Worthy By Deed Alone: Part 3
His hand was held out to me steady and strong. A sword, his sword, rested across his palm. My eyes went from his to the sword and back again. It was then I noticed how thin he had become, how grey his hair was now. His face, once smooth and strong, was now spotted and wrinkled with age and worry. But worry for what? For who? For me? But why, I was to be believed as dead these past two years.
I opened my mouth to ask why, but he shook his head and nodded at the sword. I took it and belted it to my hip. Turning, I faced my opponent, unnamed, and unknown to me but as an abuser of innocent men. I drew the sword slowly, cherishing its weight and the slow nearly silent hiss as it left the waxed sheath. Its blade was thin, light in my hands, and perfectly balanced. Exactly as I remembered my father’s blade from so many years ago.
The tall man had had enough and yelled, “At you then!” And rushed me with his outstretched sword point. My training flooded back to me after years of neglect, and I barely slapped the blade aside with the flat of my own. He cut across my abdomen, and I wasn’t fast enough to deflect it all. A thin cut opened on my shirt, and a bead of blood appeared on my bare chest.
He grinned at me then, surely thinking the fight would be a quick one. He was correct in thinking so. I had stumbled as I had tried to move back from his cut, my legs not working as I knew I needed them to. But in that moment, I felt more strength in them than i had thought i ever would again.
Again and again, he struck at me. Cut, thrust, cut, slash, thrust, thrust again. Each time, he nicked me in some small way. But each time, I equally found my footing more sure. I was certain I would never be what I once was, though certain also that I would always be better than this fool of a man.
Only a scant few moments had passed, and I found my body warming to the thrill of the fight. I stepped left, dripping the tip of my blade. He followed to the right, lashing out at my neck. My tip came up under his strike and cut his wrist lightly. My feint was a success, and now he was fearful of me. I pushed him then, striking low, then high. Forcing his guard out wide, I took my opening and thrust my father’s sword through his belly and out through his spine.
He went down like a sack and died groaning and whimpering in his own blood. I stood over him, gasping for air. My legs trembled and burned from the effort. A feeble hand grasped my arm, and a weather worn and tanned face of the farmed loomed up at me with tears flowing. “Thank you, young master! Oh Thank you! Yes, Thank you!”
I smiled down at him, “Think not of it at all good, sir. We are all men. If we don’t stand for each other, we will fall together.” I turned from him then and stepped to my father again. “Son,” he said, his voice low and somber. “Your mother was worried for you.” I felt tears well in my eyes and could scant force them away. “Mother,” I asked with a broken voice, “Is she?”
He nodded gravely, “Aye, and your sister and younger brother too. We’ve been looking for you for a long time, boy.” I shook my head in disbelief. “How?” Is all I could utter. For the first time i could remember, my father laughed. He laughed long and hard. When he had settled some, he brushed an uncharacteristic tear from his eye and spoke. “Boy, you need to work on your forgery. A blind man could’ve seen that your handwriting was multitudes worse than the general’s adjutant.”
I couldn’t help but laugh myself. For all the years I’d been running from my past and my shame. My family had never once been ashamed, only concerned, and they had found me when I needed them most.
“Well, I will have to work on that then.” I said as my father looped an arm around my shoulder, and I sheathed his sword. Together, we walked away to find my family. One day, maybe, I could teach my son to be Worthy by Deed Alone.