At least I knew it was a game

My captor now lifted the wire noose until I stood. I was conscious, as I have been on several similar occasions, that we were in some sense playing a game. We were pretending that I was totally in his power, when in fact I might have refused to rise until he had either strangled me or called over some of his comrades to carry me. I could have done several other things as well – seized the wire and tried to wrest it from him, struck him in the face. I might have escaped, been killed, been rendered unconscious, or plunged into agony; but I could not actually be forced to do as I did.

At least I knew it was a game, and I smiled as he sheathed Terminus Est and led me to where Jonas stood.

Jonas said, “We’ve done no harm. Return my friend’s sword and give us back our animals, and we will go.”

There was no reply. In silence the two praetorians (four fluthering sparrows, it seemed) caught our destriers and led them away. How like us those animals were, walking patiently they knew not where, their massive heads following thin strips of leather. Nine-tenths of life, so it seems to me, consists of these surrenders.

– Gene Wolfe, The Claw of the Conciliator

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