The new sword was heavy, and he longed to swing it with the same proficiency that he wielded the glaive, but the solid iron body of the weapon was an immense weight compared to the wooden haft of the spear. He could manage the new weapon with both hands, but that rendered his tall wooden shield useless. He had spent the better part of the last decade mastering the art of spear and shield, and to abandon that just to make use of an attractive blade…

“Ye’ll find yer ego, and its propensity for capricious desires, to be a far greater opponent than any worldly enemy.” The old man-at-arms grunted as he braced the padded practice shield and blocked another looping blow from the student. He was an ancient man but had taken on more of the traits of the oak than the living elderly; gnarled and solid, with skin as rough and wrinkled as any bark. He spoke in the old tongue, using words that few of his young students understood, but they always got the gist.

His present student, a knight’s squire who had named himself Perry, swung again with his wild looping style. The man-at-arms ducked under the blow and shoved the edge of his padded shield into Perry’s sternum. The weapon Perry had chosen, a length of rough doweling that some would call a quarterstaff, clattered to the cobblestones of the courtyard. The younger man’s breath left his lungs in one big woof, and several of the other students winced in sympathy. He fell with terrible slowness to his knees, then doubled over and lay next to his stick.

“Y’see?” the man-at-arms asked, and none in the audience indicated that they did. One of the youngest students, a brash Northern bastard who the man-at-arms thought would make a better stable boy than warrior, spoke.

“‘is technique be crap,” he said, his tongue rolling in the rough drawl of his homeland. “‘e stands far too close, swings far too late. I wager ‘e’ll be dead within the month.” Someone giggled, but the man-at-arms ignored it.

“Nay, Northman,” the man-at-arms said, making certain to coat the second syllable with a healthy amount of disdain. “The truth is that Perry has a better swing than yer weakling arms could ever produce.” Again, a titter from the gallery. “What he lacks is patience, and ye’d be well served to mark such yerself. That goes for alla ye,” he shouted. “Choke yer heroic desires. Meditate on the heroes ye know, and consider how they passed from this realm. I can assure ye that a small few of them died of old age clutching their pillows.”

“Where be the glory in that?” the Northman sneered.

“Glory means nothing when yer dead, lad. And if yer just fixin’ to die, ye may as well take up yer arms and march into the mist right now. All the glory ye ever dreamed of awaits ye there.”

2015.04.05 – 2023.10.27

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