“FOR LATHANDER!” An old dwarf woman roared from the back of a wagon, her voice carrying over the din of battle. She swiped her gleaming greatsword through the air, taking off the head of a Cyric fanatic climbing onto the vehicle. She whirled around and took off another head before turning to her squire and glaring at her.
“Don’t just stand there like a barrel of elf wine, Oakstone! Use yer sword, or fall on it!”
Trym’s shaky hands groped for her shortsword. The only thought running through her mind was how unprepared she was for this. Why hadn’t she paid more attention in class? Why hadn’t she spent more time on the training grounds? Why couldn’t it have been goblins? She was fresh out of the school. She wasn’t ready to destroy a human life yet. She wasn’t ready for hers to be threatened.
“Ya move like molten rock, girl… MOVE!” The old dwarf grabbed Trym by her small, Halfling shoulders, and whirled her around.
The dwarf woman froze and grunted. Trym watched in horror as her teacher’s eyes became hazy, her mouth falling open, the air driven from her body.
The dwarf grunted again as a sword tip punched through her chest.
A man dressed in black, wearing a grinning mask, stood up behind the dwarf. “That’s right, Dawnlord. Die like the dog you are.” He twisted the sword sticking through her.
Rage coursed through Trym. She stood and slashed her blade across the mask, breaking through it and cutting into the man’s flesh.
He screamed and leaned back, losing his footing and tumbling from the wagon. As a last ditch effort to maintain his balance, he grabbed Trym’s sword, but she turned it lose and let him fall to the ground where he was trampled under the hooves of a warhorse.
“Trym…” the old dwarf woman grabbed Trym’s small hand and pushed the oversized hilt of her greatsword into it, “Take Cultbane, lass… show them… the light… where it don’t shine.” She smirked, then slumped to the bottom of the wagon, eyes staring blankly at the sky.
Trym paused running her whetstone down Cultbane’s edge. She focused on the dwarfish runes engraved on its blade, a nostalgic smile turning up the corner of her lips.
Today is a good day for someone else to die. Is what they said.
Her first paladin master, Dawnlord Sorsha Flaskgranite, told her that Cultbane had been passed down a long line of dwarf warriors with “great senses of humor”. That line sadly ended when she died protecting Trym. It was something that had haunted the Halfling for a long time. No matter how much that thought haunted her, though, Trym loved Cultbane. Not only was it a piece of master craftsmanship, and an heirloom to boot, but it was her first sword given to her by her first teacher. That would always be special to her.
“A kind teacher guides you by the hand. A good teacher opens your mind. A great teacher leaves an impression on your heart forever.”
Trym’s nostalgic mood melted away, a dark cloud crossing over her face. Her eyes swiveled down to the ground beside her where another greatsword rested. It probably was not as old as Cultbane, but it was far more powerful… and intelligent.
“I don’t need daily proverbs like doses of medicine, thank you.”
Trym looked away from the sword as unwelcome memories came to her mind.
“Whew! That’s the last of them!”
A young human cleric dropped her hands to her side with a sigh, watching as a zombie fell motionless on the floor.
“Well done Mellona and Tasker. You handled that very well.” Trym nodded at the young lady, then at a young man who was also wearing the robes of a cleric.
The lad beamed at her and rolled his shoulders, “Zom-body never saw us coming!” He blew across his hands and rubbed them together.
Trym groaned and rolled her eyes.
“Curious that the Dawnlord herself wasn’t disturbed.” Mellona pointed at a decayed body lying on a table in the center of the massive tomb.
Trym looked at it, running her eyes appraisingly over the still shining plate armor and gleaming sword lying on the paladin’s chest. “Aye. Have a point there, lassie. Maybe we should do something about that…”
Three young paladin pushed zombie bodies off their swords before good naturedly punching one another in the shoulders.
“You were so scared.”
“Look who’s talking! I couldn’t hear anything over the shaking of your boots!”
Trym rolled her eyes again, lowering Cultbane to the floor, “Okay, okay. Put the good zombies back in their resting places, if you please. Then let’s be sure the Dawnlord stays dead.”
The paladin set to work, hauling bodies and bones from the floor and nestling them back into their hovels carved into the walls of the giant tomb.
The two young clerics struggled to lift one body, Mellona gagging as she grabbed the legs.
“Curse Cyric, they stink!”
Tasker grinned, “I’m not saying your perfume is too strong, miss zombie. I’m just saying the canary was alive before you walked in.”
Mellona snorted, then dropped the body, throwing her head back and laughing.
Trym grinned, but quickly wiped it off, “Okay, very funny, but wholly inappro…”
Suddenly, with a flash of steel, Tasker’s head went tumbling to the floor.
Mellona stumbled backward, batting at Tasker’s spraying blood. She looked down at his body, her face going white with shock. Her mouth fell open in a scream.
Trym lifted her sword just as the girl’s scream came to an abrupt halt. She watched as Mellona fell to her knees, hands clamped around her throat, ichor spilling between her fingers. She looked at Trym, her eyes full of fear, helplessness, and pleading.
“Yer not getting off that easy, lass!” Trym rushed toward the girl, lowering Cultbane and reaching out a hand to heal her.
Suddenly, the world turned red. Excruciating pain bit into Trym’s face. She felt her body lift into the air and tumble backwards. She fell to the dusty floor of the tomb and gasped. Instead of air, she inhaled thick, sticky blood. She gagged and coughed, gasped for another breath, but only choked on more blood. She opened her eyes and blinked as a curtain of scarlet washed over her left lid, burning it and blinding her. She spit, clearing her throat and finally taking in a breath of air.
She angled her face toward Mallona, and her heart broke into a thousand pieces when she saw the young lady lying on the floor, eyes blank, face ghostly white, amber hair drenched in blood.
A shadow fell over her and she looked up to see the sleeping Dawnlord’s blade flying through the air on its own. Runes pulsed brightly with a white light down its blade and on its pommel. It expertly attacked the three paladin, sweeping wide, making the three back up to avoid its deadly edge. It swung around and sped toward Trym, the tip aiming for her heart.
Trym cut Cultbane through the air just in the nick of time, averting the other blade. She flinched as it struck the marble wall next to her, causing sparks.
“Trym!” One of the other paladin ran up and slapped his sword against the blade, knocking it aside. The blade righted itself and parried his next blow, then cut off his arm, followed by a leg, and then his head, all before his body had hit the floor.
“No!” Trym staggered to her feet and hammered Cultbane down on the blade. The two other paladin rushed up behind it, each taking a turn hitting it.
The blade swiped in a wide circle, but the three paladin avoided it, then rained a series of blows down on it. It stabbed at one, swiped at another, but they parried it and continued to hammer their swords down on it.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, one of the young paladin slammed the blade downward where Trym batted Cultbane against it, sending it flying straight into the side of the Dawnlord’s corpse, skewering it. The runes on the blade flickered, then faded, and everything grew silent.
Trym looked back down at the greatsword beside her. It was called TillDawn. No one had told her it was sentient. She supposed no one knew. It was clear that no one had expected it to fly and kill innocent clerics either.
All Trym knew about TillDawn was that it was unpredictable. She had hoped to lock it away in the tomb and never see it again. The fates, though, had sick senses of humor.
Months later, the sword somehow ended up in a grubby merchant’s wagon who just happened to be in the same caravan as Trym. It called out to Trym, baiting her by saying it had “tasted her blood”. She didn’t realize what was calling to her, until her dwarf friend, Aldrik, helped her to locate it.
Upon finding the sword, her first reaction was to break it and throw it away. She was terrified of it, angry at it, and hated it. However, she knew she couldn’t destroy it, and she could not risk it falling into the wrong hands. So she took it.
The sword expressed a desire to see action again, stating that Trym was acceptable as its next bearer, though she “still had much to learn”.
Trym was carrying the sword and had used it once already, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to wield it. It was a dark ghost from her very recent past that she wished to forget. It was a heavy burden she did not want to bear, but felt obligated to.
“Admit it: I was right about the boy. Your boring sword couldn’t have done what I did to help him.”
Trym glared at TillDawn, then turned her back to it, resting Cultbane across her lap. “Help is a loose term. We skewered him, and now his mind is mush.”
“He doesn’t have a lich inside him anymore. That’s all I care about.”
“Of course it is. Your owner would've been proud, I'm sure.” Trym peered down at Cultbane, running her fingers over the dwarf runes. Instinctively, she reached up and touched a golden brooch pinned to her tunic. “Why is it that everything in my life is linked to a sad memory?” She whispered to herself. It hadn’t always been this way. Her life had been nigh perfect until this stupid sword carved a scar into her face.
“One is made wise, yea wiser, through the experience of dusky sorrow more than from the experience of ethereal joy.”
Trym closed her eyes. “I’m not asking for ethereal joy. Just for the ghosts to stop haunting me.”
“The ghosts of the past speak to those who listen.”
“Remember the daily dose of proverbs I talked about? You’ve overdosed me now."
Author of the fantasy series, Tales of the Wovlen, Kathryn spends a great deal of time in the world of her imagination, having tea with fire breathing dragons, writing books on flying space ships, and practicing her mad scientist laugh with gusto. However, on occasion,she returns to this world just to play with her dog and blog about her fun.
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