He Who Holds Xavier

They’d all but forgotten why they were hiding, when the sword revealed itself from the clutches of a nearby bush. You might say that swords can’t reveal themselves, but you’d be wrong. After all, this was no ordinary sword.

The tricky part wasn’t hacking away the years of overgrowth and twisted vines, though the thorns made it more of an effort than it needed to be. No, the tricky part was the stone, insistent on keeping hold of its treasure.

It (the stone) had started banging on about how… “Only those who are worthy may wield His mighty blade. And from the looks of you lot…”

You lot…

There was Catmull, the Beast Master, famed for having tamed some of the most disgusting monstrosities in all the Realm. Presently she was sat comfortably atop a ball of eyes (not quite an eyeball, you see) that floated by the sheer will of its tiny, bare-feathered wings.

There were Kring and Kob, thieves despite their hulking size, bear like men with clubs for arms and paws for hands.

There was Isabella, you couldn’t really see much of her past the shrouds of tartan cloak, though the dozen blades strapped neatly around each and every limb screamed murder (or murderer). Certainly not one to be messed with.

And then there was Whip, mostly unimportant, poop scooper for Catmull (and on many occasions it had quite literally been for Catmull) and pack mule for all… that is to say he carried their bags.

“A sorry looking lot, you are. So I won’t budge! Not an inch. Now bugger off and leave my sword alone.” the stone managed to shake its head deplorably, without actually having to shake at all.

“What’s it sayin’?” Kob glared at the stone.

“It’s saying it would like you to give that sword a good, hard tugging.” Catmull winked, as did the thousand eyes of her steed.

“No!” the stone roared, “It won’t be any use.” And true enough, the sword refused to budge, or at least the stone refused to let go.

After many more hours of laboursome tugging than they’d care to admit, Catmull finally said “Come with me.” gesturing the band of… well bandits… to follow, “I have a better idea.”

“That’s right!” the stone hollered, “And don’t come back!”

But they did, and that annoyed the stone terribly.

Where did they go? To a village of sorts, hidden within a field of tall grass not far outside the forest. It was home to a cult of nasty little gnomes that worshiped Heresy, Goddess of those things best left unsaid. They were tiny creatures that lived inside mushrooms (only the poisoned ones mind… and serves ya right if ya start grabbing at what’s not yours!). Pointy hats and wooden legs, fluffy tails, too. Your average, garden-variety gnome, just a trifle less hospitable.

Well, the bandits weren’t interested in hospitality much anyhow. They stormed the mushroom mounds; Kring and Kob trampling homes and flattening gnomes, Catmull’s ball of eyes spitting flames that singed the grass and in their wake brought the oddly satisfying smell of roasting Gnome wafting upward… smells just like bacon. Isabella herself was a blur among the pigeons, wreaking havoc over all.

And what of Whip? Well he stood idly by and watched, a little disconcerted at the sight of it all. All this to steal the poor Gnome’s tiny tools, couldn’t we just ask to borrow them? Pick axes, you see, that’s what the bandits had come for…

Back with the stone.

“Who walks beside the Sword of Legend! Speak truth, come forth, try your hand…” the stone began, “Oh… it’s you lot again. Back for another round are we? Ha! I’ve got time. Nothing but time.”

Catmull flashed a smile and stepped back to present Isabella. From under her tartan shrouds many… too many… hands appeared. Tiny things for a girl of her size, those hands, and each one gripping firm at an even smaller looking pick axe.

“Well now, lets talk about this shall we? There’s no need for…”

Isabella’s too many hands hammered repeatedly down at the stone with all the grace of a gazelle (or an elephant balancing a beach ball on the very tip of its awfully long nose). How the stone screamed in agony at being torn apart! And if you haven’t ever heard a stone scream it sounds much like a hail storm, only somewhat more chalky.

“There, that should shut him up.” Isabella dusted off her hands, and revealed the stone in tiny pieces, the sword slipped free of its grasp.

“So?” Kring asked, towering over his fellow bandits, “Who gets it?”

“Me, naturally.” Catmull smiled, and none dared question her on this. She took hold of the mighty looking blade and brandished it for all the skies to see (had the skies been looking that is, and not been obscured by the canopy of the woods and a fair number of clouds).

“Well… I guess that counts.” a withered, ancient voice rang out. A voice far different to the stone.

“Who said that?” Kring flexed his club like forearms, “I’ll hit ya! It ain’t nice to watch folk that don’t know it.”

“It was the sword…” Isabella said, her eyes retreating with dull horror into their sockets.

“Wh… what?” Catmull dropped the blade immediately.

“My dear girl, what on Earth are you playing at?” the sword asked.

“No. Swords can’t talk. It’s not natural.” Catmull argued (talking stones are one thing, talking swords another thing entirely).

“Ain’t natural.” Kring and Kob agreed.

“Right, look.” the sword sang, “It’s not actually the sword that’s talking, the sword is just a conduit, for me.”

“And who are you?” Isabella asked.

“I am Martin, and this sword is the Great Blade of Xavier, Blessed Blade of then Kings! Mighty Blade of… well you get the idea. You have been chosen to rule…”

“He named the sword.” Kob grumbled, a finger up his nose.

“Twice. Nearly three times.” Isabella agreed.

“Swords shouldn’t ‘ave names.” Kring growled.

“They’re right. What madman names his sword?” Catmull stared at the blade, so lonely looking on the floor, “Sorry Madman…”

“Martin.” the man in the sword corrected.

“Well, whoever you are, we’re not interested.” Catmull hissed.

“YOU’RE NOT INTERESTED?” the sword (or Martin through the sword) cried out in vein. “Never in all my life…”

“Talking swords, magic, all that nonsense, we don’t mess around with it. It’s dangerous. Always ends in trouble.” Catmull explained, and they turned to leave.

“Wait! Just a minute, let me show myself, let me explain.” the bandits froze and the sword smiled, beckoning them to gather round. When they did (Whip and all) the sword flashed a brilliant gold, its surface cleared to a mirror like complexion, and upon the sheen of metal appeared the face of an elderly man.

“Oh god… I think I’m gonna be…” Catmull vomited.

“Charming.” Martin said, folding his arms. But before he could say much more the bandits were fleeing in terror.

“What was that?” Kring cried over shoulder.

“I don’t know, but by God was it ugly.” Isabella replied.

Only Whip refused to run, or more so failed to on account that his legs had turned to jelly and he’d wet himself.

“My boy.” Martin snapped a finger at Whip through the sword, “You will be my champion.”

Copyright © K R Perry 2019

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