The General stared out the window, standing motionless while seeing the thoughts in his mind.
Six months ago he had been given command of Supreme Headquarters. There were others with better credentials, more educational expertise, yet he was selected for a different reason.
The King’s Directive, relayed directly to the Council, demanded that the Army should be making soldiers for battle. They were to be building up warriors, not administrative bureaucrats with counseling capabilities, but soldiers who could fight and win.
The King wanted leaders who knew how to consistently defeat the Enemy and who would teach others to do the same.
The General knew of only one way to accomplish the King’s Directive. It had to be done with the King’s help. Without His help, nothing of any lasting value could be done. It is only through the King. Many of the officers at Supreme Headquarters had forgotten. The General would not.
His eyes closed briefly as his spirit kneeled once again before the King. Straightening his shoulders, the General moved to the massive desk and its myriad responsibilities.
The only sound in the outer office was the gilded pen’s rapid dance across the expensive parchment. The hand holding the pen abruptly stopped as the thick, dark wood of the anteroom door swung open.
The brightness of the mid-morning sun exploded past the door’s inward swing, splashing across the desk and temporarily blinding the writer. As the Major blinked and squinted, he saw a silhouette in the door’s entrance. Not knowing the rank of the figure, a quick decision led the Major to stand up. He assumed a practiced stance that would allow an easy transition into the Attention/Salute Response if the figure was of greater rank.
The figure advanced and became a soldier like himself, wearing the crimson armor of a Guardian. The red helmet rested upon an average-sized man of normal proportions. His gait was relaxed, his stride efficient, as if accustomed to much walking. He moved easily as one who had spent much time in body armor. The shield was strapped to his arm and moved in an easy rhythm with the booted feet. The sword arm was held casually at the precise position to quickly draw the double-edged weapon if needed. He was the same rank as the Major.
“Good day, sir. May the King’s Joy be your Strength.” the Major intoned with practiced inflection and professional warmth.
“And His Peace your strong Fortress, sir,” the visitor answered.
The Major was briefly taken back by the sincerity of the ritual response. The Major could see something in the man’s eyes. A light, a conviction - a belief? The Major couldn’t put his finger on it . . . and for some reason, it bothered him.
“Major Foundson, King’s Guardian at FarPoint, sir.” said the saluting officer in an ordinary, almost neighborly way.
Not quite the way to make a memorable first impression, thought the Major, who replied,
“And I am Major Courtman, Attache to General Goodall, Commander of Supreme Headquarters.”
The Major smiled while standing as tall as possible, utilizing the practiced baritone delivery for maximum effect.
It bothered the Major that his visitor gave not the slightest hint of being intimidated, but answered politely,
“Nice to meet you, Major Courtman. I have orders to see General Goodall this morning.”
Glancing quickly at the desk corner, Courtman saw the scheduled appointment. Nodding towards Foundson, he began moving across the gleaming stone floor towards the General’s office.
“Please wait here, Major. I’ll inform the Gener . . .”
“Major Foundson of FarPoint! Welcome to Headquarters!” chuckled a booming voice from behind them, “How was your trip here, Robert?”
As the General and Foundson moved toward each other, Courtman found himself inspecting the newcomer. The scarlet-enameled helmet and body armor were highly polished and well-cared for, but there were dents and creases on both. The thick leather handle of the sword did not have the slick, glossy shine like most of those found at Headquarters. It had the dull, smooth patina that comes from sweat and constant use. The red and gold shield was buffed and polished yet the surface was pockmarked by creases and punctures, its edges full of small dents and cuts from numerous impacts.
Who is this Major Foundson? Courtman mused as he followed the two men to the General’s office. How could someone from FarPoint be this well connected at Headquarters? No one in the right circles or “on the climb” would stay at a place like FarPoint, at least not for long. It was just too far away from Headquarters and didn’t carry any weight on one’s service record.
Eavesdropping on the conversation, Courtman realized that Foundson had been commanding the FarPoint Garrison for almost all his career. Courtman mentally shook his head. The stranger was almost twice his age and still only a Major, and to top that, a Major at FarPoint! A classic case of career wheel-spinning, he thought. A sad career indeed.
Courtman was reaching to pull the office door shut and resume his desk-bound vigil when the General called over his shoulder,
“Why don’t you join us, Jon. Go ahead and leave it open.”
The General motioned towards a corner of the spacious office where an exquisite grouping of chairs surrounded an ornate table. The windows making up the back wall framed the essence of the citadel know as Supreme Headquarters. Buildings, walkways, roads, and people made a colorful mosaic of organization and purpose.
The three soldiers sat down. Foundson chose the chair without arms. Courtman noticed that Foundson did not remove his sword and sheath. Resting the shield against his leg and the chair, he placed his helmet on the table.
Interesting, thought Courtman. Most of the General’s visitors used the table to hold their weaponry – that is if they wore any at all. What an interestingly uncomfortable way to converse.
Courtman glanced sideways at the General to see his response to the seating arrangement. The approval in those grey eyes surprised Courtman, who kept his face at the practiced angle of professional warmth and empathy.
“So tell me, Robert – how goes the Garrison at FarPoint?”
“The King’s Work is being done by the King’s Strength.” replied Foundson. Courtman was stunned by the response. Intensive empathy training showed him that Foundson had relayed trust, weariness, submission, frustration, and confidence all in that second of response.
The General leaned forward and began to ask questions which the FarPoint Major answered plainly and honestly. Foundson talked about victories and defeats, battles won and lost, wounds sustained, traitors and comrades.
Not a sharp career move there, thought Courtman. A “can-do” attitude is needed to move up through the ranks. You’ll never get ahead by dropping your guard like this.
A little too late, Courtman perceived that the General was also watching him.
A bolt of panic shot through Courtman. Keeping his face at the proper angle for listening, his mind was whirling.
How long has the General been observing me? What did he see? How will this impact my service record? Is this a test rather than a conversation? Did I fail?
The General leaned back in his chair.
“You know, Robert, Jon here has won top honors in Weapons Presentation. I believe that makes three years in a row.”
Foundson turned smiling to the Major.
“Congratulations, Major Courtman. A soldier’s life depends on his weapon skills and his reliance on the King.”
Courtman smiled back, searching Foundson’s eyes as he said “thank you”. All Courtman could find was sincerity.
“Jon, would you be so kind as to give us a demonstration? Would you like to see that, Robert?”
“I would enjoy that, General.”
Foundson shifted in his seat to face Courtman, who could sense the anticipation of the visitor.
Nodding, Courtman moved back from the chairs, picking an area of sufficient room. He turned to face the others.
“What is the General’s pleasure? I have kept up on all of the latest forms, including the Ryoko-Chi Meditative form. It has a few variations that you might find interesting, sir.”
The General half-turned to Foundson, and then those grey eyes swung back to Courtman.
“Whatever you’d like, Jon. Show us your favorite.”
Courtman quickly selected the form that would best accentuate his impressive physical presence and showcase his mastery of the Rotating Grip, a technique that allows many more creative maneuvers with the sword than the old forms. He assumed the Awaiting Stance as he began to relax and focus. He waited the mandatory fifteen seconds, the minimum requirement for any form, even though he had already prepared himself in about half that time.
The initial movement of the older forms was to draw the sword. The form chosen by Courtman started with an elegant and involved hand exercise that increased in speed and split-second precision. The Major then drew the sword with a looping move. Immediately the sword became a blur.
The weapon spun, rotated, and at one point even flipped end-over-end so quickly that only the practiced eye could tell it had turned three times. The chosen form, longer than most of the new ones and much longer than the old ones, came to an end as Courtman spun the golden blade across his body, shooting in upward, then ramming it down hard to suddenly stop a hairsbreadth from the opening of the sheath. Slowly he lowered the sword into its opening, ending in a perfect Attention Stance as the gleaming hand guard clicked into the sheath.
He relaxed and turned to the smiling face of the General whose eyes seemed to have a different emotion.
Strange, thought Courtman, I thought I did it perfectly.
Courtman then looked at Foundson. He was surprised to see the FarPoint Major standing in almost a Battle Ready Stance, his hand grasping his sword pommel and the shield on his arm. Courtman looked into Foundson’s eyes and saw a hard grimness there.
Courtman’s mind was spinning.
Foundson is . . . angry? What did I do to bring this about?
It bothered Courtman that he had actually wanted the approval of this FarPoint Commander.
The General broke the awkward silence by asking,
“Robert – what did you think of the Major’s presentation?”
Foundson replied politely, although quietly.
“The Major is skilled and well-practiced.”
Foundson’s eyes never changed as the General walked over to Courtman and put his hand on the Major’s shoulder.
“Thank you, Jon, that was very well done. Would you like to see Robert do a favorite form?”
“Yes, sir, I would. Please, would you give us a presentation, Major?”
It annoyed Courtman that he really did want to see Foundson’s choice.
This is insane, thought Courtman as they traded places. I am Attache to the Commanding General of Supreme Headquarters. Why would I need the approval of some has-been from FarPoint?
Courtman kept his face wrapped in practiced interest though he did not meet the General’s eyes for fear it could give a hint of his inner turmoil.
Foundson moved to the area vacated by Courtman. Turning to face them, he nodded before drawing himself up into the Awaiting Stance. His hand rested lightly on the leather of the sword pommel. His shield was held in front of his body, covering the torso except for the sword arm. Then he did the most extraordinary thing. He shut his eyes.
This must be a very old form, mused Courtman. No one shuts his eyes anymore. The modern experts all feel that a soldier cannot afford to close his eyes to the world around him. We must now use our minds and hands more than our swords. With closed eyes, how can people react to change, to those events happening around them? This man definitely has archaic tastes.
Foundson stood, not moving, for over five minutes. Courtman glanced at the General. The older man’s face radiated a fierce expectancy. Below the whitened temples and brow, the steel-grey eyes danced with a light of anticipation. The General’s hand had gone to his sword, the movement more of a caress than a grip. Slowly, like dawn touching a mountain peak, a small smile appeared at the corners of the granite-like face.
Courtman’s gaze was drawn to his left. Foundson was slowly opening his eyes. Those eyes, which only minutes ago had been filled with a startling grimness, were now almost ablaze. It was a glow that Courtman had only seen a few times in his life. He remembered three or four of his old instructors having such a look on occasion.
What had it been called? Courtman tried to remember. King’s something . . . King’s Spirit. Yes. King’s Spirit.
Then Foundson moved.
Courtman would remember that moment for the rest of his life.
He’s not a man, Courtman marveled, he’s an explosion in armor!
Never had the Major seen such a simple display of intense, unstoppable power. The golden blade seemed to be at one place, then suddenly appeared at another. Front, back, side, high, low – the sword sang as it instantaneously materialized around the body of the crimson warrior.
Most modern forms forego the shield since it hampers the elaborate swordplay of the Rotating Grip. Foundson’s shield moved in a perfect red-gold symmetry with the blur of the whistling blade. It was a matched counter-balance to every action of the slicing, thrusting weapon.
The realization hit Courtman like a hammer. The flashing offense of the sword combined with the tenacious covering of the shield virtually assured that no enemy could land a killing blow. It might well be impossible to land an effectual blow at all.
Courtman noted other things during those final seconds of the presentation. Foundson’s grip on the sword never left the hard leather of the hilt. No rotating grips, sword loops, or pommel rolls. None of the popular modern maneuvers. There was only a strong grip that let the sword cover the greatest area with maximum speed and force. If the blade could be parried or blocked, Courtman was certain that nothing short of cutting off his hand could make Foundson lose his grip on that sword.
When the whirring weapon came to its instantaneous stops, the point never wavered. The golden blade never quivered. It simply appeared, like a blinding lightening bolt in the black of night.
With control like that, Courtman thought, a man could cut through armor and cloth and yet not even scratch the skin. One could almost perform surgery wielding such a weapon!
The final thing Courtman realized was the scope of the form. Almost all new forms presume an attack directly from the front. The modern ideas have totally rejected the idea of an Enemy. The enemies faced today are believed to be the misuses of power and human abilities. A soldier must totally concentrate on what he can see ahead of him and attack accordingly.
Foundson’s form never stopped moving. The sparkling sword was attacking every point of the compass. The shining shield spun around the blurred form of the Guardian. Here, there. High, low. Back, front.
Foundson stopped so suddenly that Courtman coughed in startlement. The gleaming sword was pointed straight up in front of Foundson’s face, the shield covering his torso completely. Then the Major from FarPoint did an amazing thing. He moved his head slowly forward and, with reverent gentleness, kissed the blade.
Courtman’s wide eyes watched incredulously as Foundson slowly slid the sword into its sheath.
No one spoke. The air was charged with an intangible power.
Foundson was looking forward, but seeing something more than the office and the panorama outside. Courtman slowly turned to look at the General, who had that same look save for a shining film of emotion pooling at the corners of his eyes. The General was the first to speak.
“Thank you, Robert.” the General said quietly, “It has been awhile since I’ve seen the King’s CrossPoint done in King’s Spirit. It’s the only way the form can be made . . . invincible.”
Slowly those shining grey eyes swung toward Courtman, stopping to smile upon him.
“It’s the only form that has ever defeated the Enemy. It is the only form that ever will – if done in King’s Spirit.”
The sound of approaching footsteps echoed from the anteroom into the General’s office. The General walked forward, extending his hand to Foundson.
“I have another appointment, Robert, but please accept my invitation to dinner tonight. I’ll come by the Officer’s Quarters shortly after Vespers.”
Foundson smiled back warmly, grasping the offered hand.
“I would like that very much, sir. May the King’s Joy be your Strength.”
The General smiled back as he softly answered,
“And His Peace your strong Fortress, Major Foundson of FarPoint.”
Foundson then turned to Courtman, who drew himself to Attention as if in the presence of a superior officer. Courtman was the first to speak.
“Thank you, Major, for the presentation. If you do not have any plans for the remainder of the day, I would very much like to talk to you of, uh, questions I have concerning that form . . . and the old ideas, the Enemy, King’s Spirit, and the like. That is, if you have the time.”
Foundson smiled broadly as he shook Courtman’s hand.
“I would enjoy that very much, Major.”
Then Courtman remembered.
“With your permission, of course, General.”
“Well, Majors,” chuckled the General as he walked them to the office door, “have a nice afternoon and a good conversation.”
The General watched the two men leave, his hand resting fondly on the hilt of his sword. A look played across his face, the type of look that is peculiar to fathers and leaders of men. He chuckled again.
Stepping through the office door, he walked across the anteroom to greet his next appointment.