The Last Battle

The light was blinding when he looked straight into it.

Richard Hill tilted the spotlight down slightly, aiming it at the small figure he held between his thumb and forefinger.

It was an officer of the French thirty-third line regiment and Richard used a small brush to put the last touches of colour to the plume on the officers headgear, holding the lead miniature up again when he'd finished. The paint job was excellent as usual, Richard thought, admiring his own handiwork. It usually took him about three hours to complete each 28mm figure, from applying the first coat of primer to adding the finishing touches as he was doing now.

He always painted the faces of the figures first (a tip he'd picked up years ago) sometimes using oil paints to do their features rather than the acrylic paints he used for the rest of the uniforms and bases. The oil paints he normally used for larger models or for personality figures like Napoleon and his Marshals, Wellington and other famous commanders.

There was a pile of reference books next to him and Richard gently turned the pages, re-checking uniform details with the illustration there, ensuring that all the colours were absolutely correct. The tunic buttons, the plume colours, the facings on the collar and cuffs. Satisfied that it was all perfect he flipped to another page of the uniform book, ready for his next task.

Richard set the officer down on his desk and nodded approvingly. There were several other painted and unpainted figures and pieces of equipment laid out before him and, in his hobby room he guessed there were thousands of the miniature figures lining the shelves or arrayed on the model battlefields he'd built over the years.

It was a hobby and had been since he was in his teens but it was also very therapeutic for him. Richard found it quite easy to switch off from life's vagaries when he was in his hobby room painting and constructing.

He was about to reach for another figure when there was a knock on the door.

He called for the person to enter and glanced up briefly to see that it was his wife.

Francesca Hill wandered over to the desk, glancing down at the the little soldiers with the same expression of bemusement and disdain she always reserved for Richard's hobby.

"Sometimes I think you'd rather spend time with your toys than you would with me," she said.

"They're not toys, Fran," he told her.

She reached for one but Richard stopped her.

"He's not dry yet," he told her.

Fran moved across the room towards some shelves where hundreds of miniature figures were arrayed. Each one was painted with scrupulous accuracy whether they were Roman Legions, Ancient Britons, French knights, Cavalry of the New Model Army, Zulu warriors or Austrian grenadiers (The Napoleonic Wars were Richard's speciality but he was also fascinated by many other conflicts and uniforms from history).

"How much longer are you going to be?" Fran wanted to know, picking up a British Lancer from the Crimean War section. "I don't know," Richard told her. "I've still got a gun crew to finish." He watched with trepidation as she looked at the Lancer then set it back down again. "It could take me a couple of hours. I need to get my army finished before Saturday. It's the annual War Games convention you know."

"How could I forget?" Fran said, disinterestedly.

"It's important."

"It is to you, Richard."

She walked across to the far side of the room, looking down at a huge model battlefield (also constructed by Richard) that was covered with not only thousands of model figures but also with miniature buildings, trees, bushes, roads, dirt tracks, hills and streams. She even saw some small model sheep on one of the hills. Every part of the display had been created with love and care by her husband so that it formed a perfect reconstruction of the battlefield of Waterloo.

"Did you actually want something?" Richard enquired.

"I don't know why you don't involve Elliott in this," Fran said. "He'd love it."

"No he wouldn't. He's not interested in anything but his X-Box, his phone or his tablet."

"He's thirteen, what do you expect?"

"He's like a zombie unless he's staring at a screen. Why doesn't he ever read a book? The only thing he ever reads are the tweets by that porn actress he follows on Twitter."

"As a matter of fact he brought home a book today."

"Wonderful," Richard said, not attempting to hide the sarcasm in his tone. "What was it? Steve Jobs autobiography? How to start your own porn site? The world according to Mark Zuckerberg?"

"It was about Necromancy, as a matter of fact."

"Well, I'm sure there'll be plenty of Witchcraft sites he can visit on his computer. Does he fancy himself as a wizard?"

"Just because you hate technology doesn't mean it'll go away."

"Unfortunately. I preferred a more sedate time when there was no internet, no mobile phones, no computers, no social media. Like when these guys lived." He motioned to the miniature soldiers before him.

"No, just war."

"You still haven't told me why you came up here," Richard reminded her.

"I want to know if you're taking Elliott with you on Saturday. You know to your little convention thing."

"Why would I want to do that?"

"Because he's your son."

"He's not my son, he's your son. And he's never slow to remind me of that. It's been the same since you and I got married."

"He's still adjusting."

Richard rolled his eyes.

"I don't want him left here alone on Saturday and I have to go and visit my mother," Fran reminded him.

"He's not interested in any of this," Richard said, gesturing around the room. "He'll just spend the whole day staring at his phone."

"I'll send him up now. You can have a chat with him about it."

Richard sighed and got to his feet, walking across towards the model battlefield on the other side of the room. Carrying several of the models he'd finished painting he began putting them into position, aware that Fran had left the room. He crouched down so he was looking at the soldiers more closely then he moved several units into position, adjusting some that had already been placed on the huge model battlefield. He also adjusted several of the small trees in the orchard of one of the buildings then turned his attention to a gun crew that was supposed to be dragging a 12 pounder cannon into position near to Napoleon himself.

Richard used a pot of green paint and a tiny brush to touch up a smudged portion of the cannon's base, then he retrieved the tin of brass colour paint and re-touched the barrel too, nodding to himself as he completed his task.

"Mum told me to come up and see you."

The voice lanced across the room.

"It's a pity she didn't tell you to knock first," Richard answered, his gaze still on the model cannon.

Elliott sauntered into the room, glancing around at the myriad figures that gazed blankly back at him from the shelves.

"Come and have a look, if you like," Richard said, gesturing towards the model battlefield.

Elliott sloped over and looked down at the huge display.

"It's not like Call of Duty," he murmured, apparently unimpressed by the lay out and the amount of time and work that had gone into it. "So you painted all these toy soldiers."

"They're not toys," Richard reminded him. "They're model soldiers." He gestured at each side of the battlefield in turn. "The Allies commanded by the Duke of Wellington. The French commanded by Napoleon."

Elliott shrugged. "So now what do you do with them?" he enquired.

"Re-fight the battle of Waterloo."

"Why?"

"Because it's interesting."

"Yeah, to you."

"Different people find different things interesting, Elliott. You must find something interesting. Besides the lure of the internet I mean."

"I used to find fishing with my dad interesting but then you turned up and wrecked his marriage to my mum."

Elliott eyed his step-father coldly for a moment. He walked slowly around the battlefield, as did Richard. Neither of them looked at each other as they spoke but kept their eyes on the vast miniature armies arrayed before them.

"Your mum divorced your dad because he cheated on her," Richard said. "Several times. I had nothing to do with them splitting up. I was just there to help your mum pick up the pieces when he ran off with his latest conquest."

Elliott was unimpressed. He reached out to touch a unit of French Cuirassiers.

"Be careful, they're delicate," Richard told him, reproachfully. Watching as the boy ducked down closer to the miniature cavalrymen.

"Who won then?" Elliott asked. "In real life?"

"The Allies, thanks to a very timely intervention from the Prussians."

"Who were the Prussians?"

"German troops, fighting on the same side as the Allies."

"I bet they had tanks being Germans," Elliott chuckled.

"Not in the nineteenth century," Richard murmured, trying to hide his disdain. "I can show you how to play if you like. If you're not too busy. Your mum said you brought a book home today. About Witchcraft? I didn't know you were interested in things like that."

"My dad was too. He taught me a few things."

"Fishing and Witchcraft," Richard muttered. "He really was a man of many talents wasn't he?"

"Don't take the piss out of my dad," Elliott snapped.

"As if," Richard chided. "Now, shall we play? I can explain things as we go."

He reached beneath the table where the battlefield was arranged and took out two long sticks that resembled croupier's rakes. One of them he placed behind a unit of French infantry, pushing it gently a couple of inches across the battlefield. "We have to stick to the rules," Richard went on. "Only moving the specified distances and things like that. It helps to make it as realistic as possible." He reeled off several other rules and also retrieved a small booklet containing more guidelines. Elliott seemed suddenly more interested in the coming battle, watching as Richard also produced four polished black dice that he proceeded to roll on the top of a wooden table next to the battlefield. He noted his own score then handed the dice to Elliott. "Let battle commence," Richard said, smiling.

An hour later they were still moving their troops into position, ready for the battle to be joined.

Richard was impressed with how quickly Elliott picked up the rules and how sensibly he moved his troops (he'd chosen to fight with the Allies as his army) and part of him toyed with the idea of letting the boy win, just to foster his interest in proceedings but then he decided against that. It was going to be a fight to the death and Richard intended being victorious. He smiled to himself as he moved the last of his units into position. He walked across to a small stereo that was set up on a shelf close by. As he switched it on sounds of battle came from the speakers and also the unmistakeable strains of Le Marseilles.

"What's that?" Elliott asked.

"Sounds of battle," Richard told him and the boy laughed happily.

"It'll be like we're really there," Elliott chuckled as Richard turned up the volume.

The rattle of cannon and musket fire filled the room.

"Would you have wanted to be a soldier like these guys?" the boy asked.

"No," Richard told him. "Not in those days. The medical care was practically non-existent. A soldier's life was hard back then." He moved several units of cavalry over a ridge in the ground, bearing down on some Belgian Infantry that Elliott was shifting towards one of the fortified buildings.

"So, tell me a bit about this interest in Witchcraft then?" Richard said, moving a battery of cannon up to support the attacking cavalry.

"My dad taught me about it," Elliott answered, manoeuvring his infantry into a square formation to repel the charge of the French Dragoons. "He didn't like it being called Witchcraft, just like you don't like these being called toys. He said it was a religion."

"That's probably true," Richard conceded.

"And he said it could be dangerous if you didn't know what you were doing," Elliott went on.

Again Richard nodded, now supporting his cavalry with a unit of French sharpshooters. He bent down close to the figures, peering through them at the square of Belgian infantry. In the background there was a thunderous explosion from the speakers as the recorded sounds of battle seemed to intensify. Even Richard ducked a little, wondering why his head was suddenly spinning.

He straightened up, feeling suddenly dizzy. He saw Elliott take a couple of steps towards him, a concerned expression on his face but then the boy also stumbled.

Richard felt as if he was passing out.

Darkness rushed in upon him.

When he woke he had no idea how long he'd been unconscious for. He opened his eyes slowly, grateful that he didn't seem to have any pain anywhere. Could he have fainted? Blacked out? He didn't suffer from any medical complaints that he knew of so there was no reason why he should have passed out but, the important thing was that he didn't seem to have injured himself in the fall. He sat up slowly, surprised at how rough the floor beneath him felt.

As he raised his hand he saw that it was covered with some green matter that looked like dried paint.

Maybe, he reasoned, he hadn't cleaned it off his hand after painting some of the figures.

He turned around, blinking, wondering why his eyes seemed to be playing tricks on him. He wasn't in his hobby room any longer. He seemed to be inside what looked like a small wood. Surrounded by trees and bushes, Richard got to his feet gingerly, reaching out towards the nearest tree trunk to support himself. The bark felt curiously soft beneath his finger tips. Almost pliable. He pushed harder and realized that he was touching not wood but polystyrene foam. The trunk of the tree was soft and malleable beneath his touch.

"Where are we?" murmured Elliott who had clambered to his feet and walked across to join him.

Richard knew that what he was about to say sounded ridiculous (it didn't just sound ridiculous, it was ridiculous and yet it seemed to be happening) but he said it anyway.

"We're on the battlefield," he murmured.

"What?" Elliott gaped.

Richard pulled at the trunk of the tree and a lump of foam came away in his hand. Beneath his feet he saw the colour of bare wood. It wasn't earth they were standing on, it was painted wood with fake moss scattered over it. There were also bushes but, from what Richard could remember, they were made of rubber painted with green paint.

"Look around you," he murmured. "The trees and the bushes aren't real. The ground we're standing on isn't dirt and rocks. I built this. It's all part of the model."

"And we've shrunk?" Elliott blurted. "Fuck off."

"You explain it then, mastermind," Richard snapped. "I don't know how it happened or why but it has happened and we've got to deal with it, right?"

Elliott looked blankly at him then both of them walked through the wood, glancing out from the edge of it towards the hills in the distance.

"The whole thing is to scale," Richard explained. "These trees would be ten or twelve feet tall if we were our usual size."

Elliott exhaled deeply, trying to take in what he was being told.

"So where are we?" he asked.

"I'm not sure," Richard confessed. "There were several wooded areas on the field of Waterloo but I think we're on the left flank of the Allied position."

"So what? How the fuck does that help us?"

"If we can get to somewhere safe we can hide and try to work out how to get out of this."

"Where's safe on a battlefield?"

"There's a farm behind French lines called Mon Plaisir. If we can get to that we should be okay."

"How far away is it?"

"On the model battlefield about eight feet but, as everything is to scale now, it's over two and a half miles from where we are now."

Elliott sighed again.

There was a sudden deafening roar and Richard pulled Elliott to the ground as he himself dropped. There was a loud whoosh above their heads and several lumps of tree bark and branches were blasted away. The air filled with the smell of gunpowder.

"What the fuck was that?" Elliott gasped.

"Case shot," Richard said, picking up a large lead ball that lay close by. "Metal balls inside a metal case, fired from a cannon. When it exploded it turned the gun into a giant shot gun. Very effective against troops at close range."

"How can they be firing? They're little models."

"Not any more," Richard murmured.

"So they're trying to kill us?" he whimpered.

"They will if we stay here. We've got to get to Mon Plaisir."

"Across two miles of ground swarming with soldiers? You're mad. We'll never make it."

"We've got to try," Richard snarled just as another salvo of shot tore through the little wood. Both of them ducked down again, desperate to avoid the flying metal.

Elliott shrieked in pain and Richard looked down to see that the boy had been hit in the upper arm. The shot had torn through the bicep of his left arm, ripping away the cloth there and leaving a wound that was pumping blood vigorously. Richard tugged his handkerchief from his pocket and wound it swiftly around the wound.

"You're lucky," he said. "It went right through."

"I don't feel very fucking lucky," Elliott wailed.

"Still think they're only toys?" Richard exclaimed.

He helped Elliott to his feet and the two of them made their way back through the wood, reaching the extremities and gazing out again over the battlefield beyond. Richard could see several buildings in the distance and, beyond those, more trees.

"There's a stream beyond those trees," he said. "If we follow it we can move behind the French lines. It's banks are steep so we can stay hidden most of the way."

"A stream?"

"Well, a strip of painted glass with papier mâché on each side," Richard conceded. "There are sunken roads leading that way too. We can use them for cover as well."

"How can you be sure?" Elliott wanted to know.

"I told you, I built this battlefield. It took me twelve years to complete it. I know every inch of it." He pulled Elliott upright and the two of them ventured slowly from the shelter of the woods, moving towards a low ridge about a hundred yards away. They were half way up the gentle slope when the horseman came hurtling over the top of it.

From the flamboyant uniform he was dressed in, Richard could tell that the horseman was a French Hussar. He was mounted on a magnificent bay horse which he now put spurs to, urging the animal down the hill towards Richard and Elliott.

As he drew nearer he drew his sabre, yelling something unintelligible as he swung the curved blade towards Richard and Elliott.

Richard pushed the boy aside but couldn't avoid the stroke himself. The sabre cut through the flesh of his right shoulder and a bright fountain of blood shot into the air.

Richard shouted in pain and dropped to his knees as the Hussar turned his mount and rode back towards him.

This time, Richard managed to duck beneath the down rushing sword, grabbing the Hussars leg. He dragged him from his saddle and rolled on top of him as they grappled, driving his fist several times into the cavalryman's face. Surprised by the ferocity of the attack, the Hussar tried to drag himself away from Richard, lunging for his dropped sword that was laying a foot or so away.

Elliott reached it first, grabbed the long curved blade and drove it down into the Hussar's exposed back. It grated against ribs but was driven with enough force that it tore into a lung and the Hussar gasped and slumped forward. Elliott dragged the sabre free and drove it home again, this time into the nape of the horseman's neck. He heard a sharp crack of splintering bone as the steel was driven through the man's throat, pinning him to the ground.

Blood began to spray out in all directions and Elliott gagged for a moment, not sure whether to be delighted or disgusted with what he'd just done.

Richard stumbled across to him and dragged the sabre free of the dead Hussar.

As he did the body of the soldier shuddered, his body stiffening, his skin darkening. Richard looked down at the body, his mouth dropping open as he saw that the flesh was turning silver grey, the limbs and features hardening until they became fixed in one static position.

Richard knelt beside the body and gently touched the face. It felt cold beneath his fingers and, as he drew the digits across the cheek he realized that what he was touching was not skin but lead.

The hussar, in death, had reverted to the form he had been in before. The model battlefield was littered with casualty figures painted by Richard in their miniature size and now the hussar had merely become one more of these. "What happened to him?" Elliott gaped.

Richard thought about relaying his theory to the boy but then thought better of it.

"He looks like one of your fucking models again," Elliott blurted, also touching the hussar's face.

"He's lead," Richard murmured. "Just like he was when I first painted him."

Elliott looked at his step-father with a combination of incredulity and fear, not quite able to process what he was hearing.

"If they die they revert to being lead," Richard said, quietly.

"I didn't ask for that," Elliott grunted.

Richard glanced at him, his brow furrowing. "What the hell does that mean?" he asked.

"When I cast the spell it was only supposed to affect you," Elliott told him. "I learned it from that book on Necromancy. I've used it before."

Richard grabbed him by the shoulders.

"Spell?" he snarled. "What have you done?"

"I wanted to get back at you," Elliott told him, trying to pull free. "The stuff my dad taught me, the things I read in the Necromancy book, I used them to make this happen but I didn't think it was going to happen to me as well." Richard shook his head.

"Jesus, you can't even do that right can you?" he snapped. "You're an idiot."

"I saved you from that soldier," Elliott said, pointing at the Hussar. "He would have killed you."

"If it hadn't been for you we wouldn't be in this position anyway, you half wit," Richard shouted.

His words were lost as several large explosions filled the air. The ground shook beneath them as cannonballs slammed into the earth, sending geysers of dirt and stone flying skyward. They both ducked, unsure of where the artillery fire was coming from.

Thick black and grey smoke was billowing up into the air, visible over the low ridge ahead of them.

"Where did he come from anyway?" Elliott asked, looking down again at the Hussar.

"He's a messenger," Richard said. "Taking orders to a part of the battlefield."

"So why did he attack us?"

"Because we could have been his enemies. We're enemies to everyone as long as we're here."

They continued up the hill, ducking low in case there were any more troops on the other side.

Once on the crest, they could see most of the battlefield before them.

Blue uniformed French troops were sweeping forward on all parts of the terrain, some surrounding the strong holds to the right and centre of the Allied line, others pouring up the slopes towards the bulk of the red clad men under Wellington's command. Smoke hung in a thick pall over the entire tableau and for a moment, Richard was mesmerised by the vision before him. It had a strange hypnotic beauty about it and he remained motionless for a moment until Elliott pulled at his arm in an effort to make him move on.

The two of them headed down the reverse slope of the hill towards a sunken road and, beyond that, the banks of a stream.

There were trees beyond the narrow waterway and Richard thought he could see movement among them. Dark uniformed troops who were manoeuvring ever nearer to the edges of the enveloping trees, their eyes fixed on the collection of buildings that formed the village of Plancenoit. It was a position on the French right flank and Richard knew that it would be attacked by one side or the other very soon. For all he knew there could already be French troops inside the buildings waiting for the Prussian assault.

It wasn't safe to try and navigate the narrow streets of the village. He and Elliott pushed on towards the banks of the stream.

There were several dark uniformed men on the far side of the narrow expanse of water and Richard pulled Elliott down behind one of the bushes that lined the stream, seeking the meagre cover there.

"Who are they?" Elliott asked, peering at the men through the leaves of the bush.

"Prussians," Richard informed him. "They look like Jagers, sharp shooters. They're like an advance guard."

Several bullets cut through the hedge causing them both to dive lower. The sound of the musket balls was like loud hissing as they passed inches above them. Richard yelped as one of the balls nicked his earlobe. Blood splashed his face and neck and he slapped a hand to the wound. A second later Elliott also yelped in pain as one of the musket balls struck his knee.

Luckily most of the power had been taken out of it when it hit a branch of the bush but the projectile still hit his knee hard enough to numb it momentarily.

"That hurt," Elliott wailed.

"Good," Richard snapped. "You're lucky it didn't break your leg."

"Fuck you," hissed Elliott.

"No, fuck you. If you hadn't been messing about with things you don't understand then we wouldn't be here." He looked angrily at Elliott. "Witchcraft." He shook his head and dragged Elliott to his feet. "Come on, we've got to get to that farm, away from where the fighting is taking place."

More bullets tore through the bushes that lined the stream.

"And what about them?" Elliott demanded. "They're trying to kill us."

"Everyone is trying to kill us," Richard told him. "Why don't you put a spell on them too?"

He dashed off towards a sunken road that cut across the battlefield about twenty yards off to the right. Elliott hesitated a moment then hurried after him.

The Prussian sharp shooters on the other side of the stream fired off a couple more shots then seemed to tire of trying to hit their targets. When Richard glanced back again they'd gone, sloping across the ground towards the woods beyond. He looked ahead and saw more dark shapes moving close to a group of buildings. The sunken road ran close to the buildings but Richard was sure that there was enough cover offered by the road to ensure they could pass along it without being seen.

In the distance the roaring of cannon fire and musketry was growing more intense. Smoke hung like an impenetrable cloud over most of the battlefield now.

Elliott hobbled up to join him, rubbing his bruised knee.

"How much further to the farm?" the boy enquired.

"Another mile or so," Richard told him. "Haven't you got a crystal ball or a spell that could tell you that?" He made no attempt to control the contempt in his tone. He looked again at Elliott, annoyance etched on his face. The two of them stumbled along for another ten or fifteen minutes before Richard held up his hand to halt their progress.

He could hear a low rumbling close by and, as he and Elliott ducked down among some trees and bushes, they saw more than a dozen mounted troops gallop past. Richard looked at the long, steel tipped lances they carried, the red and white pennants on the lethal implements fluttering in the wind as they rode.

It was the last man in the small column who saw them.

The lancer wheeled his horse and rode at top speed towards where Richard and Elliott were hiding. They could hear him shouting something and, as he drew nearer he lowered his lance towards them. More of his companions joined him, their officer drawing his pistol. He held it on them, motioning them from the trees.

They both raised their hands in surrender and stepped out towards the waiting lancers.

The officer barked something that Richard didn't understand and two of the mounted men gently jabbed the tips of their lances towards Elliott and Richard to hasten their approach.

The officer said something else then leaned forward in his saddle, the pistol still aimed at them.

"I don't understand," Richard told him, his voice cracking. "We shouldn't be here."

The officer's expression darkened. "English?" he barked.

Richard nodded.

The officer looked at the lancer next to him. "Spies," he murmured.

"No, we're not spies," Richard said, anxiously. "We're just trying to get off the battlefield. We..."

"Silence," the officer roared, pushing the barrel of the pistol closer to Richard's face. "Englishmen behind our lines. Of course you are spies." As he spoke he dismounted, pushing Richard back towards the trees. Another lancer did the same thing with Elliott until both of them were pressed hard against one of the oak trees.

The officer shouted something and Richard watched as the other troops dismounted, pulling their carbines from their saddles. He watched as they formed up in two lines about ten yards away, the barrels of the weapons now levelled at himself and Elliott.

"What are they doing?" Elliott wanted to know.

"They're going to shoot us as spies," Richard said, flatly, the colour draining from his face.

Elliott gaped helplessly, first at Richard and then at the lancers who were readying themselves, waiting for their officer to shout the order to fire.

Richard looked blankly at them as they raised their carbines to their shoulders.

Elliott shouted something but it was drowned as the twelve carbines erupted at once.

Richard dropped to his knees and then fell forward on his face, his body holed by at least six of the musket balls.

Elliott slumped back against the tree, most of his head blasted away by the impact of the balls.

"Spies," the lancer officer grunted, disdainfully and he drove his sword into Richard's body and then into Elliott's.

Within minutes, the blue clad troops had re-mounted and moved on leaving the two bullet riddled corpses beneath the trees.

***



She had no idea where they'd gone.

She hadn't heard them leave the house. She'd heard no movement on the stairs or outside the sitting room door.

As Francesca Hill wandered around the hobby room she couldn't imagine where her husband and her son had disappeared to. A part of her was quite happy that they were together at least. Perhaps their attempt at "bonding" over Richard's hobby had worked she thought, smiling.

She moved across to the massive model battlefield, looking down at the thousands of miniature troops arrayed there.

It certainly was an impressive display and Fran, although she didn't understand Richard's fascination with these little toys, could appreciate the amount of work and effort that had gone into creating this incredible display. She moved to one end of the model battlefield, glancing down at the figures more closely, spotting two at the very extremity of the board.

They were lying on their backs beneath some model trees.

Both were dressed in what looked like modern clothes. Not the uniforms of the Nineteenth Century that the little soldiers were painted in.

She leaned closer, wondering why this should be. She got so close she could even make out their features and it made her smile. Richard must have painted them this way. Maybe it was his little joke.

Even beneath the accurately coloured blood that had been applied to their wounds, Fran could see that the two little figures exactly resembled her husband and her son.

© Shaun Hutson 2020