The sword is singing to me. The real Imperial Sword. This is madness. It is just a piece of steel! How can I be dancing a falisas with a sword?
However it happens, I am dancing. It sings in my head. “I am your destiny. With me you will slaughter your own thousands...”
I interrupt it. “No. I dance with you I choose not to fight with you.”
“Oh but if your people ask you will fight with me in your hand.”
“Yes, and I will love you. I will dream of you. You will be my deathly lover and I will be your hand.” I lay my hand into the hilt, the Eagle’s wings enfolding my hand. “For all you think you rule me, the same way others think they rule me... they do not.”
“We will make ourselves your soul...”
“We?” I circle with the beautiful fiery sword over my head, dancing with it, loving it, drawing it into me as though I needed the steel to live.
“I.” It lies to me.
“I do not believe you.”
“We then.” It says. “We the Great Swords. We the mythical swords, the doom of heroes those who live by us die by us, the lifeblood and lifesteel of Greatness, of being lifted out of the ordinary, flying on impressive death... life and death held in one hand... the soul of the warrior life’s edge fleeting existence on a razor’s edge a choice thinner than a hair.”
“You are mad,” I tell the sword even as I cradle it to me, holding it like a lover to my breast, kissing the hilt as though it were a lover’s lips. “I know you. To my bones. To my heart. You wind through my skeleton and your temper rings in every heartbeat as though struck by the hammer of the Gods, being forged.”
“We are the same.”
“No, we are not.”
And the sword weeps rusting teardrops that it cannot convince me to take it into me, to press it to my flesh and make it so much part of me I will never be able to tear the steel out of my soul... It is lonely and afraid.
“You needn’t fear.” I tell the sword. “You will not rust away. You are not a thing merely of steel and fire and sweat and spark. You are humanities dreams and lusts and wills. You are their fears and their nightmares... You are both the edge between dark and light and the edge that destroys either. Or both. Your edge is the depth of Hayel, the single thing to breathe or make a sword. And every time a human mind, in fear says ‘SWORD’ Hayel is created. If I deny you, I create far more to breathe than your steel edge and shard. I will breathe more than splinters of steel, fragments of rust, drops of blood of the slain. I choose to breathe air instead of blood and air as tyrants breathe.
And the sword turns in my hands and plunges itself into my chest, seeking my heart. My hands are locked on the hilt, trying to pull it out. “See?” It whispers. “I am already in you. The Mahid just sharpened me. The Mahid just pulled the dross away so you could see I was already here.”
I woke, with my hands clenched over my heart as if around a sword-hilt, struggling to pull it out. I sat up slowly in bed. Gannara was over on the other side of the mattress, sprawled on his face, arms and legs spread. It was good to see, him sleeping with such abandon rather than knotted tight into a single hard clench.
The doors to our bedroom opened onto the roof terrace and I padded out to look up at the moon. It was a winking eye, a slender gash of ironic eye and had no answers for me.
I sat down on the edge of a garden planter, clutching my robe around me. I was delaying. I was living my dream of a home in Arko as if I were safe. Neither Kyriala nor Ailadas had been truth-drugged and Ailadas would be forced to give me up under the drug. Gannara and I would have to go. I would have to figure out where Ili would stay...
This was a dream and I couldn’t risk it much more. Ili’s birthday had come and gone and the Solstice where once I had marched around the Wheel of the Sun in the High Temple. Now it was someone else’s turn to do that.
I had to start thinking about us leaving, for all I didn’t want to. I had promised to see Gannara home and I was staying in Arko, keeping him near me as though I was Ili and he Indispensible Bear. I could not do that to him. We would have to go soon.
We had been lucky that Kyriala’s re-coming out party had been so late and the society pages had not made as big a deal of it as they could have. Of course a gigantic flood in Western Ysarias had made all other news more trivial and the announcement had been on the back Pages.
I drew a deep lung-full of the spring air of the city... still full of flowering chestnut trees. A scent like no other in the Empire. A spring aroma that made the faint chemical smell of the alcohol stoves all fade, at least in the spring in the fessas and solas and aitzas quarters.
I had half a dozen partly finished stories. I would finish as many as was feasible... I’d look at them tomorrow.
I was dreaming if I thought I could stay. Gannara and I should go and once he was home, safe, I might be able to come back. Perhaps buy a place of my own. Not let either Ky or Ai know I was back in the city. That would be the most sensible of courses.
of Haiksilias Lizan's MasterPiece!
The Presentation of the much anticipated Grand New Painting of Master Lizan has been set for Anae 5, 53 of the Present Age, the Marble Palace announced yesterday.
The artistic community and the city in general have been waiting with intense speculation over the enormous painting Lizan has been working on for more than two years, in such secrecy.