I kept my eyes focused on my weapon. The cold steel handle in my hands was a welcome relief from the gory sight around me. It was a weapon forged through my effort and made a name for itself as a legendary weapon. The sword that single-handedly stopped Falacol’s invasion. The blade with which killed the tyrant Grotin Feath. These are just a few of its titles.
My only wish is that when I die, the names in its possession will live on without the name of its holder. It has been my only comrade in a great many campaigns, but I feel as if I have wronged it. It was forged by a hopeless dreamer whose only wish was to explore the world. That same hopeless dreamer, coated the edges of its blade in red, over and over, never dulling its surface in combat, not even against his allies.
The foundation this sword was built on, has now been all but destroyed. All that lives on within the sword, is the hope, that it will be freed from the carnage I have wrought upon others through it.
As I sat in the field of corpses stretching on for miles, I wondered, when had I changed.
Gathering my focus, I tried to remember when I went astray amidst the bloodshed. Was it when I had left the orphanage? It seems not, back then, I had yet to even forge my sword.
Could it have been when the constable had begun whipping a boy where he stood because he fed horses whose masters had locked up for days and forgotten? I only ever took the whip out of his hand and gave him the same lashes. He had no business whipping that boy who despite being poor, was a much better human being than he ever was. Not like I can say much about that.
A dry laugh escaping my throat at my thoughts, drew my attention away from the intense soul-searching session I was in. As I heard the squelch of a soldier's head beneath my foot, I realized it might be best to give these soldiers some peace from my mind-mutters.
I began my trek away from the red and bloody hellscape beneath my feet and cast my eyes towards the darkening sky when I was struck with a question.
Where do I go now?
While it may seem like a simple question with a straightforward answer, can I just turn around and yell, “Back to my kingdom!” after all I have seen and done here? What is there for me to do when I get back, sit, and await my next order to kill someone?
What have I been fighting for? Just what is it that we have been fighting for? All the deaths, the pain, and bloodshed, the families sick and hungry when the war started upturn their lives.
And then it clicked.
The face of a man with black stubble on his chin, beady red eyes, and a hooked nose appeared in my mind’s eye.
Ah, so it was Sental then. The one who had transformed me with empty words of wealth and fame, enough to allow me to travel wherever my heart set upon.
Knowing the sort of man he is, he likely planned this far ahead back when I had just joined for the mandatory service in the military my country prided itself upon. The same service that would guarantee no harm would come to anyone, yet found itself emerging from a pile of dead bodies.
The idea that I have been serving a madman was ever-present in the back of my mind. I simply ignored it due to my contract. A contract is something to be broken, only when your deepest wishes are at stake. Even then, a man of honor would never break such a sacred promise. Besides, the contract never specified an amount of time to join the army, but it had instead laid terms of cancellation down. What were the exact words again?
I think it went something like, “When Duke Sental II and Ashen Metalworks agree on the latter’s inability to continue in the face of grievous injuries, or Ashen Metalworks‘ unwillingness to continue after their time of service reaches a minimum of three years, then the terms and effects of this contract are nullified.” It was a rather flexible contract in terms of pay, but it had granted much more than just a modest living.
It even included an article of advance payment for triple a single year’s salary in case of major injury. It also paid double my payment from the military for service.
That was the one reason which caused me to be wary of the contract initially. I realized, that if it would offer such a high amount for injuries, then the line of work would have to be very dangerous.
I believe it was changed again when I reached the position of the South’s Great Twelve Knights. The paperwork and missions had been too overwhelming at the time to carefully look over the contract. Over time, I guess I had just forgotten.
The only way I know of from here is back to that one port town, Eathon. Should I try and find a map from there and begin my worldwide adventure? It may not be safe considering how well-known I am in the Southern lands.
Well, naturally, my only sane option is to go back to the kingdom and fulfill my 3 years of service, before settling down and leading an honest, meager life.
And that is something I refuse to do. To hell with the man of honor, I would much rather be true to myself. The first step, find that bastard Sental and get the truth of everything out of him. The second step, fix his nose as a symbol of my kindness. The third step, begin my adventure.
I sighed with a satisfied expression on my face at the extremely concise plan of mine. Why complicate things for myself when I can just get started? I have all the capital I need. Now, I need to rekindle my passion for adventure. Best to start with a new identity. Would be too risky trying to find a safe place for the night with all of my enemies.
Stripping myself to the bare essentials, I began with a new persona. From here on out, I will be a blacksmith who comes from a destroyed country. Loosening the strip on the dagger around my waist, I realized something.
Do I have to throw my sword away too? It has its journey to complete, but I can no longer carry it around. What is there to do with it from here?
No way of honoring its companionship comes to mind. I refuse to simply throw it away after all it has done.
I finally came to grips with the hard truth. Even a general can die a dog’s death and get the respect he deserves.
Unsheathing my blade one last time, I looked over its flawless edge, in awe of its usefulness throughout my journey. I can’t claim to have been the reason it is famous, without first claiming it is the reason I have survived every battle thus far.
With my blade in hand, I discarded its sheath and began my walk up the valley’s side, to the point where the two hills converge. Animals large and minuscule scattered before my feet. All but the carrion, feasting on the blood of Sental’s sacrifices. As I made it past halfway up the slope, I noticed the grass turned sharper nearing the mountain’s peak. But strangely, I didn’t feel any pain as the shrubbery cut through my bare feet.
No, it is more like I couldn’t feel the pain, as my mind was drowned in nostalgia with the weight of the blade resting in my hands. I couldn’t stop thinking of the months of effort I put into every swing I did, nor the nights when I couldn’t sleep and resorted to swinging my sword in an attempt to achieve something worthwhile.
Throughout all of this time, the only stable companion I could rely on or ever had was my sword.
I could see the sky brightening, in preparation for dawn as I reached the top of the mountain. It won’t be long before Sental sends a messenger to record the happenings of the battle and retrieve me. It is time.
I picked up the largest stone in sight, and dropped it at the convergence of the peaks, before carving into the stone the only thing I have wished to convey to my sword since the day I crafted it.
“Thank you, Seminuel.”
I feel like I am forgetting something. Oh yeah, this is the part in a story where a hero would leave a single pearl of wisdom for whoever may bear the weapon next.
How about this?
“For every end, there is a new beginning.” I never really understood what the phrase meant until now.
I stuck the sword in the stone, as I heard many heroes had done with the greatest swords they had in the past. I only wish that it picks someone worthy.
In 10 years' time, should this sword still be standing and me still kicking, I will come to reclaim it and continue our journey.
It is time to begin a new chapter in my life. Begin to live the life I should have from the beginning.