Submitted by Frances on Mon, 06/19/2017 - 9:18pm

A Solstice Story


There was a pause in the conversation, a contented pause. The fire was warm, the innkeeper's ale was fine, the story-telling had been good--so far.

"I have only a grim story,: said a very young man sitting in a corner."

"You?" said one of the older ones. "You're too young for grimness. Time for that later on."

"It isn't my story."

"Well, proceed," said "the older man. "But more ale first," he said to the innkeeper. "To blunt the grimness."

When they were all served, the boy started "We have a nasty custom where I come from--once every ten years, on the summer solstice, the greatest fighter must have his fighting hand cut off. And burnt as a sacrifice. To pay for future military success."  The listening crowd shifted uncomfortably. The had heard of this custom. And its location. A fearsome place--the custom seemed to work. At least they had lots of success at invading and smashing neighboring domains.

"We were coming up on the tenth year solstice last spring," said the boy. "I feared for my older brother, a very great warrior. A joyous one. And from that he would be . . . demoted to a helpless banner carrier. But we needed him. And . . .I didn't want to see him suffer."

"A stupid custom." said one of the listeners."

"Bet it was carried on by the not so good. Spitefulness, you know," said another.

"Doesn't stop them from being awesomely triumphant," said a third.


"Solstice came. All the fighters gathered in the hall. The women and servants clustered around the walls. My mother, a notable sorceress, stood beside with my father. Two men were named. One was a nasty scheming one, with much support among the fighters but who had caused much trouble. And he was spiteful, as you say. My brother was also named, as I expected. And won, as they called it. I call it lost. My father called for the blood sword.. My brother held out his left hand, the one he had won so many fights with. My father struck it off. My mother quickly staunched the blood, using her arts and a magical scarf. My father tossed the hand unto the fire. And my brother laughed as it sizzled."

The listeners shifted uncomfortably.

The boy continued, "But so did the other man And my brother seized. the banner and slammed him over the head.   He fell, convulsing, to the ground. My mother did nothing to help him. My brother now seized the bloodsword, in his right hand an ran him through. He died. Nobody turned on my cousin--he was the sacred banner carrier now. I saw my father was smiling. And so I left. It seemed such a stupid way to manage things. I wanted to see how such matters were dealt with elsewhere."