The Smiling Warrior

Once there was a warrior who hated everybody.  This hatred made him the most formidable opponent anyone ever faced.  His bottomless hatred was sharpened by several disciplines of combat. He lived according to the rule that pain is the best teacher of all.  He bathed in ice and slept near a furnace. He shaved his hair and tattooed his entire body to intimidate others. He ate and drank anything sour and bitter to kill all pleasure.

In battle, he never showed mercy to even the weakest opponent.  He drove spears into the backs of anyone who ran away. He crushed the skulls of those who groveled for their life on all fours.  He had beaten the best in every way he could imagine.

But there was a warrior from another kingdom.  This one did not look like a warrior at all. He always had a smile on his face.  And he was fascinated by fighting. He saw battle as a game of thresholds. Endlessly fascinating to figure out the breaking point of an opponent with the least amount of effort on his part.  Strategy motivated him. He felt no shame when he lost but seldom did. Defeating an easy opponent gave him no thrill. He always wanted to compete against someone perceived as better.  

Everyone loved the smiling warrior because he loved just about anything there was to love when he wasn’t fighting.  He knew in his heart that the only reason to battle was to save what was worth fighting for and that was love. He loved his king and queen.  He loved his wife and his kids. He loved his fellow warriors. And he loved to drink and eat. But he also had a love for the less fortunate who needed his protection.

One day the hateful warrior met the smiling warrior on a battlefield.  Their kingdoms had clashed and they were the flashpoint. The hateful warrior thought nothing of the smiling warrior.  And the smiling warrior laughed in his face. In anger, the hateful warrior lifted his mace and swung it to smash that smile right off his face.  But the smiling warrior’s reflexes were much faster and he moved backward just enough to feel the wind of the mace brush his nose.  

The hateful warrior stumbled off balance but regained leverage and performed a surprisingly quick backswing that lifted the smiling warrior off his feet and on his back.  The smiling warrior rolled over and got to his fight with a spring in his step. He had gone with the blow so it did not hurt him as badly as it looked. And he blew the hateful warrior a kiss.

The hateful warrior screamed and rushed at him like a bull.  The smiling warrior unsheathed his dagger as he pirouetted beside the bull rush and mid-spin sliced the nape of his neck where he had spotted a space between armor and helmet.  The hateful warrior felt blood gushing down his back. His eyes reddened with madness.

The smiling warrior noticed a hot pain as he was pirouetting and looked down to see that a few of his fingers had been lopped off by the hateful warrior’s sharp armor.  The smiling warrior wrapped his hand in a cloth and pulled out a single needle and told the hateful warrior that if he accepted defeat he would not destroy him with this single needle.

The hateful warrior grabbed his sword and lunged forward to skewer him.  The edge of his blade sliced the smiling warrior’s armor but didn’t touch his belly flesh.  And the smiling warrior poked the hateful warrior’s left eyeball. One of the hateful warrior’s men laughed at the absurd fight and the hateful warrior beheaded him mid-laugh with one backward swing.  

The smiling warrior offered him another chance to surrender.  But the hateful warrior lunged forward again. The smiling warrior could’ve easily poked out his other eye but told him that he should do better than repeating the same move on him.  The hateful warrior swung to lop off the smiling warrior’s limbs but the smiling warrior swiftly dodged the blows and went ahead and blinded the hateful man since in his view he had insisted upon it.  

Covering his eyes, the screaming hateful warrior bent over and the smiling warrior kicked him in the ass toward his own men.  He accidentally fell on one of their swords and impaled himself.  

Many years later the smiling warrior met his match in a much younger man.  They danced in battle for what seemed an eternity. He was in combat bliss as they traded equal blows.  And when his age caught up with him and his reflexes failed him he took his defeat with much satisfaction at being dispatched by such a worthy opponent.  And in his fleeting moments, he smiled as he thought of all he had loved.

The Cheese Sculpture

Once there was a kingdom of cheese makers.  These cheese makers knew everything about any kind of milk and knew how to make any kind of cheese.  They held festivals of cheese for which people pilgrimaged. They even built a house of cheese once a year for kids to eat through the walls and floors.  Not one of these cheese makers had any muscle tone. All of them looked like balls of cheese with legs and arms like toothpicks and little round balls of cheese for heads.  

Other kingdoms traded with them except one.  This one kingdom was made of people who thought of nothing but hunting and war.  They spent all their time making blades of every kind. And this kingdom loved to eat so much that they had become cannibals.  And they had tasted the meat of the cheesemakers and it was like a steak marbled with a cheesy fat. Only the other kingdoms held them back from destroying the cheesemakers because they loved their cheese so much.

Whenever a cannibal carved through a cheesemaker, it was as satisfying to watch how the blade sliced through them as eating them.  But whenever a cheesemaker was cut, the smell that was released could knock a cannibal out with one whiff. In time, though, the cannibals could not be held back nor could they resist the idea of feasting on the cheese makers.  So they did attempt to attack the kingdom of the cheese once.  

The Great Cheese War, as the cheese makers called it, was won by hot liquid sticky cheese that the cheesemakers dumped on the cannibals.  The cheese cooled and solidified them wherever they stood. The cannibals could not eat their way out of that much solidified fondue and had to surrender under the stench of all the cheese they had cut.  After this, it was common for people to ask “who cut the cheese?” when someone passed away.

One year, as any other, there was a cheese carving competition.  And one cheese maker, Klaus, was an excellent cheese sculptor. He had won year after year.  But this year he concocted the wildest vision in a dream the night before. And so he chased after that dream and made a cheese sculpture that went beyond what he had ever done.  The attention to detail was mind-boggling. It was the most elaborate miniature cheese castle anyone had ever seen. There were aged Gouda curtains and Feta rugs. Brie beds and Roquefort chandeliers.

Of course, he won the competition but after that he never made another sculpture again.  Instead, he spent most of his time staring at his cheese sculpture. And he would bring it to the competitions year after year as it got moldier and moldier but nobody had the heart to tell him to stop.  The moldy clump, that was a Käseschloss, was still a brilliant castle to the cheese maker.  

Eventually uninvited from the competition, Klaus kept it at home and stared at it all alone.  Long after Klaus died, or cut the cheese, his story was told by the cheese makers as a lesson to not hold onto any achievement no matter how rich and cheesy.  And it became common for people to say to others “stop holding your cheese” whenever they needed to move on to making something new.