Valkyr was already awake when the knock came but she felt as though it woke her. She broke her trance-like state, blinking, wondering how long she had sat there with the bow across her lap. Her meals had come at regular intervals but she had lost track of how many had come long ago. She and Wasp had known each other for eons, though she had only handled it for—well, that knock meant that two weeks had passed. She had not needed a even moment to feel bonded to it; no time at all was necessary. On the other hand, forever would never be enough for this friendship. They would care for each other, she and her Wasp.

Knowing the protocol for exit from her isolation, Valkyr stood and approached the door that had remained closed for ages. “Who calls?,” she asked.

“Your family and your country call you back,” replied Reedl’s voice. “You have prepared most carefully. Now return and join the ranks of the protectors of Grendhill.”

“I am prepared, and I will return now.”

Valkyr reached up, undid the latch on her side, and opened the door. She was greeted by Sageman Reedl, Domire, Misolfa, and Tido.

On the other side she could tell that something was off. “Where is Aton? Did he not want to be here for this?” The words felt odd in her mouth, her tongue still unused to speech.

“Your brother decided he would greet you back home, princess,” answered Reedl. “There have been some events in your absence.”

“What kind of events?”

“Events that urge me to get my sword as soon as possible,” replied Domire. “Sageman, Misolfa, Tido, I am sure you will apprise her of the situation. If you will excuse me, I will get to work.”

Before anybody could respond, Domire unceremoniously walked around Valkyr and passed through the door at her back, closing and latching it behind himself.

Valkyr’s eye widened, seeing dark expressions on her siblings’ faces.

Finally, Domire thought to himself, following the narrow path down to the main cavern. He had itched to get in here for the last two weeks. He wasn’t sure if Misolfa and Tido felt the same way, but Domire felt like he was desperately missing someone. Who knew what Aton felt? If the Farellas were born to defend, born with these weapons as part of their identity, what did that mean to the one who did not have one?

But that’s not the here and now, at least not for me, Domire told himself, noticing the oddity of the unwavering light from the lanterns around the chamber he now found himself in. What kind of light is that? How does it stay on? Does it not consume its fuel?

The itch driving him from the oddness of the light, Domire turned his attention to a long shelf cut into the wall. Three leather-bound packages lay bundled there, tied with twine. His breath caught as he stepped toward the leftmost one, feeling the pull to reunite himself with something he could not even remember. He was aware of the awkwardness of his footfalls as he approached the slender wrapping.

Knowing it was unnecessary to be so ginger, Domire carefully untied the knots in the twine, reverently unfolding the skin to reveal the object hidden inside.

After staring for several seconds, already feeling more complete, Domire started breathing again. He reached out and lightly touched the pommel, then the grip, tracing his finger reverently along its form. He passed over the cross-guard and traced the angular lines at the beginning of the blade, mesmerized. No scabbard? He had seen that Valkyr had arrows and even a quiver. Everyone’s weapon was different though, including whether it came with accessories. I’m glad to have what I got, Domire thought, remembering some great-uncle of his had been born with nothing but a shield, arguably not a weapon at all, though still clearly an object for defense. Domire lightly touched the sharp edge of the blade, feeling it catch his finger as he tried to move it crosswise, testing the fine edge.

Finally, Domire firmly grasped the hilt of the weapon, lifting it off the leather wrappings. Moving away from the wall, he passed it from one hand to the other, then sliced it through the air slowly, then quickly. It felt balanced perfectly. He needed more space.

Looking to the doors on the opposite wall, he saw the first had been left open. Through it he could see a long chamber with targets at the far end. He opened the middle door and saw dummies of hay wrapped in clothing. Static opponents. Moving to the remaining door at his right, he opened it and entered, finding a chamber stocked with jointed mannequins, with swivels and hinges rigged where human hinges would be. These would serve as dynamic opponents, moving in response to Domire’s attacks.

Domire had a place to train with adequate facilities. He finally had his weapon and its weight felt good in his hand, if a bit…wild. He already knew the weight and balance, innately as if—actually, he had been born with it. Despite the familiarity, he felt somehow rusty with it, as if he hadn’t been practicing with one nearly like it yesterday. Actually, this morning.

No, he could not be hasty about this. Not with his parents missing, abducted by some power-hungry stranger. He had to train anyway, while emissaries and scouts did their work. He had to train, hone himself to be prepared to stand between his home and this menace. He had to sharpen himself to cut through whatever he had to between himself and his parents. He and his Sword must be on call to stave off any threat. To stave off—to protect by means of making oneself a threat to a would-be attacker.

He sat on the ground, crossing his legs and holding his sword over his knees. First he would meditate, planning out in his mind what he needed to accomplish with his newly remembered Sword, his companion that would travel with him and stand with him to keep Grendhill safe. He would train carefully for these two weeks. It was no common stick or even a sturdy, blunt staff, but it would fulfil its noble purpose to hold enemies at bay. As he gave in to his reverie, Domire spoke a single word, naming his Sword.


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