Excerpt of Glory
I looked up at the sky. It was lightless, somber, and sooty. I suppose it fit the mood of the day—the day of my warrior initiation. I look around at the other boys; I see no fear in their eyes. They seem battle primed—how could they not be after the long years of unyielding practice?
The high legionnaire gives me a stern, vicious stare. I know it is time for me to enter the dark tunnel. Just as the other boys had done, it was my turn to face the five horned chimera. The beast anticipates me as much as I anticipate it. As vicious as the beast is, it will not keep me from my glory.
I am handed my weapons. I look down at the rustic sword and shield and wonder if this will be enough. The weapons are antiquated to the point of near disintegration. As I hold the hilt of the sword, and slide my arm into the leather strap of the shield--I am overcome with dread. My dread is not brought upon by the combat, but at the thought of failure. If I fail, I will have let down my family.
I push these negative thoughts aside and proceed forward to the entrance of the cave. It is just like any other cave—dark, silent, lifeless. I wonder if this is the last time I will ever see the light of day. The next time I leave this cave it will be as a warrior or as a corpse. I look back and nod toward the legionnaire—signaling that I am ready to enter. The legionnaire nods back and it is time.
I take my first steps into the dark abyss. Within seconds I am enveloped in shadow, the world before vanishes. I grip the weapons tighter—anticipating an attack from the darkness. I listen and look for any signs of movement, but there is nothing at all. Perhaps the beast was waiting until I let down my guard to strike.
I hear a snarl behind the dark corners. The snarl is followed by thunderous footsteps that could not be caused by any man. I grip the sword even tighter and raise the shield to my front. I know it is only a matter of seconds before I am struck by the beast. I am right—the beast strikes my shield with a force that knocks me back against a wall.
I hear its primitive noises and smell its nauseating stench every time it makes a move. In this darkness it is impossible to discern the location of the strikes. Once again I raise my shield to the front and wait for another strike—the strike never comes. All grows silent and there is no sign of the beast. Where has it gone?
The sweat rolls down my face. It lands in the crevices of my eyes and it tingles. I am overcome with fear—fear of the unknown. Where has the beast gone? I slowly lower my shield in an attempt to move to a better position. Out of the shadows a foul odor fills the air and I feel a serrated object strike my neck.
I feel warmth engulf my neck and down my chest. I feel weak for a few seconds before collapsing to my knees. It has finally sunk in that I have failed. There is no glory for me on this day—only death. I feel the grip on my neck tighten and the pain increases. Not all my strength has left me, and with the last ounce I have I reach for my fallen sword.
I gather all my strength and with one last movement I swing the sword upward towards the heavens as hard as I can. I feel warmth around my hand and I am content. I will die today but I am not beaten. The beast will be my companion when I wander the depths of the underworld. Glory may not be mine, but neither will shame.