Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"Sword Gods," The Mounted Lady, pt. 4, 425 words

The offer froze the smith in place. Price? From a sword-goddess? He wouldn't even know what to ask a common man for such a blade – the few swords he'd made before had been for petty nobles who'd quoted acceptable prices to him. Given their station, they could have just as easily spitted him on the spot with the swords made for them, and gotten away with it. Nobody cared about a dead commoner, after all.

He'd almost expected the knight to dispatch him here and now on the goddess's orders. The knight certainly had a look upon his face that suggested he wouldn't mind carrying out such a command. The smith dredged through his memory for the sums offered by previous patrons, wondering whether to go high or low in that range – and stopped.

A price didn't have to be money, after all. And when would he get the opportunity again?

“My lady,” he began hesitantly, paused to clear his throat. “If you would... could you answer a question for me? Something you've said has sparked my curiosity.”

The goddess smiled softly. “To satisfy curiosity rather than your purse. That is your price?”

“If you would grant it,” he said, lowering his gaze to the ground.

“Ask your question,” she said.

“You mentioned... You said something about other sword-gods forging blades. Why do you not go to one of– I mean, is the swordsmith's art common amongst your... kind? Is it practiced?”

A sober look crossed her features, dimming her beauty in a moment of mourning. “Once,” she said quietly, barely above a whisper. “But not anymore.”

The smith frowned, confused. “My lady?”

She shook her head and, with a sad smile, nudged her horse to turn away. “You have your answer,” she said. “And I my blade. We are done with one another, smith.”

“Ah, yes, my lady. Of course.” The smith swiftly knelt before her and the knight as they turned away. They ambled slowly down the hill the goddess had chosen for their meeting place, passing a massive white stone block around which the path bent, and turning towards the village just to the south. When they reached the bottom of the hill, the smith rose to his feet and went over to the stone block to sit and watch. He had little desire to cross their path again, and would only return to the village once they had departed. He'd nothing else to do that afternoon, anyway.

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