∴ A Knave of Hearts ∴
The night air is honeysuckle-sweet as you lower yourself from the window. Your toes quickly find purchase in the wooden diamonds of the trellis, and with a last roguish smile, you begin your descent.
Summer is a time for lovers, you think to yourself as you find your balance, body pressed flat to the wall. The air is laden with heady scent, the very earth is ripe with pleasure – it would almost be a sin not to. And as to the order you’re sworn to? The holy purpose? The vows of chastity? Well, you’ve never heard your lady complaining about your little discrepancies.
The trick is, you muse, as you slip down a side street toward the barracks, not to get caught. To slip through the night unseen, with the subtlety of a…
You stop short. A tall, broad-shouldered man stands in your path. The gleam in his eye is matched by that of moonlight on drawn steel. And he is staring straight at you. Almost unthinking, your hand flies to your sword, the broad disc pommel pressing reassuringly into your palm as a broadly tapering blade sweeps free of its sheath.
“The things I do for honour,” you murmur, falling into stance.
∴ A Force of Nature ∴
The scent of the earth is dark, damp and fragrant with herbs and minerals. Dappled sunlight plays against closed eyelids as a symphony of dry beech leaves rises to answer the whispering breeze. You smile at the sound, but do not stir.
Sprawled on a moss-shrouded bank, you feel stones and roots pressing into your spine. Theirs is a welcome caress, as you stretch your road-weary limbs. Tomorrow you’ll reach the city, if all goes well. There will be tourneys, feasts and a warm bed to return to. But somehow, here, in your earth-rich bower, you cannot relish the thought.
Sighing, you press yourself up from the soil and take your longstick in your hands. Your fingers play over the knots and whorls in its dense bark. You wonder what the knights and ladies of the court will make of such a weapon. Crossguard it has not, nor jewel-encrusted pommel – but it is a good stick.
Yes. It is a good stick.
∴ A Treasure Relinquished ∴
The Elbe is calm, broad and still, its green-grey surface broken only by the leaping of a lone fish – just as you remember from the long summer evenings of childhood. Your head is a tumult of spinning swords and eddying questions from which you can’t push free – but the Elbe is calm.
It will do you good, you think, to spend a little time away from the crowds, here in the quiet market town where you grew up, watching your father fish from the banks and hiding behind your mother’s skirts as she called her wares in the market. Perhaps here you can remember who you were before the war, before the battle, before the waters ran muddy-red.
You draw your sword from its sheath and smile. It is a sad smile, full of fond remembrance. This broad, tapering blade was the one companion you truly relied on throughout it all. The pommel is worn smooth where it pressed into your palm, the crossguard scarred from strikes that did not find their mark. It is a good sword – a great one, even – but it is not the sword of a titleless trader in a quiet market town.
With a hand as unsteady as the river is still, you raise the sword over the glassy depths and release its blood-red grip for the last time. The sword hits the water with a cacophonous splash, and then is gone. The Elbe is calm once more. Continue reading
∴ A Waiting Fate∴
With your back to a gnarled blackthorn, you wait. You’ve got good at it over the years. Waiting for a rabbit to trip a well-laid trap. Waiting for darker quarry as well. Waiting for news. For her. For history to be made.
While you wait, you slide a weather-worn hand into your pack and retrieve a sliver of lembas bread and a roughspun rag. Setting the former aside, you turn your attention to your sword, tutting at its tarnish, running the rag over stern, swooping lines. Waiting you may be, but idle you are not.
The sword had a name once, you muse. In fact, it had many – the names of great deeds and glories. Out here, alone, you prefer to think of it simply as your sword. A trusted tool. Just as you would shrug off your own weighty appellations.
Your thoughts are interrupted by the unmistakable sound of footsteps beyond the birdsong and bracken-rush. Five pairs of feet and the clamour of conversation.
“Please remember,” an urgent voice breaks through the rest,” that the name Baggins must not be mentioned.”
Another traveller trying to outrun a name. You grin and gather your pack. Continue reading
∴ A Matter of Honour∴
Through the gathering mists, you glimpse yet another crumbling causeway, a shadow of its former glory. You sigh. Day ninety-eight.
Were your feet less sore and the outlook less grim, you would laugh. You left your father’s halls to cheers and sounding trumpets, pennants flying in the breeze as hooves clattered across white stone. What would your father think to see you now, clothes soiled by many weeks’ journeying, horse lost to the churning waters of the Greyflood?
By degrees, your pace slows to a dead stop. You stare into the mist a few desolate moments longer before shaking yourself and slowly drawing your sword. Fierce yet finessed, it is unmistakably the weapon of a well-born warrior. The carved quillons form a graceful arc against the unforgiving lines of the blade. A questing sword. A captain’s sword. Your sword.
Returning to yourself, you sheath the blade and glare down the road to Rivendell with renewed purpose.