Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Father (as in paternal parent, not God) (04/10/08)
TITLE: MY FATHER
By mick dawson
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For two generations Olleton, like everyone else; wondered who if anybody; still dwelt in the simple thatched roof construction. As no one could even remember the occupant’s name; let alone his face; he was simply referred to as…The Forgotten One. It was meant as a taunt by the children and yet, curiosity overpowered the youth.
On closer inspection, he noticed that the door was actually ajar. He pushed it open and waited for his eyes to adjust to the gloom within from outside.
By the nearest wall stood a stand supporting the leather and mail hauberk of the king’s elite guard, the Blue River Guardsmen. There was the deep blue tunic on the outside of the mail with the orange crest of the snarling dog across it. It had become ragged around the edges but otherwise intact. The horned helmet hovered above the mail a bit scuffed and dented but still polished but what was to be the most spectacular find lay across a small table. Olleton gazed in wonder at a long hafted, doubled edged axe. There were engravings on the upper haft denoting it as an officer’s axe of the guard, but as he leaned in closer, he saw that it was the mark of the king himself. His eyes breaking through the fog of darkness saw that a hand still clutched the weapon belonging to a mightily built arm.
The silhouette which now rose from his bed stood between the youth and the door with the axe raised in his hand with no more effort than holding a fine twig. Nothing more could be detected of the axe wielder save that his hair billowed around his bull like shoulders.
“You have nothing to fear from me, lad,” assured a voice from the gloom. “State your name,” he said bluntly.
“It is a full moon past Dekra day, why are you not at the father-son celebrations instead of lurking within my walls?”
The youth lowered his head.
“I see,” spoke the Forgotten One. “I too have lost a father, twice. I was left abandoned as an orphan, but then I was adopted to another.”
“How did you come by the king’s axe?” blurted Olleton.
“It is my own. It was given to me on completion of my guardsman training by my father, Tonunda.”
“Tonunda the Savage?” gasped Olleton.
Somewhere in the darkness, Olleton could sense the stranger grinning.
“Are the stories they tell of him true?” pressed the youth earnestly.
“Some are, what have you heard, lad?”
“Is it true that he was brought up by wild dog packs? That he hunted and killed with them? That he became one of the dog tribe and when he became king, he slew king Natas of the south? In the Hall of Heroes it is said that he saved all of Nusalle with the giving of his life.”
Olleton heard a low rumbling which he knew to be chuckling.
“What you ask is if the man fits the legend. What you should be asking is if the legend fits the man.
Nusalle can have their hero; I remember a father. I loved him dearly…still do. He taught me that the greatness of a man is not measured by his strength but by his compassion; a lesson sadly that I have yet to learn.
It was the love of the man that I will remember. He made me his heir even when I was a thieving snipe of the gutter. My father gave me a home and where others spurned me, he encouraged me to fulfill my dream of becoming a guardsman. Out of love for his people he came down from his mountain to save them and it was out of love that he gave his life for them.”
An awkward silence followed. Olleton gauged the tensing of the shoulders and sensed that tears were being stifled.
“Perhaps, Olleton you have heard the tales they tell of Tonunda the Savage as the fires burn low, I have.
I once drew near the fire of two hunters, unseen as they spoke. One told the other that three days after Tonunda was buried that he saw a man running, leading a pack of dogs on a hunt.
Perhaps this part of the legend is a myth; but I choose to believe that he might be back on his mountain, possibly looking down on his son and the world of men.”
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