Mishtar wondered how he had gotten here. He was standing on the base of a hill with steps leading up. The steps seemed well worn from frequent use with those at the bottom seeming older than those at the top. Each of the steps had a name carved into them, though none that he recognized. As he started climbing the stairs, he began to feel some of his pain and sorrow melting away. The last step caused him to pause as he saw that it had no name on it only a blank space.
“That one’s yours.”
Mishtar looked up and saw an old man dressed in gray robes sitting on the ground cross-legged behind a glowing sword that appeared to be made of pure gold. He gestured for Mishtar to sit in front of him.
“What do you mean that ones mine?” Mishtar said sitting down, not really knowing why he obeyed so fast.
“We’ll come to that in time,” the old man said cryptically. His unblinking stare made Mishtar uncomfortable as if this old man could see into his very soul. “You seem sad, my friend. Sad and angry.”
Feeling compelled to speak for some reason that he couldn’t understand, Mishtar broke down and told the old man everything that had happened.
“And so I failed them,” Mishtar said when he had completed his tale, “and now I just wish to die.”
The old man cocked his head, and Mishtar felt as if he were being weighed and measured down to the inch.
“Yes, you are responsible for your actions that day, my friend,” he said gravely, “the deaths of your loved ones and your people rest upon your head as their ruler. You will never be able to fully make up for that. You will always hear the screams of those you failed. They will be with you forever, there is no changing that. The real question is though, will you let their screams destroy you, or will you take their screams of anguish and channel them into the righteous anger they are meant to be.” The old man cocked his head to the side.
“I am not worthy of this,” Mishtar said dejectedly.
“Why don’t you let your god decide whether you’re worthy or not,” The old man said with a grin, “you just make the choice. If you accept grasp the sword, if not then walk back down those steps into the darkness below.”
Mishtar thought for a moment about his failures and shortcomings and stood up to just give up and die, his shoulders hanging off of his wide frame. Shaking his head back and forth trying to clear the horrific images he had witnessed. A veteran of many battles the slaughter of innocents was so much worse to bear. Taking a step towards the stairs Mishtar noticed a small white rose that he had accidentally stepped on. Picking up the rose, he thought of his wife and how she had once told him that life was not about not making mistakes, it was about getting up and walking the road and taking it where it led you.
Picking up the sword, Mishtar took a deep breath and started walking.