Red Brick Learns a Lesson in Humility

Red Brick was on his Warrior’s Pilgrimage. This was a scared and holy journey, where the Fighting Acolytes, having grown out of their stumbling, earnest childhoods, were sent into the world to learn from it and hone their Fighting Talents.

(That they were sent on this journey when they were just beginning to enter puberty was privately marveled at as a stroke of genius by whichever Elder had thought up the Pilgrimage.)

Red Brick, so named because of his size and color upon birth, had not journeyed long before he encountered his first bit of what the Elders called Educational Adversity.

Education took the form of an arrow, which flew out of the woods at great speed, and would have embedded itself in Red Brick’s eye, had he not learned the Discipline of the Sparrow’s Evasion when he was but five years of age.

(The Discipline of Sparrow’s Evasion was a two-movement discipline that gave its masters the ability to evade speedy projectiles.)

(The two movements were ‘observance of the projectile” and “the dipping of the upper body”).

“Show yourself!” he bellowed, when he had raised his upper body again.

But the only thing to come from the woods surrounding him was silence.

And then, another arrow.

He used the Discipline of the Crab’s Rage At Spears to deftly pluck the arrow out of the air with his thumb and forefinger.

He twirled the arrow around in his fingers before suddenly clenching his fist, shattering the arrow.

(Later, he would spend a good ten minutes trying to pull the splinters from his skin.)

“Show yourself!” he bellowed again.

And the archer did; it was a child, not much younger than he had been, not many years ago. The child held a tiny bow in his hands, with an adult’s bow slung over his shoulder.

Red Brick recognized instantly that this child had gotten separated from some larger hunting party, and both pity and curiosity filled his heart.

“Small-but-skilled-one, why did you shoot at me?”

The child was silent, contemplating the question with a seeming wisdom far beyond his years. Finally, the child pointed at him, and said simply:

“Boar.”

“Pardon?”

“Boar.”

Red Brick’s eyebrows bristled.

“I’m human, damn it!”

Later, stomping through the forest and starting to wonder why his palm hurt so, Red Brick considered the child’s words. He decided that when he told the story to the Elders, he would pass it off as an Education in the virtue of Humility.

He would not, however, tell them of the small arrow protruding from his left flank.

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Josh Hechinger is a future writing superstar/cautionary tale. He lives in Pennsylvania.

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