I wake to the smell of food and the forest. As our men and I prepare for the day ahead, I glance out over the ridge upon which we set up camp just the night before. It has been a much needed rest, but now we must march on. The enemy must be overthrown, and this small company of soldiers, as diverse and untrained as they seem, are to play a vital role in the final push. The King has made that much clear. Of course, anyone walking alongside me for the cause of the Kingdom in this great struggle is well aware that it is the King’s reign alone that has given us any hope at all in this war. They say that every one of us-every last man or woman fighting for the Kingdom today- was saved from behind enemy lines by the King himself. I believe the stories. I’ve seen towns full of people living life normally, as if there weren’t a false ruler overseeing their every action. They seemed to have no idea as to how lost they were before our King found them. But then, neither did I.
I look up through the brush to see bright light shining from a clearing up ahead. We cautiously wait at the edge of cover as one of our scouts goes on to see what awaits us. After a couple minutes we hear the call. All is well! We come out from the trees to see what looks to be an abandoned camp. Whoever was here before us couldn’t have been gone for more than a few days. Then I see it. The sign of the enemy. It is engraved on an ornament attached to a spear lodged solidly in the ground. The symbol of the snake reminds me once again of where I came from. I was not always a shining knight of the Kingdom. I betrayed the King more times than I know when I was in the enemy’s hands, and sometimes find myself tempted towards rebellion even today. It is not as though the leadership above me is perfect. And yet, the Spirit of the King rings true throughout me and the entire company even now. I can feel it. My courage finds its place once more as we gather ourselves together and continue on our course.
A few days later the leader of our company, Sir Hickory, reminds us of our training and of what we fight for once again. It is his tradition as a leader to do so every few days, and I think it a good one at that. It keeps us all alert and ready for whatever we must deal with, even if it does seem repetitive to some.
We are now far into enemy territory and past the many forests we once trod. Our feet hit sand with every step as we march steadily on for our prize. We were sent to see if we could find any villages of lost souls to bring back home. As much as my flesh hates me for coming so far on so dreary a path, my heart relishes the thought of bringing more people into the great Kingdom. At the core of my being, I desire to see every man, woman, and child behind the safe gates of Haven. That’s what we call the place, for it does indeed serve as the safest of havens for even the most wanted of men. It is a strange, yet beautiful offering of our King to invite anyone and everyone into his Kingdom. In the past He has not hesitated to invite even murderers known for their crimes, or prostitutes who’ve long given themselves to a life of filth and sorrow, for he knows that the Kingdom changes people. It changes them so radically that they invariably become shining characters compared to their former selves. It leaves a smile on my face to think of such wonderful graces.
The next day, as we are walking, Sir Hickory shouts at us in a hushed voice. “Get to cover!” Immediately we rush to the side of the path, drawing our swords and finding stray bushes or mounds to hide behind. The silence settles with the kicked up sand, and I listen for what we have encountered. Nothing. There is nothing. I overhear someone talking to Hickory about the order, and after a few moments he makes his way to the center of our group. In an instant, we draw closer to hear what he has to say. “Sir Richard was sure someone was following us. I thought I sensed it too.” The men look at one another with questioned looks. “What has Richard done for this company but warned us of what was never there? I say we go on. There is nothing to fear. Do you hear anything?” says one of our men. “Sir Richard has been a good soldier, and has only ever tried to help us.” combats Hickory. “He’s saved our skins more than once before I’ll remind you.” Some others raise objections and concerns, but there is no more sign of any enemy, so we march on.
A few hours later, as the sun dips down from high noon, we continue to plow through the terrain. The men begin talking casually amongst themselves, though it is considered unprofessional as a soldier on the march to do so. I listen closer, only to realize that their talk is of parties and food back home. What distracted, sorry fighters are these? I ask myself as I shake my head in exasperation. How long must I endure such stupidity? Don’t they know we are on a mission of great importance? All of the sudden, I hear a loud yell from Sir Hickory. “At arms! At arms!” I look up to see men staring past me. I turn just in time to see a spear whistle through the air, colliding with another knight’s shield just a meter away. Bandits! I draw my sword and prepare for battle.
In an instant, everything turns into a flurry of blades. The air around me becomes foggy as I try to fight off the men as best I can. But their forces push harder and harder until finally we are forced to retreat. “To me! To me!” Sir Hickory shouts as he falls back to a bit of shelter. We make our way to the large rock as well, fighting off man after man in the process. Now we seem to have the upper hand! We will soon be rid of these bandits. I advance as I tear into the enemy. I notice a few more of our company coming away from the rock. But wait… The enemy comes faster than before. I see my brothers falling around me as I attempt to stand my ground. “For the King!” I yell at my less hearty brethren cowering back at the rock. As I look straight ahead once more, it is only in time to see the blade of the enemy’s dagger lodge itself into my side. I fall to the ground, engulfed in pain.
I wake to sounds of agony around me. I bolt upright, but immediately collapse onto my back once more as I feel the sting in my ribs. I look around from my limited position only to see that I am in the house of the sick back at home. It is a place known to every soldier in the Kingdom. “Are you well?” I hear a friendly voice say. “My Lord!” I turn my head to look at the King. “I… I do not know what happened. I was fighting for my life, and then-” “Then you fell,” he says. “Yes, I suppose I did, and with the help of a sword at that… I am sorry for my failure.” I look down at the ground, but my position on the bed makes for a scene less respectful than I intend.
After a brief moment, the King stoops down from his position and lifts up my head. “You fought bravely. But from the reports of your kin, it seems as though you forgot your training on the battlefield. You do remember why we train together, yes?” My eyes look back at the ground, but my head still faces toward my King’s. As my memory of the battle’s events returns, I see that I took a risk not worth taking. I left my brothers at the rock and tried to face the enemy alone. “I… My King… I did not stay at Sir Hickory’s side. I was a fool.” I break down in tears and let my head rest back on my bed. “I just want so badly to make a difference, to not be one of the others!” I say with remorse and contempt in my voice. “If only you would send me with only your best knights!” He looks at me with his unchanging eyes. “I have given you some of this Kingdom’s bravest warriors to fight alongside. Some of them simply do not know how much they can be as of yet.”