Rain sluiced blood into rivulets of muddy water. I turned up face upward, and struggled to get the rain to sluice blood off me. Cold rain woke me from battle fatigue and slumber. To my left side, a rivulet revealed an old, well-used scabbard. With all the energy I still possessed, I pulled it out of its muddy grave.
Hands much steadier than mine carved 9 runlets on both sides the case. Holding my breath, I pulled the sword from it’s casing. Metallically dull like the scabbard, half-finished runes twisting around the blade.
“I see you’ve found my sword,” said a strangely familiar voice to my right. “I have been wondering where I left it.” I turned slowly towards the source of the voice.”It’s a shame we had to wait so long to meet, and at a place such as this.” An old/young man leaned against an outcropping of blasted granite.
I intuitively knew, “Great-grandfather?” “Tis the very same,” he answered with a smile in his voice. “But . . .” I stammered. “I went on a Quest, and never returned,” he finished my thought.
“Are you real, or a shadow?” I asked, knowing what the answer must be. “What would you have me be?” A puzzler, a trickster, was it really even my great-grandfather?
Then I knew. “I am mortally wounded am I not?” “Yes.” The blood I was sluicing off was my own, not from the enemies in the heat of battle. “Had you really misplaced your sword?”
“Yes, which gives me an opportunity rarely granted in the game of life and death. You found something most precious to me that I lost on my Quest.” As he hefted the scabbard, the years of mud, and disuse washing away in the rain. He pulled out the sword. Against each drop of rain, it shone – crusts of lost and loneliness peeled away.
“This means you have a choice; an opportunity to choose your fate, as it were.”
So many ideas spilled over into my mind: mortal wounds do not heal; could there be more to my life than warring, pillaging and plundering; any unfulfilled quests; the sword was obviously magic – could I have use of it for a while. Did I really have a life to go back to?No family, few friends, no lovers – like the sword buried for many generations.
Great-grandfather, handsome and young one moment, old and wizened the next, answered my questions, although I had not spoken a word. “The sword has it’s own Quest, and when it’s ready, it will tell you.”
“Have you decided for me, then? That I am not to be a shadow but a Quester?” I asked. Great-grandfather walked around me three times.
“No, the sword has chosen. I have been unable to find it – it was not a trick by me that the rain loosened the soil. If you knew at what cost I have looked for it; and now I can pass it along to someone who understands the old ways and will adhere to them.”
I awoke. Cold. Wet. Pain in my chest. Bloodied clothes. A strange dream. Great-grand-father’s voice (or how I thought it should sound) echoed between rock outcroppings. Rain had stopped, and a wash of blue and yellow filled spaces in the sky.
Such a strange dream, I thought. I moved my right hand brushing up against something. It was a sword; one minute as if just forged by the smithy, the next as if it laid buried in the ground for generations.