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|Prolog part 3: Introduction to the world of Netherholme.||
A bit earlier, and many leagues to the south, six shrouded figures crept swiftly and silently towards the Demesnemer Royal Palace in Shardofail. In the predawn darkness, they headed for its outermost, northern-facing wall through the sparse trees just beyond it. At the perimeter of this small copse, the figures slowed to a stop and crouched among the low-lying shrubbery and tree trunks; two of them un-slung extremely large crossbows from their backs, each fitting wicked looking bolts into place. Aiming carefully they fired toward the parapet atop the wall, or more specifically the guards in place there. As the shots found their marks, they punched through the plate armor protecting their targets, spinning them like tops. The two armored men crumpled limply, without a sound, as though puppets with their strings cut.
Both of the shrouded archers then placed the front of their crossbows to the ground, securing them with the foot-loops found there, and began to work their windlasses in preparation to fire once more. As they did so, two of the other shrouded figures removed tightly wrapped bundles of line from their backs; they had oversized crossbow bolts attached to one end. The line seemed to shimmer, shifting in the light so that it blended into whatever was behind it. When the crossbows were again made ready they fitted these bolts in place and uncoiled the line over the shoulders of the crossbowman, affixing the loose ends to trees behind them. As the two returned from tying the line off, they taped the crossbowmen on their shoulders.
The crossbowmen aimed and fired their weapons’ special payloads, and as the bolts flew true over the wall, the lines trailed behind them. When the bolts reached the ends of their respective lines a short distance beyond the wall, the tension from the lines pulling taut caused the shaft of the each grapnel to extend and drew an internal piston down. The pistons within these unique bolts, once pulled down the shaft and into place, caused the release of the grapnels hooks. These hooks, which had remained retracted against the bolt-shafts until this point, were then forced out into the open position by the piston. The newly actuated grapnels fell heavily on the far side of the wall. The pair that had loaded them began pulling on the lines still attached to the trees, and when they felt resistance, jerked the lines to set the hooks; they were now wedged in the far set of crenellations enclosing the catwalk atop the citadel’s curtain wall.
Meanwhile, the two crossbowman had reloaded their crossbows and readied them to cover the wall above. Hand over hand, their ankles locked, the other four intruders began to shimmy up the nearly invisible line. They moved rather quickly considering they hung upside down and were working their way upward along a thumb-thick line that was extremely hard to see. The pair waiting below watched the wall with cold, emotionless expressions, crossbows raised.
When the four reached the top, one pair crouched low watching both directions, while the other pair quickly removed the stone gray hooks from the crenellations. They moved them to the far side of the catwalk and replaced them among the crenellations on the other side, setting them by hand and then kicking them home with their feet. No longer stretched across the walkway; the lines and the stone colored hooks that held them were now virtually invisible. The intruders drew their swords and, still crouching, placed their backs against the crenellations on both sides to watch the path in either direction. The two remaining below dropped the oversized crossbows and began making their way up the lines.
One of the guards was still alive. Though transfixed by a crossbow bolt high in his side, between his ribs, he was still managing to crawl feebly toward a door at the far end of the catwalk, trailing blood. Though he bellowed as loud as he could, in pain as well as to raise the alarm, no sound emanated from his sobbing mouth. The arrow in his side dampened his cries with magic--but not for much longer.
A pair of rough hands twisted the helmet from his head. Fingers intertwined his hair and wrenched his head back as a dagger was methodically drawn across his throat. His death rattle went unheard as his lifeblood flowed freely onto the stone of the catwalk. His lifeless body, and that of his companion, was dumped unceremoniously over the inside of the wall into the garden courtyard. As they hit the ground, they did not make a sound, and the shrubberies below hid the corpses well. The intruder whom had slain the guard drew a small, wax-sealed flask from a pouch at his side and unstoppered it. Pouring some of its contents on the bloodstains left by the guards, he stepped back and placed the cork back in the bottle, returning it to his pouch. The dark, greenish viscous fluid mixed with the blood and began to smoke. As the vapor rose from the stone of the catwalk, it trailed away on the breeze, taking all traces of the blood with it. Emotionlessly the intruder rejoined his companions.
When all six were in place atop the wall, they moved swiftly along the catwalk in a crouch. They headed toward the guard tower closest to their position, the same one toward which the dying guard had been crawling. Two of the assailants rose swiftly to either side of the door there, snapping rigidly upright with their backs against the wall. The remaining four crouched in front of it in pairs, ready to spring. One of the two against the wall reached across and placed his hand on the lever. As he pulled the lever down, he wrenched the door open and toward himself, in one swift jerk. The four waiting figures flowed through the open threshold, followed closely by the remaining pair.
The room beyond the door was hazy with pipe smoke, the guards here either processing reports or awaiting the morning shift to guard the wall. The four men barely had time to register the shrouded figures and begin to reach for their swords before their assailants systematically cut them down.
* * * *
The air was crisp and cool that morning, just as it had been every morning that quarter. The sun was shining listlessly through the leaves of the trees, some of which reflected a twinkling silver light in the early morning fog blanketing the village of Tarsha. The warm smells of freshly baked breads, deliciously prepared mutton, and other tasty dishes were already filtering through the inn. The birds that shared residence in the Heights were singing their glorious songs as light filtered through a window onto a young man’s face.
Whyn lay in his bed listlessly staring out his window into the leaves and branches that swayed gently outside. He was trying to decide if he should rise yet. He would not sleep another night in this bed for five cycles at the very least. If he managed to obtain acceptance into the Demesnemeran military forces, he might never do so again. He knew he should get moving, but he lay abed with his memories, wondering if he would ever return to them.
There was a solid rap on the ironwood door to his room followed swiftly by a summons.
“Whyn; are you arisen yet? Master Aenuir is asking after you.”
Sheriah, his father’s partner and friend sounded winded as she spoke, as if she had been rushing. Sheriah had never sounded winded as long as he had known her. The woman always seemed an endless source of energy and strength; matching his father’s own for all the wonder.
“I am awakened Mistress Sheriah,” he replied, “but not yet arisen. Give me but a moment, if it pleases you.”
“Well hurry up my boy; you know how your father gets to carrying on when things do not fit the fiddle to the tune. He might strap the lot of us.”
Whyn chuckled and smiled as he rolled out of bed. He could not suit the image brought to his mind by her words to the reality of it. He could not recall a time when his father, Nethandor Aenuir, had ever bested Sheriah in an argument. More often than not, his father ended up losing. But then again, Sheriah was most often of the right. In fact, Whyn had her to thank for his journey, for this chance to prove himself on his own and find his own path in life. His father on the other hand, was of the mind that he was not yet ready to venture off into the world. Sheriah had reminded Nethandor that he had trained the boy himself for cycles and that Whyn now won almost as many matches as he lost against his father. Most young men his age did not have as much skill.
He slid his work tunic on over his head and donned the matching breaches before strapping his tooled leather belt on over his tunic at the waist.
“You may enter.”
“Well it is about time young master,” she said as she entered the room. “Now let us see if we can’t get you down to him before he pitches a fit!”
He looked at her in astonishment. “Down you say? He is not in the Heights?”
“That he is not young master,” she replied with a whimsical grin. “He bid me send you down to him in the practice yard.”
He chuckled. “He cannot mean to have one final match the morning I am to leave?”
“For what reason he did not tell me; said what he did was all.” However, her smile and countenance told another story.
“Well can you tell me if I need any of my equipment at least?”
“Just get yourself down there young man.”
He looked at her and came to a decision. He grabbed her in a bear hug and as he did so, he spun her around in the doorway. After he had completed his turn, and set her back down, he grasped her shoulders and held her out at arm’s length. He looked at her with a knowing smile.
“I do not know why my father hasn’t taken you to wife as yet, but I know that there is love between you; I have seen it. In the way you look at each other, in the way you fight with each other, and in the way you almost always win,” he said with a wink. “Mayhap now that I am out of the way, he will take the time to see it.”
Before she had a chance to respond, Whyn turned swiftly and ran down the hall to the stairs. He never saw her raise her fingers to her lips. He never saw the tears that threatened to show in her eyes. He never saw the scarlet red rise to her cheeks, neck, and the cleavage exposed by the cut of her corseted dress. He never saw her smile.
As he began down the stairs, he heard her say something in an almost inaudible whisper.
“Good hunting young master.”
Whyn passed quickly through the kitchen--grabbing an apple from a basket hanging near the door--and then on through the common room. He left the inn smacking a sign as he passed that read The Raven’s Nest, and listened to the squeak of metal on metal as it swung too and fro familiarly. He proceeded across the promenade toward the suspended, swinging catwalk that connected the inn’s platform to the next. The wooden slats creaked beneath his feet, but since the village engineers checked and repaired the walkways of the Heights regularly, Whyn did not fear them breaking.
He could have used the inn’s private cargo lift to get to the ground, but his father had told him on several occasions not to do so. Normally, that did not stop him, but his father or one of his friends could be watching. Thus he had made more of an effort of late to follow all of his fathers strict guidelines; he did not wish to jeopardize his trip in any way. Therefore, Whyn went off to the public lift waiting on the next platform.
Once there, he changed his plan, for the lift was on the ground. Instead of using the crank that would raise the lift with unbelievable ease, he donned his pair of leather work-gloves. Grasping the thickly corded cable that supported and raised the lift, Whyn launched himself out into the open air. Allowing his momentum to keep him in what was almost a right angle to the line; he swung round the cable and spiraled down.
When he came within several feet of the top of the lift, he let go. Feet first he flew, twisting in the air to land on his feet facing away from the lift, and tumbled into a roll. He came to a stop kneeling on one knee, and rose to begin the long walk to the practice grounds--at a run. Though the field lay a mile away, he made it there swiftly, within only a couple minutes. That had been part of his training after all, to cover long distances faster than normal without being too tired to function at the end.
When he arrived there, his father was standing in the middle of the field facing away from the path. He appeared to be alternating his view between the woods beyond the practice field, and the sky. Whyn’s hair flowed past his face as the breeze blew against his back, but he did not bother to sweep it out of his way. Since he was not even winded from his run, he simply stood at the end of the path and waited. As he stood patiently, he thought of all those many day spend walking and running around wearing that damnable weighted suit. Yet now, he realized, if it had not been for that suit, he would not be able to accomplish the feats he was capable of.
Picking up both the shift in air the boy had caused, as well as the infinitesimal sounds he had made as he entered the field from the path, Nethandor Aenuir was aware of his son’s presence. “Took you long enough lad,” Nethandor said after a few minutes. “I was beginning to think you would miss the ship if you slept through the day.”
“The ship does not depart until mid-day father.” Whyn smiled for a moment. “However, you have my sincerest apologies. I was not asleep, but I did lie about in bed burdened by the shades of sadness.”
His father turned and looked him in the eyes. “Thoughts of sadness; how can you be having thoughts of sadness when you are finally being allowed to go to Demesnemer to attempt the entrance trials to become a soldier? This is your first adventure my boy, why are you distressed?”
“Sir, I find myself thinking of all the things I am leaving behind, and I find myself to be missing them already.” He tilted his head and looked at his father sidelong, “I find myself to be afraid, Sir.”
His father chuckled, “It is not a bad thing to recognize fear when it truly rests in your mind. It is the only way to deal with it properly. First, you must recognize exactly what it is you are afraid of--and understand why a thing makes you afraid--only then can you conquer it. Allow it to pass through you, and make it a part of you, so that you may fully realize it and bring it to terms. Now come my son, one task lies before you this day,” he said with a smile.
“My apologies, Sir,” Whyn said nervously, “I did not bring my gear; I have no excuse.
His father shook his head, “There is no need to apologize son. I would have left instructions if you had need of your gear,” he said as he turned and walked toward one of the few buildings on the green.
He was inside for only a moment, but when he came back out, he carried a large bundle in his arms wrapped in what appeared to be a large tapestry or rug. He looked at Whyn and smiled. “This, is your new gear lad, bear it well.” He carried the bundle over to the arming table and, unrolling what turned out to be a tapestry after all, removed the first bundle that lay within.
“This is durnthang,” he said as he handed a thick doublet to Whyn. “It is of dwarven make; it feels like silk, and is woven like it. However, durnthang is thick as tightly woven wool. It breaths like cotton and will not retain the heat from your body as you work. Clothing made of durnthang is often intended to be used under armor, as this was.”
He took the durnthang doublet back from Whyn and motioned Whyn to remove his tunic. After Whyn had completed the task, his father tossed the durnthang coat to him to put on.
“This is your new arming coat, can you tell the difference between this one and your old one?”
Whyn looked at him in surprise, “It is so much lighter! I can even feel the breeze across my skin, still!”
Nethandor nodded. “And this is your new armor.”
He held aloft a shirt of mail like nothing Whyn had ever heard of. It did not have any openings or apparent links he could see; it seemed as though it were one solid mesh. It shone in the sun like nothing he knew, silver was nothing compared to this. The only thing that came to mind was the reflection of light on water, but that did not quite encompass the fullness of it. There was a faint glow around it--an otherworldly sort of glow not wrought of the midmorning sun--and Whyn’s eyes glistened with its beauty.
He took it as his father handed it to him. Expecting the normal weight of chain mail, his arms rose slightly as he took it. He almost dropped it; the armor he now held was light as a feather. Whyn would have sworn that the mail had almost the same weight as the durnthang coat he now wore--the weight of a heavy shirt. He looked wonderingly at his father in askance.
Nethandor smiled. It was one of those smiles that Whyn saw when his father allowed himself to show his love for Whyn. “That my son is Halorhii mail. That is why I had you stop using the practice armor so long ago, when you discovered your fighting style, and decided you should use only your gambeson. I knew the heavy armor most warriors use would never work for you. This is made in some fashion unknown to the races of men, at least as far as I know. But what it is made of is no great secret; it is not any of the usual metals for armor.”
His look told Whyn that he was expecting an answer to some unspoken question. “Well I honestly do not see how something so light and thin could protect anyone from cold steel swung with the intent to kill or maim. Something so beautiful and bright seems like it should be a dress coat or ornamentation. Its appearance and weight are akin to how I have heard…”
A knowing look of shock spread slowly across his face. “No, it cannot be! Father, you cannot possibly mean to tell me that it is made from…quickensilver?”
His father’s smile broadened even farther. “Aye lad, quickensilver it is indeed.”
As Nethandor began to continue, Whyn jumped into the pause created by his father’s indrawn breath. “But father, quickensilver itself is very valuable, almost priceless! I cannot even imagine what mail of this quality would cost when crafted from it! This is far too great a gift father; if you mean it for me, I cannot accept it.”
His father’s face fell into a stern expression, “Do you question your own value and find yourself not worthy of such a gift? If that be the case, you need not accept it. But I will tell you this; it is mine to give, and in its own way, cost me nothing.”
Whyn looked confused. “How could it have cost you nothing? Something like this must surely be worth more than the whole of The Raven’s Nest, and more besides!”
“Quickensilver does not rust as you surely remember,” his father explained with a sigh. “However, it has been collecting dust in a locked chest. Nox has kept it hidden for me for these many cycles. I have no real need of it anymore, and I thought you could use it.”
Whyn held up his hand interrupting once more. “Hold! Nox, the blacksmith?” Whyn looked confused as he questioned his father. “I mean we all know Nox and trust his work, but why would you trust him with this?”
“Nox was one of many men under my command,” his father replied. “I was not always an innkeeper in the peaceful realm of Forestisilva. Once, a long time ago, before there even was a Forestisilva, I was the Weapons Master of the Home Guard in Demesnemer.”
Whyn’s eyes went wide in astonishment. It took all of his training and control to keep his jaw from dropping, from blurting out the countless questions that bubbled at the surface of his mind. Slowly he regained control over his countenance and ask the questions he thought was relevant.
“Why did you not tell me? Are you not proud of whom you were? Did you feel some reason to hide it from me that I cannot fathom? Did you not realize that I already knew something was unusual in the way you had all the knowledge and skill to teach me the things you have?” Whyn looked at his father cynically, “No simple innkeeper and village councilor would possess knowledge and experience to the magnitude that you do.”
His father sighed and shook his head sadly. “I never meant to keep anything from you lad. I feared that if you knew the truth, you would be even more eager to leave and find your way in the world. Feared you would be more eager to follow the same lifestyle. I did not want that to happen, I was not yet ready to…I was afraid of losing the only family I have left.”
Whyn set the Halorhii mail down on the arming table and walked over to his father. Placing a hand on his father’s shoulder, he looked him in the eye. Nethandor stood there quietly, watching Whyn and trying to gauge his reaction. The boy’s face was stone cold; no emotion showed at all on the surface, but the eyes still betrayed him. Whyn still had a long way to go, but what training he had would handle most situations.
“Father,” Whyn said calmly, “I must do this; I know you understand that. I will not be lost to you, only parted from you for a time. Besides, with me out of the way, maybe Sheriah can finally crack through your thick skull and get you to wed,” he said with laughter in his voice.” Whyn’s face broke suddenly into smile he had kept hidden.
Nethandor looked back at Whyn sharply with renewed respect for the boy. Not only was his son astute enough to see the well-hidden feelings he had for Sheriah, he had managed to leave his father with a false impression of his true feelings. He had projected the mask of one emotion with his countenance while concealing his true feelings as well as his intentions. A nice little bit of deception that had been.
“Lad,” he said with an answering smile that quickly shifted to solemnity, “I am very proud of you. I want nothing more than your happiness and success. I know this journey is necessary for you; it will help you to become a man.” His smile renewed. “Now pick that mail back up and try it on!”
Whyn smiled and did as his father asked. He found that the armor added almost nothing to the weight he already carried. What’s more, it seemed to fit as though made for him. The durnthang arming coat seemed to become thinner, and when Whyn asked his father about this, Nethandor explained it to him more fully.
“The way in which durnthang is crafted is a secret closely guarded by the Dwarves my lad, but its properties are well known to experienced fighting men. If you were to wear your durnthang coat without any other defensive raiment, it would safeguard you as much as ring armor; it provides moderate protection against slashes, and cuts. It will lessen some thrust attacks, but provides very little protection against blows from blunt objects and weapons, or arrows.”
“It is almost as light as any shirt or tunic,” he continued, “and will compress itself slightly when worn under any type of armor. Combined with the Halorhii mail, you should survive most combat situations relatively unscathed.”
“I thought I felt something of the sort,” Whyn told him, “that is why I asked. It just felt like it…well, stretched or spread
“Try moving about son; test your mobility.”
Whyn stretch and bent his arms, doubled over to grasp his ankles, and crouched down into a squatting position. He stood back up and took a fighting stance. He began flowing through the forms of the unarmed combat his father had taught him, even including a few aerial kicks. He could feel no real difference in his mobility; no more than if he wore only his shirt.
“This is absolutely amazing!” Whyn looked at his father and smiled, “There is absolutely no loss of mobility whatsoever!”
“That my lad,” Nethandor informed him, “was one of my best kept secrets after being presented with it by the Din’Lorani prince, Wfynlon, of the Great Forest. I stopped a Graben arrow intended for him by throwing myself at him; knocking him from his horse.” Nethandor’ voice contained laughter as he continued. “We came crashing to the ground and we both immediately got to our feet to face our opponents, but I swiftly dropped back to the ground. I had taken the arrow meant for him in the side of my chest, through my ribcage. It was lodged in one of my lungs. They removed the arrow and healed me of course, but Prince Wfynlon felt he was forever indebted to me. He wanted me to be well protected in the case that I ever needed to keep his life, or someone else’s, safe from harm.”
“The Din’Lorani make mail themselves, but it does not excel in quality as that crafted by the Halorhii. Prince Wfynlon had one sent for from his father’s armory, and bestowed it upon me. After that, I seldom took it off. I almost always wore it under my shirt with no-one the wiser.” He chuckled. “Put your tunic back on over the mail and see for yourself.”
Once again, Whyn did as he had been instructed. He pulled his tunic on once more as Nethandor produced a small, polished obsidian mirror that belonged to Sheriah, and held it out to him. Whyn looked no different than he had before he arrived. He was astonished.
Seeing his expression, his father smiled. “If you are in warmer climes working hard as you do around here, and find you need to take your shirt off, the mail will slip off easily with whatever shirt you are wearing--if you are careful about it. The durnthang coat is not so rare that it would cause problems, but there are those in this world that would covet your mail; they would try to take it for themselves. You must thus keep it well hidden and secret--until you are ready to face most any opponent. When you get to that point, wear it openly. I, myself, never attained that level of skill. Yet you, my son, have greater skill than I ever had. You will more than outmatch me before too long--more than outmatch most--you may end up being able to wear that mail openly with honor! But that is not all I have for you lad.”
“Father, I must protest! What more could you possibly give me? This is too much already!”
Nethandor chuckled. “Try this lad.”
He pulled a long, tightly wrapped item from the bundle he had unrolled on the arming table.
“I once had a sword made from the same substance as your mail,” he told his son, “I received it at the same time as the armor in fact. However, it was made long before for someone whom had also favored my style of fighting. It was better suited to that style, though it is rare for one of the elfkin to find such a fighting style suitable; they favor speed and grace over strength and brawn more oft than not.”
He looked at Whyn sidelong from where he stood still facing the table, “Do you remember the last trip I took to the Great Forest to obtain the elven wines? You asked to accompany me as you always do, and for once I denied you?”
Whyn eyed him suspiciously, “Of course I do father.”
“Well I am sorry I had to do that lad but,” he said to his son as he turned to Whyn with the bundle, “I did have a good reason. I took that sword of mine with me and I asked the prince for a favor. I told him that my only son was about to go off for training; to gain experience as a warrior.”
“He was extremely happy that I had come to him and was glad to fulfill my request. I believe his exact words were, ‘I am bound by the debt I have to you for saving my life, until I do the same or one of us perishes. And even if I was not, if I can help to protect the life of your son, I will do so gladly!’ He then proceeded to have my request ordered. I had asked that my sword be re-forged to better suit the style of fighting you found within your soul, a style similar to the elves’ own.”
He unwrapped the bundle and unsheathed a beautifully forged quickensilver sword. Swordsmanship being one of his life’s great passions, it was one of the most wondrous and beautiful things Whyn had yet seen in his young life. The double-sided blade was a little over two and a half feet in length, one and one-half thumb wide at the hilt. It tapered from there to about one thumb above the tip; the tip itself narrowing at a sharp angle to a very sharp point. The hilt, while adding about an extra foot to the overall length of the weapon, was rather plain and functional. The grip was cylindrical and wrapped in a gray, almost silver hide Whyn had never seen before. The minimal hand guard was in the form of a disk, or more appropriately a saucer. The concaving curve was very slight, and toward the blade; its convex extreme point was toward the grip. This guard was, in reality, only slightly larger in circumference than the grip itself. There wasn’t a real pommel to speak of; the simple, unwrapped end of the grip, rounded and domelike, took its place. Overall, it was a straight, narrow blade with a very narrow tip and extra long grip for power strokes. This blade--forged for, and ideally suited to, Whyn’s predominantly swift and graceful, yet well-rounded style of fighting--was breathtaking in its simplicity.
On both sides of the grip, relative to the flat of the blade, the symbol known to the Aduine as The Pillars of Knowledge was present. It had been formed as a raised crest during the grip’s casting process. When they wrapped the hide, it was molded in place over the symbol to form a raised emblem in the grip. The three pillars singularly represented Truth, Justice, and Law; the circles around them represented Knowledge and Wisdom. Down the length of the blade were graven Halorhii runes. They read, Sgàthnialan, or in Aduine--Blade of Mist and Shadow. Whyn knew that this was the sword’s name.
“The prince told me its name and its properties,” Nethandor said to Whyn. “The name you can read yourself, as for the properties, most you already know. Halorhii blades will not rust, break, or need sharpening. You may want to keep it cleaned and oiled for aesthetic purposes alone, but it is not required as with other blades. It will injure creatures not affected by other blades, and it has a high resistance to Source energies; you may be able to deflect certain attacks in this way.”
Watching his son closely, Nethandor continued. “Prince Wfynlon has observed you before, whilst we were within his realm. He instructed that it be refashioned; given a perfect balance to suit your abilities and needs. I am not sure, but I think he had to send it to the Halorhii, which was no easy task I can assure you. There are not many left in this world, if any truly are, and keep themselves well hidden. Since the Halorhii had forged the original blade, I would guess that it had to be re-forged by them as well.”
He handed Whyn the sword and continued, “Unlike most swords, like those you are use to, this one was created in only two sections, not several pieces, then fused together using High Magic. The hilt was the first piece; they cast it from a mold designed specifically for this blade. Molten quickensilver was poured into the mold and cooled until it would hold its form; then the excess quickensilver was shaved off and it was put back to finish the cooling.”
He continued, “The second piece was the blade; Halorhii forged it from quickensilver, harvested while still molten, and allowed to cool just enough for smith work. They forge such blades swiftly, and while they do so, the hottest fires the elves and dwarves can harness are used to reheat it continuously. Once the blade was finished, the two were joined.
Nethandor watched Whyn examine the sword and blade carefully. Whyn started moving through the sword forms his father had taught him with a precision he had not yet been able to attain. As Whyn realized this, he decided to add some of the more complex movements that had before been beyond his grasp. He could now perform some of them, though since he had not been able to practice them yet, they lacked the grace and precision of the others. He brought the blade to rest, point down at his side, and angled slightly away from him. Nethandor nodded approvingly.
“See how you already are learning this blade,” he said, “it was forged for you specifically and no other. You are already becoming one with it, learning to feel it as a part of you. Never before have you learned a blade this quickly! If you continue at this rate lad,” Nethandor smiled, “you will attain the status of Ruithil Lan before long.”
Whyn looked at him skeptically, “Father, I think it will take a lot more work and practice before attaining the title of Blade Dancer. Do not be over proud of my accomplishments just yet.”
“Well I will tell you this lad,” Nethandor chuckled, “you will attain that status a lot faster than I did. I did not reach that goal until I was well into manhood. At sixteen cycles, you have not even truly begun to travel down the road of life. You do not come of age for many cycles to come, but you are not all that very far from attaining the skill. It seems to come naturally to you.”
Whyn looked at his father with pride. “of course I did have the benefit of one of the best swordsman of Demesnemer training me from a very young age. My training started at a far younger age than yours I would guess.”
Nethandor gave a curt nod in response and turned back to the arming table. From atop the bundle where he had left it, he took up Sgàthnialan’s scabbard and held it out to Whyn. Whyn slipped Sgàthnialan reverently into the scabbard after taking it from his father. He examined it closely. It was tooled with runes he did not recognize. In addition, he did not recognize the material if was fashioned from. Further, he realized that it was the same material that the grip was wrapped with. He looked up at his father expectantly.
“That my lad,” Nethandor told him, “is dragon’s hide.” Seeing the astonished look on Whyn’s face, he continued. “As I have taught you, most dragons are peaceful and respectful of all life, for the most part; yet some dragons are not so amiable. Sometimes a dragon goes mad for various reasons and becomes a danger to all life around it, including other dragons. I have known of three such. Both the wrap on the swords grip--and the scabbard as well--were fashioned from the hide of the great and terrible wurm Noglorond.”
“Noglorond was a vile and evil creature that hated all life and wanted to destroy everything that fell within his sight. He razed a large portion of the Great Forest creating a field of ashen barrenness; inadvertently creating the grassy plains that were to become Acrimonia. His den he made in this land; a giant cavernous cave he carved at the base of the Aira Mountains by the Cleithòs River. The First Coalition slew him; the Hithvidumn and the Din’Lorani of the Great Forest were able to draw him out and destroy him. This is the hide of the great wurm after the scales had been removed.”
“Because it is made with…”
“Father,” Whyn interrupted, “stop please. This is all too much. I am too young and inexperienced to have earned these things. I must insist that you stop and take them back! I am not questioning my worth; I am only stating that I do not wish to receive gifts that I have not earned as you did yourself! I want to do you proud.”
Nethandor looked at his son for a moment, and then shook his head. “No son, I will not stop, nor will I take back any of that which I bequeath to you. Your sword for example, while it may fetched an extraordinary price, it was made for you and you alone. Besides, even if it could, I would not take them back. You do make me proud son, already. That is why I give you these things, so you will know that and so they will help keep you safe to come home to me again.”
Whyn’s grip tightened on the sword in its sheath. Still holding it, he embraced his father in the best imitation of Nethandor’s bear hugs that he could possibly produce. His father returned the embrace, slapping his son affectionately on the back as he did so. After a few moments, Nethandor stepped away.
“Enough of that lad,” he said, “we still have some things to go over, now where was I?”
“The scabbard sir,” Whyn replied.
“Yes,” Nethandor continued, “as I was saying…”
Nethandor continued to explain the properties dragon hide. Though not nearly as durable as the quickensilver Sgàthnialan, it could be argued that it was just as important. It was tooled with Halorhii runes, telling the tale of the blade and its history; whom it belonged to. The sheath would provide a convenient place to keep the weapon that was not easily penetrated or cut. The grip proved to be like sandpaper-sort of sticking to the skin of Whyn’s hand--and was impervious to fire as well as some other potentially destructive forces. Nethandor told Whyn that the weapon awed even Nox. He was of the opinion that Sgàthnialan would more than equal the masterwork of any Aduine blade-smith’s career. None of them could provide the enchantments that the Halorhii could of course, or the fires to heat quickensilver, but the weapon itself was a glorious thing indeed.
“Now this next part,” Nethandor said as he looked at his son curiously, “I did not rightly understand. Prince Wfynlon told me to pass on to you a message. He said to tell you that this blade would serve you as more than just a weapon, but he would not tell me how. He said the time would come when you would know.”
He continued to look at Whyn in confusion, and consternation, as if waiting for an answer he knew would not come, but must ask anyway. Whyn looked at him pensively and shrugged. “I posses no more knowledge of these things than you sir,” he told his father. “Perhaps it is best to leave such things to the future as the great prince suggests. If I ever come across the answers to these secrets, I will share them with you if I can.”
Nethandor continued to look slightly bemused, but slowly, he nodded to himself. If the Source wills it,” he said, “thus shall it be. As to the other things you will need in your travels, you have most of them. However, I have set aside a small portion of gem quality stones for you over the years. I did so against the chance that you should ever actually leave for adventures of your own. If you take them to any currency exchanger, you can have them turned into coin. Many will be able to take them as they are in exchange for services and goods, and many that will not. Yet it is far easier to carry small amounts of gems than large amounts of coin; it is not as noticeable and thus far safer. Later, we will go back to the Raven and go over them and the values of each to make sure you remember all I have taught you about finances. All told, you should have enough to make a good start in the world.”
Nethandor turned and gathered the wrappings of which the bundles had been comprised. “Why don’t you stay here a while and practice with that blade. Get used to it; you may not be able to on the ship, and you will want for it later if you do not. Meet me back at the Raven when you are ready and we will go over the last details of your preparation.”
“Yes sir,” Whyn replied as Nethandor turned and walked away toward the path leading back to the Heights. After he was out of sight, Whyn began practicing with the blade as his father had suggested. After a few minutes of this, he noticed a change in his surroundings. Even as deeply as he was buried in the meditative qualities of his sword work, he had been trained to exist beyond that state at the same time. He could not put his finger on what had changed, but he knew something was out of place. He slowed the pace of the form combination he was performing at that moment--closed it--and stood quietly, seeking an answer. An answer he would not yet find…
* ~ * ~ * ~ *
|Prolog Part 1 - Shattering of Heroes||Prolog Part 2 - Pursuit|
|Invincible Resurrection - Path of Honor (part 2)||Invincible Interludes - Undying Love|
|Invincible Resurrection - Paths Reforged|