The king of Nusalle, or ‘Olleton the Wise’ as his people affectionately referred to him, stood by the beach at a seaside port known as Garan, a mere two days ride north of the capital.
A dozen of his elite guard, (the Blue River Guardsmen) had apprehended the famed pirate Zorava, the Pendaran. The leather straps that held the cutlass blade, fixed to the stump where his right hand should have been had been cut free and the deadly weapon removed.
In the company of these hardened men, he knelt on the ground as helpless as the many victims he had menaced over the years looking up to the king pleadingly as his life was in the balance.
True the corsair would look upon the monarch but he would never beg.
There was the added pressure of his guardsmen commander, a devra by the name of ‘Kija’ who demanded that justice be done.
“My king, I realize that I am a mere guardsman but the law, by your own edict demands that he is to be executed on the dancing floor for his murders. One of them was ‘Gurnan’. A good man from are very own contingent, personally assigned to you. Not to mention that he was your closest friend.”
Then he felt the gentle hand of a young woman he had grown to love, ‘Iersta’ upon his chest. As he looked into her eyes, he witnessed the unasked mercy for this corsair that for the last few weeks had protected them and seen them back home, even at the risk of his own life.
Clutching her hand reassuringly, he broke away from the small crowd to organize his thoughts.
He remembered a man saying to him once that the ‘greatness of a man is measured more by his compassion than by his strength.’
A channel flowed parallel to the sea that ran in between a mountain pass. So narrow in fact that only a skiff could sail through it as it was no more than twenty paces across, and remembered a time when he was a boy. It was referred to as ‘the needle.’
His mind swirled, feeling as if his legs would fall away beneath him as confusion overwhelmed the man.
To gain control he focused on happier times.
He remembered there was a picnic here with his family. His father pulled an apple from his tunic and said it would go to who ever could skip a stone across the narrow channel, promising his children that if they both could do it, then he would share it up between them. Both he and his mother laughed as Olleton and his sister searched frantically for a stone, finally realizing that none were present.
They laughed at themselves as their father cut up the apple and gave each child a piece.
“Devra, I have come to a decision!” he announced.
“I know you want justice for your axe brother, yet I am torn with releasing Zorava as the man has saved the lives of myself and Iersta here.”
The NCO was about to offer his protests when the king continued.
“However I do not think my life of any more value than anyone else’s, so let us settle this by wager. If you are able to skip a stone across the channel and I cannot, then Zorava is yours to deal with.”
“A simple endeavor and what if we are both able to do it?”
“Then I will still hand him over to you…will you accept, Kija?”
“Aye, my king.” Said the guardsman bowing and set about finding a stone.
Even as he ordered his men to aid him, they couldn’t find one either.
“It would appear that I cannot skip the stone, but then, my king…neither can you.” Said Kija.
With a smile, Olleton pulled a stone from his purse and skipped it soundly across the waterway to come to rest on the opposite beach.
“Release him, devra.” He said flatly.
With a bow, the corsair walked from his captors and climbed aboard his small craft, (minus his cutlass) and negotiated the choppy waves beyond the heads to the open sea.
Iersta rejoined her king on the beach and stood before him.
“If I may, my king, why did you release him?”
Olleton sighed deeply.
“I am unsure myself,Iersta.Generosity, mercy, foolishness…I am only sure of one thing. No man will exhibit mercy if he has been shown none.”
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