My dad was a bear of a man, tough and unbeatable. I knew he was a soldier for the king once, and I always found myself wondering why he would leave such a life of excitement and action for the boring countryside. He always told me that is was my mother that made him settle down, which to me back then was crazy talk. A woman slowing a man such as my dad down? Absurd! He would always laugh and tell me I would understand one day.
Once when I was young, my dad looked at me and said, "Son, there is no time for grey areas. Things should either be amazing or terrible, but nothing should just be okay." I looked up at him with my bright eyes, full of childish innocence. "What do you mean?" I asked. "A war is coming." was all he would say.
Years later I came home from the village to a destroyed house, my father standing amongst twenty dead soldiers, countless small blades and arrows protruding from his body. My mother's lifeless body lay behind him, in a pool of her own blood. My father stood protectively in front of her; if it weren't for the weapons in his body, I would not have known he was hurt.
When he saw me, he smiled. "Son, there is no time in life for grey areas."
"Dad," I replied. "What happened?"
He shook his head. "Son, there is a war coming. You go grab your armour. You grab your sword." He turned, slowly, approaching my mother's body. There he fell to his knees, taking her into his arms. "You kiss your mother goodbye, and you go do something great with your life."
I was stunned. Grief, confusion, anger; these emotions welled up inside of me until I thought they might flood out in a torrent of tears and screams. "Dad..." I said, reaching out and stepping towards him.
"Shh," he said, carressing my mother's face, not acknowledging I said anything. "Don't cry, Gwen. Your son will come back home. And when he does, he will be twice the man I ever was."
His strength gave out, and he collapsed, bringing my whole world with him. There are no words to describe that anguish; no words to describe the feeling you get when your own father, the greatest man you had ever known, tells you to go be twice the man he ever was. It was an impossible task, and its impossibility drug me down into ground.
But I grabbed my armor. I took up my sword. I kissed my mother goodbye. And I made a promise that I would return with the bastards responsible for this dead. I searched through the dead bodies of the soldiers, learning they were part of the king's army. I remember asking around a nearby village, learning some soldiers had passed through to take care of a rebel. From the rebels, I learned that my father had refused to re-join the king's army, and they killed him.
The next few years saw me drowning in a river of blood, flowing freely from where ever I struck the king's army. I became the rebel army. I became death itself.
Like my father, no man could take me out. Men would come at me with swords, axes, spears, weapons no one could ever imagine and still not bring me down. I had been impaled upon a spear and not stopped fighting; I found my self once literally drowning in my own blood. It was always one thought that drove me on: I needed to be twice the man my father was, and if I died now, how could I ever perform such a feat? I was winning the rebel's war single handedly.
My match was never found on the battlefield. Instead, it was found in a bedroom. We did not dance with steel, but with passion. We danced until we could no longer move, not until the other was dead. A woman had defeated me where no man ever could. In its place she left only a man with no other thought then to have this woman, make her my own, and settle far away from any battlefield.
Then she gave me a child.
It was that moment that ended the rebel's cause. I no longer cared to fight until I could not fight anymore. I cared only to take her far away from the pleasure house I found her in, far away from any battlefield. For that, the king's army began to win its battles decidely. However, I did not care. I built a house in the middle of no where, I started a farm, I did everything my father had done. It wasn't until she birthed my son, however, did I realize what had happened. Just like my father, a woman had taken the fight out of me. Just like my father, I had become a builder, not a destroyer. A caretaker, not a soldier.
I understood exactly why my father quit the army. I understood why he quit being a warrior. I know now why he choose to be a father, a husband. I understood completely why he died for it. I remember being out in the field with my son, eight years into life, when he looked at me. He asked if I truly was the strongest warrior alive, and I told him I was. He asked me why I would leave such a life for a boring one in the country side. I told him his mother had stopped me, to which he cried out increduously. "No woman could stop you, if you are half as strong as you have said!" I laughed, patted his head, and told him he would understand one day.
He never got that chance. I came home one day long after the war had ended, to find the king's men pulling my family from the house. I tried to stop them, but was ambushed; years of being out of the fight left me weak, and I could not stop them. They beat me unconscious, but left me alive. They allowed me to rush to the capital, they allowed me to view my family strung by the gallows. They allowed me to cry in the streets.
My days as a warrior were over. There was no war to fight, no way I could simply strike out at the king's men in retaliation. My father once told me there was no time for grey areas; I was to either have a terrible day or a great one. For years since his death, I had nothing but terrible days. My luck had finally seemed to turn around when I met my wife, giving me many years of bliss, multiplied by the existance of my son. For a year after their deaths, I could not bear to follow my father's words, to allow myself to have so many dark, terrible days. The pain was too great. I drowned myself in a flood of booze and self destruction, having simply okay days, day in and day out.
I had once become the exact man my father had been, but during that time I was no man. I was a disgrace to my wife's memory, my son's memory, but most of all, my father's memory. By this point there was no chance I'd ever become twice the man my father wanted me to be, and that fact drove me to drink more. I simply existed. I simply wasted time. By the time I had enough of these simply okay days, all I could hope for was a chance at becoming half the man I had ever been.
This change came as the annual King's Ball, where he invited the nobles from the area to his castle to celebrate victory over the rebels. It was during this time I resolved to end my string of okay days. I was going to have one last amazing day. My wife and my son would be avenged.
I slipped by his men, the party guests. I went straight to the wine cellar, and I poisoned every last drop. I then drank from the poisoned wine. As the poison took my last breath, I remembered the conversation I had with my son the day before he died.
"Son," I said, "there is no time for grey areas. Things should either be amazing or terrible, but nothing should just be okay." He looked up at me, his eyes bright and full of childish innocence. "What do you mean?" he asked. I knelt down in front of him, placing my hand on his head. "A war is coming," I told him.