Monday, November 19, 2012

Harduk The Slayer and the Sailboat of Doom

"When you said you could make another Frostblight," Harduk asked, "What did you mean?"

Nissa shifted on the wooden bench, but met his eyes directly. "Well," she said, "I'm not so skilled as my father, but I can manage an enchanted blade."

Harduk frowned. "It would not be the blade of my people."

"No, I could make it-" Nissa snapped her mouth shut, then said: "...identical." After a moment she added: "Or, if you wished, I could make something different: Firestorm, say, the twin and opposite of Frostblight."

Harduk studied her as the boat rose and fell in the waves. The sails drove them on, and his hand was steady on the rudder. He would rescue Nissa, and he would marry her - if for no other reason, then because he had sworn to do so, and no man of Distractia would make himself an oathbreaker. But there were deeper mysteries here, he was sure. Frostblight was only the beginning, the first emerging leaf of the snow-vines that covered acres of land beneath the winter ice. "You seem very familiar with my sword... and myself."

Nissa looked away. After a moment, Harduk realized that she was blushing.

"Very well," she said. "You deserve to know. I could make you another Frostblight, because I was the one who made the original Frostblight."

"Nonsense," said Harduk, suddenly uneasy. "The shamans..."

"No." Nissa shook her head, and met his eyes again. "It wasn't the shamans. It was just me. I created Frostblight, and Distractia, and in a strange way even you."

"What?" said Harduk. "Why?"

"To rescue me," said Nissa. "I needed someone strong enough to take me from my father, someone who wouldn't be afraid to marry a wizard's daughter. A chieftain's son, the last survivor of his tribe, a man bred to strength and courage."

"So, then." Harduk fell silent. "Distractia..."

"The wastes of burning ice are just as you remember," Nissa said softly, "but no people ever dwelt there. The clansmen who raised you came by their skills honestly, but they shared no blood with you. The blade you carried as the last remnant of your slaughtered people is only a bare few hours older than you are." She stopped, drew a deep breath, and released it. "So... will you still be my husband? Forget your vow. I would not hold you to a promise made without full knowledge, and I do not want a husband... well, a husband that leaves in search of adventure or travel, that I could stand; but not a husband who wished me ill."

There was a long silence as Harduk considered his next words. His homeland and his heritage might be a lie, but his feelings were as strong and certain and ever. He wanted to be sure there was no possible misunderstanding. At last, satisfied, he said: "Forget my vow? Wish you ill? Do you jest, girl?" He let his grin show, broad and unrestrained. "If what you say is true, I should thank you. So... this marriage... how do we go about it?"

Nissa smiled. "There's a ceremony, of course. And then, well..." Her smile grew wider. "Then we consummate things."

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