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Brother of the Sword Chapter 9
#1
2/4/2021




Chapter 9
Esper Dragstar
The Road North, 1533 Imperial Calendar




Brother of the Sword poked his head out over the swinging half doors of the inn/tavern.  All of Mudpie had come out to watch the removal of the cat creature’s remains, for such a small village they still made a big semicircle around the enhanced bones of the monstrous creation.  Brother grimaced at the number of potential witnesses he would have trying to leave, and he paused to think it over for a moment.  Cursing under his breath, the sarcophagus born man hitched the back pack up on his shoulders and forced himself to walk through the doors.  Instead of taking the steps down to the pock marked street, he walked across the boardwalk deck in front of the building to hop over the south facing railing; his feet crunched through broken glass as he passed the busted window.  As he had yesterday he tracked the dirt path with his gaze, and he again pondered just meandering down the road; forgetting his promise to avenge the slain three.  Just the memory of the luster missing in Star Iris’s dead eyes firmed Brother’s resolve to end the menace to Mudpie.

The owner of the horse team, who was chaining up the chrome and bone cat caricature, was the first person to notice Brother of the Sword.  Pausing in his work to look Brother’s way was enough to reveal him to the crowd as everyone felt the need to see what the horse driver was looking at.  Immediately questions to Brother began to be shouted, and like a cloud of locusts, the entire town surged Brother’s way.  He walked faster, but the most able in the human mass broke into a run.  As a whole, the people of Mudpie did not get the hint, by not turning around, by ignoring their calls, Brother was advertising the fact that he did not want to field their questions.  Yet, by one of those odd audio idiosyncrasies, a woman’s voice sounded in a momentary lull in the shouting.

“Thank you!  Thank you, stranger!  You saved our town!”

Even though she did not sound like Star Iris, he saw her earnest face in his mind, begging him to help.  Drawing up short surprised the mass of people at his back, they stopped hounding him with calls and questions; the silence was as a balm in a way.  Some of them even stepped back when he reversed his facing, slower people were still gathering at the back of the human half circle arching around Brother.  Kids who were not fully cognizant of the threat facing Mudpie lost their grins at the stiff immobility of Brother of the Sword’s mien.

“I haven’t saved anyone!  That wizard is still out there and he’s likely to kill me!  So leave me the hell alone!”

Only after the words had left his mouth and left their mark of increased confusion and dawning fear on the people did Brother realize his poor choice in words.  They all had been putting their unfounded hopes in him, and here he was yelling at them and planting doubts.  Had Star Iris been wrong about Brother?  Was he really the monster he feared he was?  They were like children, they just wanted to know if it was safe to lay their heads down and sleep this night.

Feeling remorse did not negate Brother of the Sword’s indignation at having to be the one they were pinning their hopes on.  Then again he had made promises some of these people had heard.  Grimacing a little he held up his hands to quiet the small murmurs that had began after he had admonished them.  How can I give them hope when I have so many doubts?  “Give me four days, Mudpie!  If I return in that time then that means we have won!  If I have not shown by the fourth night then you will know I have fallen!  In the meantime you should discuss your contingency plans!  I know you’ll figure something out, if you’re smart enough to move yourselves to Mudpie, you’re smart enough to make the right decisions for your colony!”  Brother did not know what part of this message touched the people, but it was astounding to hear the positive tones in their mutters, see their straight backs as they looked at their friends and neighbors, and the number of nods they exchanged showing a resolution they had lacked moments before.

He gave the town a nod before turning back around to resume his trudge.  Brother made a single step when one voice made him freeze.

“The gods love you, sir, for you try where others freeze!”  Brother of the Sword felt a lump form in his throat at that sentiment, and visions of the dead three almost made the tears form and fall.  Self doubt reared though and stole away with the good will the people were sending his way.  After all, Brother was a simulacrum.  Would these people invest themselves in him if they knew he wasn’t real, as artificial as Esper’s cat like creation?

“Oh, Brother fell, shake this funk, shake this spell.  Would this wizard Esper volunteer it’s beast to end danger and make it deceased?  For others you take pure action, in that find some satisfaction.  Heroes are separated from monsters by choosing the path that helps others.”  Buoyed by his steel sibling’s encouraging words, or at least salved for a while because of them, Brother of the Sword raised his fist over his head for the people behind to see.

He set off as they cheered, their rapturous sound was a fanfare that for a time, firmed Brother’s resolve.  After crossing over the gravel road and entering the tall grasses that would dog his steps all the way to the hills a half mile away, Brother of the Sword felt his bitterness swell again.

“You say a hero helps other people, Brother Sword, but how much of what I have to do now was instigated by you.”  The sword did not answer Brother, but he was fed a shrinking away through the ether.  For some reason, feeling that withdrawal was better than an apology made with words.  After a while, as the hills slopes began to make him work a little, Brother began to feel a little bad for having browbeat Brother Sword into feeling crappy; after it had gone out of it’s way to make him feel less despicable.

As Brother of the Sword reached bushes acting as the forest’s heralds, he paused to pull out the treasure map Mister Dilane had given him; the map the leaders of Mudpie had made to find Esper Dragstar’s supposed treasure horde.  At first Brother wondered if he had set his course for the right hill, then his eyes spotted what looked like a deer trail fifty yards to his right.  According to the map he was to follow this path as it arched to a more south westerly direction before he would find a marker made by intelligent hands.  The map lacked the details on what that marker would look like.  He aimed his steps for the trail, but before ducking into the woods he turned back to look down upon Mudpie.  As distant as it was, the village looked extremely small and very vulnerable.

“Ready to be a hero...?  I ain’t,” he said aloud, but he also sent that to Brother Sword.

At first, the new growth trying to claim the trail made Brother of the Sword’s going rough, but deeper in the trees shade kept the bushes tamed.

“A tool of heroes am I, the fool you must ply.  With you I seek restitution, never again to fight is my resolution,”  Brother Sword suddenly confessed, it’s mental state rife with misery.  Again his fears warred with the concern Brother had for his sibling.  It was agonizing and apologizing, yet he still ached with anger… and a lot of fear.

“Think of it like this, After the wizard kills me he may line my bones with metal contraptions, then he may have my animated corpse wield you as his new war machine.”

For several moments he felt Brother Sword’s shock, then after a while there was a sensation of resolve.

“That thing that passes for your humor, is as hilarious as a flesh eating tumor, brother fell,” it said as it realized how Brother of the Sword was trying to cope with his emotional state.  For about a minute, Brother thought that the sword had withdrawn it’s attention.  A part of himself was grateful to learn that the blade was still fully engaged.  “These doubts that you harbor, I know why they belabor, brother fell.  All our other fights came with no forsights; our enemies came and attacked, choosing moments where odds were stacked.  Now it is that we have chosen to act, for the first time we hunt because of honors pact.  This is a first for you and I, and time is given to how we die.  Think of this naught, useless to be distraught, see our world and the advantage it grants our onslaught.”

Brother Sword was right.  Never before had they sought out a fight, battle had always come to them.  This attempt to fulfill his promise to the people of Mudpie had been granting him too much time to think about the upcoming encounter.  Unconsciously Brother of the Sword had been worrying all the ‘what if’ scenarios of all the things that could go wrong, which, he knew, would ensure something would unravel when the fight happened.  True, neither of them knew what they were about to face, yet he had abilities and resources he could draw upon; the most potent being his sibling.  Brother Sword’s blue bolt seemed to be able to disable a magician’s ability to cast spells, which was a game changing tool.  As Brother’s brain began to warm to this more positive tack, Brother Sword sent warm approval.

Would this Esper Dragstar have more bone and steel monsters waiting?  Brother of the Sword almost fell into the doubt trap again by asking such questions of himself.  Again his sibling would be the buffer he needed to beat Esper’s constructs, Brother Sword’s touch had already proven to introduce a momentary cessation in the false creatures actions.  In the hours of his hesitations and doubts he had been mostly oblivious to the world around him.  When his awareness opened back up, Brother realized that he was about to step onto a leaf strewn cobbled street.  He had found his sign that Esper’s tomb was near.  Thus it was that when the birdsong died away, then the trees began to seem stunted, he paid attention and slowed down.  His steps became those of a stalker, easing his toes down to minimize noise while he crouched to lower his profile.  Brother was near now, he could feel it….

Following the path around the slope of a hill, Brother of the Sword glanced up and noticed what looked like the aftermath of a recent landslide halfway up the slope.  Feeling his heart beat jolt into a faster rhythm, Brother leaned so he could take in more of the tumbled earth and rocks.  Framing the blacked out opening into the hillside, shaped stones ringed an opening.  Two slab like pillars canted slightly inward at their tops upholding a third shaped stone that rested horizontally across their tops, the double ‘T’ like shape looked like one of those mathematical symbols sorcerer’s liked to borrow for magical formulations.  This was it, this was Esper Dragstar’s tomb; the chamber Mister Dilane, Cyrus, Sheriff Dade Cartin, and the lovely Star Iris had sought treasure in.

“The trees were lesser in my olden age, copse of forest in smaller lots seeming staged,” a voice declared up and almost behind Brother.

Not knowing he had jumped in fear, Brother of the Sword whirled then crunched into leaves and slid slightly.  At the same time Brother Sword appeared in his palms that were aimed up the inside of the hill he had just rounded.  Esper Dragstar arched a perfect elven brow, coolly acknowledging the magical appearance of the blade.  Brother had seen a few Star Elves in and around Mudberry by the Water, finding them to be otherworldly and beautifully flawless in their features.  Sitting on a boulder with his knees drawn up to his chest, Esper had that unearthly grace of his people, but there was something more primal about him at the same time.  Silver and chrome armor glittered on his slender body, the raised visor of his helm forming a crown like decoration around that smooth pale brow.  “Thy blade and clothing are cunningly wrought.  Your peoples progress has time exceeded mine idea, mine thought.”

When fear had ridden him as a constant, then as Brother of the Sword had sharpened himself with planning, he had never imagined that this wizard would engage him in conversation.  He had always dreamed they would clash inside the cavern, he lowered Brother Sword to a low ready while peering up the treacherous hill.  Esper’s seat was close to seventy yards away, those twenty yards Brother needed to close in order to put Brother Sword in range would feel like a hundred going up that steep dead leaf littered slope.

“A couple of generations for your people may have passed since you were interred… which is a couple of hundred generations for us- uh- humans.”  What sort of magic would this being rain down on them at this range?  How could they close the distance without being obvious?

Quirking his head to the side, Esper indicated he had noticed Brother of the Sword’s verbal stumbling, the wizard’s eyes narrowed suspiciously.  Damn.

“Hast thou come to my holding home to make mine magic thine own?  Even outside of times treaty thou wilt find that task not easy.”  After making that challenge the elf stretched out his legs then slid down the side of his perch, his armor rattling against the uneven surface of the boulder.  Still not close enough.  Brother shook his head in the negative.  “What of the challenge offered by mind, hast the mage ways been abandoned by all kind?”

All Brother of the Sword could do was shrug, he had no clue concerning these ancient wizard’s dynamics.  Again Esper’s eyes drew to the narrow, his confidence unwavering despite the confusion.

“Oh, brother most fell, drawing him closer we must, if we are to make him future dust.  Admit to my deed, this could plant a seed,” Brother Sword suggested, feeling as focused as Brother of the Sword felt.  If only the slope before him was not as steep as it was, he could have been inching his way closer.  Unfortunately the ground under all the fallen leaves had no cohesion, a step up meant a slide down.

“I’m not a wizard, so I don’t know what you consider etiquette.  My brother, this sword, challenged you.  Your threats to the people in Mudpie made it a little angry.  Those people seem to like the government they already have.”

Most people would have already started to question Brother of the Sword’s sanity, but Esper’s silvery gray orbs shifted down to Brother Sword.  His head ticked to the side like a dog trying to pick out known words from the flowing speech of it’s human.  Then Esper drew his head back as something dawned on him.  Muttering some words under his breath, the elven mage drew a hand over his eyes.  Those orbs glowed when the hand came away.  From his high perch Esper spent the next moments studying both Brother and Brother Sword.  Brother had taken a high guard position until he realized that magic was not about to stream down upon them.  Shaken, the elf stepped back, shock marring features that had never been designed to be other than serene.

As though defeated, Esper’s shoulder’s drooped.  Sorrow, deep felt and wrenching because of the devastation shown, the elven wizard remained drooped as the mystic glow faded from his visual organs.

“Mine quest from faerie was fueled by arts most fell, kingdoms to conquer and be ruled by mine spell.  Kingly brother and human mages conspired to lay mine might low, Devastation I did their ranks but in an eldritch seed they did sew.  This later age has proved mine brother most wise, the arts arcane hath boundaries broken on their rise.  Great contraptions I imagined and crafted most cunning, but nothing envisioned compares to product most stunning,” Esper said making a sweeping gesture from the sword to Brother.  “Once I sought primitives to rule by might and art, I awake to find mine powers out shined at this new start.”

Finding himself blinking at this unexpected turn, Brother of the Sword almost felt overwhelmed.  His enemy was already conceding the contest, declaring that his wizardry was shallow compared to the arts that had crafted him and his steel sibling.

“Well good, we can avoid this fight.  By surrendering you have a chance to learn of the world as it is now, you can see how the races have grown and made themselves better….”  Esper started shaking his head no, denying Brother of the Sword’s words though they made good sense.

“Royal blood have I, mine only recourse is to die.  A prince of faerie an anachronism should never be, becoming naught but a farmer or commoner is not what I see,” Esper said pulling his own longsword free.

Again words that did not form speech flowed from Esper’s lips and his armored form lifted off the forest’s loam.  He soared at a steady pace over the crease separating his hill from his tomb.  Flicking the tip of his blade, which was similar to Brother Sword in length and breadth, and barking a sound that sizzled, the wizard flung a fist sized ball of fire at Brother.  Dashing down then along the hidden cobbled walk, Brother of the Sword let the fiery orb splash and burn the leaves where he had been.  His next move was to zig zag uphill to hide behind a tree and get within Brother Sword’s anti magic beam’s range, stepping off the buried road was like stepping onto a waxed metal sheet.  Earth cascaded from beneath brother’s feet and ten struggling steps barely got him three step lengths up the hill.  Another pair of burning orbs darted his way.

The first spell was easy to step away from, but that put Brother right in the path of the other.  Instinctively he interposed his steel sibling.  A razor like edge drank the magic away.

“That was most interesting, but burning my energy should not be our thing, brother fell,” the sword advised, letting him know that blocking those spells ate away from their ability to fling the magic negating bolt.  Brother of the Sword sought shelter behind a larger tree growing next to the buried cobblestone.

“I thought you were trying to commit suicide?” he called up to the elven mage.  Even though Esper had sounded so dejected before, his laugh was hearty, merry even.

“Out of mine time thou may say, but only the worthy will be deft to slay.  A corpse ye shall be, be ye weak, then a bane for me, this world shall I seek.”  The tree shook under a light impact as a little heat wafted across Brother’s face.

Glancing around his cover, Brother of the Sword was disheartened to see Esper as he landed in front of his lair’s mouth.  The elf was still too far away.  He was also clawing at the empty air as though pulling blankets off a clothes line, the word/sounds Esper called out seemed to be pushing reality into another form.

“Brother most fell, an experiment I would like to make, but first vacate this area for our life’s sake.”  Before Brother Sword finished it’s thought, Brother was already running at an angle up the hill to another tree.  A blue white beam shot from the spell caster’s chest and the trunk of Brother’s former cover detonated from a sharp shock wave that seemed to emanate from inside the tree.  He himself was lifted up then dropped to plow up ten or twelve feet of loam and withered leaves… uphill.  Small slivers of white wood rained down for the next several moments, none of the sections bigger than his pinky.

Growling as he spat out dirt and leaf bits, Brother of the Sword looked up hill in time to see another globe of fire hurling toward him.  Knowing he looked inept, he still rolled behind the tree he had been aiming for.  Esper’s laugh mocked more than the chuckle of a bull elk leading a hunter far from the coveted herd.  “Not long ago energy you gave of yourself, this may be the trick to kill this elf, my brother most fell.  As we broke the giant most fey your gift could win us this day.  Increase my range this day most strange?” Brother Sword queried, prompting his return question.

“Will it work?”  Two more burning orbs splashed up old fallen leaves before Brother received what amounted to a mental shrug from the sword.

Risking another glance uphill, he found Esper angling around to get a shot at Brother.  The elven wizard’s steps seemed unhindered by loose soil.  Grumbling Brother of the Sword shifted his position behind cover then began to pull energy from the soles of his feet up, then through his arms into Brother Sword.  In a matter of seconds it felt as if the adrenaline in his body was replaced by the need for a nap.

“That should be enough, now Esper’s life we must snuff!” the sword crowed with excess zeal.  Aiming Brother Sword like a wand, he stepped out from the tree seeking his shot up at the spell slinger.  Somehow the mage had suspected something, he was sprinting for the monolith lined opening of his lair, he trailed an exhilarated laugh as he dashed as if they were playing a frivolous game.  Esper’s unexpected change from stalking to running caught Brother off guard, he was unable to target the wizard before the elf darted into the hillside cave.

Shaking his head at the idea of stepping out of cover to climb the hill, Brother of the Sword realized how exposed he would be all the way up.  Still, after a few moments of waiting to see if Esper would pop out to launch his fire orbs or some other spell, Brother stepped out and started a wary climb.  Having to set his foot at each step, pushing it down to compact the loam before adding his weight seemed to keep the earth from cascading out from under his progress too much.  He angled up to the next tree, then the next trying to keep Brother Sword leveled at the broken prison’s entrance.  “If we had the time to trance, your energy I’d return to sharpen your glance.  Certain was I in the planning calculate, now suffer you must in weakened state.”  Worry rode the sword’s words, and that concern helped buoy Brother’s spirits.

Pausing to rest behind the next tree, he sent Brother Sword a reply.

“What I regret most, is that we didn’t get to find out if we increased the range of your magic killing bolt.”  This sentiment sparked a rush of emotions from Brother Sword, the blade bled relief so strongly that Brother of the Sword had to pause until the emotional wash passed.

“Brother fell, it balances and buoys my spirit to hear you trust my plan’s merit.  I feared my belligerent harm to those you loved would our relationship break and into a closet be shoved.  Never again, never again!”  Feeling the muscles of his calves grow tense nearly to the point of cramping, Brother stepped out, pressed his foot into the leaves until his limb stopped sinking, placed his weight into the step, skidded downhill four or five inches as the soil crumbled a bit, then repeated the process.  A silvery something the size of a seagull sailed out of the pi symbol cave.

Banking and angling adroitly around trees and branches, a bird made of bone, copper cable, silver wire, and multi hued dark feathers banked around to orient on Brother Sword.  Crystalline eyes blazed with lightening blue light as the construct swooped down with natural claws braced by sorcerous cutting energy.  Swinging Brother Sword was too much for the loam under Brother’s feet, which threw their aim off trying to swat the bird away.  As a real bird would have, the artificial avian swerved away from the blade, its claws scraping against Brother Sword with a sound like steel on steel.  It swooped up in a loop and began to dive again, this time Brother Sword flared with it’s light blue light when the claws contacted it’s edge.  Immediately the sparking light died in the animated birds eyes and the contraption dropped and bounced limply on the slope below.  This proved to be a temporary stop for the bird, the light flickered and firmed in the skull bone of the bird/thing.

Climbing had been a pain for Brother of the Sword, but leaping down hill covered a lot of ground fast.  As Esper’s bird creation got its feet under itself, spreading its wings to take flight, Brother sailed down with his steel sibling held overhead.  As it leaped to gain the air, Brother Sword smashed it forcefully back into the ground, breaking a wing off and making feathers poof out in a drifting cloud.  Those electric bird eyes sputtered for a few moments then went dead to reveal mere quartz crystal where eyes should have been.  He felt his sword’s frustration as it tried to sup upon blood that was not present.  Looking back at the cave, Brother half expected another monstrosity to spill forth but the old tomb remained empty.  “I wonder what other hellish creation Esper will send for our excoriation?” Brother Sword asked.

Avoiding ground he had already churned up, Brother of the Sword angled back up the hill so that the tomb’s opening could be covered by his brother’s magic eating bolt.  Step slide, step slide.  After five minutes of trudging, the silence began to eat at Brother.  Here he was, facing an ancient and wicked wizardly foe, and his enemy was not doing anything that he could see, and that worried the hell out of Brother.  Near the cave mouth, the soil developed a cohesion that made his steps firm, which felt like a burden had been lifted from him, still he had to rest behind the last tree until his legs stopped trembling from the toil and fear.  There was no sound issuing from the gaping black aperture, no indication that anything at all was going on inside.  Brother could not shake the image of Esper just inside the cave mouth waiting to pop a spell off.

Nearby, a fallen tree branch about the same dimensions as Brother of the Sword’s torso lay where it had fallen.  All the desiccated limbs were denuded of even withered leaves it had sat for so long, newer leaf drift gave the broken limb the appearance of a partially buried rib cage.  Picking this piece of detritus up, Brother carefully sidled up to the tomb’s entrance.  Still, there was no noise from inside.  Hoping the wizard was as keyed up as he was, Brother tossed the branch across the opening.  At the same moment he stepped back and raised Brother Sword to a high ready position.  Nothing.  Not even the rustle of clothing from someone waiting with a hunters patience.  He shed his back pack and set it behind himself.

I hope I’m fast enough to not become a cooked meal, he told himself after deciding he should be the bait of his next ruse.  Still, bringing himself back to the entrance, Brother of the Sword feared to reveal himself to this foe, even for a heartbeat or two.  Brother dashed across the entrance to take cover behind the gray slab of carved stone that served as the cavern’s frame, thrusting his reluctance back for a moment.  No flaming sphere shot out, no discharge of magical lightening greeted Brother, not even a gasp or whisper of cloth issued from the aperture.  Brother did not want to risk himself again, he did not want to enter that dark aperture, though he was now certain Esper was not in the tunnel however long that was.  Fearing the worst, he poked his head around the corner, waiting for death to strike.

Brother pulled back immediately and waited for the fireworks.  Once again Brother of the Sword had nothing untoward happened.  Yet one more time he peered around the corner then withdrew… then again.  Still no dramatic arcane energies came out of the dark.  Slick with fear sweat and exertion, and his heart beating under both influences, Brother eased into the tunnel hugging the northern most wall.  After he made five steps he realized that his right shoulder was pressed into the stone... that was his weapon arm.  Without a second thought he darted over to the left side of the passage so he would not be vulnerable, only after he made the dash did he realize that he had silhouetted himself against the bright opening at his back.  When they were well and truly engulfed in the stygian dark Brother of the Sword realized that his siblings innate glow was giving them away more than his dashing back and forth had.

Before he could curse under his breath orange light flared inside the former burial chamber, illuminating the cave and the bit of tunnel Brother was in.  Chrome reflected off of a titanic set of snake bones that reared up with a sarcophagus in its metal and bone coils, saber toothed fangs gaped wide as a diamond shaped head oriented on Brother of the Sword.  Larger than mastiffs, two dog corpses, lined with steel and wire, paced out before the great snake; their eyes glared an electric red when they posed near the entrance.  Beyond all the animate beasts, Esper Dragstar raised his arms high, his exquisite elven face transported by some malign exultation.

“Mayhap mine despair was ill timed, past magic more than cast off rind.  Well cast modern spell thou be, through contest past and present will see.  Mine passion reign supreme this contest achieve, thine worthiness I shall not believe,” the wizard said far back in his chamber, tilting his head to glare malevolently at Brother.

Both dog things broke into a very dog like sprint, the snake bones rippled after, it’s coils unraveling in it’s wake.  Brother of the Sword felt his brother’s mental smirk as he raised the tip to point Esper’s way.  Certainty seemed to waft off of the elven wizard until a second before the bolt flew off of Brother Sword, in that fraction of a second he realized that Brother’s pose was not false bravado at all.  Faster than a human, even faster than most of his modern kin, the elven prince tried to have his inventions intervene.  The dogs leaped too late, and if the snake had been of flesh then it would have transposed it’s bulk, but the light blue bolt sailed between walking ribs and struck true.  Both the canine corpses dropped and lay still, looking like someone had tried to make toys from their cadavers.  In mid contortion the snake died, falling limply with its tail almost touching the stone coffin; it’s head was fifty feet from that tail tip. 

Staggering back even as his toys died, Esper looked poleaxed.  Stepping over and around the constructs, Brother of the Sword entered the burial chamber and found that most of the north and southern wall were crammed with wizardly lab equipment.  “How didst thou do this thing, filched mine magic with bluish eldritch sting?”  Esper asked, skirting to the north to keep the sarcophagus between them.  Brother shifted his direction, vaulting onto the open faced corpse container to cut the lost wizard off.  Looking like a harried beast, Esper staggered away until his armored back struck an overly loaded table.  He drew his sword when Brother step dropped off the edge of his sarcophagus.

“It is what we do.  My brother and I hunt wizards, and we drain them and their minions to fuel our next hunt.  I don’t know how exactly, and at this juncture… I just don’t care.”

Esper chose a high point forward guard, his left hand out ready to add strength to a swing or grab Brothers hands or limbs.  Brother held his sibling low, with the tip pointed back and both hands on the hilt.  Stricken but exotic elven eyes sought his gaze a moment before steel rang out in mortal contest, those ancient eyes seemed to accuse Brother of robbing the world of Esper’s ancient splendor.  Brother of the Sword beat the elf’s down stroke aside with vigor, but Esper only faked stepping into his blow.  He was flowing back out of blade range with Brother’s parry, then like a mongoose he darted back in with a belly opening thrust in the midst of a riposte from Brother that would not have hit.  Brother had to drop his weight and batter Esper’s sword with Brother Sword’s pommel.  Just out of reach, the elf circled around nodding at the skill it had taken to block his last attack.

When they closed again it was not a tentative probing; this time they actually clashed for several moments where Esper probed the weak edge of Brother’s blade, sliding his sword toward Brother Sword’s tip and pressing with his strong edge inches from the quillions of his elven longsword.  Brother nipped that experimentation in the bud when he flowed away from Esper’s strong edge and bashed Brother Sword’s pommel into the side of the elf’s helmet; he almost hooked the former prince behind the neck with his hilt guard a beat after that rattling impact.  This time they both backed off, Brother seeing his own wariness reflected in Esper Dragstar’s eyes.  When they flew at each other again, Esper tried a bind where he shifted his feet and stripped Brother Sword out of Brother’s hands.  The elf threw the living sword away then swung for Brother’s neck.

Esper’s beautiful elven eyes flew wide when his killing stroke was blocked by Brother sword after it magically reappeared in Brother’s eager hands.  Then the ancient elven prince had to fall back, parrying and dodging a rain of edged steel in a semi circle around the stone coffin.  Brother had to let his attack relent when he realized that Esper was good enough to create his own luck in surviving those strokes.  As a matter of fact, it seemed like they were evenly matched.  Also, Brother of the Sword knew his energy was giving out fast.  It would not take the elven outcast long to realize that his foe’s strength was fading fast.  Instinctively he knew that a sacrifice would have to be made in order to end this fight sooner rather than when it was too late for Brother.  Yet, when their blades crossed again and Brother made the defense of his left arm look slow, Esper broke away rather than exploit the seeming weakness.

Silvery gray eyes squinted in suspicion as they again circled each other, Brother of the Sword attempted a feint in order to reverse the direction of their stalking.  He did not want the ancient elf to be able to think and reason at this time, that would make it harder to trick the mage.  Even as Brother lunged forward to engage his opponent he realized that his move was slower than he wanted.  In two beats, a slash and thrust, Esper turned his assault on its head; Brother stopped being the aggressor and was forced into a defensive posture.  As if he had known that Brother of the Sword would tire, Esper drove in with a vengeance making a continuous assault meant to drain Brother further.  Being forced to fall back from a slender opponent did not feel right to Brother, which was leading him to desperation.  He tried to lean in on a strong blade to strong blade bind to use his weight to tire the elf, but Esper vanished, leaping back and then gliding back in with a heart thrust that he could not block with Brother Sword.

Brother of the Sword was able to avoid death, but not injury.  Swaying and dipping down, Esper’s blade slid through Brother’s chest and lungs, scraping on the inside of the simulacrum’s scapula.  Seeing Brother’s pain bulged eyes made the elven prince grin victoriously, but when he tried to withdraw his point to poke Brother again, Brother grabbed and held Esper’s metal shod wrist keeping the blade locked in the wound.  Feeling the steel moving around in his chest cavity made Brother scream, yet somehow he held on to the wizard and swung Brother Sword with violent strength.  His first blow crumpled shiny steel into the wizardly nobles clavicle.  As Esper screamed in both horror and pain, Brother drove his sibling’s pommel into the chrome helmet, crumpling it in, once, twice, three times.  As the elf’s scream ceased Brother was forced to howl in pain again, Esper, even in death did not relinquish the hilt of his blade as he fell.  The sword ripped out of Brother’s body at a different angle than it went in, making his internal injury many times worse.
They fell as one.


“Brother!  Brother!  Wake up!  They have me!  Wake up! Wake up!  You must see!”  Brother Sword’s ethereal voice called incessantly down a tunnel of welcoming black.  Brother of the Sword tried to shut the insistent call out.  He had blacked out to avoid the world of pain-  Frigid water doused his entire body, the cold yanking Brother into unwelcome awareness.  Naturally he spasmed when the water hit, and his chest and shoulder burst into fiery pain; his outcry echoed through the burial chamber, silencing a murmuring that had not registered until now.  A figure above Brother touched the tip of another longsword to Brother’s neck.  Ancient sadness filled the exotic eyes of another Star Elf whose silvery crown glowed and glittered like a starry night upon a smooth brow and winter white hair.

Two elven women wept over Espers corps, rocking back and forth so that their pale, face curtaining hair swept the dead elf’s features.  Swallowing hard, the royal elf holding Brother at sword point spoke, his unearthly beauty enhanced by the sorrow wracking his heart. 

“How did he die?”  Brother of the Sword let his head roll over to see Esper.  The wounds were obvious which meant that this Star Elf royal wanted a different tale.  Pain made his muscles seize for a fraction of a second, but after his teeth unclenched, Brother found himself answering.

“Long ago Esper the wizard tried to forge himself a kingdom among the humans, dwarves, and other non elven races.  He was buried alive by a coalition headed by his brother the Star Elf king.  Half a year ago, treasure hunters from a new settlement half a day away thought they could loot this tomb for its riches.  They awoke your kinsman instead.  Esper tried to renew his dreams of conquest starting with this new village, he made constructs of steel, magic, and bone to instill terror.  I came to avenge those whom he killed in the name of his own vanity.”  Brother did not like hearing the bbubbling rasp of his own voice, and the act of speaking made it feel like steel was still inside his chest.

The royal’s fine features remained locked in sorrow, yet he removed the threat of his sword from Brother’s neck.  A nod from the elf conveyed that the information Brother had shared was acceptable.

“What are you?”  This was an infinitely more problematic query, and Brother knew that this being above him would require as truthful of an answer as had been supplied about the wizard.

“I wasn’t gifted any memories before I woke up in a cave a few weeks ago.  I have been told that I am a simulacrum, whatever that means.  What I do know is that my sword was born with me as my brother, and together we are meant to stop wizards from their crazier ambitions.”

Curiosity replaced the Elf’s lovely grief for a few moments, as the royal being studied Brother laying in a puddle at his feet.  Slowly, the Star elf prince or king nodded as he digested the information given.  Loss returned to those silvery eyes as he caught and held Brother of the Sword’s gaze.

“I was a mere child when Uncle Esper and my father quarreled three thousand years back.  My father’s brother demanded a kingdom for himself, so shortly after my grandfather had been killed defending fairy.  At first, his designs rested on fairy itself, which all felt was mad at the time.  In talking Uncle Esper out of conquering the fey lands, my uncle thought that he had been granted the right to direct his attention to the rest of Taleth-Ne-Taren, the world we share.”  The elf king said before shaking his head sadly.  “His rampages shocked all people, especially we Star Elves who had just concluded a war with invading creatures from dark spaces outside our world.  Our country was being blamed for my uncle’s predations, so my father had to show the peoples of this world that we were sympathetic to their plight.  Weak from prior war, we still had to provide the bulk of the forces that hunted Esper down and buried him here.

“Still thousands died… thousands that we could ill afford to lose.  I do not know how my uncle survived the passage of millennia trapped in here.  He was meant to perish, this I gleaned after my father left this world.  You have done what I could not myself do… slay royal elven blood, yet you have done the world a service doing so.  By one statute of the law, you must be killed, by another you must be lauded.  I am at a loss as to your fate.”

Back in the dimmer recess of the cave, Brother could feel Brother Sword encouraging him to summon it through the Ether.  He knew he could not defend himself even with his sibling in hand.  His injuries were too severe.

“I think your uncle killed me already, his fierceness undimmed by time.  I don’t think you will have to make a decree regarding my fate,” he told the royal, gulping against the breath he was forced to use speaking.  As though dismissing Brother, the Elf turned about and began walking away.  He did make a gesture just before he reached Esper’s table laden with thaumaturgic nick nacks.  A slender figure in pale robes trotted over to Brother and knelt down.  Pale, exotic, and totally unearthly in beauty, the elven girl looked at him then down at his chest wound.

Though her eyes wore the same sadness as her king, she was so lovely that Brother of the Sword realized that he wanted to live.  He wanted to say words that would make this girl smile, he wanted her to know how he desired her.

“Eskinuil naeth panduere,” she said, pulling a delicate looking little silver bowl from a pocket.

“What?  I don’t know what you’re saying,” he said, trying to sit up against the pain flaring from both talking and moving.  The elf girl put a finger to his lips and pressed his head back, her bowl hand pressed his right shoulder in the universal indication that she wanted Brother to lay down and shut up.

“Nanae dee sayumsaye.”  After he complied she held the bowl up.  Brother could see elven script around the bowl’s rim and she seemed to be speaking to the silver container.  Her indecipherable words continued to spill forth like a rill springing from a mountainside.  He did not know where the little vial came from, but the little container was suddenly in her hand.

Unstopping the glass container, she spilled a liquid that looked like pearlescent moonlight into the silver bowl.  This she stirred with a wooden wand that also was just suddenly there, much like Brother Sword popping into his hands.  “This Enviliyae is the kings own, brought in case he suffered an accident outside our homeland.  It is not enough to heal you completely, but it should see that you survive this wound and recover unburdened by future complications.”  Her words in his language was almost a shock, but the cool of the glowing liquid dripping onto his wound made him tense from toe to crown.  It froze and burned at the same time, and Brother was unable to tell if it was soothing his pain or making his entire body throb.  His head began to swim as she dipped more out with her pointy wand.  His groan seemed to emanate from outside of himself, as his consciousness loosened til he felt in a fever dream.

In a moment of lucidity, as more ice and fire dribbled into his lung tissue, he saw the elf king’s face over him again.

“Never brag that you defeated one of my family, never speak of our meeting or your fate and fortune will shift towards the bleak.”  Brother of the Sword wanted to assure this elder being that he would comply, he wanted to let the girl know that his heart belonged too… too….  Damn she was hot.  Darkness pulled him away from important things, but more important still, Brother was escaping a world of pain.


*A note to those who have never fought with a sword.  When I reference strong edges and weak edges on a sword I was using sword fighting terminology.  If you think of your sword in terms of a fulcrum you will find that near where you hold the sword, the hilt, if one pushes on the blade near the hilt one can hold the sword from being pressed this way or that.  A strong edge.  Passed the halfway point of the sword though, pushing against the sword does pressure the wrist to bend.  This weak edge forces the fighter to “flow like water” in order to exert their will on the contest.  I hope my explanation helps even if but a little.

   

   
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