Once upon a time…

Posted: September 5, 2010 in Thoughtful thinking.

His eyes gleam under the tarnished steel that shields his face. An ankle long cape trails in the wilderness breeze behind his armor clad shoulders. Chain mail covered by a stainless slab of hand crafted metal protects the Adventurer’s vital organs from sword and spear. His shield rests, for now, on his back under his cape with the markings of a thousand battles. A razor-sharp, double-sided, hand-and-a-half sword swings to and fro inside its old leather sheath. His horse gallops through the forest filled with eerie half-dead trees covered in weary moss that has sagged between all of the branches. Dust rises off each hoofmark that trods the ground but then settles back down ever so slowly, as if savoring the chance to once again be alight.

A life of toil and work has hardened the man in the armor to accept what must be done. It did not however, dampen his character and wit. A sly smile creeps across his face for the idea of a new adventure. He did not know for sure if in the end he would be alive. But it wouldn’t be an adventure if he did would it? His friends knew him by name, I did not. His companions saw him as compassionate, tender, and caring, although it would take more than a first glance to see it. They described him as one who made friends to keep. For the friends he made were worth keeping. They described him as one who was trustworthy, loyal, and just. One who you knew would keep his word without having to prove it with extra vocabulary such as “I promise”. Yes was what he would say when he would. No was what he would say when he wouldn’t. A man of integrity was what they called him.

He was strong. Never would anybody in the town challenge him for strength. The victor would be clear. He was rough, and sometimes passed off as straightforward. A relief when he was on your side, foreboding when we was not.

He was kind. Enemies were never something he had very many of. It was hard to be angry at someone who rarely caused offense. The enemies he had were his by their own fault and never seemed to stick around long. Often times one would find him helping an elderly woman carry water back to her house, or playing hide and go seek with some of the children. It must have looked silly for a grown man to be playing something that childish. But nobody ever thought that.

He had many acquaintances, but only a few very close friends. These he would be seen with walking through the wheat fields by day or talking with in the corner of the tavern at night. No one asked what was spoken about. No one thought to. Whatever it was would be seen done if it was a concern of his. And this was good enough for them. 

But today was different. Today he was not seen in the village. Today, was his day.

The fire crackled and popped as the air pockets inside the dry wood were exposed by the flames. It was a small fire to avoid attracting unwanted attention. The roads this far out were not something one would want to be seen vulnerable on. Vagabonds and thieves frequented the long-forgotten paths leading to the ancient fortresses of old hoping to catch the passing curious visitor off-guard. This was no curious visitor however.

Morning came and the sun rose drearily from the fog that blanketed the land. Trees rose up sparsely here and there. Most of the ground was covered in dust. As if the earth here was much older and passed beyond memory. Packing up his meager camp and saddling his steed, he started to plod forward, slowly at first, then building up speed until he was flying into the morning horizon.

Days passed.

Never faltering or getting weary. Ignoring the fact that yesterday’s rain had spoiled the last of his food, he continued forward. At evening of the fifth day, he arrived at the ruins.

They were massive, and dark. Looming ahead in the dusk as mournful, ominous figures declaring his unwanted presence. The thieves on the roads did not come this far out. It was forbidden. Slowly he clicked his horse to the first of the wrought iron gates leading into the valley of the doomed. His horse snorted and reared slightly at the fact of passing between those bent metal bars that had been hewn and rent almost beyond recognition. He leaped off his horse, and continued on foot. The animal did not follow.

Only he and his most trusted friends knew the reason for his being in this forsaken place. It was not somewhere he would go. However, his longing for this moment had haunted him for so very long he could not put it off any longer. His steps echoed across the single path that ran in between each of the old castles. A dark chasm which the depth of one could only imagine loomed on both sides. Only the paths leading to each massive castle bridged the gap. He must have walked for miles, it was dark when he saw it.

There it was, lingering there in the darkness lit by torchlight kept alive by some foul charm. This was his. On that hour he claimed his ownership over that place.The spinnerets and towers seemed to be miles high. The walls were thick and the gate shut. A loose wooden bridge that seemed to be hung by a thread made a gap in the stone path possible to traverse in front of the castle gatehouse. The path was worn as if trod by many before.  As he started on the beaten path off the main one he found that the path had less and less footmarks. As if mighty men before him had coward at this prospect and turned back at the tempting thought of compromising for a more accessible prize. This he would not, could not do. Live or die trying he would never loose ground.

By the time he got to the wooden section of the bridge all foot traffic had stopped. He was plodding on new ground now. Never touched before by man or beast. Slowly crossing the rickety bridge he looked down into the depths of the chasm that opened like a mouth to swallow anything unfortunate enough to lose their balance. When he arrived at the solid gates of the enormous outer wall he found them impenetrable. The walls however, had many a loose stone that could be removed and some that had already fallen out. Reaching up and grabbing a hand hold on the wall he climbed his way, ever so slowly onto the top of those mighty walls. Landing upon the wall top, he found that it was at least ten feet thick, with battlements still armed as if ever standing vigilant for a foe that would never come. Walking to a section of the wall that had a staircase down to the bottom, he descended the steps to find himself inside the outer courtyard of the fortress he had invaded.

His presence was known to another however. In the darkness of the very lowest cellar hall of the ominous castle something stirred. It’s domain had been disturbed by another. And anything other than itself was a threat. Just the like the man slowly making his way through the courtyard full of once beautiful fountains, landscaping, and statues, it too had waited its life for this moment. A hiss sliced its way through the inky darkness, and a fire was kindled inside its being.

When he pushed the rotten doors forward to enter the castle hall they fell off their hinges and hit the floor with a thunderous noise sending wood pieces everywhere. Warily checking the corners of each room he entered for reason of some lurking presence he could not shake. Large marks scored the walls of some of the larger rooms accompanied by colossal holes inside the ceiling leaving the rooms open to the elements and staining all of that room’s contents.

The creature clawed its way forward, knowing every hall, room, doorway, exit, sound and echo it followed its prey to the trap it had set in motion since the dawn of its creation. Before it could remember. It quickened its pace, the hunted was moving faster now.

The man had started to run. He tired of the endless hallways and rooms with the same endless drudgery. His heart led him further and further into the castle. He ran faster. Then suddenly a window overlooking the inner courtyard caught his eye. He stopped. Was silent. Was still.

The creature halted. Confused. It could not hear its prey any longer. What had diverted its attention? Realization struck the beast. This fool was after its prize. Anger swelled inside its chest. Flames licked the rooftop.

There, there across the courtyard was what he was searching for. Was who he was searching for. A hope sprang up beyond the dim sickness that had gripped this part of the land. He could see the end. It was there before his eyes. Across the courtyard was a tower annexed to the inner courtyard and very tall. It rose beyond all the other towers almost out of view for the fog. But there at the top was a window and a light. Not the pale glow of the torches lit in the castle, but the warm, soft light of a candle, flickering as if on its last bit of wick.

The man leapt out of the window landing on his feet from the two stories he fell. Glass fragments fell next making music upon his armor. He strode forward. The tower was no more than a hundred yards away.

One hundred very long yards. The earth began to quake. The man steadied his footing and looked at the courtyard floor. It was moving. More being torn apart. A foul beast from the abyss had made its home inside the castle and was not about to let him take its treasure so easily. Slithering out of the immense whole it had rent in the ground from the floors below, it was fully exposed now to the dank midnight air.

It’s head was the size of a horse. The neck and body the size of a houses. And a hulking tail that was the length of the rest combined. Spines protruded from every odd angle and ran from the length of the tail to the tip of its nose. Fire seeped out from between its sharp grin. Claws on monstrous scaled feet made score marks in the grass. Its slit eyes narrowed at the thought of this pathetic being having the audacity to impose upon its terrain. A rumble echoed in the castle. It was laughing. The knight hoisted his shield.

A stream of fire burst from the animal’s mouth engulfing the knight in its fury. The man stood strong behind his shield watching the ground on either side turn black from being charred. The knight drew his sword.

The battle lasted for hours. Each side gaining then losing. Blood was spilt by both on the floor of the castle that day. It was almost morning as the weary knight gained an advantage and plunged his sword hilt deep into the creature’s heart. The creature gave one last mighty roar and then fell silent. Its plans had failed and its vanquisher stood victorious. Barely.

The knight leaned on his sword to catch his breath. Never was anything this hard, this incredibly difficult to overcome. His armor was bent and broken, pieces of it were scattered all around from blows that would have taken his life otherwise. Some were stained with his own blood. Then he remembered. He swiftly turned around and looked up at that tower he fought so hard to enter. He sheathed his sword and picked up his shield, the outside glowing hot from the creature’s breath, and started the ascent up the stairs. The climb seemed to take longer than the journey there. But before he knew it, there was the door. Looking at him in the face. And then the knight became something he had never felt before, he was nervous.

Taking a deep breath he turned the knob expecting resistance but there was none. The door made no sound as he slowly looked around the room. The morning sun burst through the window just as he realized everything he had fought for was more than worth it.

Where is the courage of man now? Where is the honor that once was used as a man’s currency? The situation above is applicable to every scenario. Every decision we make is a choice, a fight between good and evil. Which one will win the day? Men now more than ever need to remember what is right and where their place is. Take a stand. Don’t back down. In this age, we are the few. In this age, we are the ones who must uphold the standard of righteousness. There is nobody else to do it for us because this is our time. Let all other generations speak for themselves but we will do what is called for us. We shall serve the Lord. We will not tire, we will not falter. We will fight the good fight. And we will finish the race. With our heads held high, and with eyes fixed upon You.

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Comments
  1. Very well said!! I totally agree!

  2. Joshua says:

    The day may come when the courage of men will fail. But it is not this day. This day we fight.

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