Sword Called Kitten Serial

Gordon A. Long

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Airborn Press


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A New Life

 Sword Called Kitten Serial

EPISODE 1

Gordon A. Long

 

The Sword lay on her bed of velvet on the work table in the Magician’s forge. The smithy was dark, sooty and smelly, but it was the only home she could clearly remember. It held memories of fire and pain and the exultation of a wonderful magic.

Which wasn’t exactly happening at the moment.

 Hanflaed sat on a stool next to her, shaking his head.

“I don’t know, Cat. I’m just not sure.”

But, my Lord Smith, I don't understand. You say my training is complete. Why am I not being Joined to a Hand? I have excelled at all my lessons. Why have I not been sent on my mission to attain glory and a Name of honour?

"That's part of the problem, young Sword. I am concerned that you have not learned what I have been trying to teach you."

I have learned all my lessons well. You told me!

“All except the most important one, my ambitious little friend. When I created you, my final work of magic, I thought to give you more human qualities, because that is what you would need to help the realm of Inderjorne in these troubled days. Perhaps I succeeded too well. When you talk about seeking glory and a Name, you have the idea wrong. A Sword does not seek glory. True glory comes from seeking to act honourably. Those who look for glory often find the wrong means to achieve it, and thus lose their honour. Those who seek to act with honour may achieve glory or they may not, but they will always be honourable."

It amounts to the same thing, it seems to me.

"Young Sword, now is not the time for you to disagree. I have never been completely happy with the way in which I acquired your soul, hence I am now concerned about whether you are ready for the World."

There's nothing wrong with my soul!

“No, no, I suppose there isn't. It's a very decent soul, considering.”

Considering what?

"You have to understand, Cat, that you were not my first choice for a soul for this Sword."

I wasn't?
"Of course not. The choice of a creature to provide the soul for a Magic Sword is not something that should be done on the spur of the moment. It is a matter for deep consideration of the required qualities: honour, bravery, strength, wisdom. As a point of fact, it is never female."

What's wrong with being female?

The old Magician now seemed less certain. "There isn't any real reason, I suppose, but Swords are meant to be fighters."

I have little memory of my past life, but I know I was a fighter.

Now a smile played across the old man's lips. "Oh, you were a fighter, all right. The mutt that chewed you up was ten times your size, and you ran him off in spite of your injuries.”

I remember that. I remember fear and anger and pain.

"You would. He almost killed you. Then what would I have done?"

I don't know, my Lord Smith. What were you going to do?

"I suppose there is no harm in you knowing this. I had originally planned that the soul for this Sword would come from a ram. A huge, proud ram, the sire of many flocks. He was old and past his use, and I thought it fitting that he should continue his work to the benefit of humankind. Then a bear attacked his flock, and he stood his ground. He was old and the bear was huge, but he fought anyway. And there went the soul I needed, with no time to find another. He died in honour and glory, but he died, none the less."

Perhaps he was not quite wise enough.

"I am not sure you showed any more wisdom in your final battle."

You have me at a disadvantage, my Lord. I remember little except huge teeth in a snarling mouth. A tinge of satisfaction washed through her. And a very soft nose, which I sunk my claws into with great skill and enthusiasm. I believe I also went for the eyes at one point.

"Yes, you did that. And with a great amount of yowling and hissing. Enough to draw me from my labours at the ideal moment. The steel was ready, the soul was missing, and there you were, mortally wounded. It seemed too perfect a coincidence to pass up, in spite of the difficulties."

What difficulties?

The Smith passed a hand across a set of fine white lines drawn down his cheek. "In spite of your injured state, you were…not cooperative."

Oh…that. I remember that. Well, what did you expect? I'm half-killed by some horrible dog, I run him off, and next thing I know I'm being grabbed by a more horrendous creature.

"More horrendous, am I?"

Well, I’d had no chance to learn the more positive side of your nature.

The Magician burst out in laughter. "Hah! I have made some progress. The alley cat learns diplomacy."

Which brings us back to the original point, my Lord. You have trained me well. I know I am ready. You know I am ready. When may I start my duties?

The Smith passed a weary hand over his brow. "I don't know, Cat. I have lived a long life, and I have made five Swords, but this time it has been different. This time took more of my energy, more of my own soul. You are my last Sword, and I dearly wish that you will be my best. But circumstances have not…" He shook his head.

But I will be your best. I am your best. Send me out and you will see!

 He glanced over at her, lying on the red velvet, her steel blade glistening, her bronze hilt glowing, the single ruby in her haft pulsing with deep emotion. "Yes, little Cat. You are right. I have done the deed. I must have faith in myself, in you.  I will consider my list of applicants.

Wonderful

“I suppose.”

And my Lord Smith?

"Yes?"

 I was not an alley cat.

"And how do you know this?"

Because my memories are not of the town. I dream of trees and leaves and silent hunts through soft, aromatic darkness. I remember rock and snow, and the fine cut of the wind on a bright winter's day. No, my Lord, I was no denizen of your noxious towns and fetid alleys. The peaks and forests were my home.

"Well, I'm not going to argue. That flowing grey and white hair would have been fine camouflage, hunting on rock and snow."

There you have it. Now bring me to my new Hand, and let me continue my hunt.

The old Magician shook his head. "So be it, Cat. May you live up to my expectations and your own. May you earn a Name that will echo through the centuries in the hearts of men." He looked down at her, his brow wrinkling.

"And may you not pay too dearly for it."

 

The next day Hunflaed strode into the forge, his step firmer than usual. “Cat, I have decided.”

The Sword felt a lift of hope. What have you decided, my Lord Smith? Something about a Hand, perhaps?

“Yes, young Sword, I have decided on a Hand for you.”

Don’t I get any say in this?

“Of course you don’t. The selection of a Hand is as important as the selection of the soul…”

Yes, yes, I know. Honour, bravery, strength, wisdom.

“Yes, and in this case, something more.”

What more could be required?

“Something you sorely need. Patience, method, and persistence.”

What are we hiring, an accountant?

“No, we are matching you with a Hand who will complement your skills and bolster your shortcomings. You will do likewise for him. Thus is the perfect Joining created.”

And what is left for me to contribute? Hair balls?

The old Magician grinned. “Mostly your sense of fun and enthusiasm. Lord Theobald has a certain need in that area.”

Hmm. Sounds wonderful. So when do I meet this bland and tedious accountant?

“Never, if you don’t mind your manners!”

Don’t worry, Smith. I will be a good little Sword. After all, what choice do I have?

“And why does that capitulation not fill me with optimism?”

You have trained me well, my Lord. I will fulfill my duties with honour.

The Magician glanced sharply at the Sword, a quick mental probe assessing her levity. She allowed him just enough access to her mind to demonstrate that she was serious, then shut him out with a snap.

He smiled. “You always did learn best the lessons that were most useful to you.”

Thank you, my Lord. When do I meet the wonderful Lord Theobald?

“This afternoon. I hope you will be on your best behaviour.”

She sent her own mental barb, which bounced of a shield as strong as steel. You doubt me?

“I would be a fool not to. I know you too well, Cat.”

Then you know I am not likely to mess up this important moment.

“No, I suppose you would not.”

 

Lord Theobald was the perfect image of a Hand. His even features, too strong to be really handsome, were framed by short, wavy blond hair and a perfectly trimmed beard. His posture made him seem even taller than he was. His hand, when he grasped her hilt, had all the right calluses, and she nestled against them confidently.

She tuned their minds together, concentrating on performing the action exactly as she had been taught. She read his stance, absorbed the tension of muscles, the flow of thoughts, the mind/body interplay now becoming a meld of mind/body/Sword. His emotions responded as she expected, but with a certain  hesitancy. Understandable, I suppose. It is his first Joining. It is my first Joining as well; how am I to know any different?

Hunflaed the Magician stood by, a soft smile on his face, as he observed the two souls entwining. He nodded, as if in satisfaction.

The Cat felt a sudden emptiness. She was wrong. Her first Joining had been to this fine old man, who had saved her from the teeth of the dog, in spite of the damage she inflicted upon him. And now she was leaving him.

He reached out and laid his fingertips on her blade. “You will do well, Sword. It is a good Joining.”

The new Hand, still bemused by the experience, froze as the Magician’s hand touched her razor edge. Do not worry, my Lord Theobald. I would never cut him. Even if I could. Which I doubt.

Uncertainty washed through his mind, followed by a tinge of indignation. “Do you not know? I thought you were completely trained.”

I am, my Lord. The ability to realize that you lack sufficient information to make a decision is a very important skill. And with a Magician? You never have enough information.

“Ah. Very good. Yes…a crucial talent.”

The Magician smiled again. “The only way to make this work is to send the two of you off to spend time together. Please return tomorrow afternoon, and we will commence training.”

The Hand sheathed her and offered his hand to the Magician. “I will, my Lord. I don’t know how to thank you for this. My family…”

“Your family is in a difficult position that is not of their own making. The balance between the old Inderjornese Blood and King Alcudo’s Maridon supporters is crucial, and this Sword is my contribution towards keeping it that way. Never forget that.”

“Be not concerned, my Lord. I will always strive for the betterment of the people of Inderjorne.”

“I hope you mean all the people of Inderjorne, my Lord. The Maridons may have come as invaders, but we have accepted them, and they must now become one with us. That is the only way our realm will survive. The alternative is constant bickering and internal warfare.”

“Yes, my Lord. And yet…” he pushed his Sword’s hilt forward.

The Magician’s lip twisted. “Well, some of our new Maridon friends have not had the advantage of an Inderjornese education, and thus need a bit firmer persuasion.”

“You can count on me to be firm, my Lord.”

The Magician pinned the young noble with all the force of his stare. “A major reason you were chosen for this honour was your reputation for fairness. Remember that as well.”

Lord Theobald reeled back from the Power arrayed against him. “Yes…yes, my Lord Magician. Of course. I will be fair to all.”

Hunflaed relaxed, even smiled slightly. “But now is not a time for politics. You two run along and get to know each other. We can continue this conversation tomorrow.”

Theobald bowed deeply, his hand on the hilt of his new Sword, spun sharply on his heel, and marched out.

The Cat matched her swing to his stride and began the process of learning his every move so that she could give him flawless aid in all circumstances. His mind was very clear, and she could easily read his pride and awareness of the figure he cut with such a fine Sword at his hip. As they entered the street, she spread her awareness out to the other pedestrians, receiving their opinions as well. Yes, the evidence was unarguable. They cut a very fine figure, the two of them, as they marched off to their destiny.

Life was looking very good.


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