Burning Bridges (Barnabas the Joke)

Burning Bridges (Barnabas the Joke)

A Story by AndyJCash

Inspired after reading "The Art of War by Sun Tzu".


Barnabas, commander in arms of a great nation, was fat, greasy and ungracefully bearded. He was a man who came about his high power through hard work and dedication but didn’t command the respect to go with it. The King would openly mock him, the other commanders would ridicule him and worst of all the men he led would laugh at him.

            Despite the added persistence required to have his voice heard, very few could deny Barnabas abilities (though none would ever spontaneously compliment the man’s skills). He had never completed a clean mission or been involved in a flawless battle, but he very rarely lost and thus he had retained his high post.

            Yet Barnabas grew frustrated for he knew his hair was greying and his joints were seizing, and when he would finally lie his sword down he knew he would be recalled as a joke and not the fine warrior he was. In the last parts of his fighting days he was determined to make this happen.

            Barnabas and a group of five hundred men were ordered by the King to march out to meet a resistance of approximately three hundred and rout them. Barnabas would march in the middle, hearing his men whisper and chuckle all around him. When they stopped to rest for the night and Barnabas tried to make a moral boosting speech, his men would ignore or talk over him.

            After three long days of resilience Barnabas and his army came to a large canyon in the dead of night, both in width and depth, where the only way of crossing was via a rickety wooden bridge that swayed violently in the wind. The first three hundred men uneasily made their way across in the darkness, guided only by a torch flame.

Barnabas crossed next, bearing the torch. As they approached the other side of the canyon, the soldier behind snatched the flame away and began waving it around in a poor impersonation of his commander. In his stupidity, the man set fire to the wooden bridge which very quickly spread and burned away the support ropes. Barnabas managed to leap off the bridge in time, but the other two hundred men fell the entire depth of the canyon to their deaths.

Regardless of how they made fun of him, Barnabas was still the commander of these men. He realised they were mostly family men, fighting in these skirmishes and battles to support their wives and children. Because of this, he took no pleasure in their deaths, but instead mourned heavily for them. This was the type of man Barnabas was.

When he turned to face the remaining army he had at his disposal, he found himself to be slightly intimidated at first because he turned to face three hundred shocked and frightened faces. Had he set fire to the bridge because a soldier had mocked him? Aforementioned, Barnabas was a good man, but as a commander he was also an opportunity seizer.

Yes. He had burned the bridge as punishment. That was the lie Barnabas upheld, satisfied with the horror stricken soldiers that now had a fearful respect for him.

They marched onwards at a faster pace and reached the battle field hours before they had anticipated. Barnabas spotted the enemy’s banners at the top of a hill and ordered his men to charge. The soldiers protested that they were fatigued and that attacking an enemy on a hill would put them at a disadvantage. Even Barnabas knew this, but he lusted over the control he had and pulled at the strings of his army to charge.

Three hundred weary men lifted their swords and ran without pace up the hill. They were easily spotted by scouts and archers on the hill who slowly began picking off Barnabas’ men one by one. Still they rushed the hill and when they reached the top Barnabas realised what a costly error he had made. Blanketed on the other side of the hill weren’t the minimal three hundred men they were expecting, but instead a thousand soldiers with gleaming armour charged back.

Retreat was the only option as they fled with their tails between their legs being chased down like dogs. About a hundred and fifty weren’t killed by the barrages of arrows as they ran and ran as far as they could and as far as they could was the canyon, now without a bridge to cross.

The enemy was approaching fast and Barnabas realised death was imminent. However it was at the hands of his own men, who believed he had burnt their route to safety, as they decapitated him and pushed his body off the cliff. The army cheered and fought valiantly, valiantly enough that a handful of men managed to escape back to their home nation and inform the King what had become of Barnabas.

The men twisted the story with great hatred, ridiculing the fallen commander so much so that the King and the other commanders were laughing by the stories end. It was forever known in that nation that Barnabas was a joke and not a fine warrior.

© 2011 AndyJCash

Author's Note

Just interested to know what you got out of this story :)

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Featured Review

This is great. I really like how you started out with Barnabas being a 'commander', only to find out later that he is exposed for the character that he truly is. This is creative, unique and extremely refreshing! Stories about war and the art of deception always interests me, so when I read your comment about being inspired by the work of Sun Tzu, this was a must read. Dare I say, you certainly do him justice.

Posted 10 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


I loved the humorous descriptions of Barnabas all the way through. The opening line was terrific and drew me in right away. Enjoyed the plot twists, and all the action kept it interesting!

Posted 8 Years Ago

Ha, I realized I never read this. I really like the way you chose to describe things in an interesting, yet straightforward manner. Of course, the plot and twist of the story was awesome. Great story, I really enjoyed it. And I agree with Steph K, it is reallllyyyy creative and unique and refreshing. Amazingggg job!

Posted 9 Years Ago

I love the connection this book has to The Art of War! It reminds me of how the commander in The Art of War attempted to correct the ways of the military and women who could not listen to the commands. Wonderful parallelism and I like the name of your commander. Good job with this piece!

Posted 9 Years Ago

I truly enjoyed this story,I loved how they hated the commander and that they thought he was a joke.I hope there are more stories like this to come.Great job :)

Posted 9 Years Ago

This was so great. I enjoyed reading every bit. You had me hooked beginning to end

Posted 10 Years Ago

I got I guess as a moral that to be loved, respected and remembered, won't be through fear. Or force. It's a great story. I love your imagination. :)

Posted 10 Years Ago

I kept hopeing that Branabas would somehow redeem himself only to realise that he couldnt even if he had tried which he meagerly did but to no avail, guess he shouldnt have treated everyone so poorly. Barnabas will not be missed by his men but will be remmebered by them none the less!

Posted 10 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

truly exceptional

Posted 10 Years Ago

hmmm..... nice story:) could be counted as one of the bedtime stories that children are told:)

Posted 10 Years Ago

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11 Reviews
Added on July 21, 2011
Last Updated on July 21, 2011
Tags: Barnabas, Army, Commander, Joke, War



United Kingdom

18 year old who is still experimenting as a writer. I prefer writing fiction, especially fantasy fiction, but do try my hand at poems and short stories of other genres. Away from writing, I play footb.. more..

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