The Pain of Love (healed by hate)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
A short story I wrote as an assignment in my storytelling class. A tale of how love and hurt and hate can heal.

Submitted: October 17, 2012

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Submitted: October 17, 2012

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THE PAIN OF LOVE

 

 

The war was not going well.

Quint was an archer of the First Flight, so he had been with the van! He had seen the madness! The Pratts had stood before the King’s Army. It was madness and miracles, miracles and madness.

He had seen men with mortal wounds stand and fight. The Arrow and the Lance had crashed on the Pratts, and the Pratts had stood like a large rock. Not a single Pratt moved, not a single Pratt fell. The Sword and Pike crashed on them and then they began to dance.

Quint had never seen such fighters. They fluttered and whirled like deadly butterflies. Impervious to the wounds that fell on them, they fluidly passed through the King’s Army. Twenty thousand against one and the one held the field. Any knights or soldiers that got close to them were cut to ribbons.

As the men in the field began to run in fright, the First Flight covered their retreat with wave after wave of arrows. The Pratts began drifting farther afield, headed for any pockets of resistance. The great King’s Army broke in a rout. The arrows of the First Flight were hardly noticed, but each hit home! The First Flight saw the first enemy to ever advance upon them.

Quint and his brothers were the First Flight! They were the best archers in the land of Tarn. The elite! A man had to shoot a shaft shot from 300 feet just to have the opportunity to train with them, never mind join.

The First Flight trained by doing shots most would consider impossible. Shooting two arrows at two separate targets. Center shaft shots at seven hundred feet. Sending arrows around corners and shots that drop behind walls.

Quint lived behind his bow, as all his brothers did. His bow had always been his shield. With his bow in hand, the world could not harm him. Knights called him craven, but Quint felt brave with a bow. He knew there was a certain type of bravery in being a good archer, to match the beauty of loosing a good shot.

The First Flight fled the field. The first time they had ever been routed. Many of Quint’s brothers had dropped their bows in their haste to be gone. When Quint finally remembered to look, he only had two shafts left in his quiver, the barrels of arrows left behind as he ran for all he was worth just to save his own skin.

The Pratts had not pursued and after a time, the First Flight began to reform. Quint found himself walking with Pith; an older brother of the Arrows. Pith had once been a member of The First Flight, but that was many years ago. Now Pith was a trainer in the Arrows, teaching the young enlisted who would rather pull a bow then swing a sword. Pith had traveled with the King’s Army for years, fought in hundreds of battles while he was a member of the Flight, and many since being moved to the Arrows. No matter where he was placed, every man of the First Flight treated Pith with respect and valued his knowledge.

  “How can dead men swing a sword and dance with death?” Quint asked Pith. “I saw men cleaved by sword and lance and filled many a man with arrows.”

  “Magic” was the answer Pith gave. “Dark, bloody magic.”

  Quint laughed at the joke, but when he saw the look on Pith’s face it was clear the old man had not said it in jest. “Pith, my old Nan used to fill my head with talk of magic. When I had finally grown taller then her knee, she put those old children’s tales to rest!”

Pith hawked phlegm in his throat and spat, as he cocked his eye at Quint. “Then tell me, oh great man of the world, what else could it have been? You think scarecrows donned shield and sword to slay us? And if they had, would it be magic less foul?”

  Quint could feel the blood run from his face and a chill settle over him. He said, “Magic fled the lands long ago, if it ever was! Why do you try to scare me with night time stories and old wives tales?”  His bluster did not make the chill go away, though.

  “Aye! Some tales are best told at night, but not all night stories are false. Some wives remember the truth, or how would a tale survive to become an old wives tale?” Pith looked him in the eye and seeing the fear there, continued. “It was magic I say. The Healers of Dorn were among the Pratts. They hold on to the old ways and sing the old songs. The hateful bastards of Dorn were in the rear, bolstering up the field of rabble the Pratts had brought.”

  “The Healers of Dorn!” Quint exclaimed. “I did not see any of them ministering herbs or poultices to the men on the field!”

  Pith spat more phlegm on the ground. “And you never will” he said in a quiet voice. “They have no need to dress wounds of battle I tell you. One healed me many years ago, when the First Flight was attacked during our march to Calistran. The mangy rouge was on the same road when he came across us. I had taken a sword to my leg during an ambush and that despicable creature healed me without a touch. I was sure my marching days were done, but afterwards I did not even have a scar.”

  Once more, Quint searched the old mans face to see if it was a joke at his expense.

They walked in silence for a time, each thinking his own thoughts until Quint asked “How could he heal you without touching you?”

  “Magic” the old man sighed. “Has all have talked about slipped from your mind already?”

  “No,” Quint squeaked “but we had a Healer of Dorn come through my village when I was a boy. He gave my cousin a tincture and cured her of a pox. He set a few broken bones and sold other small cures. He was a talented healer, but he touched everyone he healed.”

  “Were any in your village healed by hate?” The old man asked. “The healer that cured my leg said it was the hate that healed me.”

  “Hurt by hate?” Quint wondered. “There was a man who had been kicked by a horse, a boy who had fallen from a roof and many had the pox. I don’t guess those would be hate. The healer himself was a very hateful man, maybe that’s what he meant. I mean, how can someone be healed by a feeling?”

  “That’s a question I have no answer to” Pith confided. “All I know is the healer who healed me said that being healed by hate had saved my leg.”

  The two walked on in silence, thinking their private thoughts, for the rest of the day.

 

///

 

  The day after the battle, Quint woke to bright sunlight shining in his eyes. The clouds that had hidden the sun’s glory the day before had fled in the night. It had been well past Midnight when Quint finally found the rest of the First Flight and the clouds were just beginning to let the moonlight through. Quint had fallen to the ground beside a fire and slept, too exhausted to make camp or food.

Quint’s superior had woken him with a boot and a command to assemble. The Army was to head to the Queen’s castle in Trexell, where the King was holding court. The Queen’s castle had been the seat of power in the ancient kingdom of Nymeria. Until the kingdom of Tarn had invaded, it was said Nymerian kings had the power of destruction in their hands. Destruction so great that none could stand before them was how the night stories told it. Yet Tarn had given truth to that lie hundreds of years ago.

  When Quint saw the remnants of the King’s Army, he had wept. Less then three in five of the Lance remained and many of those were on foot, their horses having been slain. The Lance had suffered less than the Swords or Pikes. Of those, fewer then two of eight had been spared.

  The wounded stumbled along with an arm over a brother’s shoulder or rode in wagons where the surgeons had laid them. It seemed the hate delivered to them had not saved them, as it had saved Pith so many years ago, Quint thought.

  As if summoned by the thoughts in Quint’s mind, the old man walked up beside the weeping archer.

  “Your tears will serve no man in good stead, sir archer,” the old trainer told Quint “they will not bring your brothers back from the dead nor give victory over magic.”

  “Still so sure of wives tales, Pith? Daylight usually brings down a man’s fear of night stories” Quint answered him.

  “Are you such a fool as to not believe me?” Pith looked scornful. “Ask yourself why the great land of Pratt, all fifty miles of it, has stood within three days journey of the Queen’s castle for centuries. Why has the great kingdom of Tarn not conquered these heathens when greater kingdoms have fallen?”

  Quint watched his boots stir the dust of the road as he pondered the question. He had a sense of foreboding as if a quick answer would ruin his shot at understanding. After a long, uncomfortable silence he gave his answer. “Pratt is just a small land of no real significance. The kings have known they could take the land anytime it pleased them. The other lands were bigger and more of a threat.”

  Pith smiled at that, but his voice held no warmth. “True, Pratt is small, but Tarn has conquered all the lands to the north, south, east and west. Why let this small land remain free? Would you not kill the mosquito biting your arm before chasing a bear through the woods? And when have you ever heard of any land being a threat to Tarn? For that matter, what land has ever stood before Tarn for more then a fortnight?”

  All that Pith had said was true. No land had ever stood up to the Tarns. Still something was amiss.

  “All you say is true,” Quint told him “but if the king knows what a tough nut Pratt would be to crack, why are we here now?”

  “Jealousy and avarice” Pith replied. “The king is Jealous that Tarn stands free and lusts to have the magic of Dorn as his to command. The kings have known for many years that Pratt has Dorn and Dorn has magic. That is why the rest of the world has fallen to Tarn before Tarn tried Pratt. Though this is not the first time Tarn has tried to conquer Pratt and will not be the last.”

  “You say the king lusts for the magic of Dorn, but how does he even know Dorn has any magic left? All the magic of old has failed, so why would the king even think of Dorn having magic left?” Quint asked of the old man.

  “I have served in the King’s Army for almost sixty years” Pith replied “and I know our king to be many things. He is cold and cruel, but the one thing I have never known him to be is stupid. The king has had reports of the hateful Healers of Dorn and their powers. The king may have even heard night stories. The king is no fool, only magic could answer the question of how such a hateful and spiteful people as the Dorn could do such good things and a people as loving as the Nymerians could wield destruction of such magnitude.”

  The two passed the miles in silence, each lost in their own private thoughts.

 

///

 

  Days later, when the First Flight finally reached the Queen’s castle, Quint had all but forgotten his talks with Pith. As he strode with the men of the Flight across the beautiful grounds of the palace to give their report to the King, Quint looked on in awe at the statues of the ancient Nymerian kings.

  Never before had Quint seen carvings of such peace and beauty. These did not look like kings of men, so much as gods of peace. As Quint walked along, he read the inscriptions at the bases of the statues. Most named kings of old who’s names were strange to him, but one caught his eye.

  Stannin the Merciless was the inscription beneath the most beautiful and peaceful statue lining the way into the castle. Stannin his name may be, but he appeared to be the embodiment of mercy. The memory of Pith saying that a loving people like the Nymerians could hold such destruction came to him unbidden.

  After the king had given them their leave, the First Flight had retired to the town outside the castles gates. Quint went to the large church in the town’s center to pray for the brothers he had lost in the battle. After lighting his candles and saying his prayers, Quint walked through the graveyard that spread out behind the church.

  A smaller version of the statue of Stannin the Merciless caught Quint’s eye. When he walked over to take a look, he saw that he stood before the grave of Stannin. An inscription gave the date of his death, and a few queer words. The said “Love not and kill not, my children. For gold shall bring no comfort when it is loosed from your fingers.”

  Quint knelt down to pray; hoping the king of old would hear his prayers and pass them on to what gods stood guard over the dead. He pushed on the base of the statue as he rose to his feet. When his fingers pressed down, Quint heard a soft click and the front of the base dropped away.

  Looking into the hidden compartment, Quint spied a shape known to every archer of any worth. A quiver of arrows had lain under the statue for who knows how many years.

  A chill crept up his spine as he drew the quiver out. It held a dozen golden arrows, each inscribed with the words “Only true love can bring about the truest pain.

Understanding flashed across Quint’s mind. The Pratts had not pressed the attack, the King’s Army had. The Pratts had only defended their homes and loved ones. The King’s Army had attacked with hatred of their enemies and that hate had healed the Pratts. When Pith had been wounded and healed by the Healer of Dorn, he had been in an ambush. The hate of the ambushers had healed him!

  Though he thought he now understood how hate could heal, Quint went to bed that night wondering how such a peaceful looking man as Stannin the Merciless could be a deliverer of destruction.

 

///

 

  The king had ordered the King’s Army back to Pratt as soon as reinforcements had arrived and once again the First Flight was supporting the van.

  Quint felt as if his bowels were going to turn to water as he watched the army of barbarians sneering as the King’s Army advance. The memories of the last battle were showing in those smiles and jeers, as well as on the faces of the First Flight.

  “This cannot be happening again!” Quint thought to himself. “The king must be a fool to take the field again after the last slaughter!”

  Quint tried to understand how a man who looked as loving as Stannin the Merciless could have been such a terrible destroyer. He knew in his heart that understanding that would be the only way to save his brothers from a similar fate as had befallen them before.

  Quint gasped as if he had fallen into an icy stream. His brothers to right and left jumped as if struck by the realization Quint had just had.

  Stannin did not just look loving; he had been loving. He loved as strongly as Quint loved his brothers who were being sent out to meet their deaths. Only true love could bring about truest pain.

  Quint pulled his bowstring back to his cheek. The golden feathers on the arrow tickled his cheek as the arrow was loosed from his fingers. Quint had to save the brothers he loved. He had to slay the Pratts; not out of hate or malice, but out of love for his fellow soldiers.

  Quint saw the golden arrow arcing toward the Pratts. When it struck, a blinding flash made the day seem as dark as a moonless night. A second later a concussion ripped through the King’s Army, knocking men from their feet.

  When the dust settled, the barbarians were gone. All that remained of the Pratt army were the Healers od Dorn who had stood at the army’s back.

  When the realization that today was not going to be like the battle before, a cheer went up. Quint’s brothers who had seen him loose a golden arrow began to pound his back and cheer his name.

  All Quint could do was cry for the lives he had snuffed out.

 

///

 

  The king stood among an honor guard to meet Quint as he rode into the Queen’s castle. This was the day Quint had been dreading.

  The King spread his arms after Quint had climbed down from his horse and called “to knee, for the Hero of Tarn!” All of Quint’s fellow soldiers dropped to their knees.

  The king walked up and put an arm around Quint’s shoulder. “Pray tell me, how did you slay an entire host with a single arrow?” the king asked of him. “I have heard that all magic has fled the lands so how is it you came to work magic for me?”

  “Your majesty has misheard” Quint replied. “Magic has neither fled nor failed, men have forgotten.”

  “We will remind them then” the king said. “With such magic at my command, who could stand before me? Now show me this magic you have remembered.”

  Quint pulled the golden arrow he had brought for the king from his quiver and handed it to his liege.

  “This is no weapon of destruction” the king quipped. The blade, as well as the shaft will bend as soon as it hits an enemy. If it hits an enemy that is, this arrow weighs too much to fly very far! Now tell me how you destroyed my enemies and tell it true!”

  Quint took the bow off his back and nocked the golden arrow. In one smooth motion he pulled string to cheek and sent the arrow straight into the air.

  “Your enemies were your enemies” Quint said. “Not mine. I did not slay your enemies, I saved my brothers from the death you had sent them to. It is not your magic to command, but mine to guard.”

  As the dust settled and the noise echoed in the distant hills, Quint saw the King was no more. His brothers looked up at him from where they knelt.

  “King Quint” the cry came from a thousand throats. Then ten thousand and more were yelling “Long live king Quint!”

  Quint realized that he would have to be cruel and mean to keep his people safe, but he loved them enough to do that.

 

 

 

 

 


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