Saturday, July 7, 2012

Sample from an Earlier Chapter

I just realized this evening that my story samples skipped from chapter one all the way to chapter five, with nothing in between. Seems kind of crazy, but I guess I had enough other topics to write on that I simply forgot to publish any samples from chapters two through four. So without further ado, here's a sample from an earlier point in the story...

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It took Balfrith several weeks of constant pestering, to get Leofred to tell him more about the sword. He’d tried the direct approach at first, hoping that his tutor would simply answer his questions - but to no avail. Later, he tried a few different indirect approaches, trying to tie his questions into topics such as metallurgy, or magic - always a favorite of his, anyway. But again, his questions were rebuffed and Leofred even had the gall to say, at one point, “I know what it is you want, master Balfrith, but I cannot give it to you. Your father has forbidden any further discussions on the topic, and I must honor that command.”

But Balfrith did not give up so easily, in spite of Leofred’s resistance or even his father’s command. He continued asking, pestering, coming up with different ways to ask the same questions over and over again: How did the sword Branulf become cursed? What was the nature of the curse? And why did his family still keep the sword, if it was cursed?

Finally one day, during yet another interminable history lesson on the wars of old Nûmidëa, just as Balfrith’s attention was slipping away yet again into day-dreams of ancient elvish forests, these words slipped through his consciousness, snapping him back into the moment: “… and that was when Godhelm threw away the sword Branulf, swearing to never carry it again.”

“He threw it away?” blurted Balfrith, interrupting. “But how - and why? I thought father said it was our family’s burden to bear?”

Leofred sighed, closing his eyes for a moment. Finally he opened them again, looked at Balfrith, and said, “Yes, master Balfrith, it is the curse of your family. But that doesn’t mean there were no attempts to be rid of it, before your ancestors finally gave up, accepted the curse, and allowed the sword to remain with them.”

“So, what happened then - after he threw it away?”

“What always happens when people try to rid themselves of a curse. Their situation actually becomes worse than before, so that they eventually are forced to accept the curse - or be destroyed by it.”

“But that doesn’t make any sense! There must be a way to remove a curse - it’s not right - it’s not fair!” wailed Balfrith.

“Surely you’re not going to bring that up again?” asked Leofred, mildly.

Balfrith paused for a moment, then asked, “But if a curse is magic, can’t someone just make a spell that’s more powerful than the curse, to remove it?”

“Curses don’t follow the normal rules of magic, Balfrith. They are not easily bestowed, and cannot be simply dispelled or wished away. In the case of Branulf, the curse came upon it at the betrayal of Aethelred. It is said that the blade itself leaped from its scabbard when he was stabbed in the back, and it defended him from any further attacks, though it was unable to save his life. Aethelred himself spoke the curse, saying, ‘Branulf, you have served me faithfully all these years. Now do one last thing for your master: never permit another man to wield your power, but rather be a curse to your owners for all time.’ And when his lifeblood poured itself out, and Aethelred breathed his last, then the blade fell to the floor - and has remained dormant ever since.”

“Then why couldn’t Godhelm throw the sword away, if it was dormant?”

“As I said, Balfrith - it’s not just the sword, but the curse itself. After he got rid of the blade, things actually became worse for him. Tragedy after tragedy befell him, until finally he relented and retrieved the blade, at great personal cost. But if he hadn’t paid that price, it would surely have claimed his life.”

"I don’t understand,” Balfrith said. “It still doesn’t make sense.”

“Well, you’re still young, master Balfrith. These things are not easily understood, even by adults. I probably shouldn’t have allowed us to follow this line of conversation. Now - back to the lesson…” Leofred went on to talk about Godhelm’s attempt to be rid of the sword, the various tragedies that befell him, and his ultimate decision to take the sword back into his keeping - even if only to store it away, and not use it.

But by then, Balfrith’s mind was a thousand leagues away, in northern forests where green things grew year round, where Elves walked the earth in silent majesty, and there were no such things as curses.