By A.G. Inqueling
The blade sang softly as it slid down the stone.
My thumb ran along the edge, feeling the burs from the effort. I turned it over, and ran it down the stone again.
“Make sure you can feel the burs before you start the other side my daughter.”
My father’s words, always wise, always guiding, flooded my memories. He taught me everything. He showed me the true meaning of love, of family. White handprint on his face, he stood before the council and spoke for me at my naming day. Disdain showed on some of the council’s face. A female “otoku shin” was something many of them never wanted. But I had been trained, I had been honed.
I picked up the finer stone and guided the blade down it.
I was the blade, tempered, hardened, and guided to a razors edge.
“You are the blade, but I can’t make you strong. YOU must make you strong. YOU must make you quick. YOU must make you deadly Okora.”
I wiped a tear from my eye. Weakness, like tears were not tolerated in my culture. My father told me different.
“Feel the pain. Feel the hate. They will always hate you. They will always belittle and judge. You must use it to make you stronger. You must use it, to sharpen yourself. In the end , only you need to love you.”
“I love me.” I whispered softly as I finished.
My blade’s edge was a line of shining moonlight in the night. My finger felt no more burs, no more imperfections. It was ready.
“I love me.” I said again.
I was ready.
The night called to me. Like a loving friend it embraced me in its dark folds as I jumped from the cliff above the camp. Fires and tents spotted the valley between the bluffs and I knew they had selected this spot because of its ease of defense. The air was cold. My eyes watered as I descended into darkness and I blinked away the tears to see my landing spot. Over 100 feet down, my body was tempered for this. My feet extended, knees bent, and I landed on the ground with only a soft thud escaping my entry.
It wasn’t silent enough. The tent I landed next to had a man sitting outside by the fire. He turned to look in my direction, and saw nothing. He didn’t have night vision like me. However, noise was more than enough to worry about, and he rose from the log he was sitting on. I moved like a cold breeze. My feet were bare, pads gripping on the forest floor, my clawed toes dug in and I jumped out of the night.
“Nigh…!” was all he got to say before my blade found his throat.
I spun after my strike and reached out to catch his body before it hit the ground. Only the slightest clink of metal armor escaped the motions. I heard another soldier in the tent start to emerge. He didn’t even see me. He fell to my black sword in a soundless chop. The sword, like my body, was enchanted. We were both, tempered for this.
“I love me.” I said softly, cleaning my blade on his tunic.
“The village is in a prime location to strike on our forces my King. We must strike. Before they can garrison the area.”
“My scouts tell us they don’t even have a respectable fence let alone a place to put a garrison Captain Levurn. What threat can we possibly face from such a humble establishment?”
The King was answered quickly by a melodic voice coming from the corner of the command tent.
“A serious and intolerable one.” There was a tone of insolence there. After a short pause, he added. “Your majesty.”
The King looked wearily at the Elvish advisor rising from the chair. He never got over the way “they” moved with a complete efficiency of motion. It looked wrong, and overly formal. If he didn’t know better, he’d say it looked “dark”. The Elf’s eyes glinted with a red tint. He looked possessed.
“That village could be home to a band of elite soldiers. Assassins armed with dark magic and poisonous blades. They will strike at us from the shadows, and disappear into the night before you’re able to raise your blade.”
He raised his curved dagger as if to illustrate the point. He walked towards the King and his Captain.
“They will stop at nothing to end your life, and stifle your line. Blood magic designed to trace to your families, women and children be dammed!”
The Captain reached for his sword. The King backed away from the advancing 6-foot-tall, armor clad warrior who advanced towards them at the command table.
“NOTHING will protect you. NOTHING can save you! They must all be eradicated from the face of this world!”
His dagger came down with a swift, driving, stab. Elvish steel dove into the wood of the table. Stopping, half buried, in the oak and wiggling with the excessive force of the blow. Andromidus came out of his fervor and noticed now that he had frightened his charge. It took him a moment to compose himself. The King could not believe the transformation from crazed fanatic to calm and soft spoken advisor. The embedded dagger was the only evidence the elf had lost his temper.
“My apologies.” He paused. The King watched him, his own blade in his hands. He didn’t even remember drawing it. Andromidus stood so still, he looked like a statue for but a moment.
“NIGHTBLADE!” Andromidus yelled as he spun from the table. From behind, the King saw a black blade pierce through the back of the Elf’s armor. It was dark as night, except the edge, which shone like a beam of light in the torches. Andromidus faltered back against the table and the blade disappeared into his body. As he fell, the King, and his Captain saw the black leather clad figure of a female troll. Her ears were over a foot long and pointed, her stance, dangerously aggressive. Like the legends said, she wore a blindfold over her eyes.
The elf was the most dangerous being in that room. I could hear his voice from outside, melodic, light, and deadly. I could hear the “Thunk” from his blade being driven into something solid and knew I had to move. I pulled my blindfold down over my eyes. The light inside the tent would be too much for them. Darkness would be my home and I would take it with me. I jumped from the tree above the tent, slicing through the roof with my blade. He was standing where my ears told me he’d be. He spun fast, faster than any human could move. His hand reached for his blade and I smirked. He knew it too. He knew he had put the blade just a hair too far into the wood. My ears told me everything I needed to know. His armor was nothing to my enchanted blade. Still, he had just enough time to yell my name. The name humans gave me. I silenced him with a quick thrust to the chest. I could hear my father.
“Feel the hate.”
He sank to the floor and behind him stood the King and his Captain. I sprung towards them quickly and the Captain’s sword clashed with my own. He was stronger than me. There was no point in trying to contest with his advantage. But he was slower than me, and my attack was just a distraction to get to the King. The royal bloodline was slow, and clumsy. He moved like a man who’d never truly faced combat, the son of a greater sire. He fumbled his blade as I drove my darkness into him. My body tensed and released its power completely.
“From my father. To the man who betrayed his own father’s treaty.” I told him.
The bite of the Captain’s steel burned into my side. I saw the life drain out of the King and jumped away from the Captain. Two guards rushed in and were instantly killed by my thrown daggers. The Captain knew, I could kill him easily but showed no fear. I spoke to the Captain. “You are spared because you are a good man.” I told him. “Rule with wisdom, justice, and…” I coughed. “L.. ove.. “
My body fell to the ground. My vision was growing darker. The Captain moved to his King, and I noticed he was crying. With a surprise, I felt wetness on my cheeks too. As the darkness swallowed me, I remembered one last thought.
“I love me.”