Hey, I’ve been working on putting up some finishing touches to the By The Sword serial. This won’t be the final chapter or anything, but I am hoping I’ll finish this narrative in one or two more issues. Here is an unedited first half of the next part I’ve been working on.
I must make it all clear, and yet to say it simply obscures everything. I killed our master, I left his bleeding corpse in the cold for you to find the next morning, I took the sword. Shall I inscribe in detail the fight, and would detail reveal the truth? They wrote a song about me, some poor bard was in the town I saved. I’ve killed those who were good to me, and the sons of strangers sing for joy of it. The foolish lyrics go something like this:
Let me sing of a hero,
his name unknown,
whose steel shines like a bright star.
When the bandits came to raid,
after the rain,
we feared, for we could not pay.
But the Storms brought him to us.
He sought shelter
from the sinking mud outside
Warmed by fires of an inn,
he pitied us,
and became a protector.
Nothing said in the song is false, and to it new verses are birthed every day. It’s the verses that will never be written, verses you and I share, whose haunting refrains I hear echoing when I search for sleep. A darker tune, more dirge than ballad, that makes me lie wakeful upon my bed, or pace all through the night. I’m locked forever in the past.
That morning, when the empire was just an invading army, when we little knew we were on the cusp of victory, we rose with the dawn. The three of us, without speaking a word, practiced the twelve forms. Funny, I’ve forgotten the forms these last three years. Our long shadows seemed too big for us, stretching over the armies like great black giants.
We came to the penultimate move and froze, waiting for our master to throw the final punch. My legs shook under the strain of holding the lunge, our master’s regular breath sounding no different than if he were merely sitting down to tea. I wished he would stop breathing and just complete the form. Funny, that evening I would end his breath for good. What was it he said? It was so startling because no one was allowed to talk, no one.
Looking over his shoulder at us, he began, “The teachings I taught you are of an old tradition, older than anything I know. It represents a long uncountable chain of masters and students, a history leading us to this point,” he said, punctuating the statement by turning his face once more forward. After a pause, he went on, “Leading us to the present, and directing our future.” At this he threw the punch, and we followed suit.
In that pristine winter morning, white steam billowing off our bodies like fog rolling over mountains, we three turned, facing each other in a loose circle. We were once more ensconced in silence, our master seemingly reverting to his stoic and tight lipped manner. But again, the mask broke.
His mouth opened, his white breath momentarily covering his face, “We are servants of Alexander.” He looked at each of us, his customary hard frown replaced with an unprecedented soft smile. “I have trained you into the finest soldiers in his army, maybe in any army. You both are my legacy, dedicated disciples, each one worthy of becoming the new master.”
“The sword will choose you.”
Read the other (finished) parts of By The Sword here:
Part 1: How it Began
Part 2: Questions
Part 3: The Blackness of the Sea
Part 4: Locks
Part 5: Out of Time
Part 6: Ariesland
Part 7: Shadow of the Sisyphus
Part 8: Swords
Part 9: The Eagle and the Lamb