Morgan_R, The Novelist
Social Justice Owl
Still hoping to reconnect with a long-lost friend.
An entry for EndMaster's Prompt Contest 2.
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"It's the Shattered Sword. It broke in the fight against the Demon King, and you can see the pieces of it just floating, and there's a glow between them like it's straight from the forge but really it's the soulstuff that's holding it all together." I was fourteen, and a girl, and I knew I didn't know everything about the Shattered Sword... just everything anyone would tell me. I had to see it.
Even if I was supposed to be watching my brother, and neither of us were supposed to leave the house.
"Come on, I know how we can see the Choosing. If you wear some of my old clothes--"
"What? I'm not dressing like a girl! I don't even care about the Choosing. Go by yourself if you wanna go that badly!"
I hesitated. Mother had told me to watch him...
"I won't tell," he said, "IF you bring me back a mince tart. No, TWO mince tarts."
"If you stay right here until I get back, and don't tell Mother, I'll bring you THREE mince tarts."
He grinned, spat on his hand and held it out. I grimaced, but followed suit, clasping my dampened palm to his.
I slipped out our cottage door as if I were being watched. Which was ridiculous, Mother was out selling strings of dried apple slices to the gathered crowd. I'd have to avoid the benches, but those would be packed full by now anyway. People who wanted to sit would have gotten up before dawn. And they'd be hungry, which is why Mother would be there. And why I wouldn't be.
I walked quickly, not wanting to miss any of the Choosing. I'd been four during the last one, too young to even understand what I wouldn't be allowed to witness.
What I still wasn't supposed to witness, but I was fourteen. Near enough to sixteen that nobody would know the difference at a glance. Almost old enough. In another ten years, I'd be twenty-four. It was rare for anyone over twenty to be Chosen...
Wrapped up in my thoughts, I almost stumbled into a woman at the trailing edge of the crowd. I sidled past her and further in, finding a spot where I could see the stage from. The Choosing had already begun. The candidates were making their way onstage, one by one. They each greeted a red-headed woman who bore a sheathed sword on her back. Iliana of Three Rivers, I thought. Current wielder of the Shattered Sword.
Which I wanted to actually see, but apparently that wasn't part of the process. So I watched, as girl after girl walked onstage, some more briskly than others, clasped hands with Iliana, and then were dismissed with a smile and a nod.
She seemed so poised, up there on the stage. So calm. Maybe that was why she'd been Chosen, ten years ago. Or maybe it was just that she'd had ten years to get used to the idea.
I did wonder how she chose. Or how the sword chose, if the rumors were true.
And then I could see the end of the line, and one by one the girls climbed the steps to the stage, and then back down. And then it was the last of them climbing down. It wasn't going to be one of us, then. The next wielder would not be "of New Orchard."
I knew I should go. Get my brother his mince pies, be back before my mother. But I still hadn't seen the Shattered Sword, and I badly wanted to. I stared at the hilt of it, steel wrapped with leather, and willed Iliana to draw it.
She met my eye. I thought I had to be imagining it, but a deeper part of me knew that I wasn't. Iliana of Three Rivers met my eye... and drew the Shattered Sword.
It was beautiful, I thought, amid gasps from the audience. It was broken, of course, but it glowed at the cracks. Not red, as I'd somehow always imagined, but a white tinged with blue.
"You did not come forward," said Iliana, her voice projecting like an actor's... although she was climbing down from the stage. "But you are our Choice," she said. Her eyes still locked with mine, though I had the fleeting impulse to look behind me. The crowd melted away before the Shattered Sword.
And then she was in front of me, and the point of the Shattered Sword touched my cheek. I saw a small scar on Iliana's cheek to match the sting on my own.
"You know what you must do," whispered Iliana, as she held out the sword to me, palms up.
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