Short Story: The Mirror

In a place just left of this milepost, through overgrown pricks—yes, it is dark; cast your lantern on that stone—there is a sight best unseen. Ah, moss has covered the markings. Steady your hand—let me pull this growth away. Yes, this is the milepost. I was young once, traveling this road—it was better kept then, and men traveled on it in the day. My father took me through those briers—how great they have grown. No hand has hacked them down in years. Hercules cleared the stable; who will mow this land?

I forget, you are tired. Hear me out. My father took me to see it. It is not far. It’s best unseen. Yes, through those thickets lies one of the last pieces of magic in this world, and it is a dark thing, wicked. I know; I’ve seen it.

What? Haven’t I told you? It is a mirror. Don’t laugh. It is something dreadful, fallen from heaven. No man can stand it. My father showed it to me, made me look into it. What did I see? you ask. What do you think? There I was, but there was the truth as well. Don’t you know? We lie to spare ourselves the truth. There are no lies to protect you from that mirror. It shows you everything; It shows you your own unbearable self. It is a wonderfully clear glass.

Best to stay on the road, young prince. A man as proud as you would not survive to see his face in that thing, or else not be the same man. I was young when I saw myself there. What had I done but be cruel, a little, be lazy, often. I had not killed any man yet; I dread to think what I would see now. And you, not only have you slain your hundreds, but your hundreds of soldiers have slain their hundreds, and have raped and pillaged, and they are your men, and they obey your word. Could you stand to see all that in your own face, young prince?

There is a mirror through these thickets. If you go off the path, you may find it.

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