Sword Called Kitten Serial

Gordon A. Long

Published by

Airborn Press


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Brothers

 Sword Called Kitten Serial    EPISODE 2

Gordon A. Long

 

Published by

Airborn Press

 

I just don’t understand it, Father.” Albercass sword-callused hand hit the table. “Why does he get the Sword? He wont use it. He cant. Hes too busy plotting and dreaming and sitting around making excuses.”

The Cat could feel Theobalds anger rising.

He would certainly make a wonderful Hand. Very helpful to the people of the realm, dont you think?

The younger brother took a moment to think about that before he spoke. “And that is exactly why you dont get the Sword.”

Albercas turned again to his father. “See what I mean? He opens his mouth, and nothing that means anything comes out. All twists and turns and nothing straightforward. Nothing!

Lord Skonric leaned forward, a puzzled frown on his face. “Yes, Theobald. Im not sure I understand the logic, either. You have to admit you dont seem the type to be given the Magic Sword. Youre not even a particularly good swordsman.”

The “type” they are talking about would have the realm in civil war inside a month.

Theobold suppressed a sigh. “Thats just the point, Father. If Magician Hanflaed gave the Sword to Albercas, what would he do? Hed take a stand, right?”

“And whats wrong with that?” Albercass hand grasped his own sword hilt as if to draw it.

“Taking a stand would be fine if everything was as simple and straightforward as you wish it was. But its not. With the political situation as it is, you taking a stand would rally a bunch of the other Blood to your cause…”

“Exactly! And then wed show those Maridons…”

Theobalds voice rose over his brothers enthusiasm, and the Cat pushed the thought into their minds as well. “…and wed be right back to where we were when the invaders came. Total warfare, the end of trade, the destruction of farming.  Wed have famine, death and the complete wasting of the realm and for what? You dont read the historians, do you?”

“Pah! Old women with beards. Sit around and chew on life for years after its all over. Old women.

“Exactly. And he who doesnt listen to the past is doomed to repeat its mistakes. The Sword was not made to lead a rebellion against the Maridons. It was made to give the Inderjornese a strong hand in bargaining.”

“And youre the strong hand to do that? I doubt it.”

He needs a lesson.

“What do you mean?”

Albercass head came around. “What do I mean?”

“Sorry. I was talking to my Sword.”

“Oh. It talks to you, does it? Does it have the same twisted kind of mind that you do?”

“No, as it happens, it doesnt. But for once Im in agreement. My Sword says you need a lesson, and now that I think about it, there is only one kind of lesson you will learn from. Shall we have a little swordplay?”

Yes!

The look of satisfaction that flashed across Albercass face was immediately followed by a puzzled frown. “Swordplay with you? Why?”

Theobald shrugged. “Simple and straightforward. You dont understand what the Sword means. You need to fight against me to understand. Lets go down to the practice field and Ill give you a short lesson.”

Laughter burst from the burly man’s lips. “Youll give me a lesson? The last time you crossed swords with me you left the field in tears!”

“Those were tears of frustration, as I recall, and I was only 14 years old. You have failed to change a whole lot in the past six years, and maybe its time that you got a lesson. Or are you afraid?”

“What?” Albercass eyes slid briefly to his father. “Me, afraid of you?”

“You should be, because I know how you think. If I were the heir to the Name, and you were my younger brother, the last thing Id want would be to give you the chance to create a little “training accident” that suddenly left you the eldest son.”

Albercas shook his head. “Too complicated for me. All this ‘If I were you,” and, “If you were me.Im me, and youre still the lazy, conniving prig youve always been. Just a prig.

“Youre not going to fight me, then.”

“Of course Im going to fight you. Im going to slap your fancy Sword out of your weak-wristed grip, and then Im going to paddle your ass with my own plain steel. Paddle it, I say.

The Cat could feel her Hands mind start to weaken. Its going to be different this time, Lord Theobald.

Her Hand glanced at his father. “Do you give permission, my Lord?”

The Lord Skonric regarded his younger son for a long moment. “My first response is to say, ‘of course. You dont need my permission,but theres something more going on here, isnt there?”

“Thats right, Father, there is. When I got this Sword, everything changed. You and Albercas need to understand that, and you need to understand what the changes are. This is the only way I can think of. If you have a better idea, Ill be pleased to try it.”

The older man shook his head, then laughed. “Theobald, I never could understand you, and I still dont. Maybe this will help.” He glared at both of them. “Do me a favour, and dont kill each other. We dont need that kind of stupidity.” He rose and strode from the room before they could answer. Theobald bowed his elder brother through the door as they followed. Albercas hesitated, then stomped ahead, frowning.

Hes afraid to turn his back on you.

 

Out on the practice field, Theobald ran through a warmup pattern, glancing over at his brother as he did. True to form, Albercas did not bother warming up, just lounged against a weapons rack and watched.

I doubt he even notices.

“Notices what?”

Your increased speed and skill. Your brother is blind as well as deaf.

“I know hes blind. What do you mean, deaf?”

“Hes quite inSensitive. I can hardly get into his mind at all.”

“Huh. You wouldnt want to.”

No, probably not. Are you warmed up enough, my Lord?”

“I think so.”

Albercas drew his sword and stepped forward. “If youve finished dancing around and talking to yourself, can we get started?”

“Ready any time, my Lord.” Theobald assumed the guarde position, and the Cat checked him over.

Relax. Lower your shoulders. Deeper stance. Focus.

Albercas regarded his brother for a moment, then took his own position more slowly.

Now he begins to notice. Hes not stupid, just deaf. Let him attack first.

“No…”

My Lord, this is the point where you trust your Sword. Let him attack.

Theobold did not respond, but his stance shifted back slightly.

Right. Hold and watch him. Hell get nervous.

For a moment the two stood, a swords length between their blades.

“Well, are we just going to stand here? Come on, little brother. Lets see what youve learned in six years.”

“You really are afraid, arent you?”

“What?”

“You want me to commit first, so you get the advantage.”

“Ridiculous. If thats…” Their opponent did not finish his speech, but lanced forward with a strong beat-feint-beat. The Cat slid away from the contact, allowing her Hands natural inclination to retreat to carry them out of danger.

Good. Lets make him think were afraid of him.

“We should be.”

Cautious, not afraid. Theres a great difference.

A small grin appeared on Albercasface. He slid forward slowly, his sword waving playfully left, then right. Suddenly he lunged again. The Cat brushed gently against his sword so that it just missed Theobalds shoulder, and again they moved back.

Here he comes. Keep backing.

Albercas now attacked in earnest, his sword sweeping in with a strong overhand cut which missed, then a backhand that the Cat was forced to redirect. The larger man kept coming, and Theobald was forced back faster and faster.

Side crossover step. Quick. Oops! Were going to have to practice that one. She fed strength to her Hands failing left leg, and he recovered from his stumble with an ungainly hop.

Albercas spun to face them, his grin now a sneer.

“So when does the lesson start, little brother? Before you fall on your butt or after?”

Theobald did not answer, merely deepened his stance and firmed his grip.

Thats right. Dont let him get to you. Hes going to try to overwhelm you, now. Thats his way. Parry and retreat until I tell you.

“Then what?”

Youll see.

Albercas attacked again, his sword smashing over and over against Theobalds defence. Step by step, the younger man retreated across the field. Once again the tempo of the attack increased, and the speed of the retreat grew, until Theobald was almost running backward.

Ready…Now. Fall down.

“Wha…?”

The Cat lanced pain into her Hands right knee and it gave. He toppled sideways, just as his assailant made a long step with a sweeping attack. The Cat directed the opponents sword upwards, and he tripped over his prone victim, the force of his blow spinning him so he fell, heavily, on his back.

Quick. Up!

Spurred by her urgency, Theobald jumped to his feet and the Cat arrowed towards Albercass unprotected throat, stopping a hair before contact.

Well done. Youve got him.

The two brothers stared at each other for a moment. Then the elders eyes dropped. The younger stepped back, lowering the Swords point, but not too far. Albercas got to his feet, his chest heaving, his sword held down and away, but the Cat could feel the urge in him.

Give him room. He needs to think before he does something very stupid.

Gradually the tension left the older brothers shoulders, and he slowly, very slowly, sheathed his sword.

Now you may sheath me. But keep an eye on him.

“I certainly will.”

Both turned towards their father, Theobald holding back enough to let his older brother precede him as usual. They stood before their Lord, and he surveyed them for a moment.

“What the hell was that?”

“That was the first lesson, my Lord.”

“I didnt see anything but you completely overwhelmed as usual.”

“But I didnt end up on my back with a Sword at my throat, did I, Father?”

Albercas spat. “Luck! Clumsy, dumb, luck.”

“My lord, that was a demonstration of what would happen if Albercas was given a Magic Sword. He would act exactly like that, roaring off with great success at first, but sooner or later he would trip over himself and end up worse than he started. But he would take all of us down with him when he fell.”

“Nonsense!”

Theobald looked to his father. “See? He still doesnt get it.”

The elder Skonric had a thoughtful look on his face.

“Do I have to draw blood to prove myself?”

“No, no, I think we have had enough lessons for today. I do not know if this was well done, Theobald.”

The Hand shrugged. “I don’t know either, Father, but I can only do so much. This Sword wasn't created to win duels or rebellions, and it isnt meant to solve all our problems for us. Just help us solve them for ourselves.” He bowed and turned away, ignoring his brothers simmering glare.

As they paced the castle halls back towards Theobalds quarters, the Cat looked over her Hands mind. The indecision was still there.

You did very well, you know. Theyre thinking, now.

“Yes, Albercas is thinking of ways to get back at me.”

Hold your ground and Albercas will fall into line. Hes not a leader like he wishes he was. In the long term, you will end up directing him. Today was just the first step.

“But it didnt prove anything. You heard him. He thinks I was lucky. I think I was lucky. What was the point?”

The point was to beat him, but you werent going to fight him. Youre not ready.

“I was!”

No, I could feel it. You were too uncertain. The chances for an error were too great. Perhaps that fight didnt prove anything to him, but I hope it proved something to you. Last time you fought him, you left the field in tears of frustration. This time, he never came close to touching you, and he was trying his hardest. He lost his temper, and he ended up looking like a fool. You handled him, and he knows it.

“Great. And now hes going to try to get back at me.”

“Thats right, and well be watching. If he tries anything violent, Ill deal with it. If he tries anything else, youre quite capable of handling him yourself.”

“I suppose.”

Dont worry my Lord. Things are just going to get better.

Hmpf!

And did you see the look on his face when he hit the ground?

“I was too busy falling down, myself.”

She sent him the image, and he couldnt help but smile. Then he sobered. “He is my brother and in the fullness of time will be my liege. It is not seemly to laugh.”

The Cat sighed. No, I suppose it is not, my Lord.