Once and Again
A fierce thunderstorm is raging. The trees are bending to the will of its power. The sky lights up with full hands and long fingers of lightning. The continuous thunder crackles through the night.
On the winds and through the trees do the ghosts of his past howl their displeasure. Every time the lightning turns night into day, the faces of those who he was supposed to be guardian and protector to stare out at him from the forest and mock his very existence. The rain comes in sheets and the rivers are raging. The wind buffeting what once was a finely made royal uniform, now nothing more than tattered rags covering the beaten body of a ragged soul.
Sorbo, once the greatest knight in all of Pralene, now his six foot three mark frame is out of shape and over-weight. His shoulder length light brown hair, dripping wet and unruly, hides his tormented eyes as he kneels in the mud and rising water with his head bent down in shame and betrayal. From deep within his being does his soul scream. He raises his few weeks past clean-shaven face to the heavens and screams with every last bit of oxygen his lungs can hold. Long after he is done screaming he holds his face up towards the falling rain hoping it will wash away his sins.
With his eyes firmly shut he takes in one last deep breath and as he is letting it out slowly he opens his eyes and just then the night lights up with a band of lightning that radiates the world with its eerie glow. From out of that flash of light can the fallen knight Sorbo see that the ghosts of the very people he was supposed to protect, once and again surround him. As they stand above him looking down at him, with what he thinks is contempt, they reach out for him. Just as their transparent glowing hands fall upon him he wakes up in his poorly made cot that creaks and rocks from the jolt of him waking up from yet another nightmare.
He was a young man then. Now he is a middle-aged forgotten warrior whose punishment for his failure to do his job is to live with the knowledge that so much beauty died because he was not good enough or too arrogant.
In the real world a storm is also raging. It is not as fierce as his nightmare’s and the flashes from the lightning do not show him any ghosts. He takes a deep shuddering breath and throws his legs over the edge of his cot. The cot creaks and rocks until finally it falls over and collapses in on itself once again.
“Great.” says Sorbo, still sitting on the cot on the floor. He takes his hands and rubs his angular face and then strokes back his unkempt hair.
He struggles briefly getting his out of shape and over-weight body up off the floor. He glances over at the fireplace and sees embers lingering still. As he is walking over to the fireplace to throw another log on it he kicks his sword and it goes clattering to the floor.
He looks down at it with disgust and says, “At least this time you’re in your scabbard.”
He throws two more logs on the fire and he stands there staring into the growing flames. Within the dancing orange and yellow flames memories of old come rushing back to him. He is standing in the Great Hall of the Royal Castle in the capitol city of Glimmer of the kingdom of Pralene at yet another grand ball. Music from the Royal Symphony is playing softly in the background. Marvelously dressed people twirl about as they celebrate life and love. Even though the young knight Sorbo has his hand resting on his sword, he has a joyful smile on his face.
Just then thunder shakes him from his reverie and he takes another wistful deep breath. He turns around to look at his little cottage and now that the flames are high enough he can see the disarray that is his life. A square dinner table sets in the very middle of his rectangular shaped cottage, which measures eight feet by twelve feet. Surrounding the dinner table are the remains of two chairs that he built, but was not strong enough to hold his growing girth.
He glances over at his now ground level cot that is on the west wall and says, “At least it is the same height as my end table now.” He laughs to himself and shakes his head. He then looks up and sees the roof leaking in two spots. “I’ll get to that tomorrow.” Of course he has been saying that for weeks now.
The glow from his fire in the fireplace that is in the southern eight-foot wall is starting to dim. He walks over and throws another log on it and just then a gust of wind rocks the cottage and Sorbo looks around as one who is expecting it to collapse in on him at any moment. The door that is in the north side of the eastern wall rattles and the wind and rain comes through the edges.
Again he rubs his face and runs his fingers through his hair trying to remember where he left his bottle of whisky. He glances over at his one real piece of furniture that is a dark brown cloth covered elegant soft chair that is out of place here, and which is tucked away in the southwest corner between the fireplace and the foot of the cot.
“Ah!” He sees the bottle next to the chair and goes and sits down with a contented sigh.
He takes a drink and then sets the bottle on his ever-growing stomach. He looks around his little cottage that is falling apart and then he groans. He takes another sip from the bottle and then another. He is half sitting half lying in his comfortable chair waiting for the sun to rise on another fruitless day.
There is a banging on the door and Sorbo jolts awake from his chair and groans with displeasure. The knocking comes again. “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m coming.” He fights his way through the growing wreckage that is his life and he pushes open the door. One of the leather hinges finally breaks and it hangs there precariously.
“Be it a good morning to ya, sunshine.”
“Ah, Lawson, I should have known. Can you come back later? I’m kind of busy right now.”
“Yeah, I can see that,” says Lawson, holding up a bottle of brandy for Sorbo to see.
“Well, maybe I’m not that busy. Come on in, you old scoundrel.”
Lawson is a sixty-year-old thin man who stands six foot tall with long black curly hair and gray eyes. For whatever reason, the hard road that shows on Lawson’s face makes Sorbo feel at ease around him. He was a sailor back in his days, but Sorbo figures he was probably more a pirate than a merchant sailor.
“Have a seat, Lawson, if you dare.”
Lawson looks around at the remnants of the furniture that Sorbo has built and with great trepidation he pulls up the last surviving dinner table chair and gives it a shake before sitting down. When it doesn’t fall apart Lawson and Sorbo look at each other and shrug their shoulders while Sorbo gives him a sly smile.
“Did ye hear?” asks Lawson, in his deep sailor accent. Even though they are both from Pralene, Lawson is from a coastal village about fifty stretches east of the Darian Mountains and Sorbo was born in the Darian Mountains, but from eleven years old on Sorbo has spent much of his time in the wilds of the Dakota Woodlands deep towards the border with the Free Lands.
“Hmm? Hear what, my old friend?”
“Tonight at the Royal Castle in Glimmer there be a big hoopla with representatives from every kingdom of the Isle of Lakes present.”
“I thought we would go and crash the party.”
“You got to be joking?”
“Actually I be, mate.” Laughs Lawson. “Actually, there supposed to be a lady harpist playing at the pub tonight.”
“Who in their right mind would want to play at that dump?” Before answering Lawson looks around at Sorbo’s cottage. “Yeah, Yeah.”
“Any way I thought we’d go and get some culture.”
“Yeah, well, what the hell. Right!”
“Right. Yeah, what the hell! I’ll be there. What time do you think?”
“Hmm, I guess I’ll be dropping by just after nightfall. How’s that be?”
“That’ll work. In the mean time I guess I should try and fix my leaking roof.”
“Want some help?”
“You know how to fix a roof?”
“Sort of, but it can’t be that hard. Right!”
Sorbo looks over at the leaking roof and then back at Lawson several times still trying to make some sense from his friend’s last statement.
“Uh, no, that’s okay, old timer, I’ll figure it out.”
“Alright, me friend, I’ll see you tonight.”
Sorbo walks his friend out the front door and goes to grab the front door, as it is hanging there by its one hinge, and it falls the rest of the way off. Sorbo looks at it lying on the ground for a few moments and then turns around and walks back into the cottage. Between the front door opening and the poorly fitting shutter of the one window opening on the northern wall in the cottage, quite a puddle is starting to form on the dirt floor of his cottage, very soon to be a mud pit.
“Oh well, at least they are letting some light in.”
On his way back over to his chair he notices that he is about out of firewood. He picks up the remains of one of his dining chairs and throws it into the fire with a satisfied wiping of his hands. He sits down in his chair and picks up the bottle of brandy that his friend left behind. He tips the bottle up and guzzles the last of it down.
By the time he wakes up again it is still light out, but the rain has stopped falling. He stretches himself awake with a big yawn. With his brown breeches and torn green short sleeve shirt on he walks outside and greets the day for the first time, although it is only several hours until nightfall. He walks through the woods over to the nearby stream and thinks about jumping in for it is about time for his weekly bath, but instead he kneels down on the bank and splashes his face and head with the cold water. It is refreshing and as an after thought he takes his shirt off and splashes some water on his armpits. He leans his head over and gives them a good smell. He doesn’t fall over dead so he puts his shirt back on.
As he is walking out of the woods into the little clearing where he has built his cottage he looks at it with a chagrined scowl and starts trying to figure out how to fix at least one of the problems. He walks up to the front door and picks it up and leans it into the opening. It covers about three-fourths of the opening, but at least it is progress.
“Alright, at least I got something accomplished today.”
He then looks around and notices a bunch of limbs with their leaves still attached to them lying about from the storm. He picks them up and throws them on top of his slightly sloped roof where he believes the leaks to be coming from. He looks inside the cottage and doesn’t see any water leaking so he is most impressed with himself. Of course it won’t be until the next time that it rains that he truly realizes it wasn’t raining when he checked to see if he had fixed the leaks.
Since the island continent that he lives on is called the Isle of Lakes you can be pretty sure that it rains a lot.
As he looks at his cottage closer he realizes that the mud and grass mixture he packed in the openings between the logs is starting to disintegrate and fall out. He can see into his little log cabin that he calls his cottage and he then knows its days are numbered.
“Oh well, another part of my life coming to an end.”
He walks over to his cottage and throws the door out of the way. It falls to the ground about three feet to his right, north of the cottage. He goes into his cottage and starts rummaging through and looking under everything as he is looking for another bottle of alcohol.
Eventually he gives up and goes and flops down in his chair with a very dissatisfied moan. He sits there for an hour getting more and more surely by the minute. By the time Lawson shows up he is in a bad mood and ready to go do some heavy drinking.
“Knock, knock,” says Lawson, knocking on the air where the door should be.
“It’s about damn time, old man.”
“Did yee fix your roof?”
“Does it look like it is leaking, old man?”
“Well no, but it also isn’t raining at the moment.”
Sorbo looks to the roof and then back at Lawson again. He does that several times before finally saying, “To the abyss with it, I need a drink.”
“I hear that! Come on, grouch.”
“Do I look grouchy to you? Well, do I, Lawson, huh?”
“Actually, you look like you be in a fighting mood.” Sorbo smiles sheepishly.