The Rubaurum Rapier

∴ A Lordling’s Ransom ∴

The floor of the stable is hard, cold and dirty. You know you must look absurd here in your armour of red and gold, a gem amidst the dung. That’s what the man must be thinking as he watches you struggle, a half-smile toying at the hard edges of his mouth.

Again you pull against the splintering beam with your bounds, hoping to fray the rope that holds your hands, or better yet, break the beam and watch the whole rotting roof fall in around you. In the ensuing commotion, you could probably make a break for it.

Your uncle said you oughtn’t go. He said you were too young and too untested to see battle at the bridge. But your noble notions got the better of you: you could hardly let men serve under your banner without being willing to bleed yourself.

And bleed you did: great spatters of crimson against the golden stubble of the cornfields. It was not the blow that unhorsed you, but the dead swoon you fell into at the sight of the damage.

When you came to, you were here. Gagged and bound. Desperate. Defiant. Doomed. Your life in the hands of some lowborn traitor, no doubt imagining the tales to be told of him as he turns your rapier in his rough hands.

You clench you teeth about the foul-tasting gag to see the sword handled so. It was a gift from your father, its elegant grip in the colours of your crest. The colour of blood against shorn stalks of corn. Your captor smiles – for real this time – as the golden inner of the cup glints in the evening sun. Then, as if arriving at a decision, he crosses the space between you.

With a surprisingly deft cut, he severs your bindings with the blade, and you immediately wrench the rough, dirty cloth from your mouth.

“What is it you want?” you demand, only a slight tremor to your voice. “Return me to my men, and I will see you paid handsomely. Gold. Land. Hell, a title. I have an estate in the Fenlands…”

The peasant waits patiently until you run out of offers.

“I’ll take the sword,” he says, flicking it through the air with a whistle.

Continue reading

The Chalice Rapier

∴ A Cup Overflowing ∴

You kneel before the altar, the rail before you smoothed by centuries of supplicant hands, the unforgiving flagstones pressing against your knees. Staring down at your own callused fingers, you try to clear your mind of earthly things – but to no avail.

You cannot help but replay the last duel over and over, analysing each feint and flurry, barely suppressing a smile as you recall the frantic dance, the playful balance of energies. The thing was, though, he almost had you. Were it not for a startled and scruffy parry, which sent your opponent’s blade plunging into the black dish of your guard rather than your chest, your duelling days would be over.

“The blood of Christ.”

You snap your eyes upward, reveries interrupted. The priest stands before you, patient and inscrutable, the chalice proffered in his vein-lined hand. With a nod of reverence you reach for the sacred vessel, noting the scalloped rim, the subtle petal-like segments. Confound it! Even this – the blood of Christ himself – cannot fail to remind you of the sword.

You choke back the thick, sweet wine, and pull yourself to your feet. It is not this cup that will bring you salvation. Not today. Turning on your heel, you half-run for the door, oblivious to the wide-eyed stares of queuing penitents.

You have drilling to do.

Continue reading