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"My Little Sword"

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“My Little Sword”

My father is a warrior. Not just in the battlefield, but in life too. Ever since my mother died when I was three, he was always fighting a war inside of him. Fighting the urge to break down, leave everything in the dust. Fighting for me.

We live at the edge of the planet, in an icy continent with eternal snow. Far away, a month's journey on foot, are two cities which are constantly warring, but long were the days my father fought in their battles. He said he was getting too old, said he was beginning to grow too weak, said he had enough of bloodshed.

But I knew better.

I grew up in a small, gray hut set in the middle of nowhere. I am always at comfort, covered in fur, curled up next to the warm, cheerful flames of the fireplace. Coal and food aren't problems, because when my father fought a battle which he won, he would come home lugging sacks of charcoal, potatoes, turkey, sweet cakes and more.

They never spoil.

My father also entertains me with stories of his time, which stretches up to years, in the battlefield. I listen to him, wide-eyed with fascination as he narrates tales of killing monsters, invading enemy camps and planning strategies around the table with the noblest of knights. I would ask him if all of those were true and he responds with a hearty laugh and a wink.

He always seems so happy.

But when I grew older, I realized that the grief my father felt when my mother passed away had never really dissolved. Behind his cheerful face lies a broken man that holds unspeakable sadness. Why wouldn't he be like that? He had lost the only woman he ever really loved.

-----

On my fourteenth birthday, he woke me up early and without a word, led me outside our hut. The cold almost immediately had me frozen. I wasn't wearing my warm fur coat, I only have the cotton pajamas I wear when I sleep.

I turned to my father, a question on my lips. And then I saw the sword in his hand, a bow and arrows slung over his shoulder, a knife sheathed at his hip. One by one, he dropped the weapons on the snow-covered ground before me.

"Benedict." His deep voice, which usually rang out so merrily, was so grim. "You need to train yourself with these weapons."

I stared down at the deadly objects at my feet and wondered why my father wanted me to use them.

"Why, Father?" I asked. “Why do I need to train myself with those things? Are we in danger?”

"Just do what I say, my son." My father spoke quietly. "In time, you will understand."

I gave in because I know my father. He will never ask me to train with weapons if he did not have a valid reason.

For the next few weeks, I woke up early, bundled up in my fur coats and gingerly stepped outside into the never-ending blizzard of snow. First, we trained with the sword. I always lose, which was not surprising, given my opponent is a warrior who spent half his life fighting. It was months before I first disarmed him.

"Very good, son." He smiled, rubbing his wrist. "But let us see how you do without the fur."

I was figuring out what he meant when he ripped off the bundles of fur from my body, leaving me in my paper-thin shirt and pants. Then he started strapping armor around me. After he was finished, I was shivering so much I could hardly hold my sword. All those months practicing the weapon in warmth had been useless.

It was again many months before I could fight well enough with the sword without any fur. We moved on to the knife and then to the bow and arrows. I was sixteen when I excelled in them all.

One day, we were sipping coffee in front of the fireplace after a hard day's training. My father seemed preoccupied with something so I entertained myself by watching the flames do their chaotic dance on top of the coals.

"Benedict." My father looked up from his mug and stared at me. "I received a message from Xon." Xon was the country my father fought for. I stayed quiet, waiting for him to continue.

"They want me to come back to the war. They are on the verge of losing and needed more warriors." His voice faltered, and he dipped his head, his eyes on the black pool in his mug.

His words made no sense to me at all. Coming back to the war? But he already left all ideas of warring behind him, burned it, and never looked back.

"What do you mean, Father?" I asked.

"What I mean is, Benedict, if the Colyians-" They were the Xon's rivals, "won over Xon, things will get very bad. The Colyians are vicious beings and they will surely enslave all of those fighting for Xon and their families as well. And I can't have that happening. Also, the Xonians are my friends. Benedict...do you understand what this means?"

I nodded, though I hate to admit it. My father has absolutely no choice but to go back to the war.

-----

"Goodbye, Father." My voice noticeably shook. I couldn't meet his eyes, for sure when I do, I will break down and cry. Would a man, who knows how to fight with a sword, knife and bow, do that? No.

Father put a hand on my shoulder. "Don't worry, my son. We will meet again." But his eyes were all the uncertainty he felt. Then he opened his arms and I reached into his embrace.

He patted my back and said a final piece of advice: "Be strong." He pulled back and smiled halfheartedly. I nodded. "You too, Father."

"You are now such a strong, young lad, Benedict." My father hefted his bundle of supplies on his shoulder. "Your mother would be so proud." He then raised a hand in farewell, turned his back and trudged through the snow. Soon, he was nothing but a spot in the foggy distance.

-----

I waited restlessly, sitting by the fire, eating bits of turkey and bread. Sometimes I venture outside and without even shivering, sat on the snow and gazed out on the horizon, waiting, waiting. Two years of practicing out in the cold had made me immune to the icy winds, rain and snow.

Four months passed and there was no sign of my father. How long is a battle, exactly? The sleepless nights started and another month drifted away before I did not bother to go to sleep at all.

-----

Knock, knock.

Finally! I jumped and ran to answer the door. Finally. My father had come back.

But it was not my father who greeted me at the door. Two men were there, both wearing armor. They had dark circles under their eyes, bruises and wounds covering every inch of their skin. They seem to carry something between them.

"Good afternoon, are you the son of Zion, Xon's ally, Benedict?" One asked. I nodded slowly. Zion was my father's name. What had happened?

The two men walked inside and I followed their movements with my eyes. They were carrying something: a cot. Two other men carried the cot at the rear.

Then I looked down at the occupant of the cot and saw the ashen face of my father.

"Wh...What happened to him?" I asked, choking a bit. Is he dead...? No, I saw him breathing, which calmed me down a little.

"He was wounded in battle then fell ill." One of the men explained. They gently laid the cot down and lifted my father to his bed.

When they were done, they lined up at the door. One of them gave me a sack full of things, then they bowed and left.

I peered inside the sack, saw the contents were mostly vegetables and medicines. I propped it on the wall and approached my father.

He was still, his eyes closed. I looked down at him and I couldn't believe he was my father, the strong, authoritative man who had trained me to fight excellently. He had lost weight and he was disturbingly pale. He looked so frail, so vulnerable...

And then he stirred and his eyes flew open. "Alissa!"

My mother's name.

"Father." I patted his shoulder. "You're dreaming."

"No." He moaned and then sobs racked his body. "No!"

I only stared at him. In a few months' time he had changed. Who is he? This man, who always refused to show his weakness...no, he couldn't be this man.

The war. The war had been too traumatic for him. It held so much darkness for him that it destroyed his mind, leaving him, once again, broken.

"Father." I said. "Father, calm down. You're home."

"Benedict? Benedict? Where are you?"

I knelt beside him. "I'm here, beside you." I told him.

His hand lashed out, grasping the air until he caught my hand. "Benedict, Benedict. I won't live much longer anymore."

What does he mean? One word came to my mind and it filled me with fear.

"Father!" I spoke to him harshly. "Don't talk like that."

My father only laughed. "Benedict, Benedict." Tears stained his face. "It is true."

"No!" I yelled, shaking my head furiously. “You're not going to die, Father, and you know it!"

His eyes clouded over. "Get the sack, get the sack." Was all he said. Then his hand relaxed and I slipped away from him. I walked over to where the sack was leaning on the wall and lugged it to my father's bed. "Here it is." I said.

"The case, the case." His voice was no more than a whisper.

What case? I looked at him blankly. Then I opened the sack, pawed through the vegetables and medicines until I saw a small, leather box, which I assume is the case my father was talking about. I snatched it up and had the sack lean on the side of the bed. I tried to offer the box to my father, but he waved it away.

"Open it, Benedict. Open it."I did what he asked. As the box swung open, I saw a red silken cushion. A silver dagger with its hilt studded with a single ruby lay on it.

"Listen to me, Benedict. Listen." Father rasped. "T-that is a dagger when you look at it, but in reality it is a sword."

I didn't dare question him about the dagger-sword. I knew my father always tells the truth.

"Take it, take it." He said. "Always take it with you."

I nodded, but I was a little confused. Why would my father give me this little “sword”? We have plenty of those stored in a secret compartment in the wall.

"T-that is a special sword, Benedict, Benedict." My father's breath quickened and he was shaking slightly. "It might look small and useless, but it will turn into something useful when needed. A sword, a true weapon. When in danger, it will always, always help you."

Then he made a sound like choking and convulsed on the bed. My eyes widened. "Father? Father!" I tried to stop him from shaking so hard, but failed miserably.

It was a long time before the convulsions stopped.

"Father..." My voice was hoarse as my hand tightened around the dagger. I reached out for his hand as he was taking heavy breaths.

"Alissa?" He whispered my mother's name. His lips curled into a smile, and his features relaxed. "Alissa, it's you."

His hand, the one that wasn't grasping mine, shot out and felt the air in front of him. "Where have you been?" He asked the dust motes spinning in the grayish light.

Then he laughed. "Oh, Alissa."

His eyes were closing, his breath slowing down. "Benedict?" His hand held mine tighter. "Benedict." He smiled and he looked so at peace. So much like the strong man whom I know is my father.

"Benedict?"

"Yes, father?"

"The sword will contain my spirit. As long as you have it, I will always be with you. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Father."

"Good." There was a moment's silence. "Alissa? Alissa. I'm here now." His lips still in a smile, he drew his last breath. Then, his hand went slack and his eyes closed forever.

“Goodbye, Father.” I leaned down and gently kissed his forehead.

I shed silent tears, grieving over the loss of my dear father. A day or two had passed before something happened.

I was leaning on a wall, still looking at my father's limp body, my eyes red from crying when his body started dissolving into mist. They hung in the air in a perfect spiral and then shifted and headed towards me.

Before I could move away, the spiral of mist plunged into the ruby of the dagger-sword I was still holding on to.

His words began echoing in my head. "The sword will contain my spirit. As long as you have it, I will always be with you. Do you understand?"

My father's spirit still lives.

I moved out of the room with the sack of vegetables and medicines and my dagger-sword. I began to add some more things in the sack, a bit of turkey, three filled water skins, a fur coat, some coal, a knife, a bow and a quiver of arrows, a photo of my parents. Then, I opened the door, revealing the blizzard that still rages on. The snow reached up to my thighs, but I was eager to move. To move away from the gray hut, that contained both happiness and sadness. Painful memories. I went on, seeking something, an adventure, a new beginning.

I wanted to be like my father. A warrior. Not just in the battlefield, but in life. Fighting to stay alive after the losses made you want to die. Fighting to survive.

Now I understand why he trained me to fight with a sword, to handle a knife, to shoot with a bow and arrows. He was teaching me to survive on my own.

But I am not alone. Never will be alone.

I shifted in the snow, moving forward.

My father's spirit still lives. It lives inside my little sword, which I held in my fist, not wanting to let go.

And also....and also.....

My father's spirit lives in me.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Lucira Nightlock 07:39, June 28, 2012 (UTC)

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