∴ A Serpent’s Heart ∴
The curve of the dragon’s head is familiar under your thumb, almost comforting. You follow the sinuous wave with your fingertips, into the vortex of the guard, and for a moment you’re transported.
Soft firelight and the scent of warm beeswax. Your father, stiff-backed in his high-armed chair, a wax-covered cloth in one hand and the sword in the other. You loll over one dark-stained wooden arm, marvelling at the thing. The way the dark bars of the swept join like the prow of a ship, a great dragon figurehead like the barbarian craft in stories. The spiralling form of the serpent, whispering “touch, touch me!” How the beast’s open jaws make the shape of a heart – love, and danger, as one.
You recall the sudden sting as inquisitive fingers met sharpened steel, and a duller pain as your father slapped your hand away. The blade was sheathed, the serpent sat smugly atop it, as your mother bustled you away to the bedchamber.
That was the last time you saw your father. The last night before he was consigned to the tales you told, first to your brothers, then when they slept to yourself. In the stories, your father sailed the high seas in a dragon-headed boat, serpent sword flashing in his hand, waylaid by danger after danger on his long journey home.
And now it is here, in your hand. The sword from your stories, recalled at times more closely than your father’s face itself. In your mind it had silenced sirens, slain beasts and tyrants, saved your father’s life. And in truth? You do not care to know.
You will let the serpent keep its secrets.