by Don Hartness
He sank to his knees at the city gate, the blood from his wounds freckling the ground. His sword, impossibly heavy, slid from his lifeless fingertips to the ground. This valiant warrior, a veteran through so many battles, had no strength to even extract the arrows still piercing his armor. The enemy had won.
He heard the clicking of his adversary’s boots approaching him from behind. Shoulders slumped and staring at the ground, he listened as the sound casually circled around him. He could feel the coldness of those eyes, surveying him with mock sympathy.
“How much longer are you going to continue fighting for your delusion?” the villain asked in a hushed tone. “Surely, you, of all people, can see by now that the battle is a lost cause?” The warrior said nothing in reply, focused on his labored breath while trying to shut out the pain.
“I mean, really, let’s review for a moment. Those you began the journey with are all gone, scattered to the wind and their individual vices. Your mentor,a narcissistic liar as it would turn out, betrayed you and tried to kill you, when it became clear that you would not be a willing slave. Your spouse, another narcissist, locked hands with your mentor in a unified effort against you. And let’s not forget your children; casualties in the battle, lost forever to you.”
The clicking of the boots paused in front of him. He raised his eyes, looking once more at his life-long adversary, a dark figure with his black overcoat and brimmed hat. His countenance portrayed a thin-lipped smile while he gloated over his fallen state. His enemy continued his assessment.
“In spite of your insipid and pathetic love for these wretched people you meet in your travels, they return your offering by vilifying, slandering, betraying, beating, stealing, and abandoning you. You have nothing to show for your efforts. No rewards or accolades; not even a simple ‘thank you’. You even struggle with finding food to eat each day! Even now, they chase you down, overtake you, and rob you, shooting you with arrows crafted specifically to your weak points.”
The scoundrel paused in his tirade for a moment, allowing the realization to sink deep into the heart of the conquered warrior. A vacant stare was the only response to the truth hurled at the solider.
“And now,” the sinister man resumed, with a wave of his hand towards the backdrop of the city, “you’re going to go in there! An entire population consisting of those that either proclaim your mythical hero never existed, or lend their lips to this mythical hero, all while denying his existence with every action.”
His enemy leaned in, until his leathery face was mere inches from his own. “Are you mad?” he whispered. “Isn’t this the very definition of insanity?”
The warrior’s head once again dropped on to his slumped shoulders. The arch-fiend stood straight once more, his smile breaking into a wry grin. The end was near. He waited for the warrior to offer up his sword in a final acknowledgement of his defeat.
What happened next was not according to script. The blood stopped flowing. The wounds began to close. The arrows became brittle, snapping off one by one and falling to the ground. The warrior raised his head, a steadfast and imperturbable gaze now locked on his adversary. It was the villain’s turn to feel fear as the warrior began to speak.
“You say I have lost everything, and you are correct. Yet, this also means that I have nothing left to lose. What more can anybody do to me?”
The warrior fetched the sword before him on the ground as he continued. “You point at the evil and suffering done by others as evidence that my cause is a falsehood, and that these people are not worth fighting for, insinuating that all is lost.”
His eyes narrowed shrewdly. “Lost…like I was? “
Using the sword as a crutch, the warrior got on his feet. “You say that my cause is a myth.” As he stood straight, he looked down at where his wounds were. He re-affixed his icy stare on his enemy, while motioning to their absence.
“Do you call this a myth?”
The sinister fellow sneered, his grin gone, his fists clenched in rage. The warrior nodded at his enemy’s acknowledgement of defeat. It was his turn for a wry smile.
“Be gone,” he simply said. And with that, he walked past his sulking adversary and knocked at the gate.