This is the first section of something I’ve been working on in my spare hours recently. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ll finish it. I haven’t gone in with a plan; I don’t know how it’s going to end (exciting, right?) and I don’t know how long it should be. Basically, I started writing this because I was a bit bored. I’ve tried to experiment with the style, and to create a central character who reflects the struggles of being human, as opposed to being one of those legendary Arthurian knights who is untaintable. For those that know/care about these things, I’ve been inspired by the portrayal of Gawain from Gawain and the Green Knight and a dash of Sir Orfeo. Whether that meant anything to you or not, I hope you enjoy this.
You call yourself a hero. A leader. You’re pathetic. How can you pretend to walk in the light when your soul is dripping darkness? You look up to the heavens with feet rooted in the mire of Death. Sickening creature; hypocrite. You’re a liar and a fraud. But they don’t know that, do they? They don’t know that the one they look up to is one who should be trampled beneath their feet. They don’t know that the one they look up to is really the epitome of everything that they are against. You keep secrets. You hide from the truth. A part of you whispers that if no one ever finds out, everything will be okay. You hold yourself together with sin and evil; dark sticky ties of shadow that bind you and wind about every bone and sinew. There is not a shard of light within you save the illusion that you hold before your deluded mind. You have managed to convince yourself that you’re good enough, but you’re not. You’re not good enough and you never will be. You are dark and broken. You are a phantom. You are a walker in the night and the day is denied to you. The day would destroy you. How could you stand in the light? The light is the death of shadows and you, hero, are nothing more than a shadow. A whisper in the void. A tatter in the wind. A voice lost in silence. Let go. Lose yourself in the truth.
Waking up cold and afraid. Sweat dripping. It happened again. That voice: cold and creeping and insidious. It slithers inside my soul and wrings my heart between clawed hands. I can’t cope with it, not another night. Not another hour of darkness. The fear and the pain and the silence and then that voice bringing with it the burning blades of doubt and failure. Twisting the knife. Turning me on a flaming wheel suspended over a broiling lake of pain and compromise. Making me believe its poison velvet words. Not comfort but understanding.
Through a crack in the curtains a sliver of light slides across the floor and lances up the bleak stone of the opposite wall. Warm summer morning. The sheets around my body are twisted and dishevelled like me. I sit and they peel away from my skin in silent wet protestation as if a layer of protection is falling away or a cocoon is sloughing down to the floor. I do not feel reborn. I turn and place my feet on the stone floor. It is cold and alarming but it’s what I need. This warm morning seems all wrong after my night of frustration and sickening turmoil but the stone slabs allow me some sense of continuity. A small discomfort to ease me into the world of normality.
Four wooden posts, one on each corner of the bed, support an unnecessary and ridiculous roof over my head. I had done away with the obscene transparent gauze that should have hung down weeks ago. A cold fireplace stares gloomily at me away to my right. The door in front of me. This is not my home.
My clothes strewn across a large box meant to contain them and my weapons nowhere in sight. They were downstairs, of course. Locked away. As if I’d use them here. People do not need to see me for the monster I am. But that’s the custom of the place. The rules of the lord. You don’t argue with the host. I am here because of him.
I stand and walk to my clothes. Pull on a top and trousers. Nothing fancy. I will not be someone I’m not. I will not. I fasten the belt at my waist and walk to the window. Draw aside the curtains. The land flies away before me, washed gold in the sunrise and I gaze and reflect on the beauty. Unparalleled perfection. This is what I’m fighting for. This is what I’ve betrayed. Me. The hero.
A moat and a drawbridge mark the boundary of the castle and then the wild country south and east starts. Flat fields and the shadow of a forest on the horizon. Not the riches of the cities to the north here on the southern border. Not the bustle and the noise. Nature’s serenity, lying there, untouched and undefiled. The work of divine hands and a perfect mind. A part of me is afraid to be standing here in the presence of this awesome expanse. The grass. The trees. Emerald studded beneath glorious skies. So much light and joy in the scene. Everything wrong inside of me.
A knock on the door and I turn away from the window. Call for the person to enter. Don’t care what I look like. It’s not the clothes that matter, though they can reflect what’s inside of you.
“Sir, my lord wishes to inform you that the table is prepared for the breaking of our fast,” a servant said with a low bow.
I regard him silently. He remains low. I remember to tell him to rise and he rises whilst I watch on impassively. This is all so strange to me. I shouldn’t be here. Nothing is right. This is not my home.
I nod and thank him and he leaves. He’s probably relieved. I’ve seen the effect that I have on the staff. The lord himself doesn’t seem to feel it but his servants clearly don’t like being near me for long. I don’t know why this is. Perhaps I am simply an uncomfortable person. More likely it is because I am not one of them. I know it. They know it. The lord knows it but he pretends that he doesn’t. His attempts at welcoming me are laughable but he tries. It is his duty to try.
I sigh and cross the room to the small adjoined bathroom past the bed where I wash my face and try to wipe off some of the sweat that has stuck to my skin in a pungent sheen. Scars of the battles of the night. Scars that no one can be proud of. I wash and wipe off the sweat and then I walk back into my room and pull on some clothes that make me a little more presentable. No point aggravating my host. He’s trying to be kind to me. Or pretending. Either way I cannot disrespect him. If he pretends to welcome me I will pretend to feel welcomed. That is the way of our land. Tradition and pretence. Illusion. Smoke and mirrors. And yet I am not worthy even for that.