Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Hunter Prince: Emergency Blades

Janiva walked calmly up the passage, then slowed. She heard... something. Ahead of her, or behind? She couldn't tell. She glanced back, and saw only Cyjar and Morius; Cyjar had created a light for them,

She glanced back, and saw Cyjar still standing beside Morius. Cyjar had conjured a soft light, like the one she was using, so that they could still see while she went ahead. Morius had moved over to lean against the wall, favoring his still-mostly-broken leg.

...That had been a bad moment. They'd been exploring the hall behind the steel door, when the floor had swayed and given way under their feet. Cyjar had crashed into a crossbeam, and Janiva had fallen on top of him; it had been enough to interrupt their fall, leaving them bruised and battered, but intact. Morius had been behind them when the ramp gave way; he'd fallen straight down to the stone floor. It had all happened in darkness, too: the shock of falling had caused them to release the spells they'd been using for light...

"Do you have a weapon?" asked Janiva, looking from Cyjar to Morius and back again. She was whispering, in case whatever she had heard could hear them as well; her feet had carried her back, even as her memory relived that horrible fall.

Morius shook his head, but Cyjar straightened and reached for his belt.

At fourteen, Janiva was taller than either of her friends. As the daughter of High Lord of the Western Marches, she was training for knighthood. It was necessary, if she ever wanted to inherit her father's title; but she would have done it anyway, for sheer love of the fighting arts. The only reason that she wasn't wearing a blade already was that she hadn't worn one to dinner, and she and Cyjar had followed Morius down here immediately after leaving the meal.

She wasn't surprised that Cyjar might have a weapon. He was the Crown Prince, and he trained with the Crown's Own just as she did. Morius had some training at arms, but his was oriented towards civilian concerns: self-defense and dueling. His line held a mid-sized lordship over a collection of eastern counties, with several large cities and two of the largest trade routes into the capital. Their concerns were focused on politics and economics, rather than battle and survival.

A year or so earlier, Cyjar had taken to wearing a set of leather pouches on his belt. He'd never said anything about them, and Janiva had never thought to ask. Now, as the prince twisted the leather strip free of the button and pulled the hardened leather cover up, she saw what was inside: the soft, golden glow of a containing-crystal. It dissolved in Cyjar's hand, spilling out into sparkling golden mist and leaving behind a set of blades. Cyjar fumbled and held on to two of them; beside him, Morius reached out and deftly caught the one that Cyjar had started to drop.

They were a matched set, Cyjar's favorites: the ones with the wolves' heads on the guards. Janiva reached out and put her hand on the hilt of the longsword. "May I?" she asked, suddenly aware that Cyjar was trusting them with one of his secrets.

He nodded, and his dark hair swayed with the movement. "Take it." He glanced at Morius, who was still holding the dagger. "Why don't you hang onto that one?"

Morius nodded, and arranged the dagger on his belt. Cyjar, following his example, hung the shortsword from his own belt.

Janiva took a moment to examine the longsword; it was a good blade, long enough to offer some reach, but not too long to be used with one hand. The hilt had been designed to work in either one hand or two; it was no wonder Cyjar liked it. If she was going to scout ahead, into an open area with something in it, she wanted to be holding a blade... and this one would do nicely. "Stay here," she said. "And, Morius?"

He looked at her.

"Quit whining."

As she walked away, she heard him whisper, "I didn't say anything!"

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