The Vicissitude Rapier

∴ A Wind of Change∴

A milky sunrise seeps over the grey-green hills, not proclaiming the new day so much as mumbling it. The first swifts flit to greet it from beneath the crenelations, streaks of sudden motion across the narrow window slit. From your perch on the deep stone sill you let out a long yawn. 

The gentle scuff of wool against steel has been the only thing keeping you awake, your leaden head bobbing toward your chest with each pass of the cloth.

“You’re going to wear that thing away if you keep polishing it,” your companion remarks from his post by the door.

“Gives me something to do,” you grunt, turning the gleaming rapier over in your hands. The sleepy morning light plays off the polished steel, picking out the engraved curls of the cup, the deep fuller of the blade. You smile, satisfied by this, at least.

“Light little thing, isn’t it?” your comrade goads. “You sure it’ll stand up to what’s coming?”

You slip from the sill in response, your legs protesting at their unexpected use. Flicking the sword out before you, you whip it through the air in a series of tight, precise cuts, recalling the darting swifts at the window.

“I reckon it’ll do,” you mutter, stepping out of stance and slumping against the wall.

Your companion gives a low whistle. “Wouldn’t like to be tickled by that feather, that’s for sure.”

The pair of you lapse back into an uneasy silence as the unwelcome day continues to brighten the stone chamber. Your vigil has been long, and the news you are awaiting rife with anxieties of its own. Better to be silent than to speculate, you reckon. There’ll be time enough for that on the other side.

Just as you are reaching for your cleaning cloth again, the studded door rattles, as if shaking off its slumber. Your comrade leaps nearly out of his skin, his hand flying to his hilt, and a squeak in his voice as he demands, “Who goes there?”

“I am come to summon you,” a voice replies. The door slides open to reveal a harried-looking guard bearing dark circles under his eyes and the crest of your lord on his breast. “It is time.”

“Then the king is dead?” you ask.

The messenger nods, and your stomach twists with thrill and fear at once.

You sheath your sword with a flick, and as if you have sliced the air itself, a cool breeze whispers through the window.

“Change is coming,” your companion murmurs with a hopeful smile.

“Change is here,” you reply.

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The Brachitella Rapier

∴ A Crossed Purpose ∴

The sounds of the house are different tonight. As you lay awake in your single bed, you tease out each quiet strand in your mind: the rhythmic drip from the gutter by the window. The scuffling of mice beneath the floorboards. Your mother’s muffled snore. And now, strange and familiar at once, a crescendo of rustling sheets as your brother turns in his sleep.

It has been months, almost a year, since you last shared this too-small room with him. He left in March with the promise of glory and a little pay put by, and returned this morning with hollow eyes. It’s only for a few days, he said. They’ll be marching again come Monday. He didn’t want to talk about the war. He didn’t want to talk about much. He retired early to bed.

Now he mutters as he rolls over, urgent nonsense and panicked whimpers. You pull the rough blanket over your head in an ill attempt to block out the sound, to block out the truth that all is not well, to block out the wild idea that already gathers pace within you.

At last with a sigh you stand, slip on your coat and breeches and – careful not to step on the creaking floorboard – make your way to the end of his bed. The sword is hanging from the footboard by a leather belt, subtle and simple and deadly. You slide your hand over its rough wire-wrapped grip and curl a finger around the thick, grooved ricasso. The black X of the guard glides forbiddingly over your fist as if in warning.

Rapier in hand, you cross the room in three tip-toed steps before sense has time to catch up with you. Your brother has seen enough of battle – now it’s your turn.

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The Dioscuri Rapier

∴ A Beguiling Edge ∴

“They can’t live with each other, and they can’t live without each other”, your mother always said, laughing over her lace-edged fan. If only she could see you now, you think bitterly.

Brothers, and twins at that, you’ve always shared your passions. You recall those early years of swordplay in the cobbled yard, star-pierced swords glinting alike in the evening light, laughter giving way to shouts of frustration as every feint was foiled.

But there are certain passions that will not be shared, and when you returned home to rumours of your brother and your betrothed, there was only one honourable path to take.

Before you strap your black-hilted rapier to your side, you brush your lips against the lucky star on its pommel. You know beyond doubt that on the other side of the city, your brother does the same.

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