Authors: R.J. Grieve
The Sword of
Book Two of ‘The
Legend of Erren-dar’
By R.J. Grieve
Copyright © R.J Grieve 2014. All rights reserved.
The Right of R.J.Grieve to be identified as the Author
of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and
Patents Act 1988
It was utterly dark. The kind of darkness that is so
intense, so concentrated, that it is suffocating. It was too dominant to be
merely an absence of light, but exuded a will of its own, a certain watchful
sentience that was not benign. The darkness was silent, as if it listened,
brooding on its own omnipotence. Not a sound broke the uniform stillness; not a
rustle, not a whisper, not the squeak of a mouse.
Then, just as the oppression seemed unbearable, a tiny dot
of light began to glow, struggling feebly against the overwhelming weight of
the encompassing blackness. Slowly, it began to grow and expand, increasing in
power until it became something that resembled a glass sphere about the size of
an apple, suspended mysteriously in the dark air without any visible means of
As the light of the globe grew stronger, it could be seen
that within its glass prison shifted swirling patterns of fire; streaks of red
and orange shot with writhing snakes of gold that squirmed and gyrated within
their invisible confines.
As if obeying an unspoken command, the globe floated
gracefully higher, shedding its golden light abroad to reveal a circular stone
chamber, not large, but with a lofty ceiling that gave the impression of space.
Its bare walls were stark and unadorned. Their massive grey blocks of stone sat
snugly together with nothing to break the solidity of their symmetry except a
single iron-bound oaken door, its stout timbers offering the only hope of
escape from the absolute confines of the chamber.
The room housed only one item of furniture – a long, narrow
table made of some dark, polished wood that glossily reflected the light of the
orb. Upon the table, placed end to end, were two oblong cushions covered in
rich, blood-red velvet, and reposing upon them was a sword. Its long, steel
blade gleamed and glittered in the golden light, its wickedly sharp slenderness
a perfect study in deadly beauty. Closer inspection would have revealed that three
flowers were engraved on the broadest part of the blade, just below the hilt,
their stems gracefully intertwined. Other than this, the purity of its lines
was free from adornment. Its hilt was of plain steel, tightly bound in black
leather. It was not fashioned of gold, nor was it encrusted in jewels, yet its
position on the velvet cushions suggested an item of great value or great
reverence. Beside it on the table lay a plain back scabbard – obviously its
All at once, the sword began to tremble, quivering a little
against the velvet. Then gently, hilt first, it began to rise from the
cushions. Upwards it travelled, until the tip of its blade left the cushions
and arose into the air. It moved sideways with the deliberation of purpose and
slid with deeply satisfying ease into the awaiting scabbard, as if it knew that
it had found its proper home.
The scabbard and the orb together drifted silently across
the room until they halted before the heavy oak door. For the first time, the
unseen will directing events seemed to hesitate. The sword hung motionless
before the door with a slight air of indecision, then suddenly there was a
sharp click, astonishingly loud in the stillness, the unmistakable sound of the
lever of a lock being shot back. With a protesting groan from its ancient
hinges, the door swung inwards.
The light from the globe now spilled outside the chamber into
an equally dark passage beyond, which disappeared up the stone steps of a
narrow spiral staircase. Gently, in total silence, the sword and the globe
drifted towards the stairs. Behind them the door shut itself with a dusty thud
and the lock shot home again. Up and up the twisting staircase they went, until
an aperture appeared, a narrow cobwebbed window that revealed the reason for
the steeply spiralling staircase – it climbed the inside of a tall, round
tower, obviously of great antiquity. Beyond the window, with its tiny diamond
panes, lay a moonlit courtyard, its cobbled surface gleaming like a pebbled
beach. A palatial building, pierced by many unlit windows, enclosed the
courtyard on three sides and on the fourth lay an ivy-covered wall penetrated
by a single dark archway.
The window opened reluctantly, its outward passage forced
against the dense covering of ivy that vigorously strangled the old tower. The
globe of fire, as if humbled by the cold power of the moonlight, began to fade.
It dwindled and receded like a withering flower until it was gone. The sword
hung motionless by the window until this process was complete, then glided noiselessly
out into the night.
The air was crisp and cold, hanging still as death in breathless
complicity. Not a leaf stirred. The fat, yellow moon lounged on the horizon in
drunken indolence, its calm brilliance dimming the scattering of stars,
eclipsing their more subtle beauty. Once through the archway, the sword floated
across some formal gardens, well tended but bare and stark except for a few
hardy spring daffodils rendered colourless by the moonlight. The lawns, cut in
prim geometric shapes, slept under a counterpane of frost.
Another, much larger archway on the far side of the gardens,
revealed the first signs of life. Torches burned on either side of its tall
gates, shedding two pools of yellow light over several guards on duty armed
with shields and long pikes. Their purpose was to keep unwelcome intruders from
the palace compound, and consequently they stood with their backs turned to the
gardens, unaware that they were being observed, unaware of any threat,
conscious only of hands numb with cold and the slow march of the moon across
the sky dictating their time on duty. The invisible will, immune to such
precautions, commanded the sword to rise higher into the night air until it
cleared the crenellated walls that surrounded the palace and descended into the
shadows of the city streets below.
The townspeople of Addania slept in their quaint timbered
houses, unaware that in the shadows of the narrow streets that wound down the
hill to the city wall, a will, hostile to their very existence, was at work.
The only living things that the sword encountered on its
downward journey were two black cats squaring up to each other in the prelude
to a fight, but with the uncanny perceptiveness of their kind, they sensed the
presence that humans did not, and shot off up an alleyway howling with fright,
their fur bristling with alarm, their quarrel forgotten.
The massive city walls were a much more formidable barrier
than the fairly nominal ones surrounding the palace. The immense ramparts rose
sheer from the deep waters of the river which surrounded the city, effectively
rendering it an island. There was only one gateway, which tunnelled its way
through defensive stonework as wide as a house. Beyond it could be seen a
graceful stone bridge, springing in a single, elegant leap over the
fast-flowing river. On the far side, indistinct in the moonlit darkness, shimmered
the plain of Addania, and escape. Inevitably, the gateway was guarded, even
though it had been many years since a hostile army had stood without its walls.
Yet memories were long and caution dies hard in a people who had once faced a
threat so grave it could have spelt their doom. Thus, with tireless vigilance,
a full brigade of armed soldiers patrolled the gates and the moon-gilded bridge
Above the gate, the tall battlements reared upwards as
precipitously as a sea-cliff, high above the roofs of the houses that huddled
within the embrace of their protection. Only the citadel, perched on its eyrie,
rose higher, its walls encircling the brow of the hill like a delicate diadem.
Once again the sword stopped as if an assessment of the
situation was required. Once again the invisible will avoided contact with
humanity and took refuge in secrecy. The sword rose upwards, higher and higher,
until its black form was lost against the darkness of the night sky. Upwards it
flew until it had cleared the daunting height of the wall.
The guard on the bridge reached the limit of his patrol,
and turning sharply on his heel, retraced his steps with military precision. He
did not see the moonlight flash on an object that crossed the river with
impressive speed. He did not notice its slender shape disappear into the gloom
of a dense copse of trees standing in the frozen darkness a short distance
away. The year was too young for the leaves to have burst from the restraint of
their buds, but the naked branches were dense and dark and their number
sufficient to render the interior of the wood invisible to the guards. Even
could they have seen the events taking place within the copse, they would have
had no understanding of what they saw, for it seemed that a swirl of
moon-kissed vapour drifted like a ghost between the trees. It moved softly, in
haunted silence between the trunks, as if blown by a sigh. The sword hung
motionless in the glade awaiting the approach of the cloud of mist. Gradually,
the outer diaphanous strands of the mist began to draw inwards, coalescing and
thickening from wispy silver to something altogether darker. The cloud continued
to intensify. Stronger it grew, and more definite in form. Something, a shape,
a figure, was emerging, growing and evolving with inevitable ease from the
cloud. Soon, a grey, shrouded form stood surrounded by the tide of swirling
vapour. The shape of a man gowned from head to foot in twilight grey. Long,
wide sleeves hung over its hands, and its face was hidden within the deep recesses
of a cowl. The mist crawled around the hem of its robe, concealing its feet,
increasing the impression that it had sprung up from the earth. The sword
trembled in the air before it. For a moment it neither moved nor spoke,
although the wood almost groaned aloud at the strength of its presence. With
the suspicion of a gleam within the dark hood, a pair of eyes fastened on the
awaiting sword. Then slowly, almost languorously, the figure raised its arm,
extended a hand encased in a dark glove and grasped the sword – not by the
hilt, but by the long strap attached to the scabbard. The sword, as if
exhausted by its unnatural defiance of gravity, plunged towards the ground
until brought up sharply by the strong grip on the scabbard.
The gowned figure stared at its prize and even though no
face could be seen, a sense of greed suffused the glade like the smell of
corruption. When it spoke, there was a soft hiss like escaping air.
“At last I have you.
A sudden gust of wind struck the faces of the guards on
duty at the bridge. Like a scythe through a cornfield, the thrust of air roared
across the plain, flattening the grass and bending the treetops. Last year’s
leaves pirouetted into the air, scattered from rest. The guards hung on grimly to
their cloaks and helmets, bending their knees against the sudden gale.
Then it was gone. Vanished as suddenly as it had appeared,
and the moonlight was still and innocent once more.