An Honor

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: The Imaginarium


You have been chosen. What an honor!


An Honor

It’s an honor, isn’t it. Out of all the men that could have been chosen, and there were at least fifty suitable candidates, you were the one to be selected. It will be you that will sail forward to do battle with the beast. And if you win, what a victory you will have achieved? Your status then will be second only to your king’s.

The time for partying is over now. All the men wanted to drink with you, the single women vying for your attention. From being an average warrior, you now hold an almost god-like status. The future of your community is soon to be in your hands.

Time for reflection, for calmness. There is no space for doubt inside your head. Your foe has only been glimpsed from a distance. Details are sketchy. Some flying beast, most likely a gigantic bird with sharp beak and talons, although some whisper of an ancient beast that has not graced these shores for many lifetimes. You won’t listen to the tale-spinners and their alarming nonsense. You will believe in your ability to go out there alone and to win.

The great axe is handed to you by the King himself. Jewel encrusted, it is a hefty weapon, sharper than any other in existence. It is heavy but you have the strength to wield it to it’s ultimate power. If your foe can be defeated by axe, you will be the man to do it.

And there, it has slipped in, that moment of doubt. You let the word ‘if’ enter your mind. As you sail out to sea for the first time you wonder if being chosen really was such any honor.

No! You will banish that thought. Your people need a hero and you will not let them down. The sky remains clear, of your enemy there is not a sign. Further and further you sail out in the sea. The land has now all but disappeared from view.

What is that, away in the distance? It must be closer than it seems or else it truly is huge. It seems to be able to hang motionless, to swoop and dive, to soar at will. The tail....it does not look like that of any bird you have ever come across before. And there is another one now, just as big. They seem to be carrying out some sort of ritual, some sort of dance through the sky.

You watch them with a mixture of wonder and terror. How can you take on such a beast? Even if there was a single one, would you really have a chance of bringing it down? They are strong and powerful, magnificent. You can tell the instant that they catch sight of you. Their aerobatic dance ceases and they separate, both eyeing you from where they hover.

Fire! No, it cannot be. One of those beasts has opened its mouth, and from it has shot a jet of flame. The distance between you is too great for it to do you any damage but you can feel the heat. Should you turn the boat around? Should you admit to having no chance of victory, save your life and flee?

The thought is there, the temptation to act on it is great. But you cannot do it. A coward is worse than nothing in your village. You turn and run and your life will be forfeit, along with any respect for your family. You know you would not be the last to suffer from a show of cowardice. When you were chosen, your choice was made.

Slow wing beats bring one of the beasts nearer to you, and it is only now that you realize its true size. It is a monster! No feathers but scales and leathery skin, no beak but an almost reptilian face. The eyes measure you up, cold and calculating, not a sign of compassion. The talons are razor claws, large and strong and so very sharp.

Shut your eyes, inhale deeply, then step forward, balancing the axe between your two hands. You meet it’s gaze, suppress your shiver, balanced perfectly on your powerful legs. You’ll dare it, let it make the first move. How else can you tell what to expect?

The roar is like a physical assault but you keep your position. The flames are something else, burning pain, singeing hair. The axe heats up and blisters your hands. You’ll hang on, won’t let go. The other one has hung back, leaving the two of you to battle but you have no doubt that, should it’s companion be seriously injured it would be straight there to take its place.

The chance to turn, to run, has gone, not that it ever really existed. You look at the sea, the water immeasurably deep as it laps around the prow of your boat. You look back to the creature that is getting ready to strike. There is no way you will survive; if the beasts don’t get you, the water will and so you make your peace.

Then you look back, straight into the eye that is facing you and you raise the axe in defiance. You might be destined to fail but you have no intention of doing so without putting up a fight.

Let the battle begin!

 

 


Submitted: January 08, 2018

© Copyright 2021 hullabaloo22. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:

Comments

jaylisbeth

Fantastic story, Hully! Great wording and theme, this story definitely kept me engaged!

Mon, January 8th, 2018 4:38pm

Author
Reply

Very much picture-inspired, jaylisbeth. Glad you enjoyed it.

Mon, January 8th, 2018 8:48am

Jeff Bezaire

Awesome story, Hully! Fantastic narrative with so much at stake. The tension builds until the very end. Great cliff hanger ending, too! Leave the battle to the imagination . . . or is a sequel coming? :)

Mon, January 8th, 2018 6:37pm

Author
Reply

I've not got one planned, Jeff. Better to let the reader decide, I think. Glad you enjoyed it, fantasy is not something I try very often.

Mon, January 8th, 2018 10:39am

Mike S.

No thanks I'd be out of there--excellent, Hully!

Mon, January 8th, 2018 8:41pm

Author
Reply

This was totally inspired by the picture, Mike. I'm not really comfortable writing fantasy stories although I've read quite a few of them.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read and to comment.

Mon, January 8th, 2018 12:54pm

Sue Harris

A brilliant, captivating story, Hully. Even a hero has human doubts and fears, but in the end prepares to sacrifice his life.

Mon, January 8th, 2018 9:33pm

Author
Reply

Thanks, Sue. Not the type of thing I'd often write, and definitely picture-inspired. Glad you enjoyed it and thanks for taking the time to comment.

Mon, January 8th, 2018 1:38pm

Oleg Roschin

A beautifully structured philosophical story! One could conjure quite a few real-life challenges to go with this metaphor. I love the insight into the hero's train of thought and the cliffhanger ending, which reminds me of the very last episode of my favorite TV series, "Angel". Good stuff, Hully!

Tue, January 9th, 2018 1:37am

Author
Reply

Thanks, Oleg. I rarely write fantasy but when I found the picture the story kind of wrote itself. Glad you enjoyed it.

Tue, January 9th, 2018 4:00am

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