The Ferrara Broadsword

∴ A Contested Name ∴

You push through the marketplace briskly, ignoring the calls of the merchants and the chatter of the women-folk. A high, thin sound rises above the hubbub and draws you to the place of its origin. It is the ring of hammer against steel, and a sure sign that the blacksmith is back at work.

“Where’s my sword then, you gillie-wet-foot?” you bellow as you push through the low wooden doorway. You rub your eyes against the thick, dirty smoke that fills the room, then stop in your tracks. The fellow at the anvil is not the barrel-chested blacksmith you left your blade with a month ago.

Swarthy and wiry, with curling black hair pulled back in a queue, the man is clearly no Scot. Nor does he seem interested in your sudden appearance and demand, still consumed by his work with chisel and burin.

“Where’s the smith?” you demand.

At this he glances up.

“I am he,” he replies, with a hint of an accent. Italian, you wager, or Spanish.

“What happened to the other fellow? Old Watt? I left my sword with him for fettling and he shut up shop with not so much as a word!”

The foreigner only shrugs before turning his attention back to the piece on the anvil.

“Look now you scurrilous beggar,” you cry, “I’m in this town on King James’s business, and I can’t very well complete that business without my sword.”

At this the man gives you a curious look.

“I sympathise,” he pronounces, definitely Italian, “for I too was sent here by the King. However, you have twice insulted my good name, and honour demands a duel.”

He takes the broadsword from the anvil and holds it out to you. It is a thing of beauty, its basket hand-carved with lace-like piercings and scalloped edges. Dumbfounded, you can only wrap your hand around the spiralling brown grip as the slighted metalworker moves round to engage you, deftly drawing a second sword from the rack beside him.

He falls into measure, and with a stiff bow you begin to fence. He is good, light on his feet yet authoritative in his cuts and blows. You flit back and forth across the smoke-black smithy, the sword light and reactive in your hand. You find it able to parry cut after forceful horizontal cut, but the Italian shows no sign of tiring, and you fear that your resolve will falter first.

The foreigner bears in hard, and you move to grab his basket with your off hand. However as you do so, he steps lightly to the side, voiding your grapple and taking advantage of your outreached arm to land a light, stinging cut across it. Red blossoms across the linen of your sleeve.

Your opponent steps back with another bow, satisfied by first blood. Relief floods your senses, mingling with a slight nausea.

“Good God man,” you say with a shake of your head, “If you forge anywhere near as well as you fight, then your presence here is a blessing. What was your name?”

The Italian only smiles, taking the sword from your hand and tilting the blade so that its inscription flashes red in the light of the forge. Continue reading

The Strathyre Broadsword


∴ A Call to Arms ∴

You pull the rough blanket closer about your shoulders, scanning the horizon with sleep-fogged eyes. A pale sunrise is beginning to colour the clouds, like watered-down dye in roving.

This marks the eighth sunrise since he saddled his horse and rode for Stirling. He said he’d be home by the seventh.

You woke early this morning, before even the hens in the yard. You set a pot of water over the fire and cracked the door open as it boiled, leaning against the sturdy oak doorframe, watching for a white mare in the distance.

A sudden movement snatches your attention. Could it be? Your heart swells as you spy a distant horse and rider. You take a breath, ready to call for the children to come greet their father. But then you see a second rider. And a third. Blood runs cold. The blanket slides from your shoulders.

You slam the door behind you and rush for the bed, throwing yourself to your knees and scrambling beneath it. The sword is still there, wrapped in grey wool. Not his sword, but your own. The one your father left you. Pulling back the bindings, you take in the short, wide blade, the pierced black plates and the elaborate S-shapes of the guard.

You nod, satisfied. Then, lest you give fear time to supplant anger, you snatch at the steel-wire grip and rise to your feet.

Continue reading

The Crois-Rionnag Broadsword


∴ A Star-Crossed Skirmish ∴

You kneel before the battered chest, as much out of reverence as practicality. The bolt slides back with a reassuring clunk; you swing back the lid and pull pack the linen, and there it is. Just as you recall, from all those years ago.

The same long, straight blade, surprisingly slender but unforgettably swift. The same stern black saltires and round, ridged pommel. The same mottled brown leather, emblazoned with an aging silver pattern of stars and crosses. Star-crossed, they used to call you. You smile sadly at the thought.

When you last laid the sword to rest in your old traveler’s chest, you swore your fighting days were over. You swore before judge and priest alike that the old rivalry was at an end. After five generations of feud, you were finished. Done with duelling. Done with reaving and revenge. Ready to start again, at peace with land and law.

That was before love came into it. She had hair like madder root, and eyes like kirkyard moss. Laughter like midsummer music. She was the oldest daughter of your oldest enemy, set to marry some second cousin she’d never met. 

She only made eyes at you because she knew it was forbidden. You’d be lying if you said that wasn’t part of thrill for you too. But what began as a secret scandal has grown into something more.

Something worth fighting for.

Continue reading

The Adante Broadsword


∴ A Marching Pace ∴

Footsore doesn’t begin to cover it. Five days and ten you’ve been marching now, leather boots wearing through and your pack growing ever heavier. But you’re a hardy bunch, as happy to sleep beneath the boughs of a spreading oak as you are to find a wayside inn.

It’s an oak you’re making now, low-hanging yet proud, its broad trunk splitting an old stone wall. Decent enough shelter from the wind, you think. A squint over one shoulder confirms what your shadow tells you: the sun is nestled low between the heathery foothills.

“Right lads, let’s make camp,” you call. This way you’ll be sure to get a hot meal before nightfall. Finley caught a rabbit and your mouth waters at the thought, but you’re loathe to light a fire after dark. You never know who’s keeping watch.

While the men unfurl their bedrolls and rummage for tinder and flints, you scramble over the ramshackle wall to relieve yourself behind the oak. You’re fumbling at the laces of your britches when you spy something gleaming, tangled in the tree’s crooked roots.

Your first thought is money, and your heart leaps, but as you kneel to uncover the hidden treasure you let out a low whistle. The copper gleam is not coin, but the braided wire grip of a broadsword. Its blackened basket spirals around it, a mass of elegant curls and crosses, and you forgive yourself for not picking it out immediately against the dark whorls of roots.

With a wrench and a muffled curse, you free the weapon from the web of wood, and wonder at its short, broad-shouldered blade. You heave yourself upright and try a few circling cuts. The sword is as lithe as it is authoritative, darting and dominating at once. Whoever left this beauty here surely didn’t last long without it.

As you step in time with your swings and cuts, a lilting ditty rings out from the other side of the oak. Finley has found his whistle, and the tune is one you know by heart. Your feet feel lighter than they have in a fortnight as the sword sings in your hand and the drill becomes a dance.

Continue reading

The Wæg Broadsword

∴ A Heathland Charm ∴

Go now – you know the path. Down the puddle-pocked track, along the boundary of blackthorn and briar, past the last candle-lit window of home.

Lose your boots where the road runs out. Crush bare toes into heather-rich pile, warm despite whipping winds. Step lightly over burns and boulders, feeling your way before placing your weight – let the dark be no hindrance to you.

Listen for the thunder of sea on veined stone, and breathe to the sigh of moon-dragged shale. Drink in the damp air’s salt-rich tang, and pay it back with a tear. All must be equal here.

Lift the iron gate, now rusted on its hinge, and let it fall open for you. They say the black metal banishes Sidhe, but that’s just a fishwife’s tale. Pick through the bramble-bound kirkyard, ruinous refuge at the world’s end, between dark earth and salt sea.

Pay no heed to the headstone thorns that snatch at your skirts and shawl – are they not as sacred as the crosses they climb? Pass through the door with no lintel, and pick through the aisle with no pews. Pull back the altar’s ivy – be patient, do harm to none.

You will feel it first: cold whorls of steel curling beneath the leaves. Then – as marbled cloud gives way to moonlight – you may take it in. The lacework of black and silver, the pommel’s rippled globe, the beckoning braids of copper, the breadth of the thrice-fullered blade.

Continue reading