That question- why -I wanted answered more than anything, but now feared asking. I had chewed on it since receiving his summons, turning it over and again in my mind during the daylong trek across the estate. Had I done something wrong or failed him in some way? In all my years of faithful service, I had never met my employer.  My father, who worked the land before me, only met him once and rarely spoke of it. The image of him I created in my ignorance had been of a fat and lazy lord living in posh comfort while his subjects sweated to produce for him. Now being here in his presence, my impression changed. The hard lines and scars on his face displayed the years of toil and effort. My gaze turned to his strong, weathered hands. They looked as hard and worked as a blacksmiths hands. My eyes traveled back met his examining gaze. The stone look in his eyes caused me to shudder and search my mind again for anything I could have done wrong and still came up blank.

“No sire, I don’t know.” I relented.

His armor creaked as he leaned back against the heavy oak chair, steepling his fingers in front of his face and resting his elbows on the arms of the chair. His brow furrowed and his lips pursed as he sat in silence –for what seemed like an eternity to me– eyes staring at the fire and I could see its orange reflection lapping in them. I leaned forward watching him, waiting for him. I could feel my heartbeat quicken. What had I done?

He drew in a deep breath. “I want to know if you are a warrior.” He said with his eyes still glued to the blaze.

My jaw dropped and I felt my eyes widen.  A what? I would have laughed at the question, had it come from anyone else, such an absurd question. I did my best to wipe the astonished look from my face. “Sire, I have never been trained in the arts of war. I am simply a farmer.”

“I didn’t ask if you were a soldier!” He huffed, dismissing my statement with a swat of his hand in the air as if shooing off a mosquito. “Soldiers are trained. They take an ordinary man and drill into him the necessary Lessons to make him affective on a battlefield.” His right hand reached across his chest and grabbed the hilt of the sword leaning against the left arm of the chair and with one smooth effortless motion swung it up in front of him, tip to the ceiling. The mirror finish reflected the fire and I watched his eyes admire it, they took it all in from hilt to tip and back. “They become a weapon to be wielded, not unlike this sword.” Then with a quick snap, he spun the sword around driving the tip to the floor between us with a solid thud that startled me back into my seat and echoed off the stonewalls. “A warrior cannot be made, you are one or you’re not, simple as that. So are you a warrior?”

I cleared my throat, still staring at the glimmering blade that now separated us. His words echoed through the hall and hung in my mind as an icy chill ran down my spine. I have always been a farmer, why would he suspect me of being a warrior? The chill ran its course and settled in the pit of my stomach as a cold knot. I brought my eyes up off the sword to find his furrowed brow and eyes burning into me as he now leaned forward in his chair.

“I’m not sure what you are asking sire. I have worked for you all my life. You know I am just a farmer.” My shoulders slumped and I dropped my eyes to the floor in embarrassment. He called me here for nothing. Surely, I have disappointed him. I could count on one hand how many times I held a sword and I never learned how to use it properly. Give me a hoe or a rake, I know how to use those but a sword I have not a clue.

“Do wolves ever threaten my flocks?” He asked in a calm and steady voice.

“Yes Sire.”

“And when those wolves come, do you let them ravish my flocks?” Before I could answer, his voice boomed the answer. “No, you don’t. You fight off the wolves,” He shook a clenched fist in the air, “sometimes putting yourself between the wolves and the flock.” He nodded his head and took in a breath. “Could the wolves harm you?”

“Yes, they could. I can’t tell you how many times I have looked in the eyes of a snarling wolf bearing it’s teeth at me.” I lifted my head and felt my back straighten as I answered, my embarrassment gone for the moment.

“So you don’t fear the wolf?” He asked arching one eyebrow and I thought for a moment that I could see the beginnings of sly grin forming on his face but as quick as it appeared it vanished leaving just his icy gaze.

“Oh yes Sire, they are viscous animals. I have seen them tear a young calf apart. They are unpredictable you never know quite what they might do.” Images of the different encounters passed through my head sending a shiver through me.

“So you stand up to the wolf despite your fear?” He arched his eyebrow again. “That shows courage.” His brow furrowed again and his eyes showed a new intensity. “Courage is not the lack of fear but rather the ability to act in spite of the fear.” He lowered his voice and spoke with pure conviction. “Men who go into battle and do not fear their own death are fools or disturbed, but a man who fears his own demise and still does his duty, now that is a man I want next to me in battle” He paused and slammed the tip of the sword on the floor again punctuating his point. “A warrior has courage.”

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