Thursday, August 20, 2009

"Sword Gods," Master and Servant, pt. 4, 512 words

The room looked the cage for a wild animal. Countless marks marred the bare stone walls, long scratches that ran from ceiling to floor as if something had scrabbled to get out. Ancient hay and straw lay strewn across the floor, matted down by the constant passage of feet over it. What didn't crackle and crunch drily underfoot was thick with some mold-like slime, the only source of which could have been the barren room's sole occupant.

The bearer of that amiable, absorbing voice seemed a creature of its surroundings. Or, rather, the surroundings seemed a thing of their occupant. Tall and broad of shoulder, half a head taller than even the knight, he won attention by his very presence. He made himself large, with a wide and open stance, shoulders back and head held high – royalty could have learned from him simply how to stand.

But the mien of a king was shrouded in ashen gray robes, voluminous things which swept along the floor and hid all but the broad outlines of the being's body. A capelet hung over his shoulders, edged with yellowing fangs each more than three inches long, taken from some massive specimen of wolf, which clacked and clattered together gently as he moved. The figure's face was shrouded completely in shadow by the hood of its robes, leaving an inky void out of which issued the glow of two burning eyes. The bony ridges of some titanic scavenger-bird's hooked beak protruded from that void, wide open as if the eyes stared out from within the darkness of the bird's gullet.

The sword-god loomed over the knight, staring him down. “Tell me what you know,” he hissed, his voice no longer pleasant.

The knight swallowed against a lump in his throat, and reminded himself that the god was harmless without a blade. No sword-god fought without a sword. “My lord,” he began, “the mounted lady commissioned a blade from a village smith. The smith was said to make exceptional blades, and she had broken her old one in combat, so I was sent to ascertain the truth of his reputation and arrange for him to forge her a sword.

“The smith was a young man, barely taken to his craft, but he made a sword that impressed even her. And it was ready within a spare few days – my lord, this was no simple soldier's blade to be hammered out in a handful of hours, but one suitable for a swordsman of your caliber.” The knight chose his next words carefully. “I believe, my lord... that he is the one you and yours have been awaiting. And so does she.”

The god stood still as a statue for several long seconds, but the light of his eyes grew brighter, betraying the excitement that overtook him. Finally, the god turned his back abruptly to the knight and declared, “Bring him to me.”

“As you will, my lord,” the knight said, kneeling once more in the filthy straw below.


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