Please refer to Forging and the 1st Unworthy for the Silver Sword's background.
Swan Warrior Part 1:
Let the praise of God be on their lips and a two-edged sword in their hand, to deal out vengeance to the nations and punishment on all the peoples.
Psalm 149: 6-7
One spring about 200 years after the Silver Sword was hidden with the fairies, the thunder of hoof beats cut through the calm of a morning in a camp on the Irowasan midlands. A young warrior named Norin raised his light brown eyes in time to see a group of mounted Rovinien soldiers ride for the far huts and light them on fire.
Norin had recently moved up from the south with his clan, the Wind Followers. They made their camp on the eastern edge of Fairy Wood where they hoped to escape the cruel warriors of a great empire named Sardi which had risen in the south at about the same time the Rovinien kingdom rose to power in the north. The Wind Followers were one of many clans trapped between these two mighty kingdoms in an area the two countries were fighting over to expand their realms. Norin sounded the alarm. Then grabbing a sword, he swung himself onto his horse and rushed to the join the other warriors of the Wind Clan as they moved to defend their homes.
In the forest the fairies noticed a black swan flying over the tree tops and took it as a sign that a great change was coming. After the passing of the swan, smoke rose from huts burning at the edge of the woods. Screams and the ring of weapons broke the woodland’s calm. Just as the fairies flew to investigate, Norin’s horse tore his way through the bushes. Norin slipped from the animal’s back and fell, panting, on a patch of moss and dry leaves. He pressed a hand against his right side, which was covered in blood.
“Rovinien soldiers are killing my clan!” he gasped at the fairies in nearby branches. “Save my people, please!”
He gritted his teeth as pain shot through him, then collapsed on the forest floor. Several fairies worked together to carry him to a hut which belonged to an elvin healer. Others calmed his spooked horse while the rest flew to investigate the attack.
Later as Norin lay bandaged in the healer’s hut, several fairies came baring the news he most dreaded.
“We were too late. There was nothing we could do.”
Despair crossed his face and he turned away from them. The pain in his heart was sharper and more severe than that in his side.
When he recovered from his injuries, Norin walked to the place where the ground was covered in ash and the blackened remains of plants. It was all that remained of his clan’s campsite. He stood for a minute in the shadow of a tree on the edge of the burned space, staring wide eyed at the marks of destruction around him as his heart filled with grief and rage.
At last he walked forward, stopping to reverently touch a charred beam from a hut. He straightened and stood with his arms crossed over his chest. A soft breeze came up, playing with locks of his auburn hair.
“There is nothing left,” he whispered. “I may be the last living member of my clan free of the Roviniens.” Then raising his voice he cried to woods, “Too many clans have been wiped out by Sardi and Rovinien. How many more people will they kill? How many more clans will vanish? I swear to the Lord of Light who spared me that I will someday protect other clans from destruction.”
A young fairy boy named Leaf heard his words and spread them through Fairy Wood. When the elves heard what Norin had promised, they chose to train him in their secret methods of fighting (which no human had learned before him) in order to determine if he could really become the protector of the clans. As autumn painted the woods with its colors, the fairy queen took an interest in Norin and his training and often stopped to watch him sparring with the elves.
One day the queen pulled one of the elves aside and said, “When Norin finishes his exercises for the day, tell him to meet me in the dancing meadow.”
When Norin arrived several hours later, the queen glided to the center of the meadow where she stood waiting for him. Norin approached her and bowed. The queen touched him lightly on the shoulder, removing her hand once he straitened.
“I have heard a lot about you Norin,” said the queen in her soft warm voice. “You have caused quite a stir in my kingdom. I hear you wish to become the protector of the clans.”
“I only wish to give them a chance for a brighter future, my lady,” Norin replied.
The queen raised a pale blond eyebrow as she said, “You are brave and determined. I can see that you will become as great a warrior as this land has ever seen. I truly believe that you will do all the things you say you will.” She lifted a thin finger to her lips and cocked her head, examining him thoughtfully. “I have a mission for you, if you are willing to accept it.”
“Just tell me what you wish me to do.”
“Lately soldiers from Rovinien have been amusing themselves by hunting my unicorn herds. They collect the horns for their power against poison. I want you to put an end to these unicorn hunts as they reduce the numbers of the herds at too fast a rate.”
Norin’s eyes gleamed as he answered, “As you wish, my lady.”
A herd of unicorns stampeded through the tangled woods ahead of the six Rovinien soldiers pursuing them. An archer near the front of the group raised his bow and fired a shot at the unicorns. Suddenly a rich brown horse jumped between the hunters and their quarry. From the back of his horse, Norin raised his sword and cut the arrow in midair before pulling to a stop in front of the lead rider causing the soldier to rein in his own animal. The soldiers behind him tried to do the same, and there was confusion for a minute as the horses collided. With some difficultly the riders spread out again. The leader turned toward Norin with a furious glare.
“Get out of the way, you fool!” he shouted.
“I’m afraid I can’t do that,” Norin replied.
The soldier looked taken aback, but his surprise quickly changed to anger.
“Who do you think you are?” he demanded. “Do you know that I am a knight of Rovinien? I have been to the king’s own court.”
Norin snorted and replied with a smirk, “And I am the protector of the innocent you kill, appointed by the Fairy Queen to tell you and your king to remain in your own kingdom.”
The knight’s eyes flashed. “I will cut out your tongue for such insolence!” he declared.
The knight backed his animal up a few paces then charged. Norin held his horse in place until the knight’s animal was a few feet from him, then leaned forward and slashed its chest. With a cry of pain the horse bucked, throwing his rider to the ground before collapsing. While the knight lay winded by the fall, the other soldiers closed in to form circle around Norin. A fire burned in Norin’s eyes as he swung his sword around himself, succeeding in keeping them at a distance. The knight pulled himself to his feet just as another soldier aimed a blow at Norin’s head. Seeing Norin thus distracted, the knight flung himself at Norin, knocking him off his horse’s back. Norin’s horse spooked and ran from the stop disappearing into the woods. The knight and Norin scrambled on the ground for a minute until Norin succeeded in slashing the knight’s arm, leaving a deep gash. As the knight cursed, two more soldiers dismounted to help their comrade. Three more remained mounted and moved their horses to cut off Norin’s escape. They all closed in at once, forcing Norin to move between them, fending them off with quick smooth motions while also dodging horse legs. Just as Norin felt his body starting to wear down, a noise like thunder caught their attention and interrupted the fight. A tide of majestic beasts charged with horns pointed at the confused soldiers. Norin ducked under the arms of an enemy and rolled into the underbrush as the unicorn herd swept the terrified Roviniens into the woods. Norin stood panting for a minute before wiping his sword on the grass and sheathing it.
As he looked for his horse, he felt grateful that the unicorns finally understood the he was protecting them and had decided to turn against the hunters. At last Norin found his horse, mounted it and rode into the depths of the forest.
Several days later, when Norin was once more patrolling for unicorn hunters, he heard sobbing. Turning his horse in the direction of the noise, he came upon a maiden in a soiled dress kneeling in the center of the clearing. Her wild eyes searched the woods. Tear tracks stained her cheeks and strands of blond hair clung to her sweaty forehead. Norin’s horse pricked his ears and the next minute a golden-brown unicorn came into view. The majestic beast walked straight to the girl, sniffed her, then lay down on the grass beside her. A sick dread washed over Norin as realized the soldiers were using the girl to bait the unicorn. With a slow, deliberate motion he drew his sword and waited; eyes and ears straining for any sign of danger.
The girl gave a gasping sob, glanced at the woods around her, then put her hands on the unicorn’s face and whispered, “Get out of here while you still can.”
There was a slight movement to the right of the meadow. Norin’s head snapped in that direction. The girl also noticed it for she leapt to her feet shouting, “Get out of here! Go! You never should have come!”
The unicorn stood but remained in the meadow, seeming reluctant to leave. Norin spurred his horse forward just as the first hunter broke from the cover of the trees. The soldier leaned forward on his horse’s neck and slapped the girl hard across her face, causing her to fall in the grass with a small cry. The unicorn pressed his ears against his head and snorted in fear as the hunters moved to surround him. Norin slammed his horse into the horse of the first soldier. The animal spooked, throwing his rider. The unicorn reared then bolted as a gap appeared between the Rovinien soldiers. One of the soldiers cursed and raised a bow but Norin swung around in time to slice the bow in half. Norin moved between the other hunters slashing at them and knocking them off their horses. Then, seeing the young woman still sitting at the edge of the meadow, petrified with fear he shouted, “Run!”
As if his voice had broken a spell she was under, the girl stood and ran up a nearby hill as fast as her legs would carry her. By this time the soldiers recovered and many remounted their horses. Several broke away from the main group and spurred their mounts in the direction of the fleeing girl. Norin struggled with the others until he broke out of their ranks. He sped past the soldiers, overtook the young woman and swung her onto the horse in front of him.
An arrow whizzed past Norin’s ear. He ducked, throwing a protective arm around the girl in front of him. Suddenly an arrow sailed through the air in front of Norin and struck one of the soldiers in the chest. He the ground with a loud “thump” while his horse turned and ran back the way it had come. Norin pulled his own horse to a stop as more arrows came from the trees, showering the Roviniens. Unable to identify where the shots were coming from, the soldiers turned and retreated. Norin gazed after them in amazement then lifted his reins intending to ride in the opposite direction.
Just then a sharp voice called, “Stay where you are, come no closer!”
A group of fully armed warriors broke from the cover of the trees and approached to surround Norin, who watched them warily without moving. Seeing Norin ringed in by the warriors, the girl came out of her shock and cried, “Hold your fire. This man saved me from the soldiers.”
The warriors lowered their weapons into less threatening positions.
“You must take him to my father,” the girl added, sliding off the back of the horse.
One of the warriors stepped forward to assist her while another ordered Norin to dismount and hand over his weapons. Norin frowned, then looked to the girl who nodded at him. With a sigh he dismounted and passed his sword and a few other small weapons to the man who had spoken. Another man took hold of his horse’s reins.
They moved into the forest where they came to a village of rough huts. Several people ran up to the girl praising the Lord of Light that she was safe before looking with curiosity at Norin as he passed surrounded by their warriors. At last they came to a long hut which was larger than the others. The girl stepped inside and the warriors pushed Norin in after her. The floor of the hut was covered in soft furs, its beams covered in carvings depicting the clan’s history. The grey bearded chieftain sat in the center of the long hut on a high backed wooden chair. The girl ran to him and he stepped forward to meet her.
“Chieftain Oathswine,” said one of the warriors. “When we went to search for Lady Elena as you ordered we found this man riding through the woods ahead of a group of Rovinien soldiers with your daughter on the front of his saddle.”
He gestured at Norin.
“He rescued me from them, father,” said Elena.
Chieftain Oathswine scrutinized Norin before asking, “Who are you and what are you doing in these parts?”
“My name is Norin and I am a survivor of the Wind Clan. I have been living in this forest since my clan was attacked by Rovinien nearly a year ago.”
“Indeed?” Oathswine raised an eyebrow. “I have heard of the destruction of the Wind Clan. How did you manage to escape the Roviniens?”
“I was wounded as I defended the clan with the others. The wound was bad enough that I couldn’t continue fighting. I knew the soldiers would kill me if I stayed, so I fled into the forest. I rode until the pain became too much. Then I collapsed on the forest floor. I remained in the woods, at first regaining my strength, and later attacking the Roviniens from their cover.”
“If you were so badly wounded how is it you recovered?”
“I suppose the magic of the forest saved me,” Norin replied.
It was clear this answer didn’t satisfy the chieftain’s curiosity.
Oathswine frowned and asked, “Why did you not find another clan to join when you recovered?”
“I had everything I needed here in the forest,” Norin replied. “I didn’t need the security of another clan and there were plenty of opportunities to fight Roviniens here.”
Oathswine’s frown deepened and his forehead creased with confusion. At last he said, “I thank you for saving my daughter. I insist you stay with my clan for a time so that I may show you my gratitude.”
Elena’s eyebrows rose in surprise. She opened her mouth to say something but was cut off as Oathswine signaled two warriors to accompany Norin out of the hut. Norin bowed his head then exited.
Norin and two warriors joined a group seated around a campfire. They remained at the fireside for some time until the warriors became distracted by an old man telling stories. A shadow flickered at the very edge of the firelight, catching Norin’s attention. He turned to see Elena, washed and in a fresh dress, beckoning him to her. Without a word Norin stood and slipped into the blanketing darkness. Elena led him to the very edge of camp, where his horse was tied, before she spoke.
“I wanted to warn you,” she said with a nervous glance at the huts silhouetted by firelight. “My father and many members of the camp don’t trust you. They think you are lying about living in the woods and that you might be a spy for Rovinien or Sardi. I fear they may try to harm you.”
“What makes you disagree with the others?” asked Norin.
“If you were a spy you wouldn’t have cared what became of me. I brought your weapons. They’re strapped to your horse’s saddle. Leave quickly before they notice.”
Norin took Elena’s hand and said sincerely, “Thank you, my lady.”
Elena squeezed his hand before releasing it.
“Hurry!” she cried. “They will come looking for you any minute.”
Norin untied his horse then swung himself into the saddle and, with a parting salute to Elena, rode into the dark forest.
The next morning the fairy queen once again summoned Norin to the dancing meadow. She was already waiting there when he arrived.
“You have done well. I heard of your battles to protect the unicorns and save Chieftain Oathswine’s daughter,” said the queen. “You have proven yourself a mighty hero. For this reason I have a gift for you, something which will help you accomplish your goals.”
She snapped her fingers and a few pixies flew out of the cover of the trees carrying a sheathed broadsword. With a curious glance at the queen, Norin took the sword from the pixies, drew it from its sheath and held it out in front of him to better examine it. The sword gleamed white as the sun reflected off a strange twisting pattern on the hilt and cross guard.
“The dwarves forged the Silver Sword long ago,” said the fairy queen, “They gave it to us for safe keeping until a worthy hero should arise to take it.”
A smile crossed Norin’s face and he lifted the Silver Sword to salute with it.
“Thank you. I will make sure it serves its purpose well.”
The queen gave him a wise sad smile and said, “There is one last task you must accomplish to prove you are worthy to wield this sword.”
“What task is that, my lady?”
“You must save Oathswine’s clan from being destroyed by the Roviniens.”
She gestured at a spot behind Norin where a column of smoke rose above the trees.
“That is not going to happen!” Norin shouted.
He strapped the sheath to his belt as he dashed through the forest to find his horse.
Story continued in Swan Warrior Part 2.