The Soldier's Helmet

The soldier unlatched his helmet-strap and removed his helmet. His sweat-soaked hair was slicked to his forehead. He sat cross-legged on the side of the road, placed the helmet on his lap, and pondered it.

It had been forged many summers ago, and hastily. The soldier commissioned the helmet after he had received a writ from a provincial messenger summoning him to levy. It had been paid for by his wife's father, a wealthy but ill merchant in his home village of Yur by the river Qual. The father had also provided a sword, a family heirloom, a wicked, unadorned blade, the steel black with a strange adjunct or impurity. But that was lost now, buried in a field of carrion, both of human and horseflesh.

The soldier pondered his helmet. It had been shaped in the style of the Southerners: the cheeks, sharp angles; the eye curves, menacingly narrow; nose guard narrowing to a point; no crest holder. He had been scolded for that. The Greatest-of-Fifty wanted his scour to bear great plumes of Griess magenta, and the other forty-nine had crest holders, but not this solider. Thus, he settled for magenta tunics, and expressed his anger by making the soldier flag bearer; the symbol he chose for their county with the blessing of the priests: a black hand, fingers spread, with an X in the center. This was a Twa-lakiz token, an homage to the ancient times when soldiers weren't volunteers but forcefully conscripted.

As the memory of the standard came, the soldier began to cry.

The End

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