Friday, April 23, 2010

Blood Will Tell

   It’s in the blood, they say. Landel blood. This obsessive drive towards perfection, with fourteen generations supported by patrons and moving ever closer to the ultimate masterpiece. That was how I came to be here, hunched over my workbench with sweat beading at my brow and running in rivulets down my back. I was now the last of the Landel line. A puny female of average countenance, and the most sought after weaponsmith in all the Provinces of Beleir T’an on the eve of the Tenth War.

   Throughout the last thousand years the dark mage Isthair and his unholy minions have ravaged our people and lands. The mystics say that the approaching turn of the millennium bodes ill, that as Ithsair came upon us at the beginning of this millennium, so his power will grow in the beginning of the next. That soon he will have no need to retreat into his lair for a hundred years between wars. Mystics, with their ragged, soiled clothes and bedazzled eyes, clutching talismans as they wander our streets, call doom down upon us all. And who can say nay? Who can look upon our broken, filthy streets, look at our dirty starving children, and not think that the end approaches? Who among us would not almost welcome death, an end to our worthless toil of wars, and eking out an existence in the bare scrub of land still protected from the warlock’s hellfire? So what is left to the people of the Provinces besides a life of going to war with empty bellies?

   At one time the Provinces flourished. Before Ithsair, before wars and plagues and city burnings, there were rich farmlands stretching farther than the eye could see, clear flowing rivers and streams unpolluted by the grime and blood of war. Walking through my city Verlan you can see a shadow of that former age. Look here at a crafted arch that bespeaks wealth and artistry. Look there at a finely laid section of road, created when work was a source of pride and not something that had to be rushed because the worker was needed for strengthening the walls.

   The mystics rave that if Ithsair chose, he could pluck the sun from the sky and leave us in eternal darkness. That on certain nights he pulls the moon from her path and wears her as a ring on his finger. It could be the ravening of mad men, or the sad foretelling of our destiny. But I can tell you what is known. That Ithsair is stirring from his slumber. Thus for the last hundred years my family has worked to create swords of such superior craftsmanship that many say they are charmed. Tonight I am preparing my last sword before battle. The huge blood ruby set in the pommel glows with its own inner light and when I touch the blade I can feel the steel writhe with life under my thumb. The balance, which feels so light in my own palm, will seem to a warrior as light and natural as a reed dancing in the wind. This sword is my best work, and I could no more give my life to my Province if I died on the battlefield. The exhaustion that steals upon me reminds me why I am the last. The flame of inspiration which had burned brighter and brighter in our family has left only myself as its last bright flicker. With that thought I lower myself to the stone floor and lay my head on the bench near the sword. My fingers curl possessively on the handle as I take a few hours rest before I present the sword to Lord Braenall and he takes it to the battlefield.

   I awaken to the sound of scuffing feet. My eyes open, but I cannot see. I move my arms to wipe my face, but I cannot seem to touch my own skin. It is an odd sensation to move my arms, like trying to fight rushing water.
   “There is the wee lass,” I hear Alain, the castellan, say. “She’s worked herself into a slumber.”
   “So long as she’s finished the sword.” That was the voice of Braenall, the young and snide lord that had decreed a Landel sword as being the only one worthy of his carrying into battle. Suddenly I feel myself grasped fully about the waist and I’m being bodily moved. I hear a scraping sound and once I have light to see, I shudder. My first sight is my own face, composed in sleep with dark lashes swept down on my cheeks and red tendrils of hair loose, and I am being lifted up and away from myself. I try to reach my arms out again towards myself and feel that strange resistance. I see Alain kneel next to my body.
   “Come now, love, wake up.” He shakes my shoulder and my body slumps down towards the floor. Alain acts quickly to check my breath and my pulse. He sits back on his heels and shakes his head.
   “The Landel curse has claimed her,” he announces.
   “That is… unfortunate,” Braenall says. “Prepare a burial for her in my family grounds. A stone must mark that this is the last of the Landel line.”
   “Aye, milord.”
   I try to see Braenall but cannot see above his thigh. I feel strangely disoriented and cannot move my head. Not wanting to see myself on the floor anymore, I begin to look around the room at my tools. How I long to touch them. I feel myself shifting again, then I am eye to eye with Braenall. But he is looking over my gaze.
   “The weight is good and the blade is true,” Braenall is saying. “The balance seems a bit off, though. It almost feels like the blade is fighting me.”
   With that I feel myself swept through the air, dancing a figure eight. And with it I must accept the impossible. That somehow I have not put only my talent into this sword, but myself as well.

This is an entry in the Life Fantastic Blog Hop.
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  1. A great concept. The perspective of the world seen from a thigh was powerful. A great metaphor for writers too or those who have been up until all hours reading flash fiction.

  2. What an incredible reveal!

    Brings new definition to putting all of oneself into one's work. :)

    This is a wonderful addition to the #fridayflash community.


  3. Oooh, great imagery here! Her dedication to the end is admirable, and I don't envy her future experiences.

    Welcome to the #fridayflash family!


  4. This drew me in completely. The world is so rich. You did a great job of painting it.

    And how she became the sword- I didn't expect that at all. Very well done.

  5. Sweeping and rich. A great debut for #fridayflash. Has the sort of richness in presentation and world that best suits serious post-Tolkien Fantasy.

  6. Wow, guys! Thanks for the all the positive feedback!