December 22, 2014
April 30, 2014
Last time we delved into The Flight, today it’s all about our last stage Return with the Elixir.
Return with the Elixir
The flight has ended, the journey is done. It’s time to relax, the war is won.
Or is it?
Just like the title says, the hero returns with his prize from the journey. The prize can be a literal, tangible object, or skills acquired. But as the journey comes to a close, there are two basic ways the Hero’s Journey ends.
Medals and Party
In this final stage, the protagonist has reached the end of the journey. He/she has become a hero. He/she has saved the world from certain doom. The hero should be celebrated. Laurels need to be given. Wine needs to be drunk. In other words: party!
And very often the heroes will celebrate the victory. They will enjoy their accomplishments and mourn their losses.
Take for instance Star Wars. (A New Hope or Return of the Jedi). In both examples the Death Star has been destroyed, certain doom has been avoided, awards are given and a party is thrown.
And as happens so often in Disney movies: they live happily ever after.
But at the end of the Hero’s Journey, this isn’t always the case.
Another Journey Begins
Sometimes the hero cannot leave the World of Adventure and gets swept away onto another fantastic journey. Sometimes the journey never ends. Sometimes the ending is just the beginning.
Remember Batman or Iron Man or Spiderman or Superman or really any other superhero out there? Remember how there is always another villain to conquer and plot to foil? Yeah, it’s basically like that.
The hero will live his/her life vanquishing foes and saving the world constantly reliving the Hero’s Journey.
And there we have it. The Hero’s Journey in tiny, bite site, easy to swallow chunks. I do so hope this series has been helpful and insightful. I hope it has brought a smile to your face, aided with a term paper, helped informed your teaching, or simply enlightened your day.
Until next time,
Peace and Long Reads
April 23, 2014
Hero's Journey, Novel, writing Beauty and the Beast, blog, Common Day, crossing the threshold, Disney, Fantasy, flight, lord of the rings, personal, Superman, supreme ordeal, The Mighty Ducks, Writing 1 Comment
Last time we delved into The Supreme Ordeal, today it’s all about the Flight.
Okay, so the hero has defeated the enemy (or at least escaped unscathed, well maybe scathed, but he/she is definitely still alive.) Great, but what’s next?
Now, it’s time to run. Run like heck. Run like he/she has never run before and never look back. Chances are the hero is being pursued most likely by someone or something really big, really mean, and with one agenda, to kill him/her.
The goal is one fold: Get back to Common Day.
But it can NEVER be as simple as that can it? Of course not! We’re talking about heroes here!
So to understand the stage of Flight, it is necessary to understand that all important Threshold Crossing, that moment that is supposed to bring joy and peace and happiness and ever after.
What You Need to Know:
There will be another threshold struggle that the hero must undergo. After all, he/she didn’t get into this world without a fight, so what makes them think they can get out so easily. Oh, they’re heroes now? Big, strong saviors of the world? Well, that just means that their struggle will be that much harder, multiplied exponentially.
Four ways this will be played out in what we in the biz call The Road Back: (And by the biz, I really just mean me at me keyboard…)
1. The Return
One of the greatest examples of a Return appears in the Lord of the Rings (novel version). The films had to cut this scene due to the 50 endings already in the movie. (Even though when the hobbits return to the Shire the events that transpire are absolutely critical to one of the themes in the story and by not including it they nearly destroyed the entire brilliance of the epic reducing it to a minor farce, nearly.)
But that is a rant for another day.
Instead, what I’m referring to is the all important “Scouring of the Shire”. For those who haven’t read it, when the four hobbits return to their eutopic Shire after saving Middle-Earth, they find that it is over run by Saruman and evil men. They then lead a force to expel Saruman and the men from the Shire thus saving their paradise. Thus in the midst of their Return, they must once and for all fight an enemy to ensure their safety.
What can be better than an example from Lord of the Rings? One from Disney of course! One of the best, and my personal favorite, of the Disney Princess movies is Beauty and the Beast. In here we have a glorious example of a resurrection.
Okay, take yourself back to that moment. Gaston has just stabbed the beast, and now Beast throws his sorry behind off the castle roof. Belle sees Beast is hurt. Beast is dying. Belle is crying. Beast is dead.
“What the crap?! I thought Disney movies were love stories! Man, I hate this movie!” Says my 6 year old self, and yours too.
But wait. What’s this? Belle says she loves him before the rose pedal hits the floor and BOOM! Evil magic undone, Beast is now a handsome BEAST, and they live? H.E.A. That’s right. He came back from the dead. No way! (But then again, this happens often in Disney doesn’t it? It’s like they have a resurrection complex.)
Also known as Deus Ex Machina in Latin for Cop Out (I mean God from the Machine), a Rescue is the moment when all is lost then Whoa! (like Joey form Blossom) everything gets fixed. One of the best examples is Superman the Movie (1978). Okay, full disclosure, I love me some Supes. And Christopher Reeves Supes is iconic. BUT, you have to scratch your head at the ending. So, there’s this horrific earthquake, Lois dies and all is lost. But wait. If Superman flies fast enough in outer space, he can reverse the Earth’s rotation? (Nevermind the gravitational forces and tide issues this can cause.) But besides all that, reversing the Earth’s rotation can reverse time!? Oh man! Talk about a
cop out awesome ending or in other words, a Rescue! God comes down (or flies up?) at the last moment and saves everyone.
And if you don’t like Supes, then what about the Eagles in Lord of the Rings? See, it’s always a good example.
4. Refusal of Return
Sometimes the new World of Adventure is so exciting and changes the hero so much that he/she cannot return. Such is the case with Coach Bombay in The Mighty Ducks.
For those who can’t remember my childhood coaching idol, Gordon Bombay, his journey started as a star lawyer in a high priced law firm, Ducksworth and Assoc. When he gets arrested for drunk driving, he is sentenced to coach an ailing pee wee hockey team, District 5. (A sport which we know from the opening credits that he was really good at playing as a kid.) Antics ensue, a love interest is formed, and Gordon fights against being in his new world.
Then towards the end before the big game against his old coach and rival, Bombay is given the opportunity to leave the coaching world and return to the law firm. But Gordon doesn’t take it. Instead, he gives his old boss and namesake of the Mighty Ducks a very inspiring lecture about what being a part of a team means.
“You may have paid for that jersey, sir, but you didn’t earn it,” says he to Ducksworth. (Of course after having repeatedly quacked at him.)
And for those of you who question whether Gordon Bombay can be included in the list of heroes, consider this:
(Special thanks to Jose Mendoza at instagram @greenzombify)
Next time we will discuss the final stage of the Hero’s Journey in The Return With The Elixir.
Peace and Long Reads
April 17, 2014
Took this from Kristen Lamb’s blog. It’s a great reminder of what to focus on when editing especially for me as I currently edit the second book in my series The Stones of Revenge: The Arising.
We can have the best story ideas in the world, but to be blunt? There’s a lot to be said for delivery. While these problems might seem picky, there are some fundamental errors that can weaken the writing. If our writing loses power, this can become distressing or distracting to readers.
Many readers (not being editors or professional writers) might not be able to articulate specifically why they lost interest in a story, but often the answer is simple. It can be an accumulation of the small things. The little foxes spoil the vine.
Most of us make one or more of these errors, especially when we’re new. Hey, that’s called “being NEW.” No one is born with the natural ability to write brilliant, perfect novels coded into their DNA. It takes time and practice, so give yourself permission to make…
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April 16, 2014
He tosses the ball into the air to get a feel for the weight. The pain in his shoulder is getting worse, and he knows he only has a few more pitches left in him. He gazes over to the bullpen where the reliever is warming up; a smile sweeps across his face. The young man stands on the rubber with such poise and strength, confident in his abilities. The kid tosses a pitch and the loud clap can be heard over the roar of the crowd. The old man on the mound has spent his career teaching him everything he knows about the game, and soon it would be his turn to lead the team. He is proud of the younger player’s accomplishments.
The old man took a deep sigh. “But I still have a few more pitches to go, son,” he says to himself.
The infielders are still taking throws from each other. These players have been with him for as long as he can remember. Like a family he loves every one of them. Each has played a special part in their success over the years, at times saving him from a critical situation. Together they had survived. Together they would live on. But the pain in the old man’s shoulder made him wonder for how long.
He tosses the ball into his glove now and prepares for the batter standing in the on-deck circle. He raises the glove to his face as he has countless times before. Immediately the sweet aroma of leather and oil hits his nostrils. It reminds him of a summer from long ago.
His son had been only five then, just learning how to play the game. The old man had gone from store to store to find the perfect glove, genuine American leather stitched together with durable leather straps. The one built to last a lifetime. He wanted his son to have the finest, to have what he couldn’t. At home, he had spent hours upon hours rubbing oil into the leather letting it soak up the liquid just the way his father had taught him when he was a kid. Each night the old man had wrapped the glove with rubber bands around a ball inside to break it in. He wanted to present it to his son before his first practice.
“Here, son, this is for you.”
“What is it?”
“Just a little something.”
The son excitedly ripped open the plain brown box and extracted the dark, mahogany mitt ready for use. A smile as wide as the Grand Canyon swept over the boy’s face as he fit the glove over his small hand.
“You got me one!” he shouted. “Thank you!”
“Let’s go. We’re going to be late.”
Now standing on the mound, the old man feels a pang of regret as he remembers the sudden change of expression on his son’s face. I wish I had said what I wanted to say, he thinks. I wish I had said, ‘I got it for you because I love you.’ But that wasn’t how he was raised. Expressing feelings was never a natural thing for him. He did it in other ways like taking his time working on the glove. But still.
The umpire signals to him that he is ready to begin this last inning. All balls on the field find their way back to the dugout; all except for the one in his hand. He grips it tighter remembering the memory. He twists it in his glove. He can feel each rough stitch and coarse cross seam. Above the brim of the glove the batter steps into the box and digs his front foot into the dirt. His bat twirls like a windmill as he readies himself. This is the third time they have faced off. (The first time the batter had swatted his first pitch down the left baseline for a double scoring two runs. The second time he had belted his second pitch over the center field wall.) The old man catches arrogance in the batter’s eyes. Beneath him the catcher squats down awaiting the first pitch. His fingers flicker below his mitt in a ritualistic dance. The old man nods with approval at one of the combinations, but his right shoulder pulses with fire.
“Just a few more pitches,” he reminds himself.
He stands erect both feet square on the white strip of rubber elevating him above all others. He rotates the ball in his glove and places his two forefingers on the seams. He focuses in on the mitt leveled between the batter and the plate. The batter takes another practice swing anticipating where the ball will land. The old man musters all of his strength ignoring the throbbing in his arm. He begins his wind-up.
“TIME!” the umpire behind him calls. The old man aborts his throw and spins around to see the man with his arms spread out wide.
A pudgy man wearing a pullover wind breaker and baseball pants exits from the third base dugout and walks toward him. He signals two fingers to the bullpen for the reliever to join him. Immediately the young player trots onto the field and meets the two men at the mound.
“The kid’s going to take your place,” the manager says.
“I’ve got a few pitches left,” the old man pleads.
“You’ve carried the ball this far, it’s time to let the kid pick it up.”
He hesitates, but with a nod and a grin the old man eventually places the ball into the new pitcher’s hands. The young man grips the ball tight feeling the intermingling of rough and smooth, soft and coarse surfaces. They remind him of one from his past.
It had been given to him when he was eight years old. A lone ball resting in a plastic case molded just for its size sitting atop a golden colored plastic stand. It was a cheap trophy but one that came from the heart. On the ball had been written a date, one that had seeming little importance but to him meant everything. Just below it were written the words: “First Home run, First Grand slam.” It had sat on his shelf for years gathering dust amidst the trophies and accolades he had amassed throughout the years.
He watches his elder stroll confidently off the field amidst the cheers and applause. His had been a good game. He had played it right. But now that turn was ending. The old man had been the heart and soul of this team. He had willed them forward when no one else had believed, and he had steered the ship for years convinced of their destination. Now that job was his.
The old man stops short of the dugout and turns. He catches the young man’s eyes and stares. His eyes seem to say, “This is your game now. I believe in you,” but no words are ever spoken. The young man understands. He felt it when the ball hit his palm. Then the elder player turns, descends into the home team’s dugout, and fades into the darkness of the clubhouse.
Next to that baseball had sat his first glove that his father had given to him.
This moment reminded him of it. It had been one of the greatest treasures of the young man’s life. When he received it, his father had said no words of love, nor offered any of encouragement. But he hadn’t needed to. The hours spent with the oil had spoken what his father couldn’t.
“Thanks, dad,” the young man says then turns his attention onto the batter. He knows how dangerous this guy has been, but he is determined not to let the game get away this time. He steels his eyes on the catcher, receives his signal, and winds up into his motion. His eyes never waver from his target as he releases the ball toward the catcher’s mitt.
December 10, 2013
It wasn’t until a week later that John resumed his search on his father. The week had been busy, but a blessed relief from the past few months. He had returned to work to find that the large contract he had been procuring had actually been accepted and that he would be receiving a large commission. All he needed to do was to shore up a number of loose ends, and it would be complete. He couldn’t do anything until after lunch, so he needed a new distraction.
He sat in his office facing out of the giant wall of glass that stood between him and the one hundred stories of city below. He had always been afraid of heights but loved the view from above the city. When it was silent enough he could barely make out the rumbling of traffic from far below. He sat there in his large, leather desk-chair cupping his warm coffee savoring the sweet aroma and the silence of the hectic city. Far in the distance, John imagined he could see the white gulls soaring over the coastline. Los Angeles could be an urban jungle, but at least it was his urban jungle. It made him think of his father who had moved out here when he was a young boy.
Spinning his chair toward his desk, John tapped on the keyboard to open up the internet. He keyed in the address to the heritage website. This was his first chance in a week to try to find answers. He entered his father’s name and took a heavy sip of his coffee. After a long minute and another few sips of the warm liquid the results finally showed. He scanned the records and saw the same birth certificate from before. He forgot that he had saved it to his profile. He clicked on his link then clicked again on the birth record for the baby boy connected to his father. The name on the document read “Tom”. John had never heard the name growing up, so as far as he knew, Mike was the only brother he had. He silently wished they were still speaking so he could ask if the name was familiar to him. The certificate recorded a birth at the same hospital a few blocks down from his high rise. John wondered if the man, who had to be close to thirty-five by now, still resided close by.
He entered the name Tom plus his last name into a search engine. It produced no results. He returned to the ancestry website and searched again for a Tom with his last name. Still no luck.
If I’ve never heard about him, it’s possible he didn’t know about us either. John was now determined to find this man. He brought up the record and found the last name of the mother. This time he searched for a Tom with the mother’s last name.
Finally, a hit. It was a marriage license to a Cindy in Los Angeles County. He tried that name in a search engine, and it produced a social media page with a phone number.
“Might be an old one, but it’s worth a shot,” he said aloud to no one.
He picked up the receiver on his desk and looked around to see if anyone was watching him. Not that anyone would care after this huge deal he just landed. As he waited for the other end to pick up, John poured one more package of sweetener into his coffee. He hated the taste compared to real sugar. He sipped the beverage and loathed the doctor all the more as the semi-sweet flavor hit his tongue. Finally, after what seemed hours, an engaging voice answered.
“I’m sorry to bother you ma’am, but is this Cindy?”
“Yeah, who’s calling?”
“My name is John. I apologize for the odd request, but I’m looking for a Tom.”
Befuddled, John searched his desk to see if the line had disconnected somehow. He hung up the receiver, but when he picked it up again there was a steady dial tone. Shrugging it off, John hung up the phone and decided to leave the situation alone for the moment. There was another riddle he wanted to solve. That of his father’s missing birth certificate. He was beginning to have suspicions that his father was not who he said he was.
Suddenly, the website flashed an advertisement for a discount on international records. A thought kindled in his mind. His dad had to born somewhere. If John couldn’t find an American record, surely an international one would shed some light. He entered his credit card information and within twenty minutes John was ready to search the international interwebs for a birth record of his father. Fear held him still for a moment before typing in his father’s name in the search bar. He moved his fingers to the enter key to commence the request when his phone rang.
Again it sounded, and this time John answered it.
“Hello?” he asked forgetting to include his name and company business.
“Is this John?”
“This is Cindy from earlier. I’m sorry. I thought you was another credit collector calling. I hung up, then thought you sounded too nice. You’re not are you?”
“Um… no. I’m just looking for Tom.”
“Well him and I split up six years ago. Divorce.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry.”
“Would you happen to know how to reach him?”
“What’s your deal with him?”
John wondered if he should tell her the truth.
“Honestly, I have information that might make him my brother.”
“Tom don’t have no brothers. Mom died when he were a baby.”
“This would be from his biological father.”
“Oh, that sorry piece of crap? If you ever see him, you can tell him to screw off. Done enough damage to Tom.”
“Actually, ma’am, my father just passed away.”
“Oh… my bad. Well, he don’t have a working phone number, but I can give you his address.”
“That would be fine.”
She relayed it to him, and after a quick search John was surprised to find it was only fifteen minutes from his office.
“Ma’am, thank you for your time.”
“Yeah, by the way, Tom and his hood ain’t too fond of visitors. Watch your back.”
“Thanks for the advice.”
John’s lunch was only a few hours away, so he didn’t have much time. He rang his secretary.
“Gina, I need to head out for a while. Tell anyone who calls that I’m in a meeting.”
“Yes, sir. When shall I expect you?”
“Probably not until after lunch.”
John knew he was using up his collateral from the deal but he needed answers. Passing Gina’s desk he thanked her again. Gina returned with a flirtatious smile. John shook his head. Messing around at work was not his thing. He had tried to get her moved to another office because she was just too flirty for him. But she flirted with everyone, and she was good at her job, so John eventually dropped the request. Any other man might have gotten into a lot of trouble with that secretary.
He shook off the thought as he turned the ignition to his car. He entered the address into his navigation system. He wasn’t quite sure what he was going to say, but he hoped he would come up with something. Exiting the parking structure, he headed toward the I-5 South.
The entire drive his mind rattled with different ways to begin the conversation, but nothing seemed appropriate. He reached down for his coffee and nearly kicked himself when he grasped only thin air. He needed something to steady his nerves. It didn’t help that the freeway was still at a standstill. He only had two exits ahead of him, but there was no way through the throng of cars. Slowly the mob of automobiles trickled forward. Noxious fumes floated about his car like a dirty fog while aggravated drivers took turns urging those ahead of them with profanity and horns. John looked at the green digital clock on his dashboard. The fifteen minute drive had already taken thirty-five, and he had one more exit to take. A bright blue motorcycle weaved in and out of traffic making its way to the front of the pack. John watched as it took the exit he needed. Maybe I should trade this old car in for a crotch rocket too, he thought. Finally, a hole opened up and John took the opportunity to escape the melee. Within minutes John turned his silver Spectra onto the residential street his navigation system had been leading him to.
He slowed to examine the houses. He had obviously stumbled into a rough neighborhood. Most of the houses were crumbling and were surrounded by old, rusted chain-link fences. The windows all had bars on them, but some were still broken despite the extra layer of protection. He stopped the car in front of his destination. The house was no different from the rest with a rusty fence out front; dirty, crumbling, paneled walls; and a rusty metal awning over the front window. John hesitated to get out. He was still in his business suit. The warning from the woman on the phone resonated in his head. But there was no way around it. He had come this far, he might as well truck on.
Steadily, he moved from the car to the front door and knocked. After a long, terrifying few minutes constantly looking over his shoulder the door creaked open. A daddy long-leg spider ran out of the way as its web was broken.
“Who are you?” a gruff voice said from behind a latch chain.
John hesitated then asked, “What’s your dad’s name?”
“Ain’t got un. And ya got ten seconds to stop me from shooting. Ten…”
“I meant your biological father.”
“That’ my dad’s name too.”
“Seven… So? Big deal. There’s probably thousands of Brians. Six…”
When John shared the last name, the man stopped counting.
“This a joke?”
“No. I promise.”
“How’d you find me?
“Figures. Never trust a broad.”
“Listen, do you know anything about him?”
“Why don’t ya ask his sorry ass yourself?”
“Well, he passed away a few weeks ago.”
“Oh. . .” Tom said sounding a little guilty. “Nah. Ma never talked ‘bout ’em.”
“Cindy said your mother died when you were a baby.”
“She don’t know much. Ma died when I was six.”
“Do you remember her saying anything, maybe referring to another country perhaps?” John asked grasping for straws.
“Er… She’d often say something ‘bout never learning Canadian. Whatever that meant.”
“Hmmm… Well I want to thank you for your time. Here’s my card. If you remember anything else, or just, well . . . for whatever.”
“Sure thing.” He reached out to grab the card. Then reached out again. John clasped his hand.”Sure good to know I have a brother.”
“Two actually and a sister.”
“Hmm. Damn.” He released John’s hand and shut the door. John looked down at his watch. It was missing.
He wasn’t about to go asking for it back. Not in this neighborhood. He left it alone and hurried back to his office before his meeting.
November 5, 2013
Tactics and Tailors
He raised his sword to guard against the tremendous weight of the blade crashing down upon him. The odors of sweat and dirt filled his nostrils as the threat of death filled his mind. Sharp metal slashed against sharp metal. He took a step back. The blade sprung towards his left side this time. Deftly, he rotated his own saber and placed it between the deathblow and himself. The man pushed against it making his opponent retreat a few steps. Now, he was on the offensive. Quickly, he charged.
Push forward. Push forward.
Forward thrust. Side swipe.
Side swipe, feint, rotate wrist.
Move to block.
The crowd surrounding the two combatants erupted in cheers. The man reached down and retrieved his opponent’s sword lying in the dust. His challenger, a young man, held out a shaking hand. He delicately placed the saber into it, and the two of them bowed to one another. The younger man stalked off happy to be alive, but not quite sure what had happened. Another young lad from the crowd stepped forward.
“Sergeant Preston, how do you make it look so easy?”
“Practice. Years of practice,” he said quietly sheathing his sword. Then he barked, “Attention!”
Immediately, the clanging of shields and armor silenced as the men snapped their heels together and stood tall.
“I propose a challenge. Winner receives an invitation to the Captain’s Feast this eve.”
Immediately, a large crowd of men sprang forward.
“Loser must keep guard along the ridge, unaccompanied.”
“But, sir, the frosts. No one can survive them,” one said.
“If that is his fate,” Preston said stone-faced.
All but two of the men retreated. The sergeant examined them in great detail.
“So – there are still men of valor left in the realm. Draw your weapons.”
Their swords scraped against the metal on their sheaths that hung about their hips. The soldiers stood facing each other. The first combatant lifted his blade high above his broad shoulders exposing his rib cage. He angled his body so as to make himself as small as possible behind his circular shield.
His guard is too high, Preston thought.
The second warrior held his steel directly in front of his shield. He set his stocky frame shoulders-width apart baring the fullness of his chest to his opponent.
He is too cocky.
Preston stood in their midst. “The fight will continue until the first stain of red falls on this dust.” Both men nodded their head without moving any other muscle. “Begin!”
The crowd of men circled around the contestants cheering with bloodlust.
The two warriors circled each other, evaluating the other. The tall soldier kicked a few small pebbles toward his opponent.
Don’t take the bait, Preston coached in his head.
When he didn’t react, the first soldier moved in closer.
Dust filled his nostrils. The must made it difficult to breathe, but he refused to spend the night on the ridge.
The stocky soldier had been in this position before. The fear in his stomach was familiar, yet he knew he only narrowly escaped last time. The scar on his side was his constant reminder.
The first man attacked swinging his sword wildly overhead from side to side. The blade crashed upon his opponent’s shield.
The second combatant thrust his bronze disk away from him throwing off the blade. With his free hand, he swung his sword horizontally across his rival’s chest. It caused a deep gash in the breastplate.
“Good, Merek,” Preston said.
The first warrior took three considerable steps backward. Merek saw the momentary hesitation and leapt upon him. He charged forward using his shield as a weapon to cut out the man’s feet under him. The tall soldier jumped and narrowly missed the hit. Merek did not let off. He swung his sword with a strong backhand toward the other’s helmet. But he did not hit his mark for the sword was met by a shield. A terrible crash resonated throughout the arena.
“Well countered, Fendrel,” Preston coached again.
The two men returned to their circular berth neither finding the other’s weakness. The restless crowd jeered at them.
How sickening! These men were unwilling to stand in combat, but all too willing to see a brother bleed. Preston spat upon the ground.
At the taunting, the two men became incensed. They no longer strategized, but instead were compelled to fight with blind aggression.
Fendrel thrust his blade forward.
Merek parried and countered.
Fendrel sidestepped and followed with a right hook catching Merek just under the bronze helmet.
Merek was taken aback. He returned the blow with one to Fendrel’s chest using his shield.
Fendrel felt the full weight of the hit as it cracked the armor along the fault that had been created earlier.
Clamors for blood rang out.
Fendrel tore off his splintered breastplate and felt the fresh breeze blow across his sweat soaked torso. The move was more psychological than physical. He continued the battle fully exposed.
Now this I have never seen before.
Block and reversal.
Merek tried to take advantage of the open back, but Fendrel anticipated it. He swung his broadsword behind him and felt the twang of another blade hitting it. He spun around and swung his sword in a vertical circle striking Merek’s out of his hands. It rattled into the dust beyond the crowd.
“Sword, sword. I need a sword.”
He looked around frantically for someone to provide him a weapon. But Preston barked an order.
“Sheath you swords! Neither will receive assistance from you.”
Merek was trapped. He had no way to fight. His fate was sealed.
He made an unexpected sprint towards Fendrel and tackled him. The weight of his armor aided in taking him to the ground. He wrestled for the blade and when he couldn’t steal it, he pummeled one fist after another into his enemy’s face. A trickle of blood seeped from his mouth, and he was obviously dazed. Merek pulled himself off of his opponent and stood tall over him. The man did not move. The sergeant moved over to the men.
“Make your next move.”
“Yet, there is still breath in his lungs.”
“You would have me kill a fellow soldier?”
“He yet breathes,” Preston said again.
“Sir, I can’t.”
“If you cannot finish an enemy when he is down, you are unfit for the Sovereign’s army. Make no mistake, your enemies will not hesitate to kill you.”
As if in response, Fendrel suddenly awoke and thrust his sword through Merek’s midsection. The blade was diverted, however, by Preston so that it merely gashed his side. A stream of blood oozed onto the dirt.
“Merek, you must leave immediately for your watch on the ridge. Henry will accompany you only long enough to dress your wound. Your watch ends at dawn.”
The diminutive soldier trudged off the field followed closely by a medic. Preston turned his attention to Fendrel.
“You will accompany me to the Feast this eve. Prepare yourself with the finest garb you own. We will meet at sundown on the castle commons. The rest of you! How dare you call yourselves men, let alone soldiers. None of you had the fortitude to seek combat this day, but sought out the blood of one of your comrades. You have disgraced this company.”
He paused for effect.
“You are dismissed.”
At the command, they, in unison, pounded a fist upon their chest and grunted an “Aye, sir!”
The men dispersed and headed for the barracks across the barren field they were standing in. At the same time, another man jogged across the field towards the arena sunlight glinting off of his bronze armor.
“Sir! Captain Royce is requesting a word with you. He says he has urgent business that concerns only you.”
“Of course he does,” he said under his breath. “Tell him I’ll report in five minutes.”
“Aye, sir,” the soldier said then ran off in the direction he had come.
Half an hour later, the captain called Preston into his office in the square, marble building across the training grounds. His demeanor was as cold as he had ever seen. The captain’s face was stone, never betraying the emotions bottled up within. As he shut the large wooden door, an ominous boom echoed throughout the grounds.
“Sergeant, have you seen the condition of your recruits?”
“Then why are they the sorriest waste of space in the entire realm!” the captain said, his nose almost touching Preston’s. “Isn’t your job to turn them into warriors? My God, most days all I see is recruit after recruit headed for the healing quarters. If I had half a mind, I would report you to the Lieutenant for neglect of duty!”
Preston held his tongue as he had been trained. He did not flinch but steadily returned his commander’s gaze.
“Sergeant, I am forced to conclude that this, along with the death of that woman a month ago, takes your leadership ability into serious question.”
Preston cringed at the thought of that poor woman. Though he had dealt swiftly with the offenders, the situation had haunted him ever since.
“And possibly your loyalty,” he added, squaring his eyes at the sergeant. Preston clenched his fists until drops of blood appeared. No one had ever questioned his allegiance before.
Captain Royce took a long while to take in the moment. He did not speak, but rather bored his eyes into Preston. It was as if the moment he had waited so long for had arrived.
“Fortunately for you, those above me do not have the same concerns. You have been given an assignment,” the captain spoke suddenly, his voice echoing off the solid walls. “Lord Elton sent a priceless treasure, which had been in his family for three hundred years, to Lord Dawson for safe keeping during the Great War. The dagger has been a family heirloom for three hundred years. Lord Dawson was returning it when his envoy was attacked. Now, it has gone missing. In two days, you are to take a company of two of your most trusted men and return it safely to the Sovereign. The attack occurred at the crossroads near Rindland.”
“Understood, sir” Preston said.
“One more thing, sergeant.” The words nearly spit out of the captain’s mouth. “Fail, and I will personally see to it that you are stripped of your title and honor and removed from this army.”
“Understood,” he said through clenched teeth.
Preston made an about face and walked out of the small room letting the door slam behind him.