ROLE– by Scott Hutchison
His fearsome tribe is battle-ready, brawny, broad
of shoulders, scar-muscled. He is small, a runt
allowed to live. Never once at the forefront
of a charge. Not his place. He brings up the rear.
Still, his table-companions raise a cup, acknowledge
his role, his steady tactics: the enemy who
bloodies through finds a slight shaking fool path-set
in front of him, and crashing forward with a powerful stroke
the berserker knocks the lesser opponent to earth, moves in
for the kill slash—which will glance off of
a precisely angled shield, while the short sword
gripped in the other hand cleaves through
calf, leg tendon, the over-confident opening
of lower leg. Which always topples the big man.
And in the charger’s brave wincing moment
of reaction he sees the truth–as the diminutive swordsman
down on his back strikes off sword-wrist and begins
to vivisect. The ground-rolling bladesman is quick quick.
Once done, he rises, dusts himself off, resumes a valueless face
and prepares for another. The girthful warrior, mindful of fame,
ever-falls, reduced to godless and gutted roar-man,
incensed to be taken to task and darkness by the tiny fellow
with the grim smile on his lips, who battle after battle
receives three, four, five gold rings
and the shoulder pat of the king—the back-line smidgen
who sits in honor drinking deep, nodding his head
to the songs of the dragon slayers.
Scott T. Hutchison’s work has appeared in such publications as Star*Line, Brief Grislys, and Postscripts to Darkness. New work is forthcoming in the Atlanta Review.