Monday, August 10, 2009

"Sword Gods," The Mounted Lady, pt. 3, 389 words

As surreptitiously as possible – which is to say, not much at all – the smith swept the blood from his face and spat out some more. The blow had cut the inside of his mouth against his teeth, and his cheek against the knight's gauntlet. He held his hand over the cut on his cheek in hopes of stanching the flow and babbled out a quick, “A thousand apologies, goddess–” before she cut him off with a raised hand.

“Your craftsmanship is superior, smith,” the goddess said, her voice turning lyrical in his ears with the praise. “A fine blade. Almost as excellent as one of my own might forge – a rare thing, indeed.” She turned the naked blade back and forth in her hand, catching the golden sunlight across its length. The light rippled and snaked across the lightly-oiled blade, moving along the folds of the steel.

With a casual swipe, she sliced through the leaves of the tree overhead. Shreds of green rained down upon the smith and knight, and the sword-goddess smiled beneficently upon them. “A good edge, as well. Do you forge so many swords, smith?”

“I...” The smith glanced aside at the glowering knight, but pressed on. She had asked him a direct question, after all. “No, not so many, my lady. There's not much call for them, in my village. But I've made many blades – knives and cleavers and the like. Enough that I know how to work steel into an edge.”

“Really,” she muttered, half to herself. She twisted the sword about with a complicated little gesture of her wrist, considering. “What of the balance?”

“Um... What of it, my lady?” He swallowed against a rising knot of panic in his throat.

“Nothing,” she said, watching his reaction with an appraising eye. After a moment, when he had had time to calm down, “It is a suitable blade.” She held her free hand out to him.

The smith almost reached for her hand, but quelled the instinct. He realized she wanted the sheath, and passed the plain leather work over to her. She slid the blade back into its sheath without even looking, and laid it across her lap in the saddle.

“Name your price,” she said.

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