Of all the things that are, some are good, others bad, and yet others indifferent. The good are virtues and all that share in them; the bad are the vices and all that indulge them; the indifferent lie in between virtue and vice and include wealth, health, life, death, pleasure and pain. Epictetus, Discourses, 2.19.12b-13 How …
After dinner had been cleared, the forge fire banked, the animals fed, and the stalls cleaned, Caiden found himself immersed in his nightly studies. As he had done each night since his earliest memories, Caiden listened to Trom and settled his focus, concentrating all his energy on the movements of his awkward body.
As usual, they began with the simple Cat Step, a movement done with ease and little effort. As the hours wore on, the poses became more and more difficult, a challenge to both the body and the focus of the mind. Caiden’s body shook with effort and pain, the strain painting deep furrows in his brow. And yet, Trom did not let up. If anything, he pushed Caiden harder, making him hold the increasingly complex positions for significantly longer periods of time, pushing to imprint the memory into the boy’s muscles.
Even as his body and mind were strained to the limit, Caiden found time to reflect. For years his father had subjected him to this nightly regimen, Trom assuring him that this practice was a means to healing his body and building his physical strength. Caiden recognized it for what it was. His father pushed him desperately, drove him, night after night, not so he would be healthy but so that he might one day belong. So that the time would come when he might someday be physically and mentally strong enough to walk among the other children of the village, so that he might be one of them and not the outsider he currently was. This torture of mind and body was derived out of love, Caiden reassured himself.
The high pitched voice of the young boy cut through the oppressive silence of the small blacksmith’s cottage. Disturbed from his quiet contemplation, Trom raised his eyes from the simple meal of steamed rice and salted fish. His piercing blue gaze slowly scanned his surroundings, taking in the bare furnishings and worn flooring before coming to rest on the child.
With practiced ease he removed the veil of a father’s love from his eyes, staring at the child before him as though a stranger. What was it others saw when they looked at this boy? His son?