Sword Called Kitten Serial

Gordon A. Long

Published by

Airborn Press


   Home      Issue #3 Ambush
 Return to 
 Return to 

AMBUSH

 Sword Called Kitten Serial    EPISODE 3

Gordon A. Long

Published by

Airborn Press

 

 

“I hear you had a small duel yesterday.”

Theobald glanced over at the Magician, then back to the rag he was using to polish his Sword. He kept polishing.

“With your brother, I hear. What was that all about? You’re not ready for that sort of test.”

That’s what I told him.

“And where is your loyalty to your Hand, Sword?”

The Cat stifled a self-righteous response. I stand corrected, my Lord.

“Hmm. That’s very good, Sword.” The Magician’s eyes turned to Theobald. “So what was the fight about?”

Theobald shrugged. “Albercas was going on as usual. He can’t understand why he didn’t get the Sword…” He put up his hand to stop the Magician’s response. “I’ve told him. You’ve told him. An overlord or the heir to a Name can’t be trusted with that much Power. It just blows by him like a breeze. I told him that if he had the Sword he’d have the realm in civil war inside a month.”

“An astute observation.”

“He didn’t think so. He just continued to make disparaging comments. So I thought I would show him in a way he would understand. A friendly display of fencing talent.”

Hanflaed sighed. “So you just couldn’t resist showing off.”

Theobald jumped to his feet. “It wasn’t that way at all. I just wanted to show my father that I was useful so he would consider me in his plans, include me in his discussions.”

“I see. And what was your battle plan?”

We retreated until our opponent lost all caution, and then we tripped him. It worked perfectly.

“I didn’t ask you for your plan, Sword.”

He didn’t have one. He is not ready for that sort of test.

“I see. So you made a plan that worked with what he was able to do.”

That’s right, my Lord Smith. It seemed the best course of action.

“Well, since you won the fight, I suppose it was. I still wonder if it was a good idea.”

Theobald had been listening to this exchange, and now he frowned and shook his head. “I know I have no experience at this sort of thing, but it seems to me that this is a very strange Sword, my Lord.”

“These are very strange times, lad. Your Sword was created to deal with them.”

I was trained to use every advantage in a battle: point, edge, quillon, even hilt. And my intelligence.

“But we have to be able to fight straight out, as well. I know that, now. If I win by outsmarting someone, nobody credits me with skill, just luck.”

“Perfect. You have both learned something that provides the ideal motivation for your next lesson. Bring your Sword and let us try some new moves…”

* * *

Much later, they left the Magician’s workshop tired but satisfied.

That was a good workout, my Lord.

“Yes, it was. We learned a lot.”

Not enough to fight anyone, perhaps…

“I know, I know.”

So what happens now?

“We are going home, where I have accounts to bring up to date. The merchant who brought that wagonload of supplies was completely disorganized, and we have to enter them into the records properly. Then…”

The Cat sighed. It’s all right. I get it.

The afternoon proceeded as expected, as did the next few days. And a few more after that. The only time the Cat was happy was when they went for training at the Magician’s caesterhoff. The rest of the time was most definitely not getting anyone anywhere close to honour, glory, and a Name.

* * *

Then one afternoon Albercas stopped them as they were coming down the staircase to the main Hall. He was dressed for outdoors, and wore his sword as usual.

“You’re supposed to come with me.”

“Oh? Where to?”

“Don’t ask questions. I see you’ve got your Sword. Get your tabard and meet me in the entrance hall.”

Biting back an acid reply, Theobald nodded curtly and turned back up the stairs.

Wonder what this is all about?

“It sounds to me like Albercas throwing orders around as usual.”

The Magician says you’re supposed to practice talking to me in your head. Otherwise people with think you’re crazy. More than usual.

All right. I’ll try to remember.

Don’t forget your dagger.

What do I need a dagger for, when I have you?

Even a magic Sword can be dropped.

Oh. I suppose.

You would suppose correctly.

* * *

Albercas was pacing in the entrance hall and turned out the main door of the caesterhoff the moment he saw them. Refusing to hurry, Theobald followed. After a block or two Albercas gave in and slowed so they could catch up.

"So what's this all about?"

"I'm going to meet some Maridons, and Father says I have to take you. Just stay out of the way and watch. You might learn something."

"What are we meeting about?"

Albercas was about to refuse, but the Cat prodded his mind a bit. Rather hard, actually. It takes a full swing to even make a dent in that head. I’m working on it.

"We got a message that Lord Lijar Ventanueva wants to meet with someone to discuss the issue of the well out at Calicasas."

"That would be a change. They've refused to acknowledge the problem for months. They just keep watering their herd there and chasing ours away."

"It's a good thing if they'll talk, although they have no right to that well and they know it. The whole thing is just so they can cause trouble."

"I'm in fully agreement with you there. I wonder what's changed?"

"I guess we're about to find out. Here we are."

They were on the edge of one of the Maridon quarters of the city, and there was a narrow cross street just in front of them. Albercas moved towards the left-hand side of the pavement.

There is no exit that way.

"Albercas, we're going into a blind alley."

The elder brother frowned and looked along the laneway between three-story buildings. "Well, this is where we were supposed to meet, so in we go." He loosened his sword in its sheath and strode ahead, more alert now.

They reached the tall fence at the end of the alley without seeing anyone, and turned back. There were three figures facing them. Theobald put his hand on his brother's arm.

"I don't like this. That's Marchal. He's not known for his brains, but he tends to be around when Lord Ventanueva needs people to be persuaded. The one on the left is Jandro, and he's just a bully. I don't know Vico that well, but he's been in several duels."

Albercas shook the hand off his arm. "Don't worry, little brother. Marchal is a lout. I can deal with him. Maybe he’s been sent to fetch us."

"More likely all three have been sent to attack us."

I'd have to agree with that.

Any ideas?

Let's wait and see how it goes. Maybe they have been sent to fetch us.

Albercas was striding forward. "If he tries me, he’s going to find out he made a mistake."

I don't see a diplomatic solution arising out of this situation. Are you ready to fight? A real fight this time?

We have to think of some way out. Maybe we won't have to fight.

And maybe we will. Don't worry. Go into battle expecting to win. You'll do fine.

No, Sword. I allowed my confidence to run away with me and it led to that fiasco with Albercas. Yes, I know we ‘won’ by your standards, but as far as I can see, it just made him angry. So this time I am going to consider all elements carefully before I decide on a course of action, and you are going to go along. Do you understand?

Phfft! Now he decides to find a backbone. Lord Theobald, we are not going to get out of this without a fight. Read their faces, their stances. This was not a chance meeting. They have decided to cause an incident. They want to create fear in the Inderjornese people. This is why you have a Sword. Prepare to use it.

You could be right.

Albercas slid forward and slightly in front of Theobald. "Let me handle this."

"I don't think…"

"I said, let me handle it."

One advantage of your brother. You know exactly what he's going to do.

Yes, he's going to get us into trouble.

He is. So we can make a plan to get us out. Which one will he attack?

The biggest one, of course.

Precisely. Then the other two will slide aside. One will come for you, and the other will try to engage his flank. Which one?

Jandro. He's always bullying me.

Fine. We'll take Jandro first, disarm him, I think, then engage the other.

Albercas halted, and their three opponents stopped a safe distance away.

"I was expecting Lord Ventanueva."

"Why would Lijar want to talk to the likes of you?"

"I don't know. He sent a message he wanted to talk. I'm here. You're his lackeys. So talk or take us to someone who can."

Marchal frowned. "I'm nobody's lackey, and I have a better idea for you than talking."

Albercas slipped his feet  farther apart, his knees flexing. "Don't get ideas. You haven't the brains."

Get ready, Theobald. Remember, we have to take him quickly.

What if…?

Don't worry. I'll be working on their minds from the start. All Albercas has to do is hold off the double attack until we come to his rescue.

But what if they don't do what we expect?

Of they won't play proper, we'll have to kill one of them, but I don't want to.

We certainly don't want any killing if we can avoid it.

I certainly agree. I'm not so sure about Albercas.

"Albercas, don't kill anyone."

There was a shout of laughter from Jandro. "The tender flower doesn't want a real fight."

"I mean it, Albercas. We don't need that sort of incident. We can handle them without killing."

Albercas glanced at his brother with a slight frown, then nodded. "I can handle him. You stay back."

He still thinks they will play fair. This is not going to be a one-on-one duel.

"Don't wait for them to play their bully games. Take him."

"Are you giving me orders?" Albercas turned back to his brother, annoyance showing.

"Yes. Take him NOW!"

ATTACK!

Jolted by the double force of their urging, Albercas spun back to face their enemies, whipping out his sword and lunging straight at the largest of the Maridons. The man had scarcely time to get his sword up for the parry, and then the two of them were at it.

The Cat sent a wash of fear and uncertainty at them, holding it with part of her mind while the other part directed the rest of the fight.

Marchal’s henchmen were slower; Theobald had time to slide clear to the left and was ready when Jandro charged in. Their swords clanged together, and the Cat took a read of the opponent's weapon.

Good steel. His sword hand is too low. Let's take the wrist.

A double beat and a twist, and her point scored on the opponent's lower arm. He dropped his sword, grabbing at the wound. Theobald needed no prompting, smashing his sword-weighted fist into the man's face. He went down without a sound.

Your brother's in trouble.

The Hand spun to the right, and the Sword lanced out, parrying an unanswered slash towards Albercas's right shoulder by the third Maridon. With a series of quick lunges, they drove him into the clear, holding him at bay against the alley wall. There was a flurry of blades, and the Cat laid minor slashes on the man's cheek and shoulder.

Well done. Let him go.

 The man stepped back and lowered his sword, breathing heavily, blood staining his shirt.

Albercas is having no trouble with just the one. He's big but he's slow, and he's not half so sure of himself any more. I'm helping with that feeling.

"Remember, Albercas. Don't kill him."

"No problem. I think I'll hurt him, though. Just a little."

"Whatever you like. Don't worry about the other two."

"I told you they'd stay out of it. Don't bother me, now."

He didn’t tell you, actually. He just assumed…

Albercas now attacked in earnest, using his superior strength against his tiring foe. The man's sword drooped lower and lower, and Albercas was finally able to come in over a weak parry and slam his sword against the exposed head, turning the blade at the last moment to hit with the flat. Marchal staggered back, his arms gone limp, and slumped to the ground where he sat, gazing with fixation at the dirt in front of him.

Albercas regarded him a moment, then turned and looked around. His eyebrows went up.

"They decided not to stay out of it."

"What happened to them?"

"They got a lesson."

Albercas looked at the two injured men, then at his brother. "I guess they did."

Theobald smiled. "You did well with Marchal. He's pretty big."

Albercas shrugged, glancing over his shoulder at his fallen opponent, who was beginning to stir. "Slow. Out of shape, too. He should have known better."

"I suppose he was hoping for help from his friends."

"I guess he was. Typical Maridon sense of honour." He slapped his brother on the shoulder. "Good to have you at my back."

Theobald suppressed a start of surprise.

Don't say it.

Say what?

Anything. He has a simple attitude. You proved yourself in battle. You're accepted. End of argument.

I think you're right.

But the next time you make him think he’ll forget all about this.

Probably.

Albercas sheathed his sword, and Theobald strolled over and cleaned the Cat on Vico's sleeve. "That shirt is pretty well ruined anyway."

Vico's lip curled, but he did not move.

Albercas put his hands to his hips and regarded the enemy. "What are we going to do with them?"

There is an audience.

Theobald looked around. Heads peeked out of windows in the buildings around them, and several people in tradesman's aprons stood at the mouth of the alley.

"We don't have to do anything, Albercas. This story will be all over the city by nightfall."

"I suppose you're right. Let's go."

Theobald sheathed his Sword and turned his back on the three Maridons.

I am watching them. They haven't moved.

I thought you would be. Theobald stepped out beside his brother, and they left the alley.

The growing crowd, both blond and dark, parted a respectful distance to let them by, and Theobald could see hidden smiles.

On the Maridons as well. Those three were not popular with anyone.

It was a good fight, then.

A very good fight.

When they were down the street and alone again, Theobald realized that Albercas was glancing over at him, then away.

"What happened behind my back?" He grinned. "Did they trip and fall on each other's swords?" For once there was no sneer.

I think he's joking.

I think you're right.

Theobald smiled. "Not quite. Jandro was so anxious to attack me that all I had to do was hold out my Sword, and he ran his arm into it."

"I see. And the other?"

"He needed a little more persuasion. He was going for your back."

Albercas slapped his gloves against his thigh. "I never thought Vico would do that."

"That attack had no honour involved, Albercas. They were looking to cause trouble, to make people afraid."

Albercas shrugged. "I suppose so." Then he glanced at his brother again. "How did you know that?"

It was Theobald's turn to shrug. "It seemed pretty obvious, and my Sword could read their emotions."

"It could?"

"That's right. She knew they were up to no good, and she sent uncertainty into their minds during the fight."

"Is that what it was? He wasn't attacking like I thought he would, and I wondered what he was waiting for."

Theobald grinned. "He was waiting for help and it didn't come."

Albercas draped his arm across his brother's shoulders. "As I said, you covered my back, and I'm grateful."

"Good enough. I'm sure you'd do the same for me."

Albercas snorted. "I know you. You'd never get yourself into a bind where you needed it."

"I try to think first, fight later. If I have to."

"Well, now we know you can."

"Yes, we do."

I knew it already, but it's good that he does, now. Both of them.

“And now it’s time to go and talk to Lord Lijar about the well.”

His brother frowned. “You think so?”

“Yes. Whether he was in on the plan or not, we have the advantage. We strike.” Theobald grinned. “Diplomatically.”

Albercas shrugged. “For once, I can understand what you’re doing, and I agree. Let’s amble over to the Ventanueva Caesterhof and see who is at home.”

 

Return to Home

TOP