I had an idea a while back, something that came to me while I was lying in bed at night. It’s an unfortunately productive time for my imagination, when I’d like to sleep but instead often come up with story ideas. Then I struggle to record them and whatever resonance they hold for me before they slip away, and when I wake in the morning and stare at whatever I’ve written down I have to wonder why I thought it was a good idea.
Wait, no, I’m mixing this idea up with many others that I have. *This* one came to me while I was supposed to be listening to a presentation. I promptly jotted it down on my phone and emailed it to myself. Anyway, I’ve elaborated on what I think the opening of the story is and I’ll share that opening scene with you today. Maybe it’s good, maybe it’s not, it’ll probably change… but first you’ll have a chance to enjoy it.
The hiker tugged her leather pack further up her shoulders, staring upslope. The moonlit ascent was hardly anything compared to what she had faced to get here, but it loomed greater in her mind’s eye. Snow covered the dead grass of the hill, shrouding the garden she could barely see beside the stone wall that seemed to grow out of the hillside. It was slick underfoot as she slowly trod her way upwards.
The stone wall was exactly as she’d been told it would be, a single fieldstone wall standing in the hill, its edges disappearing into the earth around it. There was a door there, with a shuttered window on either side, and a smoking chimney rose from the grassy hill above. The snow-covered grass seemed to come right down to the top of the wall.
The hiker flexed her hands in her mittens, trying to push some warmth into them as she neared the door. There was no way that the man inside could know that she was coming, but she would take no chances. Her sword easily found its way into her hand, as did her shield. She dropped her pack by the side of the door. Either she’d come out and get it later, or she’d have no further need of it.
No hinges were visible on the outside of the solid wooden door. She set herself, rolling her shoulders and breathing deep of the chilled night air. She bit her lips, then gently set her shoulder to the door, elbow and shield edge resting against it. She reached across her shield with her sword hand, lifted the latch, and shouldered the door inwards.
The man inside sat on a stool by the fire. He looked up from stirring a large pot with a wooden ladle, and nodded as he saw the armed woman who had entered his home. He made no move for the sword which rested, in its scabbard, across two pegs over the mantle of the fireplace.
The hiker felt her stomach clench. She’d come ready to kill or be killed. Not to stand awkwardly in some old man’s small house while he stirred soup. He had already looked back to the pot.
“Old man.” Her voice rasped in her throat. The man didn’t look up. She ground her teeth, then continued, “Are you or are you not Velin the Mighty?”
The old man kept stirring. His eyes closed for a moment, then he looked back up at her. “I was called by that name, yes. Also Velin the Murderer, Velin the Mad, and several other names besides.”
“Good.” The hiker nodded, leveling her sword at the man, point steady. “I’ve come to make you pay for what you did to the town of Mooshakir.”
The man nodded, and set the ladle down across the top of the pot.
The hiker took a step closer, and drew a deep breath. Her sword still drew a line from her to the old man. “What,” she asked, “are you not going to object? Not going to claim innocence?”
The man shook his head. “No. If you are from Mooshakir, or here to make me pay for what I did to that town regardless of where you’re from, then I accept.” His eyes met hers. “I’d ask that you kill me outside though. There’s no need for you to ruin this nice place as I did before.”
Her lips parted, but words evaded her.
“Here,” he gestured to the only other stool in the small underground house, “have a seat. Warm up. You have plenty of time. Besides,” his mouth twisted, and he looked as though he was in pain, “before you kill me I must tell you of the sword which I bore.” He nodded at the scabbarded blade over the fireplace.
The hiker sat down slowly, shield and sword still firmly in her grip. Even though she knew that she’d come here to kill the man, she could find no reason not to do as he’d suggested.
The old man nodded. “The first thing you must know about this blade,” he said as he rested his hands on his thighs, “is that its story is indelible. Once it has been heard, it cannot be forgotten.” He smiled bitterly. “Much like the blade itself, this story will endure. It will take hold of you and will not let you go.”