You swing that sword around because it’s the only thing you know how to do.
Because when the rain comes down at night, clinging to it is the only thing that yields any solace.
You don’t know how you would’ve made it otherwise.
You, the starving infant. You, the scrawny child. You, the thief. You, the killer. You, envisioning a golden future.
People laud your skills, rather, your sole skill. Bad people, you can tell at a glance.
But who are you to judge? Coin’s coin, lawless scum or ravenous aristocrat be damned.
“Pledge your loyalty!” A common order barked by general after general, kingdom after kingdom.
But to who, that eludes you. Perhaps the idea frightens, being a smaller cog in a bigger machine.
You want to be the master of your own destiny, whatever it is. But it doesn’t matter, you’ll find your true calling eventually.
You philosophize on the battlefield, invincible, striking down innumerable young men with their own destinies, bleeding with the conviction that it means something.
They die young and ungraceful, like you witnessed time and time again to the other starving infants and scrawny children.
Not like you. Not like you, the struggler. The survivor.
That’s how you go on living, when your fellow man brands you a vicious animal.
Cut, whipped, beaten, you limp from town to town, looking for where your spilled blood matters.
You’ll be found at your most vulnerable in that pouring rain.
Whatever happened, it felt like a flash.
Perhaps the passion within sought to create rather than destroy, for once.
Weakness, crippling, crippling weakness.
A rapid deterioration of strength, borne of that foolish passion that abandoned the stoic sword. The battlefield feels like home no longer. Rather, it is a merciless jungle reminiscent of the cutthroat childhood streets.
Like an outcast leper, you limp away from society and into a hole. Hide your shame. Cover the rash.
You hack and wheeze like you never have before. The hilt of the blade is a cold hunk of metal. The coin in your pockets seem as though they might only matter at River Styx.
When you told yourself that death did not faze you, you were wrong.
Dying gloriously like those young men did not faze you. Withering, like a once-dainty flower, left you mortally terrified.
The battles become less grandiose.
What was once you and a sword against an army is now you and a stick against a school of swift trout. How the mighty have fallen, you muse, an old man weeping at the river bed.
In your hazy existence between life and death,
perhaps the most exciting battle you’ve ever fought,
is against a scrawny boy, with eyes like yours, who clings to a sword.
Doing the only thing he knows to survive, fighting for the shred of gold he sees in your pockets.
Sam Bostwick — high schooler, writer, court fool.