Scars are interesting things, he concluded. Given time, it seemed that all wounds would heal. That is, excluding for those that were exceptionally deep. Even when flesh grows back, there might still be marks. A scar.

Some of his scars had vanished in the years since, just like his recollections of those days. But sometimes, standing in front of his wash basin, the tiniest of scars might announce their presence. It could be something simple, like the little mark on the back of his hand from cooking last week, or the pale crescent just above his collarbone. It curved up to just under his neck and surprised him every time he saw it, because it came from a wound he thought he had no chance of surviving. Just like the crescent scar though, some wounds healed in ways against all expectations.

They had a way of making themselves felt. He wasn't used to the warmth of a hearth or the softness of his bed. They didn't seem to do much to comfort him when old pains would jolt him awake. His body had survived without being permanently maimed. Instead, it was his mind that bore the deepest marks: brief moments of terror revived, such as his first siege under a new moon, or the time a storm of arrows darkened the sky. Even decades later, with the pleasures of a home and food and a wife and their children, his past would come to seize him in his most mundane moments.

He sees nothing of his pain in their eyes, and for that he is glad. It was a relief that their daily runs were the most strenuous things in their life. As much as they would complain about the distance and the pace they ran with him, he knew they could handle it, for they shared his blood. And while their presence didn't erase the remnants of his injurious past, the sight of them at peace brought him closer to escape than his stamina ever had.

Occasionally, he would see familiar faces on the cobblestone streets. In a similar fashion to his scars, it was impossible to choose which would catch his eye. Perhaps the old standard bearer in the market hawking his goods, or a fellow member of a forlorn hope on a street corner, their arm as absent as the space within their eyes. On lucky days, he might catch a comrade in the tavern, and spend an evening in celebration before they parted ways. Not everyone could live the peaceful life he had chosen. On the rarest of days, he might even see an old adversary.

He had never thought about his enemies as surviving. After all, one is only supposed to meet their enemies in battle. In direct combat, victory is the main path to survival. But one day, returning from the palace, he saw someone he remembered strongly. They had briefly clashed on the front lines before the tide of battle separated them, but it wasn't easy to forget him. He stood nearly seven feet tall, with hair as red as flame. When their eyes met in the street, there was a spark of recognition.

The red-haired man couldn't immediately identify him, but soon approached, his hand outstretched. There was no specific reason to avoid contact with a man on a public street like this, so they shook hands. But as soon as their palms touched, the large man simply smiled and left. The grand mystery of it all made him reconsider just how many former enemies he may have passed in the city in the years since.

He wasn't the only one with scars. One of his oldest allies, his love, had remained with him to this day. When they followed the custom from her people and bathed together, it was clear to see that they had a shared past. When she turned to let him wash her hair, he could see a particularly bad puncture wound from an uphill assault. At the time, turning back would have meant certain death from the defenders, so they had fought to the top and forced their way through the enemy vanguard with the rest of the front line, arrow still embedded in her flank. That was the last time they had been on the front lines. After that, they began working their way back through the ranks.

And now, they shared a life and a home instead of a line in battle. Peace was a young concept, but it was a greedy ideal. Even if they had still wanted to fight, the land itself would have rejected them. The only ones holding weapons now were insurrectionists, bandits, and the agents of the Circle. Now, she and he were nothing but occasional advisors, living softer lives on the back of harder deeds. But a soft life had its comforts, if not much else.

Memory would be enough for him, considering the physical marks left on his body. Until those faded away, he wouldn't have to get comfortable with this new way of living. He kept his spearhead and his dagger in good condition, sometime wiling away evenings with stone and blade. When his son became old enough, it was his right to request his father's weapons. If not, his daughter was allowed to keep them for her and her bloodline. Tradition dictated that a man unable to find an heir for his weapons was obligated to take them into battle until death, but he had a feeling they would stay mounted above the hearth even if neither of his offspring wanted to seek his old life.

After all, if he had healed this much already, there were few reasons to open old wounds.