The Sceran Walloon

∴ A Spur of the Moment ∴

“There’s neither Swallow, Dove, or Dade
Can soar more high or deeper wade
Nor show a reason from the stars
What causeth peace or civil wars”

Your voice sounds out, high and wavering on the early morning air. Singing comes easy on a day like this, with sunlight dappling through the trees onto the stony road. You feel each stone through the rattling seat, peppering your song with jolted off-notes – but you don’t mind. The rumbling wheels and clattering hooves mean you’re on your way again.

Suddenly you halt your verse, and coax the dun mare to a standstill. Were you only imagining a shape in the bushes? Is the road getting to you already? Then in an instant the man is upon you, small and wiry in an oil-reeking coat and well-worn boots. Hardly the dandy highwayman of tavern songs, you think absurdly as the scene unfolds.

The mare rears and whinnies as the stranger rounds it, making for the driver’s seat step. That dappled sunlight you admired only moments ago now illuminates a sharp needle of steel in his hand. Something tells you he doesn’t mean to bargain.

In an instant, the pistol is in your hand. The brigand’s eyes widen. He wouldn’t be the first to mistake you for a witless farmer’s son. A bang. A jolt. Another whinny from the foaming mare, and the highwayman falls away from the carriage, his mouth agape and ghastly.

Staring through pistol-smoke in mute wonder, your attention is caught by the dead man’s sword. Small, like the brigand himself, but much prettier you think. A pierced plate and swelling black bars; a raised thumb ring with a single cut-out heart. 

Now there’s a sword worth a ballad, you think, snatching it up into your hand. With a fresh tune on your lips, you turn back to the carriage.

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The Cotyledon Hanger

∴ A Burgeoning Will∴

It had always just been there – the sword; simple; the black leaf of its guard furling about a grip of green leather. As long as you can recall it’s hung over the fireplace, above the grey ashes and below the grey photographs. You never paused to wonder which ghostly daguerrotype face it belonged to – not until today. It had simply always been there – and so had you.

Had you ever had an inkling of an adventurer’s spirit, you’re sure you would have asked your grandmother to tell you the its story as she peeled potatoes over the sink. But she did not care for tales of high seas or great hunts. It’s that sort of story that gets people killed, she’d harrumph, before crossing herself and returning to the task at hand. No, she never did care to bring up the past – and so neither did you.

But now she is gone – save for the small round-framed photograph that now graces the mantle, beside those of the sons she both birthed and buried. She is gone from this house with her stews and her sewing and her stern sort of kindness, and you are alone. It is a terrible kind of wonder, you muse, to realise that nothing holds you to a place any more. Not the bricks and mortar of it, nor the tasks undone in the garden, nor the solemn pictures above the hearth.

Slowly, you reach for the sword, which has always been there, but which you have never held. You lift it from its hook and wrap your hand around that smooth green grip, the dark steel wrapping your knuckles in turn. Does it feel right? You’re not sure. But it’s something.

You turn from the mantle – from that rogue’s gallery of relatives whose adventures you’ll never know. It’s time to write your own adventure. You don’t know what that will be – but you know it won’t happen within these four walls.

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The Celyn Spadroon

∴ A Spiky Reception ∴

You feel your way between thorn and flower, grasping for the wooden lattice which must serve as a ladder. With a sudden crack, the wood beneath your left foot gives way, sending you scrabbling for a hold. For one queasy moment, the earth sways far below you – and then your fingers find a stone sill amidst the foliage, and you are saved.

Panting, you press yourself flat against the trellis, taking a moment to collect yourself before tapping on the wooden shutter. You can only imagine the look of surprise on your sweetheart’s face when she sees you emerging from the climbing vines like some Sylvan god to greet her. You know she won’t be expecting you – as far as she’s aware, you’re still at sea for a month. You imagine her pale and pining, anxiously awaiting your letters.

With a fond smile, you raise your hand to the casement – but before your knuckle so much as brushes wood, the shutter is flung open, almost dislodging you from your precarious perch. Reeling, you gawp up at the window in time to witness a sudden sweep of silver, swift in the moonlight.

You swallow hard as the flurry of movement settles into a decidedly familiar shape. The unmistakable steel holly-leaf guard of your old sword, far too close for comfort, its tapering blade pressed gently yet unerringly to your throat. Behind it is only darkness, and a whisper:

“Just you dare move.”

Despite pounding heart and sweating palms, you feel a sudden urge to laugh rising up within you. You should have known Celyn would be just fine without you.

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The Baneful Walloon

∴ An Expert Companion∴

Pulling your hood closer, you scowl into the driving rain and trudge on, cold water washing through your worn-out boots. You must still be 20 miles from Inverness, and the deluge shows no sign of slowing. Once again you wonder why you left – at least the bloody barracks had been dry.

Some miles down the road (you stopped counting days ago) you think you catch sight of a figure, barely a shadow through sheets of rain. Your heart leaps and your hand flies to your scabbard, but you steady yourself and peer deeper through the downpour. The shape is small and stooped with age. No threat to you.

As your breathing slows, you find yourself wondering how much coin the old man carries. Your stomach growls like something feral at the thought of a full meal. There’s already a price on your head – and as your mother always said, may as well be hanged for a sheep.

“Halt if you value your life!” you call into the rain. To illustrate your point, you draw the dagger from your belt.

The old man doesn’t stop. As he draws nearer, you make out a heavily scarred face, hair hanging damp and limp across a horrible grin. Without slowing his pace, he casts aside the skirt of his coat and, quick as lightning, draws a sword. The blade gleams bright against matte black steel, a scattering of hearts piercing the plate.

You have a feeling you just made a terrible mistake.

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