Today’s daily prompt: The Spice of Success asks how spicy you like your success stories. It focuses around the quote “failure is the condiment that gives success its flavour” by Truman Capote. For how can you have success without first having failure? How many times in your life have you got something exactly perfect the first time you tried with not mistakes along the way? I can answer that one for you, the answer is simply you never have. Oh, you might have tried; you might have come close but you’ll never have succeeded in doing so.
This little tale tells of a man who kept failing but no matter what he carried on. He didn’t give up until he had restored his honour and that in itself is what made his success all the sweeter for without the failure he wouldn’t have treasured the result. Without the failures he wouldn’t have become a different man, a greater man.
The man stood alone in the now empty courtyard. Only moments before he’d had the bright cloak of his people’s knights hanging from his shoulders. He’d been wearing the colours of his people and he’d been proud to do so. Now though he’d been forced to the floor by his prince and the cloak and colours had been savagely ripped away from him. With a look of disgust the prince had walked away the rest of the knights closing around him leaving the disgraced knight kneeling in the courtyard.
He’d found his way to his feet eventually and looked around. There was nothing for him here so he might as well head out from the city. With a half glance towards the stables he set out on foot determined to somehow regain his honour.
What had happened to his honour? I never did explain that, did I? Well this knight had fled from a battle leading to the deaths of the majority of his comrades not only that but it had been his watch they had been attacked under. Stupidly he had fallen asleep and when the rest of his comrades had returned his flight had been recounted in full. The prince had been horrified to learn he had a coward in his knights and had immediately turned to the knight for an explanation. Only when he did so did he discover that whilst the rest of the survivors were battered and injured this knight had not one scratch on him. So the knight had come to be kneeling before his prince in the courtyard.
The disgraced knight sprinted over the open terrain a deadly beast on his tail. He’d come across a group of children bathing in a stream when the beast had attack. He’d leapt into action straight away, seeing the chance to regain his honour. Somehow it had gone wrong and he’d ended up running with the beast bounding after him intent on killing him. The only satisfaction he could find in his soon to be demise was that the children were now safe. Then he fell to the floor and scrambled to get up turning at the same time to see the beast was almost on him. As it pounced he lifted an arm in a vain attempt to protect himself only the beast never hit. He opened his eyes to see it on the ground not far away two spears in its body. Struggling to his feet he saw two men standing not far off holding more spears. “Thank you, for saving our children,” one of them said. “Come to the village we would like to repay you.”
“There is no need,” he replied for he had not done anything as far as he was concerned. He’d needed to be saved from a beast; he hadn’t even drawn the sword at his waist. The two men tried to persuade him but he was adamant and in the end he just bid them good day and set off again. They’d watched him walk away in confusion but he didn’t dare look back. Why should he remember people who’d only been witness to his shame?
His next attempt to win back his honour was perhaps even worse that the first had been. He came across a village that was often raided by bandits. Seeing his chance he immediately offered to help them build some sort of defence. The villagers had leapt on the chance for help from someone who knew what defences would work. He’d spent days chopping wood and building fortifications, he fell into bed long after the sun set and was up as soon as it rose.
When the bandits came again he was still at the village. Unfortunately the fortifications had yet to be completed and the bandits came in through the still open end of the village while the villagers were working at the other end on their barricade. The bandits made their way systematically and silently through the villages taking anyone they found prisoner. “Who created this resistance?” The leader of the bandits asked suddenly causing the workers to jump and turn around. No answer came so the bandit grabbed the nearest woman and held a knife to her neck. “Who is responsible for this?” He demanded.
The disgraced knight stepped forward immediately and walked forward, “I am,” he growled. “Now let the woman go.” The bandit laughed and slit her throat anyway as his men rushed forwards to hold the knight still. Then the bandit gave the order for the rest of the village to be killed. That was all it took to spark the villagers into a frenzy and they rushed forwards attacking the bandits and freeing their friends who had been taken prisoner. The knight was pulled from the bandits grasp by the leader of the villagers and dragged to the edge of the village. “Go and don’t look back,” the man commanded giving him a push. “There’s a chance you’ll get blamed for her death,” he explained before pushing him again. The knight nodded and ran, the man watching him go. That day was a day of shame for the knight for not only had he failed to save the woman but he’d run from his fate once again.
There were many more times he tried to win back his honour, times that failed just as badly as the first two. Then there was the time with the starving family in the middle of nowhere who’d had a bad harvest and couldn’t get food any other way. He took them away from their house and toward the nearest habituated place carrying the young boy when he couldn’t walk any further. At one of their rest stops the body looked at him and asked, “Are you the knight?” He had looked at the body in confusion knowing he wore nothing to identify him as a knight anymore and hadn’t since the prince had stripped him of everything. “At least they say you’re a knight. They say you help anyone in need and never stay to be rewarded you just vanish.” The knight frowned for a moment not quite understanding yet. “They say you have to be a knight because your refusal to accept any reward is a mark of your honour,” the boy continued oblivious to the effect he was having.
“I guess I am,” the knight replied at last. The joy that spread over the boy’s face at his words was worth it. Somewhere along the line it appeared he had won his honour back but to him the boy’s reaction was worth more than anything else.
They had yet to reach their destination when they were attacked. The knight rushed the family into an abandoned building pressing a small knife into the boy’s hand. He turned around to guard the doorway drawing his sword and giving it a threatening swing as the attackers approached. He beat back the first to reach him felling him with a strike to the head. After that it was a blur of fighting, all in a desperate attempt to defend the family he’d just found on his travels.
Then his attackers were falling back and he had time to breath. He saw a group of horsemen had rushed his attackers and turned to check on the family. The young boy was staring at him with wide-eyes. “Are you okay?” He asked the boy who nodded instantly. The knight frowned reaching up to wipe a drop of blood off of the boy’s cheek. There was a thin cut and he reached for his waterskin instantly using the last of the water to clean the boy’s face of blood while his exhausted parents looked on in wonder. The knight was wounded from head to toe, his clothes ripped and torn. Blood was coming from deep wounds all over the knight’s body and yet here he was tending to an unimportant wound on the young boy.
Suddenly the boy shrunk back and the knight spun lifting his sword again in defence against the attack. As he did so he winced in pain but held the sword ready anyway to fend off more attacks. To his surprise he saw that it was merely the dismounted horsemen approaching. Still, he didn’t lower the sword pushing the boy back behind him when he tried to get a closer look. “Don’t worry you’re safe now,” one of the horsemen said but the disgraced knight stared backed not moving. Something about the man was familiar he just couldn’t place him.
Suddenly the disgraced knight sheathed his sword and inclined his head to the man, “my prince,” he said quietly. The man it seemed also recognised him because his eyes narrowed taking in his injured state before he called two of his knights forward. “Tend to this man,” he ordered and walked away without another word. The two knights tended to his wounds without a word and then headed off when their prince approached again. “I just heard a very interesting story from a young boy,” the prince said sitting down next to his disgraced knight. “It was a brave thing you did today.”
“Not brave just right,” the disgraced knight replied turning to face the prince. “We both know I’m not brave.” There was another sentence left unsaid, a claim to a lack of honour but the prince heard it none the less.
“That was true once but no more, I think. Long have I heard tales of the lonely knight and it seems that I have found him.” The prince replied looking at the man to see his reaction to the words.
“I’m no knight,” he replied his eyes narrowing. “You stripped that title from me personally.”
“And now I’m giving it back,” the prince said standing and helping him to his feet. “You might have the most honour of us all,” the prince commented softly as he clasped his arm in a gesture of respect. “I’ll not ask you to come with us until this family is safe though because I’ve no doubt you’d refuse. We’ll accompany you to your destination.”
The knight was overwhelmed and in the end just inclined his head again. “Thank you, sire,” he said tears glistening in his eyes.
So how spicy do I like my success? Well, like everything else in life success isn’t success for me unless it’s had a whole bowl of spice chucked in. This prompt response for example was written a total of four times before I arrived at this final version. Each version before was discarded as the failure that it was but with each failure the success becomes sweeter. If you achieved success straight away without the failure then you wouldn’t treasure the successes you’ve had in the same way. Without the failure the success wouldn’t be worth anything. It would be like the knight winning back his honour straight away without all the work he put into it. Instead he achieved success only when the end was no longer the goal but the actions along it. He was so engrossed in those actions and failures that he achieved success without even noticing it and that is a true success. A success that comes without your knowledge because it is no longer the most important thing to you but rather the failures and all you’ve learned along the way are the most important things.