A HARD DECISION
The dented and scuffed helmet of The Forgotten One shone intermittently in the moonlight as he trudged. All exposed areas of his flesh were covered in bandages. The greased links of his knee length hauberk jingled softly with each step. His hauberk overlapped the tattered remains of a deep blue tunic. An orange crest of a snarling dog was emblazoned across the chest, denoting its wearer as a one time member of the king’s elite; the Blue River Guardsmen.
The long hafted, double-edged axe of a guardsman spun idly in his hand as he walked. He allowed himself to sigh with relief. The streets were on the whole, vacant. The activities of thieves and cutthroats were noticeably less of late.
He began to whistle to himself, as he ambled when he heard something shift overhead. His gaze looked up to see the silhouette of a falling body and out of instinct alone, he held up his arms. The Forgotten One caught the figure with no more effort than a small sack of flour.
He expected to see a face frozen in death, not the dumbfounded looking expression of a young man staring back at him. The Forgotten One lowered the man to his feet, and watched him falter, suddenly sending his hands out to the wall to support himself.
“Are you alright lad?” queried The Forgotten One.
“Aye sir, just a bit shaken.”
“Did someone cast you from the roof?”
“No, I did so myself. I did not expect to survive the fall.”
The Forgotten One guffawed.
“I see what you mean. Normally, once someone jumps from a roof, they are in no position to change their minds. Why did you do such a thing? You do not seem to me to be a fool and you are a good looking young man. I imagine that there is no woman in your life.”
“I have a wife and two sons.”
“Then why?” asked The Forgotten One incredulously.
The young man shrugged resignedly, shaking his head.
“What can I say that would make any sense? My sons ignore me, and my wife berates me continually.”
“A man takes the good with the bad.”
“It is all bad,” erupted the young man. “I thought it would all be grand when I was a boy…”
“Marriage, a family; a man knows that he must work to look after them, but there is no returns for my efforts. There is never a thankyou; never I love you father, nor has there been a time of intimacy with my wife for years.
All I hear from her is her telling me that I must work even longer hours to provide for them. I come home after dark as it is to feed an ungrateful family so that they may grow strong and healthy, only to remind me that I am worthless.
I am weary… of late; I have wondered how to relieve myself of my situation. I thought about leaving to start my life anew in another land,” he snorted derisively. “But if I did that, then that would only make it true that I am the worthless cur that she always says I am. There was only one other option,” he said, nodding up to the roof.
The Forgotten One sighed heavily, looking down to the cobbled street.
“We all thought it would be grand when we were young,” he said, softly. “But that is what happens when we reach our adult years. We do things that we do not want to, but know we must. There is every possibility that your family will never love you, but what is to stop you loving them? Do you understand what love is?”
The young man stared in silence.
“Love is staying with the other person, no matter what. I would like to think that you have what it takes to persevere with her, no matter what the pain she puts you through. If you can do that, then you have my respect for you as a man, and in time… perhaps your wife will too.”
The Forgotten One tore his gaze from the watery eyed man, and took up his axe, beginning his trek down the open thoroughfare.
“The choice is yours,” he called over his shoulder as he went.
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