20 June 2007

The Sword & The Son

Not long ago there was a king who had two sons. When his sons were of the horse-riding age, he showed them his sword, which belonged to his great-grandfather, a captain in the civil war. Even though the sword was old and had patches of rust, it shined in the boys' eyes.

The eldest son, Gustav, saw in it the history of his family, and imagined the great distances they must have traveled to get to the new world, only to fight in its civil war. If this Captain had not survived, Gustav would not be here as Gustav. Perhaps he would have been born as someone else, but that someone else would have never seen a sword with their last name engraved in its handle.

The other son, Jorge, saw the blood shed by the sword, spilling onto the baked soil and slashing at the throats and wrists of scared men. He imagined the Captain's enemies were all scared of the Captain, who like a storm, swung so fast his blade was a blur of metal and blood. He wondered if heads were staked, or guns stolen, or money taken, all for the family to keep.

"Where's the Captain's money?" Jorge asked. His father responded there was no money left, just the sword and a book of poetry, owned by the Captain's wife. Gustav asked to see the book of poetry, and his father presented it to him later that day. Gustav read the whole book, many of the poems familiar by now, but many unknown till now. What fascinated him more were the letters stuffed between the pages. Letters from his great-great grandmother to the Captain, along with the Captain's letters were there. They painted a portrait of a lonely woman, who wanted the war to end, and the Captain who leapt into a bigger battle each time. She did not see him for four years.

Years later, the sons left the castle with the promise of finding more land for their kingdom. Jorge went west and Gustav went north. In Jorge's mind, he dreamt of slaying dragons and rescuing a princess. Gustav saw the sword glowing, and the history he could add to it.

Jorge joined an army, but instead of fighting, they sat around and drank grappa. Jorge would compose letters then, and send them to his family. After several months, the king wrote to Jorge and urged him to leave the army and return home. He refused at first, but after several drunken fights, a cut forehead, and broken finger, he left the army camp late one night and immediately ran his horse into the forest. He was lost for days, but eventually found his way and returned to his father's castle. He said he would never be bad again. And the king believed him.

Gustav found a city in the north that was known for its architecture. There, he established himself among a group of intellectuals and artists. It was also there he met a soldier named Perceval, and they quickly fell in love. When he wrote letters to the king, he told his father of his love, and his father wrote back that he approved. Gustav was shocked but happy.

Jorge soon moved away to an island off the western coast, and met a peasant girl named Penelope. Not long after their initial meeting, she was in the family way, and Jorge decided he must marry her. He held the wedding on the island, so that the king and queen had to visit him. Gustav and Perceval were vacationing in the mountains, and did not attend the wedding.

And then the baby was born. A young girl named Elyzabeth, she learned to walk and talk within a few years.

One day Gustav brought Perceval to his father's castle, and they had a feast. Gustav passed on the steak and potatoes, but ate plenty of the salad and bread. Gustav told his father he had information about their family, and showed paintings of their ancestor with the civil war sword.

The king told Gustav that the sword would be passed on to Jorge, simply because he had children, otherwise it would have gone to Gustav. He asked Gustav to pass him another mug of grappa.

So Gustav took the sword and cut off his father's head. The blood bathed the blade of the sword, and removed all the rust so that it looked anew. And he and Perceval rode off into the red sunset to slay dragons and river monsters.



Laurie said...

just when you'd convinced me there would be a certain outcome the story turned. i'm hooked.

Alpha said...

Only because I know you did I expect a twist at some point. It's a great one. I really love how fairytale it sounds in some ways. I also really love its brevity.

Hugo Minor said...

I haven't written in the fairy tale voice in awhile. I love it - it feels good to use that voice.