∴ A Story in Steel ∴
A blood-red gem dances across the knuckles of your right hand before disappearing into your palm. It is an old trick that the Castellan showed you when you were just a girl. With a smirk you open your left palm to reveal the jewel nestled there.
You can sense your father’s stormy look without looking, and with a sigh you relinquish your treasure to the growing heap of gems and casks and carved figures on the table before you.
It has been a long evening at your father’s side, receiving the knights returned from their conquest in the Western Woods. One by one they kneel before you, offering stories and spoils by which to buy your father’s favour – his favour and your hand.
You have no need for jewels from the Western Woods. You had far rather explore the Great Forest yourself than wear someone else’s trophies. And yet true to your training you nod and smile graciously as each knight kneels before you.
You have almost expended your reserves of grace when a heavy, velvet-wrapped object is placed on the table before you with a thud. Startled, you glance up to meet the smiling eyes of your father’s bard.
“I too have a tale of the forest,” he begins, and the room falls silent. You, too, perk up and pay attention. You have missed the bard’s tales while he was away. His songs are dark and dangerous, unlike the honey-sweet ballads played for the ladies.
In low, lugubrious tones he describes a force riding gigantic boars which snarled and charged in the misty morning dark, tearing into horses with their great curving tusks. The riders’ armour was wrought of bone, he says, and their helms crowned with antlers. He is certain that they were not mortal men.
He gestures to the velvet-wrapped object in front of you.
“I had this sword forged from the tusk of one of those fell boars,” he announces, “to commemorate that terrible battle.”
At a nod from your father you fumble to pull back the cloth. A collective intake of breath greets the weapon within. It is a beautiful thing, unlike any knight’s sword you have seen. Indeed, its blade is shaped like some monster’s tusk, widening dramatically toward the curved and sharpened tip.
Yet instead of bone or ivory, it is forged from steel, polished so bright you can see your own dark eyes reflected in it. You look up bewildered, unsure whether to be more disappointed by the bard’s pretence or delighted by the feel of sharp steel at your fingertips.
“It is yours, princess,” the bard says, favouring you with a wink. “A legend wrought real.”