Sword Called Kitten Serial

Gordon A. Long

Published by

Airborn Press


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Prologue

 A Different Sword for Different Times  

by

Gordon A. Long

 

Hanflaed's Decision

 

Hanflaed: last of the great Smith-Magicians of the Golden Age of Inderjorne. Creator of four magic Swords of unprecedented quality and strength: Radulf the Seeker, Taurs the Mighty, Urs the Mauler, and his Masterwork, Lewenhart the Bold.

But now that Golden Age was over. Power-mad King Uthelred the Unlucky had scattered the Smith-Magician’s great Works to the far corners of the known world, and thus lost the war that followed his rash bid for total control. The Inderjornese were left on their own to cope with a shattered land teeming with arrogant Maridon invaders. The Magician knew it would be a time of great trials for the realm and its people.

Hanflaed was a Smith-Magician, and his contribution to the people of Inderjorne was the making of magic Swords. So he gathered together his powerful intellect and his waning strength and made one final Sword. The Smith knew that to be of use to the realm in uncertain times this Sword would need to be different from his earlier works: more subtle, more intelligent, more creative, more…human. It would require every strength, every talent and every wile the Smith could Forge into its Being.

Whether the great Hanflaed misjudged the scope of his Powers, whether he put more of his own soul into the task than he intended, or whether the Powers of Inderjorne took a hand in the Forging is not clear. But Hanflaed did succeed in creating a Sword that was different.

Different beyond his wildest dreams. 

 

Training with a Difference

 

“Well, that was a good session.” The Smith slapped his gloves on his knee as he tossed Sword and scabbard onto the training field table. “A great session.”

The swordsman beside him seemed less certain. “Um…my Lord Magician?”

“Yes, Manfried?”

“I…um…it has been an honour to work with you, my Lord.”

The Smith turned slowly. “That begins to sound like something that happened in the past.”

“Yes, well…well it’s this way, my Lord. I don’t think this is good for me.”

“Not good for you? To work with  Magician and a magic Sword? When you came to me you were eager for the task and ethused about what you would learn.”

“That’s right, my Lord. And I have learned one thing. Never fight against a magic Sword.”

“Surely you learned more than that.”

“I did, and it has not been a good lesson. I have not been working with a magic Sword. I have been working against one, and it has destroyed my ability to fight.”

“It has…what?”

“Undermined my ability. I spend day after day out on the practice field, knowing I can’t win. Knowing that, no matter what I try, it will be countered and turned against me. I have lost my drive to excel. I no longer try anything new. I am losing confidence that I’m even a decent swordsman at all.”

“I see. Yes, that has always been a problem. I’m not sure of the solution.”

The solution is rather simple.

Stay out of this, Cat. It is not your problem.

Of course it’s my problem. If I can’t get anyone brave enough to practise with me I don’t get to learn. And the solution is staring you in the face.

What solution is that?

Exchange weapons.

Ridiculous. If I give a trained swordsman the advantage of a magic Sword, how can I make him any kind of challenge? My age was impediment enough, and now the Forging of a final Sword has taken a greater portion of my strength than I would like to admit.

Nonetheless, it is the solution. Are you afraid?

Me? Afraid? This has nothing to do with fear.

I can’t see any other reason. Try it. I won’t let him hurt you.

Let him hurt me? What do you think I am?

A great Smith-Magician and a weak old man. I will take care of you.

Take care of me?You?

Hanflaed shot an appraising glance at the swordsman. Used to these brief pauses while Smith and Sword communicated, Manfried was waiting patiently.

Don’t worry about trusting him.

The Smith snorted. “The Sword thinks it has the solution. We should exchange weapons.”

The swordsman’s face brightened. “You would let me handle the Sword?”

“I don’t know how that would help.” The Smith held out his wiry arm. “I’d probably match you for all of three passes before I fell down in exhaustion. It’s only the Sword’s Power that allows me to train with you.”

“My Lord, those three passes would be a great honour for me.”

“Oh.” The Sword could feel the Magician assessing the emotions of the swordsman, and his surprise at their intensity. “Well, I suppose we should try, then.”

He held out the Sword, and Manfried took the hilt reverently in his grasp.

The Sword did as she had been taught, moulding herself to the man’s grip, scanning his mind and his body to accustom herself to his thoughts and movements.

“You two go out there and get to know each other while I fetch my sword.”

They moved onto the practice field and the swordsman worked them through a few practice routines, their speed and skill increasing as they melded together into a fighting unit. By the time the Smith returned with his personal weapon - a fine sword, tough, balanced and unblemished, though only plain steel - Manfried was sweating slightly and thoroughly elated.

“It feels so light!”

“That’s the Sword. It feeds you energy.” The Smith hefted his own weapon. “This one was my Masterwork in plain steel. It feels that light now, but it will soon weigh my arm down like lead. I can already tell.”

“I see.” The swordsman’s emotions sobered. “Shall we try, then, my Lord?”

The Smith smiled ruefully and shrugged. “We might as well get it over with.”

All right, swordsman. Let’s see how good you can be.

“It’s talking to me. It’s talking in my head!”

The Smith raised his eyebrows. “Yes. It’s a bad habit I’ve never been able to deal with. Don’t let it distract you.”

It is not distraction. Communication is my forte. Forte, get it? Don’t take time to laugh, it’s all right. Make your salute, Manfried, and let’s start this carnival… don’t bother to answer me, just listen. I’m going to let you handle the first passes yourself, so I get used to your movements. Not that I don’t know them all from our work together the past months. You have become rather predictable. He will use that against you.

Here he comes. Beware. He has tricks up his sleeve you have never seen.

Nice riposte. He’s following our usual training pattern. It’s to get you off guard… see that? On… two… and then four instead of three. One of his favourite ruses.

All right, you can attack, now. Don’t worry about him. He’s a wily old coot. You won’t touch him.

… well, that didn’t work, did it? Come on, you can try harder than that. You’re twice as strong as he is. … that’s better! Make him dance a bit.

No, no, don’t try for a bind. You ought to know after all this time that he’s slippery as an eel.… oops! Back on your feet, clumsy. I warned you.

The Smith signalled a halt, and both men grounded their weapons.

Manfried wiped sweat off his brow. “And you were going to fall down after three passes?”

“Yes. There’s something strange going on, here. Give me a moment.”

Cat?

Yes, Smith?

What’s going on?

I should think it’s obvious.

“Um…My Lord Magician?”

“What is it, Manfried…? Oh.” The Magician stopped speaking aloud. You can hear me, can’t you?

“Yes, my Lord. The Sword was talking in my head, and now when you started talking to it, I could hear you as well.”

Cat! What is the meaning of this?

I don’t know, my Lord. I was talking to him, I was talking to you, that’s all.

But that’s not all, is it? What was going on while we fought?

You never give me the answer when I ask an obvious question. What do you think was going on?

I think you were feeding me energy while you were working with him.

That would be the obvious answer.

Well, were you?

It was the only way I could get a decent practice.

You were fighting with both of us at the same time.

You often play Battle Squares against yourself.

 I’m not sure I like the comparison. I will have to think on this. .

You do a lot of that, my Lord. I doubt if it will change anything. I suspect you will have less trouble persuading Manfried to stay and work with us, now. Am I right, swordsman?

Oh, yes you are, Sword. Say! I did it. I didn’t speak that out loud!

Well, I don’t suggest you go bragging about it in the tavern tonight. Most people wouldn’t understand.

No, no, of course not.

The Smith sheathed the Sword.

You aren’t supposed to do that, Cat.

If I may be allowed to make an observation, my Lord Smith?

When you get that polite, I always worry. Go ahead.

It seems that ‘you aren’t supposed to do that,’ and ‘you aren’t supposed to be able to do that,’ are not the same. I am learning that sometimes there is a great difference between the two.

Hmm. I suppose there is. I will think on that. Yes, I know, I know…

He turned to the swordsman and spoke aloud.

“Well, if you don’t mind, Sword, I’m going to have a talk with Manfried the way normal people talk, and I’d like you to stay out of it.”

Your command is my command, my Lord.

“And it might help if you showed a bit more due deference to my station.”

I always show due deference, my Lord and Creator. Sometimes more than is due, even.

“I’m not going to discuss what you really meant by that. I have work to do.” The Smith slung the Sword onto the rack and nodded his head in the direction the door. The swordsman followed him out.

Well, that went rather well. I like solving problems. Maybe soon he’ll find me a Hand. A real Hand I can be Joined to. Then we can go out seeking honour and glory and a Name.

Yes, a Name of distinction that will echo down the annals of history like a beacon of rightness through the dark dungeons of this benighted age.

I wonder what my Name will be…?

 

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