The Tusken Falchion

∴ A Story in Steel ∴

A blood-red gem dances across the knuckles of your right hand before disappearing into your palm. It is an old trick that the Castellan showed you when you were just a girl. With a smirk you open your left palm to reveal the jewel nestled there.

You can sense your father’s stormy look without looking, and with a sigh you relinquish your treasure to the growing heap of gems and casks and carved figures on the table before you. 

It has been a long evening at your father’s side, receiving the knights returned from their conquest in the Western Woods. One by one they kneel before you, offering stories and spoils by which to buy your father’s favour – his favour and your hand.

You have no need for jewels from the Western Woods. You had far rather explore the Great Forest yourself than wear someone else’s trophies. And yet true to your training you nod and smile graciously as each knight kneels before you.

You have almost expended your reserves of grace when a heavy, velvet-wrapped object is placed on the table before you with a thud. Startled, you glance up to meet the smiling eyes of your father’s bard.

“I too have a tale of the forest,” he begins, and the room falls silent. You, too, perk up and pay attention. You have missed the bard’s tales while he was away. His songs are dark and dangerous, unlike the honey-sweet ballads played for the ladies.

In low, lugubrious tones he describes a force riding gigantic boars which snarled and charged in the misty morning dark, tearing into horses with their great curving tusks. The riders’ armour was wrought of bone, he says, and their helms crowned with antlers. He is certain that they were not mortal men.

He gestures to the velvet-wrapped object in front of you.

“I had this sword forged from the tusk of one of those fell boars,” he announces, “to commemorate that terrible battle.”

At a nod from your father you fumble to pull back the cloth. A collective intake of breath greets the weapon within. It is a beautiful thing, unlike any knight’s sword you have seen. Indeed, its blade is shaped like some monster’s tusk, widening dramatically toward the curved and sharpened tip. 

Yet instead of bone or ivory, it is forged from steel, polished so bright you can see your own dark eyes reflected in it. You look up bewildered, unsure whether to be more disappointed by the bard’s pretence or delighted by the feel of sharp steel at your fingertips.

“It is yours, princess,” the bard says, favouring you with a wink. “A legend wrought real.”

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The Beastmarked Sword

 

∴ A Fateful Mark ∴

Blue and silver pennants whip in the wind as you process between gilded pavilions. You keep your eyes ahead, stepping to the beat of the drum, paying no heed to the calling and crowing of excited onlookers.

When you reach the carved wooden throne, you stop and take a deep breath, allowing your eyes to play for a moment over its writhen designs of serpents.

The silence is crisp and curious as the High Bard steps toward you, a smile in his creased and twinkling eyes, and an unsheathed sword in his veiny hands.

Solemnly you stare down at the weapon. You know it well from when it was your father’s. A broad triangular blade with two fullers merging into one, representing the twin rivers of your kingdom. The leather grip is the midnight blue of your house. And the pommel with its engraved serpent…

“Tell me, Highness, do you know the significance of the mark?” the High Bard asks.

“Of course I do,” you reply, surprised at the deviation from the words you have so often practiced. You reach out a finger to trace the chiselled beast, its jaws stretched open to bite at its own tail. “It is the mark of the dragon slayer. Whoever wields it is destined to kill a dragon. Just as my father did.”

“Dear child,” says the bard with a note of sadness, “it seems you were told only part of the prophecy. See how the serpent forms a circle, devouring itself?”

You nod with a gulp, your throat suddenly dry.

“It represents an eternal cycle of creation and destruction. Yes, your father slew the dragon. But you, my boy, are destined to bring it back.” Continue reading

The Osmic Sword

∴ An Eightfold Force∴

The door falls closed behind you, not with the sepulchral thud you might expect from such a portal, but with barely a whisper. It is as if the empty, unfinished cathedral sucks the sound from everything – the door, your footsteps, the words you might have uttered before the sheer vastness of the space took them away.

From here, the unadorned altar could be miles away, all perspective lost in the face of the forest of arches in between. Moon-pale and massive, they reach their arms into the sky, drawing your eyes unerringly with them, into a canopy of vaults and voussoirs. Lost in the woods you stand, stunned by the miracle of the place, disquieted by its terrible greatness.

As you fail to take it in, your fingers play anxiously at the hilt of your sheathed sword, keen for something solid in this dreamlike space. You count in your head: the eight edges of the blackened pommel. The eight facets of the straight, stern guard. The eight corners of the mottled green grip. It is a habit you picked up on your pilgrimage, adrift in the unknown. It grounds you somehow – the repetition, perhaps – your litany of eight.

Emboldened, you step into the emptiness, still counting silently. And as you walk, you notice: eight sides to the fluted columns. Eight eight-faceted ribs forming a star on the ceiling. Eight eight-petalled rosettes in the round window’s tracery.

One, two, three, four. The numbers mark the rhythm of your steps; describe the world you walk though; bind you to it somehow. Five, six, seven, eight. They fall from your lips with barely an echo, a prayer in themselves, your scattered breadcrumb trail in this strange, stone forest.

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