He would do his duty, of course, because what else could be done? Fight under the banners of a king he did not love, and had never even seen. Put steel to skin and draw blood, when he would rather put steel to paper and lay down ink. Commanded to take life when all he wanted to do was nurture it. Before he left, he had taken one last look at her, held the newborn in his arms for what he knew would be the very last time. And he had whispered:
‘You may be fatherless, but know that you were not without a father’s love. In the span of a few days I have loved you with an intensity that will hold for a lifetime. I pray that you will find a family, even if it is not the people who raise you. I pray that you will find a home, even if it is not the house you grow up in. Before you, my life was precious to me. After you, I realised that I would swallow every demon in the world so that you may grow up without fear. I wish you could know how much I have loved you- wretched and crippled and little as I am, I have loved you from the second I felt you kick in your mother’s womb, to my last moment in the world. The last face in my mind will be yours, and the last name on my breath will be yours, and if my spirit should wander back into this world, it will wander back to yours. And ours is the song my heart has sung, from the moment yours stuttered into life, and until my last beat.’
After that he had donned his helm. He had taken up his spear and shouldered his shield, knowing with calm certainty that he would be sent to the frontline, to charge at men he did not hate, nor wish dead. He had found it odd, always, how much more the infantry on either side of the field had in common with each other, than with the lords who commanded them from atop great warhorses and from within splendid armour.
Let kings attempt to pierce the heavens with castle spires, and all the great knights sing their hymns to steel and fire. Let them believe they could bring the world to heel with armies and by brute force, conquer all lands and marshal the sea and sky. It made no difference to him- he, who had known the universe to collapse at the touch of a butterfly.