∴ A Lily of the Valley ∴
You relax only slightly as your fingers slide over the smooth steel of the guard, finding their way to the fleur-de-lis at the tip of a curving quillon.
It is a familiar emblem. How could it be other? From where you stand you can count about twenty: on the painted wooden shields above the door, embroidered into the heavy linen curtains that half-shade the window, and on your mother’s gown as she paces the floorboards, scrutinising you.
Since you were but a child, you knew it meant something, this symbol. Something of family and belonging, but also something of honour and obligation. That three-petalled flower stood for you, in some way, and because of that you would someday be called to stand for it in turn.
Your fingers continue to play over the familiar shape as you stare dead ahead, mirroring the stoic heroism in the long portraits that flank the back wall. You imagine yourself into their battle scenes, lifting the beautiful blue-and-silver sword in both hands as you let out a terrible cry…
“Stop fiddling, for heaven’s sake!” you mother hisses.
Abashed, you snap your left hand to your hip, pursing your lips and jutting out your jaw the way she told you to. The telltale tingle of pins-and-needles spreads through your right foot, and you venture a wary glance at the painter, still furiously working away at your portrait.
Honestly, you think. The things you do for family honour.