A Myth, Told By A Mercenary
Specialist Dieter Leo Schwarz, as he calls himself, is sitting in a hardback chair, facing you. The black pants with large pockets he wears bring to mind the blank uniform of a mercenary, or at least a military unit that will deny it’s associated with any nation. His powerful arms are bare below the short sleeves of his black tee shirt, and he’s leaning to brace his forearms on his thighs and clasp his hands between his knees. It’s a supplicant’s position, but you get the feeling that what he wants, you can’t give him.
He begins, “Have you ever heard the story of the Frog Prince?”
His next breath is a deep one, in through his nose, and anger sparks in his gray eyes. The sinews in his neck stand out like he might leap to his feet and close the gap between you, and you wonder if you will survive this interview.
His weapons—guns and knives and a bladed thing you don’t recognize—are piled on a table by his side but within his reach.
He says, “First, there was an evil sorcerer. There’s always a powerful bad guy in these stories. And there was a prince. Maybe he was a handsome prince back then, before the world scarred and coarsened him.”
Dieter rubs the thick skin over his knuckles and one cord of scar tissue that runs up his arm to his black tee shirt. You wonder whether he’s killed people with those strong, scarred hands.
He says, “The handsome prince was born into the world of castles and wealth, of ruthless monarchs and oligarchs, people who used money and power to rule the world from their mountaintop castles and skyscraper penthouses.
“The evil sorcerer made an attempt to take over the town or kingdom or whatever, and maybe the prince was complicit. Maybe the prince had only seen the world from his high castle and never realized that the scurrying reptiles and slimy things slithering in the streets below his window were people with dreams and lives, who were just trying to survive. Maybe the prince fell under the spell of the evil sorcerer, at least a little. I hope that’s true, but it might have been just that the prince enjoyed terrible things.
“But it is true that the sorcerer lured the prince with things he longed for, things his royal family could never give him, things like danger and chaos.”
Dieter glances at the pile of weapons on the table and continues, “But consorting with the evil sorcerer meant that the prince had to leave his high castle, and when he did, he saw how the reptiles lived and were crushed underfoot by people like himself and the sorcerer.
“But he kept working with the sorcerer, dabbling in black magic and the black market.
“Until one day, he looked into the eyes of some of the belly-crawling things he was about to crush. He saw that they were sparks of life in the void. He couldn’t do it. He walked away.
“The prince defied the sorcerer and saved the children, and the enraged sorcerer hunted for the prince.
“The prince turned himself into a frog. The sorcerer thought it was a punishment.”
Dieter’s gray eyes lit with something sinister. “What the sorcerer didn’t realize is that the prince wanted to swim in the muck, to fight the snakes, and to live a life that was red of tooth and claw. He thrived on the violence, on the blood, on every day being a battle for survival and supremacy. He became the carnivorous warrior of the swamp, and he found brothers in arms with the same taste for violence. The Frog Prince lived far from the castles and penthouses, where the evil sorcerer could not find him.”
Dieter’s grin turned sheepish. “I always liked amphibious assaults. Ironic, yes?”
He shakes off the joke and continues, “But the sorcerer had left a flaw in the spell he’d cast on the Frog Prince. If a princess kisses the Frog Prince, he will lose everything and be forced to return to being a prince in a high castle.
“Luckily, the Frog Prince didn’t love princesses. He’d always been attracted to the witches and the dark fairies, the dragons and rabid wolves in human form. The women he kissed were as soulless as the monarchs and oligarchs he’d grown up with, the ones who hoarded diamonds and rubies at the cost of so many human lives. He thought he didn’t deserve anything better than a woman who was as lethal, as evil, as violent as he was. He thought he deserved a sociopath, so that’s what he found.
“But one princess was an enchantress, and the Frog Prince didn’t realize she was lifting him up and cleaning off the muck until it was too late. A mercenary Frog Prince isn’t worthy of a real princess, one who lights up the sky simply by existing and who wants to use her royal power to make the world a better place.
“He’d never met anyone like her.
“No one had ever seen the good in him before.
“The Frog Prince fell insanely, obsessively in love with the princess. He walked behind her into the high palaces, creeping near the walls and in the darkness, trying to protect her from the ruthless and evil monarchs and oligarchs he’d known all his life.
“The evil rulers surrounded his princess in those castles. The Frog Prince saw the princes who had looked the other way when the sorcerer had worked his evil charms. He saw the princes who had reaped the benefits of black magic.
“He wrestled with being a frog in the world of princes, and he watched the princes give her the diamonds and rubies they had hoarded.
“A Frog Prince can’t offer mud and swampland to a princess.
“He would have to reclaim his castle, which meant he would have to return to the ruthless and evil society of the monarchs and oligarchs, to be worthy of her.
“But the evil sorcerer was still out there, waiting for the Frog Prince to emerge to take his castle back.
“He saw the evil sorcerer at a ball the princess attended.
“The Frog Prince was beneath the sorcerer’s notice, and the sorcerer’s dark gaze did not settle on the frog standing in the shadows, his fingers brushing the handguns under his tuxedo.
“If the Frog Prince tried to walk in the world of men again, the evil sorcerer would certainly kill the princess, even if it was only to make the Frog Prince suffer. The Frog Prince knew he couldn’t protect the princess from the sorcerer, even with his own life.
“To protect her that night, the Frog Prince went back to the swamp. To protect her forever, he stayed there.”
Dieter grimaces, and his clasped hands clench around each other. “If something had happened to Flicka, I would have done something reprehensible. Inside, I’m still a soulless prince of the high castles, one of the monarchs and oligarchs in this hellhole world. In my rage, I don’t know whether I would have been able to draw a line. So, to protect her and innocent people, I left.”
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