The Solana Rapier and Dagger

∴ A Bittersweet Thrill ∴

You kick absently at the grey slate wall, as anxious and impatient and full of desire as you ever are when you wait here. It is the furthest border of her father’s lands – the nearest you dare go, or at least the nearest she’ll have you. Sometimes she is already here when you arrive, impatient and impassioned. Other times you wait for hours before trailing forlornly home in the dark.

Over the course of the summer you’ve grown achingly familiar with the slick grey of the stone, the heart-shaped leaves and five-petalled blooms of the woody nightshade that climbs it. Bittersweet, your mother always called it, and warned you not to be tempted by its pretty red fruit.

You look down again at the sword and venture a little smile. You’ve been saving for months, and at last here it is, steely and sturdy and yours, emblazoned with the familiar five petals of the passion-hued bloom whose bower became your heaven. You asked for that especially, so that every duel would be won in her honour. So that nobody would know but the two of you. You can’t wait to show her when she comes. If she comes.

You sigh, and the little purple flowers nod in the breeze.

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The Rosanglica Sword and Dagger

∴ An Ill-Starred Beauty ∴

“I used to have a ship, you know,” the old man says. He sighs heavily and stares across the water to the brightly-painted war vessel. “Nothing fancy like this ‘un mind, but she knew what she was doing out there. Aye, that she did.”

You grunt an indifferent response, eyes fixed on the approaching craft. You pat the left breast of your doublet, satisfied by the slight scrunch of parchment – the papers that will grant you a new start, another chance at glory.

“You’ll be off after the French then, will you?” the old man tried again. “Light some powder under their arses and show ’em what’s what, eh?” He chuckled to himself. “Well that’s a fine thing, I suppose.”

You wish the old sot would find some other seafarer to bother and leave you to your thoughts, but he persists.

“It won’t be a long life, mind. Never is. They all find their way to the bottom in the end. Boats, that is. An’ if you’re lucky, they’ll take you down with them.”

At this you tear your glance away from the incoming ship, irked. “If you’re unlucky, you mean,”

The old seadog grins showing stubs of brown teeth, and holds his palms out to either side as if to present himself.

“Look at me, lad,” he cackled. “Do I look like one of the lucky ones to you?”

You shift awkwardly, taking in the man’s haggard physique and straggly hair, a shirt that’s seen better days and battered leather boots. At his side hangs a sword, incongruous with his shabby appearance. An elegant basket of crossed black bars encloses a gold-patterned  lining, crested by a large segmented pommel.

He sees you staring, and his hand flies to the hilt. Slowly, so as not to cause alarm, he draws the weapon and holds it out to you.

“You looking at this? Ah, she was never mine to keep either. May as well send her back to the sea. Go on, go on, take her! And may she bring you better fortune!”

Wide-eyed you reach for the brown leather grip, barely daring to believe your luck.

“They all find their way to the bottom, you know,” the old man repeated. And then he was gone, lost in the burgeoning crowd, leaving you dumbfounded, a sword in your hand, and a ship on your horizon.

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The Vela Dagger

∴ Another Stab ∴

You grimace as your opponent wheels round to the right, holding a steady line. Once again, your boasts have landed you in trouble – and it’s not going well for you.

You only meant it as a jest. A little ribald teasing. But the scar-faced mercenary didn’t see it that way. Stools scraped against floorboards and steel was unsheathed, and before you knew it you were stumbling backwards across the low-lit tavern, sword in hand, as the humourless blaggard challenged you to “prove it”.

There’s no use denying it, you’ve had too much to drink. Your judgment is slow, your movement impulsive. The mercenary sneers as you throw a clumsy parry, jerking back just in time to avoid a cut the the arm. You curse under your breath. If you were sober, you’d have him pinned in a flash. If you were sober, he’d be begging for mercy. If you were sober…

And then it all happens rather quickly. The scarred man beats your sword to the right, stepping in with a triumphant leer. In the time it takes to register this, your left hand has already flown across your hip to slip under the sturdy steel sail of Old Faithful. For a split second you revel in the dagger’s rugged realness, wondering why you hadn’t drawn it long before – then time starts again and you’re catching your opponent’s blade hard, binding to the left with the swiftly drawn dagger as your sword wheels round to leave a smart red line across his exposed left side.

“Told you so,” you hiss, before collapsing backwards.

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