– I don’t get it, – my up-to now friend is stewing. -Why you and not me?
-What do you mean? – I ask, trying to bind my maimed hand. My sword is resting accross my knee, within easy reach should the need arise. Most likely it won’t, since the field is strewn with the bodies of the enemies we have killed, and otherwise occupied with our weary warriors in need of wound cleansing and binding, or even the last rites. This battle has been the worst yet.
-We have fought together every battle since we were 12. We have killed almost the same number of enemies. Look at the tally. – and he shoves a rabbit skin with strange markings on two columns under my nose. So that’s what that thing is. I always wondered why he kept dragging it with him everywhere and what did he secretly scribble on it
His breeches are torn and soaked with blood. Everytime he speaks, the color of the seepage becomes deeper, but it does not look very serious. I am more worried about the wound on his chest, currently being bound by one of the maiden daughters of the liege vassals of my house. She is trying to do a good job but he keeps moving and bumping his forearm on her chest, while barely containing his frustration.
-I am sure they respect you too.
-It is not the same! Every village we go to, they make songs in your name. They offer you their daughters first, they name their sons after you, they give you the ram tails over their liege lords for God’s sake. What am I, chopped liver?
-Man, listen. You are my best friend. You still stand by me, you have my back, you are the person I look up to. You are my hero. We do everything together. I don’t get why you are so upset.
-Why can’t I be their hero too? My name will be forgotten. 500 years from now…
-541 years from now.
-541 years from now, thank you; they’ll turn you into a myth, they’ll build statues on your name, they’ll think you kept this country together. And all you were trying to do was get back your daddy’s lands. I was the one with the bigger dream, the one who convinced you to go back, the one who reminded you of your religion. What about me, huh?
I have no answer to this. Since our beautiful healer is now pressing into his thigh wound to stop the bleeding, he can’t speak and I grab the occasion to think about it. I have no idea why I am the hero and not he. He certainly fits the bill too. We are both strong, with square shoulders and jaws, and that certain worn warrior aura about us. We always fight together. It is true that his vision is bigger than mine. He is the one always talking about a unified country, a national identity, an ideal to fight for. I am more concentrated in not letting my lands go, in keeping the invaders away over what’s mine. Strangely, a lot more villages and lords have pleaded their allegiance to me over this. Maybe they saw how savage I have been with the ones who hurt me and mine, and they chose to be on my camp. I swear, to me that is the only important thing.
Now the pope is sending in his accolades, and calling me the fighter of Christianity and what not. Well, if it brings us soldiers and money, why not? And I don’t get what my friend’s problem is. If it gets the job done, let the people believe. His dreams of uniting everybody under one flag, his wish for freedom from those pesky Turks, his plans of putting that honor code of his to good use, will all come to fruition if people believe. Even if what they believe in, is me.
-What about me? – he repeats, shaking me from my reverie. I realize that he has been cleansed and bound. The cute healer is now cleaning my hand and giving me a timid smile at the same time. I’ll definitely watch out for her tonight. Even if this dressing she’s putting on smells like sheep’s pee.
-What about you? – I ask.
-The future generations man. What are you going to built this country on? One person’s image? The one who is the lesser hero? I deserve more than this. Your country deserves more than this.
He is right up to a point. My country deserves more than this. My country deserves a true hero. Not a wally-willy nag like my so-called best friend breaking my nuts and wanting his “place” and demanding the record be put straight. Oh yes. The country will get a hero, even if I have to invent the damn fool from the top of my head. They will bow to my memory, they will die with my name on their lips, they will built me a myth. Because, otherwise, we’ll all be snuffed from all this modesty and honesty. If virtue is the death of us, we will kill it. And we will survive.
I can hear future historians fighting with each-other about accuracy in the language my myth and Iwill help protect. Well, as long as it is not to the death, a good fight always brings about healthy appetite for food, drink, women and life. After all, fight is in our nature so we might as well put it to got use.
A smile must have curved the side of my lips because my friend falls silent and looks away, probabbly wishing he could swallow some of his nagging back. He will need to be watched from now on.
The healer is finally done and after a short bow, leaves. We both watch her go, lost in the sway of her buttocks and the swing of her thick skirts. Oh yeah, she’ll need watching too.