Battle Tough

“Give a man a crutch and you teach him to limp.”

   –Layoran saying


Photo © Al Forbes


As Herron’s advisors droned on, the suit of mail kept distracting him.  It was normally locked safely away, but his servants had brought it out for today’s games.

Finally, the karnas and priests left.  Herrol forced himself to sip his ale before wandering closer.

He reached for it automatically.  The steel links, formed early in his grandfather’s reign, remained smooth and black.  Never needed oiling.  Not a spot of rust.

It was enchanted, of course.  Despite the church’s position on arcane magic, a jayanta did what he wished.

He’d last worn it months ago, but the memory shone as vividly as yesterday.  The feeling of strength, power, confidence.

He swallowed the familiar craving.

Before inheriting it, he’d never doubted his ability to rule.  His grandfather and uncle had been legends, true.  But Herrol was a fierce warrior, loved by his men.

That first battle with the mail thrilled him.  Such forceful blows, such deadly accuracy, such cheering afterward.

Then he took it off.  Every time after, taking it off was harder.  Facing his weakness was harder.

Who was fierce now, him or the mail?  Who led now?

Herrol stepped back.  No.  He could still be strong.

Today, he fought alone.

Word count: 200.  Written for this week’s Sunday Photo Fiction challenge.  Thanks to Al Forbes for hosting, and for providing the photo!  Click here to see the other stories written for this prompt.


18 thoughts on “Battle Tough

    • Too true. Although I wonder if all of us had a magic item that made us into superheroes, how many of us would find we had enough fortitude to resist using it. It’s a tall order. Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Only Herrol can make the decision to discard the mail suit and rely on his own battle skills – which he knows he has – before the suit completely controls him. As you say, ‘He could still be strong’. I love the will-he-or won’t-he? ending. Great story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Millie! To clarify, the suit isn’t really controlling him. It just enhances his powers. It occurred to me that these magical items might be like addictive drugs — they make you feel so good, so powerful, that it’s hard to go back to not wearing them and just being your regular self. I had a much longer backstory in mind that I didn’t have space for, where his uncle died in battle and wasn’t wearing the magic mail armor. Herrol had always wondered why his uncle would do something so stupid, blaming him for it (I was toying with the idea that Herrol’s father died in that battle too), and now he is starting to understand. The other factor is that the jayanta (king) *must* look strong to his subjects, and obviously wants to actually survive battles. So Herrol has a very good reason to wear the mail in battle, and even in these demonstration games, despite his own fears and concerns about the way it makes him feel. It’s not an easy decision.


      • Thanks for the explanation. I think the suit reminded me of one of Lou’s fantasy books I read years ago, called ‘Magician’, by Raymond Feist, I think. There was a suit that controlled Pug’s (the proagonist) friends in that.
        In your story, it was good that Herrol had his fears about the mail suit. It would be interesting to know the decision he makes regarding wearing it in future.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Hm, interesting. I know I read “Magician” but I don’t recall much about it (nothing against that book; I’m like that with most, I’m afraid).

        I suspect Herrol will wear the suit in battle, because it does make him more likely to succeed, and he has to think of his people as well as his own feelings. But hopefully he will learn to keep his emotions and cravings under control, and learn not to feel so insecure and “lesser” when he’s not wearing the mail.


  2. Interesting take. Like the chain-mail is something addictive, like a magic induced drug. Each wear makes you need the high, all the more, and probably makes you crazy in the end. Smart guy. Great write Joy 💕

    Liked by 1 person

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