sugarcane and managing the village. Everyday talk of Josef came in, but it was nothing to worry about. Soon enough the former village chief became friends with the village’s local drunks. 


Music, dance, drink, food. This was the splendour of the harvest festival, a celebration to mark the final day of harvest labour in the fields.  Grape juice dribbled down his chin as Hack enjoyed a traditional dance by the village’s fair maidens.

All around him he could see joy and happiness. All of their hard work at the field paid off. Soon enough, his own wife was dancing and then his baby girl came running up to him and dragged him off to the dance circle.

That’s when it happened and not for a moment was Hack surprised.

Josef was sitting in one corner, enjoying the festivities of food, drink and entertainment. From his corner, he charged out, brandishing the machete in his hand. His charge led directly to Hack. Throwing his daughter on to the floor. Hack went out to meet him.

They met in the oldest dance of all, the dance of death. Hack leaped to the side, avoiding the swing of the machete. He rolled a few more times, avoiding the swing of the machete. The festivities had stopped and the villagers sprinted away, all attempting to evade the wild blows. “No”, Hack screamed, but it was too late.

Two men jumped in, trying to lend a hand and boldly attempted to end the fight. The machete pierced his naked flesh, stabbed his heart and a lifeless body fell to the ground. The other man had his torso cleaved from his shoulder. “Stay away!” Hack screamed. Josef’s face was twisted into a smile.
The machete swung forward. Instead of leaping back, Hack jumped ahead with his hands outstretched. Through sheer skill, his fingers gripped Joseph’s arm, stopping the blade inches away from his face. For a few seconds, there was a battle of sheer strength and will power. Both of them exerting their fullest muscles capacity and will their opponent to lose.

Then, it was just over. The blade moved back, Hack’s head arched forward, breaking his opponent’s nose, Hack twisted Josef’s arm hard enough and the blade slipped through his fingers.

“You know I actually forgave you when you drove this village to war, death and destruction. I even forgive you that night... when you tried to have my betrothed.”  The machete was in Hack’s hand now. Josef was on his knees and defiance shone in his eyes.

“My wife... even after what you tried to do with her told me, ‘Forgive and forget’. I tried to listen to that advice. I forgave you... but I never did forget. It would be foolish to forget. I knew you would try something.”

“Stop your blabbering and do what you will.”

“I can forgive, but I can’t forget. I forgive you for trying to kill me, almost injuring my daughter, killing those too good men. But... I can’t forget”.

The machete hacked down, slicing through flesh and bone. A head rolled into the mud and blood pooled around.

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