Loyalty by Håkon Ulvestad

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I was lost in thought for a moment. Things are not what they used to be."
"Indeed. I find myself drifting away in thoughts more often lately too, probably my age catching up with me. I am old, Willem, I have to realize that. My bones and muscles are withering and I often find myself trying to do things I can no longer do. I guess that in my mind, I am still young and virile. I had never imagined I would grow old, but I am. I remember when I could jump the fence or beat my swords master in combat training. Those were great times. But you, Willem, you are still young and healthy. Seems nothing can bring you down, or what?"
"Ah, I think you are wrong, grace, I too am growing older."
"Bah. Bullocks, you are a young man if I ever saw one," the irony was not lost on me. The old man seldom chuckled or laughed out loud, but I could clearly see the mirth in his eyes, but the feeling of sadness was ever-present. "Tell me what you see, Willem, I would so like to see the world again," I do not know why but it seemed he was about to add the words one last time. "Please do, tell me, of the birds, of the sun, is it setting yet? I can feel its warmth. Oh what a glorious thing it would be to see the old sun once more. But your description will have to do."
And I told him about the view, the late summer evening, the sunset colouring the horizon in different shades of orange, and the brilliantly blue sky; not a single cloud was showing. The city by the calm, dark blue sea which was almost sparkling in the sunlight was full of life. Even up there at the castle I could hear the people in the street; noisy, but in a calm, pleasant way. Sailors were loading and unloading cargo from the ships in the harbour. I told him of all the ships, and if he did not know already, where they came from, by the banners they were flying. Some times when I did not recognize the banner, I would describe it to him, and he would fill me in. Surrounding the city was far stretched plains with occasional forest showing like dark green spots on the yellow and fair green fields. In the distance I could see the mountains, even at this time of year the peaks of the highest mountains were clad in snow.
I could see that king could picture it all in his mind. He was smiling and the look of sadness on his face was completely gone. It lightened my heart. As the sun disappeared in the great sea, the king turned back to face me. I was stung by the look in his eyes. At that moment I knew what had made him so sad: he knew. Yet even so, the sadness was still gone. I could not believe it. It pained my soul.
"I am getting old and tired Willem. It is all right," he said, and I knew that he meant it. I felt the need to fall on my knees and cry, but I had to stay strong. The king seemed to sense what I felt, and took my hand and gave it a light squeeze.
Although it weighed heavily on my soul, and I knew I never would be able to forgive myself. I had to do it. They had my daughter.
Tears ran down my cheeks as I drew the sword. I held it in my hand, raised before my face, taking one last, good look at it. The sword must have been made by the best smith in the whole kingdom, detailed, yet perfectly balanced. It was time to return it.
The king looked up at me once more, it felt like he could see right through me; see my soul and my thoughts. Then, he smiled, a smile of farewell. The sword took him straight in the heart, and I knew that death was instant. The fire in the old king's eyes died out. The sight of the blood trickling down my kings chest, soaking his tunic, have stuck to my mind ever since. It is ever a torment. I wanted to scream, I still want to scream. My soul was torn in pieces. All that kept me from going insane was the thought of my daughter, safe, back in my arms.
I put the sword in the king's lap. I did not deserve it any more. Besides, it was where it really belonged.