The kingdom of South Amphradoniawexland had been at peace for fourteen years under the leadership of Good King Dox when the Duke of the Vale rebelled. The Duke was brought to heel and brought blindfolded to the executioner’s block. A swordsman stepped forward holding a scimitar sharp enough to cut granite. He lifted it to above his right shoulder and brought it down. It reached the Duke’s neck but did not shed a drop of blood. A single tear dropped from the Duke’s eye. The crowd applauded. Good King Dox had shown clemency.
I was the swordsman. King Dox had whispered in my ear about his show of clemency and picked me from the other veterans. And I was employed in this service many times during these years of peace. Because there is no peace that fractious nobles do not test, and when fractious nobles test they vie amongst themselves for who will test the furthest, like naughty children egging each other on to see who will step out furthest upon the lake when it is frozen over, until finally CRACK and the child falls through. Or the noble enters open rebellion. And then he is brought to heel, and brought to the executioner’s block, and I bring down my sword, sharp enough to cut steel, but it stops just at his throat and doesn’t shed a drop of blood, although more often than not the naughty noble will shed more than a few tears.
Lately the nobles have been in open rebellion and there are too many mock executions for my services. There are many of us and it seems the church bell never stops ringing for the executions that never come. I see the same faces underneath my sword. And now children too and women. Everyone comes to be decapitated, but no one is.
My colleague Amphradonia Tea Kettle is frustrated. “How I long to actally take off a head. I could, you know.”
“I’m sure you could.” I respond.
“Or at least shed a drop of blood. Just a drop of blood. To let these fractious dukes and duchesses know I could.”
“That’s not the job.” I respond. “The job is to have so much force and control that there is no doubt we could take a life, but we refrain.”
“But what about Sampradampalus Whiz-wang?” He was a colleague of ours who it was discovered was performing the mock executions with a blade made of tissue paper and wax. Amphradonia and I often agreed that he was beneath contempt. “Surely he is beneath contempt.”
“No doubt.” I said. “He is beneath contempt.”
During that period of peace I often wondered what would betide when the Evil Devil Beast Men burst out of the Earth and massacred the citizens of our kingdom and we were forced to hack them in earnest. Would we have been weakened by our years of play acting? Would we be better? Would Amphradonia’s anger have served to keep his honor brighter or would my control?
It’s a question that we often discuss, Amphradonia and I. But we both agree on one thing. Sampradampalus with his tissue and wax sword? Beneath contempt!