The Lysander Arming Sword

∴ An Unsmooth Course ∴

In the silence of the glade the two men circle, broad-bladed swords in their right hands and round leather bucklers in their left.

You shrink away, vision obscured by disarrayed dark tresses. You cannot stand to look, cannot bear to see red blood shed in the same green woods where once you wooed Lysander. The birds sang then, as they dare not now.

And for what? So he could spurn your honest affection and dumbly duel for the love of another? A cat, he called you! A vile burr, and a serpent! With the same lips that only hours ago had sung your praises. You know not what sorcery solicited such a change, but you know you cannot stand to see him kill or be killed in its thrall.

Your legs move before the decision is firm in your mind. You feel Helena’s hand on your shoulder, eager to pull you back from the fray, but you are already away, striding with cold anger toward the fool who would fight in her name and not yours.

Both men stumble back as you stand between them, and Lysander makes to sheath his sword. Though he hates you, he says, he will not harm you so. You hand is quicker, though, twisting the leathern grip from his grasp. And all at once the sword is yours.

The round, black pommel sits snugly in your hand, subtle carvings writ against the curve of your palm. Surprised at its wieldiness, you hold the weapon out in front of you so that the angled blade offers some protection, and circle on your heel. Eyes widen in the faces of the men who so roundly mocked you only moments ago.

If none will fight for your honour, you will have to do it yourself.

Continue reading

The Iona Arming Sword

∴ A Sacred Awakening ∴

The steel is cold in your hands as you climb. Though it is dark you do not stumble, for you know this way by heart.

Behind you the village processes in pregnant silence. The able helping the old, children lagging at their heels. Last year you walked with the maidens, wide-eyed children in white. But this year you were chosen. This year you carry the sword of the saint.

The sword is the island’s truest treasure, broad-bladed and smoky-grey with age. The leather that folds around the guard bears half of a cross. The sign of the goddess. The sign of the saint. It’s all the same to the island folk.

As you reach the barrow’s crest, the chant begins. “Tha i beò. Tha i beò. She is alive.” For a moment the whole island opens around you in dusky lilac hue. You can see from the twinkling lights of the village, across the fields and the moors to the harbour. For a moment, it is yours.

Then the onlookers file in around you, a circle of white-clad watchers, keeping vigil over this rite. Uncertain, you look to the horizon, and then to your father. He gives a barely perceptible nod. As the voices rise to a clamor, you lift the sword to the sky, and with a cry, plunge it into the earth.

Then there is silence.

Over the sea the sun is rising, with springtime in its wake.

Continue reading

The Braznaz Sword

∴ A Brazen Treasure∴

As daylight gives way to echoing dark and the swaying glow of your head torch, you fill your lungs with familiar, dank, iron-rich air and smile. The tomb is becoming a second home to you. Tracing one hand along the slime-rimed wall of the corridor, you take in the once-delicate sconces, now rusted almost beyond recognition. A pity, you think. You should have loved to see their original splendour.

As the thought crosses your mind, your fingers slide suddenly from slick stone into empty air. You stand still for a moment, heart pounding, then reach out again, turning your head to cast light into the void that you swear wasn’t there before. Not a doorway, you realise with some disappointment, but an inset niche, housing a rough stone block. And there, propped against it, almost casually, is the sword.

You cannot help but gasp, the sound bouncing down the corridor. You hadn’t expected anything like this. It is a beautiful specimen, short and shapely with a broad, grooved blade, an emerald green grip, and the crowning glory – a gleaming brass pommel. It’s a miracle it’s survived this long.

The thought sticks in your mind uncomfortably. You recall the misshapen and rust-thick sconces, undone by centuries of damp. An unbidden shiver takes your neck as you stoop to gaze again at the brilliant brass pommel, almost untouched by time.

As you stare transfixed into the unlikely brazen facets, a flicker of movement is reflected in them. Someone – or something – is behind you.

Continue reading

The Brytengrund Arming Sword

∴ A Demanding Presence ∴

The blade that the monk holds out to you is broad – broader than any you’ve seen before. A fierce triangular jag extending from a graceful blackened crossguard, the immense faceted wheel of a pommel perched above.

You hesitate, weighing what you see of the sword against what you know of yourself. An untrained initiate, you are far more comfortable with wooden swords and makeshift bucklers than you are with this sudden, strange world of steel weapons and warrior monks. You wonder if the beaming brother is mocking you, waiting for you to reach out and accept the sword only to crumple under its weight. You search his face for answers, but he only smiles placidly, patiently.

At last, more from embarrassment than any sort of certainty, you reach out awkwardly to take the green-wrapped grip. Your eyes widen as the monk relinquishes the prize – the sword is solid and robust and real, yes – but somehow you can hold it. Somehow you’re longing to swing it. You glance up again at the smiling monk, and he gives a single nod of silent assent.

You step back into measure, and await your first lesson.

Continue reading

The Knave Arming Sword

∴ 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.

Continue reading