Worthy By Deed Alone: Part 2

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But fate has fickle plans for all men. Even though it had not been eight years since i had last spoken to my father. Four years in service, two at war, and two on the road. Still, his words rang in my wars one morning as I lay in the gutter by the market. “Son, men are not worthy of merit, honor, or respect, by birth. All men must be worthy by deed, or nothing else matters.

I do not know why that morning of all mornings I would hear those words for the first time in two years. But as i lifted my head and looked out at the city starting its day. I could not shake the feeling that something was building in the air.

I never thought to be worthy of anything again. Never thought to be useful to anyone, not as a cripple. But as the noon day sun bore down on the stalls and tables of the hawkers and merchant, I came to realize that a man must do what a man must.

These past two years had seen the end of the war and the flooding of cities with hollow eyed veterans from countless battles. Unrest and crime filled the streets. Orphans and veterans alike stole and robbed. Neither have enough to live by after losing all to the war.

I had long since ignored their deeds, so long as they left me alone. Then, a group of richly dressed young men, fresh from their military service. Began to harass the common folk who tried to earn a meager living.

A tall, thin man with rusty red hair shoved an old farmer to the ground roughly. “A copper Filla for a handful of withered vegetables?! I should take them for free! You should be giving them to us for our service in defense of our nation!” He rudely barked.

The old man cowered and whimpered in pain as the tall man stepped on his hands. “Disgusting commoners, you aren’t worthy of my coin!” If he had thought to say more, I would never know. In that moment, as he lifted his foot to step down again, I was between him and the farmer.

“Neither your birth nor your required service make you worthy of respect or honor.” My voice was low and gravely from lack of use and lack of water. The two beside the tall man started as if stunned to see someone before them. I was not the man I once was, but I knew how to move.

The tall man flushed, then reddened. He growled low in his chest and forced out, “Out of my way, you filthy beggar!” I cocked my head at his words and smiled lightly. From a pocket I’d sown into my waistband, I drew out the only piece of my past I had kept with me. “I am no mere beggar,” I held up the small medallion, stamped with the coat of arms of my noble house. “I too an a nobles son.”

There was an immediate hush across the crowd. The red-haired man scoffed and began to laugh in derision. “Even if you were once, you are a beggar now. Go away filth.” He made as if to step around me, but my hand caught him on his upper arm. His face went redder still. Before he could protest, I stated simply. “You’ve insulted me, sir. I demand satisfaction. Will you acquiesce, or does your family have no honor?”

My hand was flung away, and he stepped back from me. Someone had pulled the old father to safety, and we now found ourselves surrounded by merchants and commoners alike. “Have at you then! Someone give him a sword!” There was no move from anyone, no sound. The red man laughed and said, “It seems like Noone thinks you are worthy of a sword, street filth!”

A strong, firm, and resolute voice spoke from behind me. “Men are Worthy by Deeds Alone. He may have my sword.” I stood straight and still. Time seemed nearly frozen as I turned to look into the deep Steele gray eyes of the only man I had ever feared. My father.

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