Back in the early '80s we were newly-married. And very, very broke. For Christmas, we went with home-made gifts for friends and family. This story was my gift to my two sisters who were politely on my case to write something. So what was their gift over 30 years ago is now being shared here with you. And the sisters are cool with that. I think.
The General stares out the window, standing motionless while studying the thoughts in his mind.
Six months ago he had been given command of Supreme Headquarters. There were others with better credentials, more educational expertise, yet he was selected for a different reason.
The King’s Directive, relayed directly to the Council, demanded that the Army should make soldiers for battle. They are to be building up warriors, not administrative bureaucrats with counseling capabilities - training soldiers how to fight and win.
The King wants leaders who know how to consistently defeat the Enemy and could teach others to do the same.
The General knows of only one way to accomplish the King’s Directive - surrender to the King and His Spirit. It is only through the King. Many of the officers at Supreme Headquarters had forgotten. The General would not.
His eyes close briefly as his spirit kneels once again to the King. Straightening his shoulders, the General moves to the massive desk and its myriad responsibilities.
The only sound in the outer office is the gilded pen’s rapid dance across the parchment. The hand holding the pen abruptly stops as the thick, dark wood of the anteroom door swings open.
The brightness of the mid-morning sun explodes past the door’s inward swing, splashing across the desk and temporarily blinding the writer. As the Major squints, he sees a silhouette in the door’s entrance. Not knowing the rank of the figure, a quick decision leads the Major to stand up. He assumes a practiced stance that will allow an easy transition into the Attention/Salute Response if the figure is of greater rank.
The figure advances and becomes a soldier like himself, wearing the crimson armor of a Guardian. The red helmet rests upon an average-sized man of normal proportions. His gait is relaxed, his stride efficient as if accustomed to much walking. He moves easily as one who has spent much time in body armor. The shield is strapped to his arm and moves in an easy rhythm with the booted feet. The sword arm is held casually at the precise angle to quickly draw the double-edged weapon if needed. He is the same rank as the Major.
“Good day, sir. May the King’s Joy be your Strength.” the Major intones with practiced inflection and professional warmth.
“And His Peace your strong Fortress, sir,” the visitor answers.
The Major is briefly taken back by the sincerity of the ritual response. The Major can see something in the man’s eyes. The Major can’t put his finger on it - and for some reason it bothers him.
“Major Foundson, King’s Guardian at FarPoint, sir,” says the saluting officer in an almost neighborly way.
Not quite the way to make a memorable first impression, thinks the Major, who replies,
“And I am Major Courtman, Attache to General Goodall, Commander of Supreme Headquarters.”
The Major smiles while standing as tall as possible, utilizing the practiced baritone delivery for maximum effect.
It bothers the Major that his visitor gives not the slightest hint of being intimidated, but answers politely,
“Nice to meet you, Major Courtman. I have orders to see General Goodall this morning.”
Glancing quickly at the desk corner, Courtman sees the scheduled appointment. Nodding towards Foundson, he begins moving across the gleaming stone floor towards the General’s office.
“Please wait here, Major. I’ll inform the Gener . . .”
“Major Foundson of FarPoint! Welcome to Headquarters!” chuckles a booming voice from behind them, “How was your trip here, Robert?”
As the General and Foundson move toward each other, Courtman finds himself inspecting the newcomer. The scarlet-enameled helmet and body armor are highly polished and well-cared for, but there are dents and creases on both. The thick leather handle of the sword doesn't have the slick, glossy shine like most of those found at Headquarters. It has the dull, smooth patina that comes from sweat and use. The red and gold shield is buffed and polished yet the surface is pockmarked by creases and punctures, its edges serrated with small dents and cuts.
Who is this Major Foundson? Courtman muses as he follows the two men to the General’s office. How could someone from FarPoint be this well connected at Headquarters? No one in the right circles or “on the climb” would stay at a place like FarPoint, at least not for long. It's just too far away from Headquarters and doesn’t carry any weight on one’s service record.
Eavesdropping on the conversation, Courtman realizes that Foundson has been commanding the FarPoint Garrison for almost all his career. Courtman mentally shakes his head. The stranger is almost twice his age and still only a Major, and to top that, a Major at FarPoint! A classic case of career wheel-spinning, he thinks. A sad career indeed.
Courtman reaches to pull the office door shut and resume his desk-bound vigil when the General calls over his shoulder,
“Why don’t you join us, Jon. Go ahead and leave it open.”
The General motions towards a corner of the spacious office where an exquisite grouping of chairs surround an ornate table. Huge windows make up the back wall, brightly framing the essence of the citadel known as Supreme Headquarters. Buildings, walkways, roads, and people make a colorful mosaic of organization and purpose.
The three soldiers sit down. Foundson chooses the chair without arms. Courtman notices he does not remove his sword and sheath. Resting the shield against his leg and the chair, he places his helmet on the table.
Interesting, thought Courtman. Most of the General’s visitors use the table to hold their weaponry – that is if they wear any at all. What an interestingly uncomfortable way to converse.
Courtman glances sideways to see the General's response to this seating arrangement. The approval in those grey eyes surprises Courtman, who keeps his face at the practiced angle of professional warmth and empathy.
“So tell me, Robert – how goes the Garrison at FarPoint?”
“The King’s Work is being done by the King’s Strength.” replies Foundson. Courtman is stunned by the response. Intensive empathy training tells him that Foundson has relayed trust, weariness, submission, frustration, and confidence all in his response.
The General leans forward and begins to ask questions which the FarPoint Major answers plainly and honestly. Foundson talks about victories and defeats, battles won and lost, wounds sustained, traitors and comrades.
Not a sharp career move there, thought Courtman. A “can-do” attitude is needed to move up through the ranks. You’ll never get ahead by dropping your guard like this.
A little too late, Courtman perceives that the General is also watching him.
A bolt of panic shoots through Courtman. Keeping his face at the proper angle for listening, his mind is whirling.
How long has the General been observing me? What did he see? How will this impact my service record? Is this a test rather than a conversation? Did I fail?
The General leans back in his chair.
“You know, Robert, Jon here has won top honors in Weapons Presentation. I believe that makes three years in a row.”
Foundson turns to the Major.
“Congratulations, Major Courtman. A soldier’s life depends on his weapon skills and his reliance on the King.”
Courtman smiles back, searching Foundson’s eyes as he says “thank you”. All Courtman finds is sincerity.
“Jon, would you be so kind as to give us a demonstration? Would you like to see that, Robert?”
“I would enjoy that, General.”
Foundson shifts in his seat to face Courtman, who can sense the anticipation of the visitor.
Nodding, Courtman moves back from the chairs, picking an area of sufficient room. He turns to face the others.
“What is the General’s pleasure? I have kept up on all of the latest forms, including the Ryoko-Chi Meditative form. It has a few variations that you might find interesting, sir.”
The General half-turns to Foundson, and then those grey eyes swing back to Courtman.
“Whatever you’d like, Jon. Show us your favorite.”
Courtman quickly selects the form that would best accentuate his impressive physical presence and showcase his mastery of the Rotating Grip, a technique that allows many more creative maneuvers with the sword than the old forms. He assumes the Awaiting Stance as he begins to relax and focus. He waits the mandatory fifteen seconds, the minimum requirement for any form, even though he has already prepared himself in about half that time.
The initial movement of the older forms was to draw the sword. The form chosen by Courtman starts with an elegant and involved hand exercise that increases in speed and split-second precision. The Major draws the sword with a looping move and instantly the sword becomes a blur.
The weapon spins, rotates, and at one point even flips end-over-end so quickly that only the practiced eye can tell. The chosen form, longer than most of the new ones and much longer than the old ones, comes to an end as Courtman spins the golden blade across his body, shooting it upward, then ramming it down hard to suddenly stop a hairsbreadth from the opening of the sheath. Slowly he lowers the sword into its opening, ending in a perfect Attention Stance as the gleaming hand guard clicks into the sheath.
He relaxes and turns to the smiling face of the General whose eyes seem to have a different emotion.
Strange, wonders Courtman, I thought I did it perfectly.
Courtman then looks at Foundson. He is surprised to see the FarPoint Major standing in almost a Battle Ready Stance, his hand grasping his sword pommel and the shield on his arm. Courtman looks into Foundson’s eyes and sees a hard grimness there.
Courtman’s mind is spinning.
Foundson is . . . angry? What did I do to bring this about?
It bothers Courtman that he had actually wanted the approval of this FarPoint Commander.
The General breaks the awkward silence by asking,
“Robert – what did you think of the Major’s presentation?”
Foundson replies politely, yet quietly.
“The Major is skilled and well-practiced.”
Foundson’s eyes never change as the General walks over to Courtman and puts his hand on the Major’s shoulder.
“Thank you, Jon, that was very well done. Would you like to see Robert do a favorite form?”
“Yes, sir, I would. Please, would you give us a presentation, Major?”
It annoys Courtman that he really does want to see Foundson’s choice.
This is insane, thinks Courtman as they trade places. I am Attache to the Commanding General of Supreme Headquarters. Why would I need the approval of some has-been from FarPoint?
Courtman keeps his face wrapped in practiced interest though he does not meet the General’s eyes for fear it could hint of his inner turmoil.
Foundson moves to the area vacated by Courtman. Turning to face them, he nods before drawing himself up into the Awaiting Stance. His hand rests lightly on the leather of the sword pommel. His shield is held in front of his body, covering the torso except for the sword arm. Then he does the most extraordinary thing. He shuts his eyes.
This must be a very old form, muses Courtman. No one shuts his eyes anymore. The modern experts all feel that a soldier cannot afford to close his eyes to the world around him. We must now use our minds and hands more than our swords. With closed eyes, how can people react to change, to those events happening around them? This man definitely has archaic tastes.
Foundson stands, not moving, for over five minutes. Courtman glances at the General. The older man’s face radiates a fierce expectancy. Below the whitened temples and brow, the steel-grey eyes dance with a light of anticipation. The General’s hand has gone to his sword, the movement more of a caress than a grip. Slowly, like dawn touching a mountain peak, a small smile appears at the corners of the granite-like face.
Courtman’s gaze is drawn to his left. Foundson is slowly opening his eyes. Those eyes, which only minutes ago had been filled with a startling grimness, are now almost ablaze. It is a glow that Courtman has only seen a few times in his life. He remembers three or four of his old instructors having such a look on occasion.
What had it been called? Courtman tries to remember. King’s something . . . King’s Spirit. Yes. King’s Spirit.
Suddenly, Foundson moves.
Courtman will remember that moment for the rest of his life.
He’s not a man, Courtman marvels, he’s an explosion in armor!
Never has the Major seen such a simple display of intense, unstoppable power. The golden blade seems to be at one place, then suddenly appears at another. Front, back, side, high, low – the sword sings as it instantaneously materializes around the body of the crimson warrior.
Most modern forms forego the shield since it hampers the elaborate swordplay of the Rotating Grip. Foundson’s shield moves in a perfect red-gold symmetry with the blur of the whistling blade. It is a matched counter-balance to every action of the slicing, thrusting weapon.
The realization hits Courtman like a hammer. The flashing offense of the sword combined with the tenacious covering of the shield virtually assures that no enemy can land a killing blow. It might well be impossible to land an effectual blow at all.
Courtman notes other things during those final seconds of the presentation. Foundson’s grip on the sword never leaves the hard leather of the hilt. No rotating grips, sword loops, or pommel rolls. None of the popular modern maneuvers. There is only a strong grip that lets the sword cover the greatest area with maximum speed and force. If the blade could be parried or blocked, Courtman is certain that nothing short of cutting off his hand can make Foundson lose his grip on that sword.
As the whirring weapon comes to its instantaneous stops, the point never wavers. The golden blade never quivers. It simply appears, like lightening in the black of night.
With control like that, Courtman realizes, a man could cut through armor and cloth and yet not even scratch the skin. One could almost perform surgery wielding such a weapon!
The final thing Courtman realizes is the scope of the form. Almost all new forms presume an attack directly from the front. The modern ideas have totally rejected the idea of an Enemy. The enemies faced today are believed to be the misuses of power and human abilities. A soldier must totally concentrate on what he can see ahead of him and attack accordingly.
Foundson’s form never stops moving. The sparkling sword is attacking every point of the compass as the shining shield spins around the blurred form of the Guardian. Here, there. High, low. Back, front.
Foundson stops so suddenly that Courtman coughs in startlement. The gleaming sword is pointed straight up in front of Foundson’s face, the shield covering his torso completely. Now the Major from FarPoint does an amazing thing. He moves his head slowly forward and, with reverent gentleness, kisses the blade.
Courtman’s wide eyes watch incredulously as Foundson slowly slides the sword into its sheath.
No one speaks. The air in the room is charged with an intangible, silent power.
Foundson is looking forward, but seeing something more than the office and the panorama outside. Courtman slowly turns to look at the General, who has that same look save for a shining film of emotion pooling at the corners of his eyes. The General is the first to speak.
“Thank you, Robert.” the General says quietly, “It has been awhile since I’ve seen the King’s CrossPoint done in King’s Spirit. It’s the only way the form can be made invincible.”
Slowly those shining grey eyes swing toward Courtman, stopping to smile upon him.
“It’s the only form that has ever defeated the Enemy. It is the only form that ever will – if done in King’s Spirit.”
The sound of approaching footsteps echoes from the anteroom door. The General walks forward, extending his hand to Foundson.
“I have another appointment, Robert, but please accept my invitation to dinner tonight. I’ll come by the Officer’s Quarters shortly after Vespers.”
Foundson smiles back warmly, grasping the offered hand.
“I would like that very much, sir. May the King’s Joy be your Strength.”
The General smiles back as he softly answers,
“And His Peace your strong Fortress, Major Foundson of FarPoint.”
Foundson then turns to Courtman, who draws himself to Attention as if in the presence of a superior officer. Courtman is the first to speak.
“Thank you, Major, for the presentation. If you do not have any plans for the remainder of the day, I would very much like to talk to you of, uh, questions I have concerning that form . . . and the old ideas, the Enemy, King’s Spirit, and the like. That is, if you have the time.”
Foundson smiles as he shakes Courtman’s hand.
“I would enjoy that very much, Major.”
Then Courtman remembers.
“With your permission, of course, General.”
“Well, Majors,” chuckles the General as he walks them to the office door, “have a nice afternoon and a good conversation.”
The General watches the two men leave, his hand resting fondly on the hilt of his sword. A look plays across his face, the type of look that is peculiar to fathers and leaders of men. He chuckles again.
Stepping through the office door, he walks across the anteroom and greets his next appointment.