This story is concluded from Swan Warrior parts 1, 2, 3 & 4.
For the Silver Sword's background refer to Forging and The 1st Unworthy.
Swan Warrior Part 5
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
Elena met Norin at the edge of Oathswine’s camp. She said nothing, but once he dismounted she brushed her finger tips over the welt a slaver’s whip had left on his cheek. Out of the corner of his eye Norin noticed Oathswine watching them.
When the chieftain made no move to separate them, Norin caught Elena’s hand and whispered, “I made it back. Please don’t be angry with me.”
Elena dropped her eyes but nodded. She took Norin’s hand and escorted him to a cot in a nearby tent where she left him, allowing him to surrender to exhaustion.
Once all the warriors were somewhat rested, Oathswine brought Utaria’s messenger before the chieftains and Norin. The young clansman repeated the warning that an invading force was marching out of Rovinien to attack the allies.
“Lady Utaria believes the Rovinien king is angry with us for making his soldiers look like fools,” the messenger added. “Two more clans came to us for protection once they saw Rovinien advancing. One is led by a chieftain named Salsdor. The other is a clan who lived near the ford of the Taratin River and suffered heavy losses when the army crossed there.”
“The soldiers of Sardi will no doubt continue to pursue us even as Rovinien advances,” Keth said. He added in despair, “What chance do we stand if both enemies attack us at the same time?”
“We must rely on our combined forces and do the best we can to hold them back,” said Norin.
“All the members of the clans who are not warriors will have to go into hiding,” added Tayad. “Even then I fear they may not be out of danger.”
“The best we can do is stand strong and not yield to Rovinien or Sardi,” said Oathswine. “If they wipe us out in the end at least we can go down fighting. I know I’ve had my differences of opinion with all of you before, but I refuse to let you face these enemies without my help.”
Norin nodded then said, “We should move the clans of Oathswine, Akayan and Milarko into hiding. Once they are safe the warriors can ride to the aid of rest of the allied clans and work to find hiding places for the rest of our people before our enemies swarm us.”
Fin sighed. “That seems to be our best option at the moment. We will have to move fast.”
They broke camp and moved north all the while watching the horizon for any sign of troops approaching from Sardi. Elena pulled her horse alongside Norin’s so she could ride beside him. Norin’s eyes once again shifted toward Oathswine. Elena noticed this and cocked her head by way of question.
“Your father made it clear to me he does not want us to be together,” said Norin.
Elena’s jaw tightened and she lifted her chin as she replied, “It is not my father’s choice to make. If I choose you he will someday have to accept that.”
The confidence in her tone made Norin relax. He smiled at her and she smiled back.
By nightfall they were little more than halfway to their destination. They chose to stop a while and rest themselves and their horses. Norin woke at dawn, restless with thoughts of the coming battle. He stepped outside his tent and breathed in the cool, fresh air trying to calm his mind. At the edge of camp, silhouetted by the sun hanging just above the horizon, Elena stood with her arms wrapped around herself.
“You should be resting,” she said as he walked up beside her. “You’ll need your strength more than I will in the next few days.”
Norin sighed then held out a hand to her. She took it.
“Let’s take a walk,” said Norin.
They moved away from the tents and sleeping horses. A thick stream skirted past the east end of the hastily constructed campsite. Norin and Elena followed this until it emptied into a wide calm pond. At the south-west end the pond opened once again into a stream then branched out as it searched for larger waterways to join. In the soft marshy grass at the pond’s edge Norin stopped forcing Elena to halt also.
“Do we really stand a chance?” Norin whispered.
“I’ve always believed in you,” Elena replied. “The other allies now trust you too. You must remain strong and trust the Lord of Light to see us through this.”
Before Norin could reply the sound of wings caught their attention. Norin and Elena both turned to see a flock of swans make a graceful landing on the water.
“Look!” said Elena. She leaned closer to Norin and pointed to a magnificent bird with feathers the color of coal. “It is your sign. The Lord of Light has blessed you.”
Norin’s heart warmed at her words. He took her hand again and smiled before returning his attention to the beautiful bird. As Norin stared at the black swan everything came clear in his mind and he suddenly realized what he needed to do.
“What have I been thinking?” he cried squeezing Elena’s hand. “We have the warriors of ten clans ready to fight. Because Tayad had us camp in hiding, I doubt Rovinien or Sardi know our true numbers. If we can draw them to us by appearing helplessly caught between them we can lure our enemies into a trap. Elena, we can defeat Rovinien and Sardi in one fell swoop!”
Elena’s face broke into a wide grin and she threw her arms around Norin’s neck shouting, “I knew you would find a way!”
Laughing, Norin picked her up and spun her around.
“Norin!” a voice interrupted.
Norin set Elena back on her feet and turned to face Tayad who was watching them with an amused twinkle in his eyes.
“A fairy just arrived in camp,” Tayad said. “He says his queen offers us her protection and asks that we make camp in Fairy Wood.”
“We should take her offer,” said Norin. “Fairy Wood is the perfect hiding place for the woman and children while we fight Rovinien and Sardi. I have a plan to defeat them. We need to gather all the chieftains and warriors, including Wiltor, Utaria and the newcomers to Utaria’s camp, for a council of war.”
“I’ll tell the others and urge them to break camp,” said Tayad. He headed back toward the tents.
Norin turned back to Elena who stood behind him still smiling.
“Will you wait for me in Fairy Wood?” he asked.
Elena nodded then stepped forward, took his face in her hands and kissed him hard on the lips. After a second of surprise Norin returned the gesture. Heat flowed through him and he thought he might melt.
At last Elena pulled back, looked deep into his eyes and said, “Go defeat those villains once and for all.”
Late the following day, after the woman and children were safely in Fairy Wood, Norin stood in the center of a ring formed by the nine chieftains and Lady Utaria. They sat together in the canyon which once hid Utaria’s camp.
“All we need to do is make a fake campsite, fill it with warriors and bait one army or the other them into attacking it. Once they are in the camp we can bring in more waves of warriors led by different chieftains to attack them from every angle, including their own camps, until we force them to admit defeat,” Norin explained. He then added, “If we drive Rovinien and Sardi out of the midlands each of you could claim part of the land as your own. Your clans could live side by side in peace. First we have to defeat our enemies in a way they will never forget, a way which will make them understand that we are not people they want to meddle with.”
“That should not be hard,” said Chieftain Fin. “They already fear you, Norin, and they are coming to respect the rest of us too.”
“All these years I have dreamed of a time when we could live without the fear of constant attack,” added Keth. “To think that dream could be a reality!”
“How would we divide the land equally between the ten of us without starting a clan feud?” asked Oathswine.
“That is a problem for another time,” said Tayad. “Our first order of business is to drive out the invaders.”
“Since it seems you are all with me,” Norin added with a smirk, “let us set to work.”
Norin sat astride his horse amidst the warriors of Utaria. To his left were Chieftain Fin and his warriors, to his right the warriors of the clan of Salsdor, one of the two chieftains who sought protection during the rescue of Akayen and Milarko. The warriors formed a ring around a cluster of tents. They held weapons at the ready as they waited for the attack of surrounding Rovinien army. Of all the clansmen’s forces this group would be in placed in the most danger, yet the chieftains insisted Norin be part of it. If their enemies had not seen the warrior with the sword of white fire in the ranks of the defenders they would have been suspicious. The army of Sardi was camped on a rise to the south waiting like vultures to finish off any warriors who escaped the Roviniens.
The dead silence of the plains broke as the commander of Rovinien gave a cry and raised his sword, urging his men to charge. Norin braced himself and raised the Silver Sword, blocking the blow of an advancing soldier with a mighty swing. For several minutes Norin’s entire world seemed filled with flashing blades, bone rattling blows and the blood of fallen enemies. Little by little the fierce Roviniens pushed the warriors back until they were fighting between the walls of the canvas tents.
From the corner of his eye Norin saw a Rovinien soldier knock Fin out of his saddle with a hard thrust of his blade. As Fin lay dazed, the soldier dismounted and raised his sword to finish the chieftain. Just before the soldier’s blade fell, a new group of warriors belonging to Keth, Akayen, Milarko and the River Clan burst out of the tents. Keth slit the throat of the soldier threatening Fin then turned to attack the other Roviniens. Norin’s warriors doubled their own efforts at the sight of Keth. Before long the Roviniens were forced to retreat to the open plains, jumping their horses over the bodies of the dead which clogged the areas between the tents and slowed their progress.
With a mighty shout, Norin raised the Silver Sword and wheeled his horse to give chase. Many of the warriors rallied to him and they charged onto the plains where they once more engaged the Roviniens. Another war cry rang out from the hills. Norin stabbed a soldier who made a mad rush for him then raised his eyes to see warriors led by Oathswine, Tayad and Wiltor charge, trapping the Roviniens between ranks of clansmen. Finding his men thus surrounded, the Rovinien commander made a sudden unexpected move. He charged, slamming his horse into Norin’s. As Norin fought to control his spooked animal, the commander banged his blade against the side of Norin’s helmet at his temple. Dazed and thrown off balance, Norin toppled from his horse’s back.
Norin rolled away from the horse’s hooves but not in time to avoid a sharp kick which knocked all the breath out of his body and left an insistent pain in his left side. The commander rode forward, fighting back the warriors who tried to surge to Norin’s aid. The other Rovinien soldiers rushed to follow, seeing their advantage. Norin tried to crawl to the side, knowing if he didn’t he would be trampled to death under the hooves of so many horses. Pain flared in his side. He gasped, unable to move fast enough to save himself. The pounding of the hooves mixed with the beating of his heart until Norin could not tell one from the other. He twisted and slashed at the legs of a horse.
Just when Norin felt sure he would be crushed, a strong arm yanked him out of danger. Tayad released his hold on Norin’s back and stood over him in a defensive stance, keeping the enemy’s animals at a distance. The horses spooked and veered sideways, breaking through the ranks of warriors.
Tayad took a deep breath to calm himself, sheathed his sword, then knelt beside Norin and asked, “Can you stand?”
Norin nodded. Tayad wrapped an arm around him and pulled him to his feet. Norin groaned and gritted his teeth but managed to stay upright.
“Where’s my horse?” asked Norin.
Tayad pointed to a place beyond most of the warriors where the horse pranced, watching those around him with nervous eyes. Norin signaled a warrior who calmed the horse enough to grab the reins and lead him to Norin.
“Help me mount,” Norin instructed Tayad. “We need to start the next stage of our attack.”
“Are you sure you’re up to it?” Tayad asked giving him a sideways glance.
Norin gave a tight nod. “It will take a lot more than that to make me sit this one out.”
He sheathed the Silver Sword and placed his hands on the saddle. Tayad cupped his hands, allowing Norin to place his foot on them, then boosted Norin onto the horse’s back.
“Gather our warriors,” Norin said as he lifted the reins. “Tell Oathswine, Fin, Akayen and Milarko to join me. We attack Sardi. You gather the others and pursue the Roviniens.”
Tayad nodded and ran to relay the orders.
Oathswine led the charge into Sardi’s camp brandishing his sword in one hand and a lit touch in the other. He never slowed his pace when two guards moved to stop him. With a couple quick sword strokes he dispatched them. Then with a fierce roar to equal that of a fire-breathing dragon, he touched the torch to the tents he passed, setting them on fire. Akayen and Milarko followed Oathswine with their warriors, engaging the soldiers who staggered out of smoking tents shouting curses in their own language. As the soldiers broke free of the burning camp they met with Fin’s warriors.
A handful of Sardi men moved through the chaos to carry buckets to a stream just downhill from their encampment. As the first man lowered his pail to the water a blade flicked out and knocked it from his hand. With a cry the soldier drew his scimitar and spun to face his opponent. When his blade struck that of his enemy, the soldier’s courage drained from him. The sunlight played off this warrior’s sword, making it shine like white fire. The soldier raised his eyes, met Norin’s calm gaze and backed away in fear. An archer from Fin’s ranks shot him down as he tried to run. Norin turned on the soldier’s companions. They dropped their buckets and drew their weapons but only one succeeded in leaving the smallest cut on Norin’s leg before he ran them through.
Norin and circled the camp a couple times, making quick work of a few lone soldiers. Satisfied there were no more escapees, he urged his horse onto the plains and joined Oathswine’s ranks. He surveyed the damage they had done to the army of Sardi. The soldiers who had survived Oathswine and Fin’s fearsome assault were now ringed in by warriors whose archers shot into their midst. At the sight of Norin the soldiers panicked. Most shifted as far from him as possible, avoiding the Silver Sword as best they could. Only one crazed soldier desperately leapt at Norin. Oathswine lifted his torch and with a vicious blow slapped the man with it. The soldier fell back, shrieking in pain and batting at flames eating his face. The remainder of the Sardi troops took advantage of a few warriors frozen in horror by the terrible scene, cutting them down and forcing their way into the open.
“Shoot them!” cried Oathswine.
Arrows flew at the retreating figures but only a few found their mark.
“After them!” cried Oathswine. He thundered down the rise and tossed his torch into the stream. The other warriors followed his lead and the rest of the day was spent pursuing the battered remnant of the army of Sardi.
At sunset a lone rider appeared on the northern horizon. As Oathswine and the other chieftains continued their frenzied hunt, Norin took a handful of warriors and lagged behind to learn the rider’s business. When the man finally reached him, Norin recognized him as a warrior from Tayad’s clan. The rider was sweaty and covered in grime. His eyes held the wild look of bad news.
“What happened?” Norin demanded as the warrior dismounted.
“The Roviniens have Keth and Wiltor cornered in the canyon lands,” the rider reported. “Chieftain Tayad wanted to go to their rescue but then he noticed another troop of Roviniens marching into Fairy Wood.”
Norin pictured the Roviniens finding the camp of the clanswomen and children hidden in the woods. He could almost hear the screams and see the terror in Elena’s eyes. A sudden wave of panic swept through him as he realized he might lose the very people for whom he fought hardest.
“Do the Roviniens know…?” Norin began but the words seemed to choke him and he could not continue.
“We’re not sure but it’s what we fear,” the messenger replied. “We had to split our forces and Chieftain Tayad fears it is a trap to spread us thin and so weaken us. He ordered me to slip past the Roviniens and get word to you in hopes that you could bring more warriors to our aid.”
Norin turned to one of the warriors standing beside him and ordered, “Ride ahead and tell Chieftain Fin to gather his warriors and join me heading north to assist Chieftain Tayad. The others can handle the army of Sardi, especially if Chieftain Oathswine remains in command.”
As the warrior spurred his horse forward to obey, Norin silently prayed, Don’t let us come too late!
Norin’s sense of urgency pressed him to ride so fast the other warriors struggled to keep up with him. Near the end of the night they passed the canyon lands and entered the section of Fairy Wood on which the Roviniens were marching. The pale grey pre-dawn light illuminated the ranks of soldiers beneath the tangled branches. Tayad’s warriors formed a line in front of the Roviniens, blocking them from the first of the camouflaged huts hiding the clanswomen and children. A number of elvin warriors mixed with the clansmen and fairies watched from the trees.
Without hesitation Norin drew the Silver Sword and charged into the midst of the Rovinien forces. The soldiers moved to close ranks around him and cut off the warriors trailing behind him. With the terrible battle light glowing in his eyes, Norin turned away weapons from all sides. Every soldier who moved too close fell to the Silver Sword, forcing another to take his place. Norin moved with a strength and speed his enemies were not expecting and even his allies had never seen in him. He no longer felt the ache in his side or the sting of a dozen minor wounds inflicted by chance blows from the Roviniens. Only one thought filled Norin’s mind and made him an unstoppable force: If I fail now I lose everything I fought for.
A few points made a vague impression on Norin through his battle haze. At some point during his rampage Tayad’s men charged. Then seemingly without warning, Norin found Fin’s warriors at his side rather than Rovinien soldiers. Last the fairies and elves advanced on the soldiers and something in their hostility made it seem as though the forest itself rose against Rovinien. Then the soldiers were retreating from the clansmen in fear. Suddenly the trees were gone and they were fighting on the plains. They moved to the canyons, sweeping away the last of the Rovinien army, which now seemed unable to hold them back. More clansmen poured from the canyons and joined the fray.
A large foamy waterway rose before them and Norin realized with shock they had reached the Taratin River. The Roviniens splashed into the water of a wide calm bend, nearly riding over each other in their haste to cross and escape the crazed warriors. Someone gave a great shout of triumph. Norin turned as Chieftain Keth lifted his sword, a gesture in which the other warriors joined him with victory cheers.
“Let this be a warning to you,” Norin shouted to the Roviniens across the noise of the river. “If another of your soldiers crosses into our territory without our permission it means certain death for that man!”
Norin turned back to the warriors and with a grin led them in a victory march through the forest. Norin rode to each of the hidden campsites, spreading the news of the victory. As he reached the middle of the forest, where the women and children of Oathswine's clan were camped, his mind filled with a single question he wanted answered. The thought of this question made his pulse race with excitement very different than what he felt in battle.
A few days later Fairy Wood was filled with the sounds of a joyful celebration. With sparkling eyes and flushed face, Elena trailed at the end of a procession of warriors, fairies and clanswoman. Flowers were braided into her golden hair and she wore a fine gown of silver and white which was a gift from the fairy queen.
Elena stopped before Norin. His armor was replaced with a fine tunic though the Silver Sword still hung at his side. There, with the fairy queen and members of all ten clans as witnesses, Norin and Elena made their vows to each other and the Lord of Light.
When Oathswine and his warriors returned to camp, Elena told her father of Norin's proposal. She made it clear to him that she intended to marry Norin with or without his consent. In the end Oathswine gave her his blessing. Norin wondered if Oathswine's recent victory over Sardi made him easier to persuade.
Once the ceremony was over and as the clans people celebrated beneath the canopy of leaves, the chieftains and Lady Utaria approached Norin. After they congratulated Norin and Elena, Keth stepped forward and spoke for the rest of the group.
"Norin, we all know it was you who led us to our great victory and that it is you that our enemies fear most of all. For this reason we have all agreed to place our clans under your protection if you will agree to lead us."
"I am honored that you think so highly of me," said Norin, "but I could never take away your places as chieftains. Besides, leading all ten clans would be no easy task."
"If you wish you can leave us in command of our clans," said Tayad. "However Keth is right when he says it was because of your leadership that we defeated Rovinien and Sardi. For this reason we all swear allegiance to you. All the members of the clans including the chieftains will defer to your judgment should you choose to give it."
"Very well," Norin agreed."I will agree on one condition."
"Name it," said Keth.
"I wish to honor the memory of my clan," Norin explained. "We have built ourselves a kingdom here in the midlands and I wish to name it after my fallen clan."
The chieftains all agreed and so Norin's kingdom came to be known as Windola in honor of the Wind Followers.
Norin divided the land into ten provinces, each led by a different chieftain. Most provinces were named for their chieftains save one in the north which was called Utaria and another in the north-west bordering the Taratin River. That province came to be known as Routsford because it was at that point in the river the warriors had routed the troops of Rovinien.
Though all the warriors spent some time on border patrol, Rovinien and Sardi showed no signs of invading again. Both countries feared the new king of the midlands and wished to avoid crossing blades with his magic sword.
In the peaceful years that followed, Norin began construction on a great city of stone in the heart of his kingdom beside the black swan’s pond. When news of Norin’s construction plans reached the fairy queen, she sent a number of dwarves to Norin with a gift of fine stones from the Emerald Mountains. These Norin used to construct a palace of sparkling white quartz for his family and a temple to the Lord of Light supported by pillars of different colored marble. Several generations later, when at last the city was completed, it was named in Norin’s honor.
Elena and Norin had three children, two sons named Nexis and Quinn and a daughter named Myria. When they were grown, Nexis became king and Quinn took Oathswine’s place as leader of that province. Myria married Keth’s son and helped him lead his own province.
After many long years ruling Windola, Norin returned to Fairy Wood one last time. When several fairies crowded around him he told them, “I wish to speak to your queen.”
A few fairies flew to inform her while the rest escorted Norin to the dancing meadow. When the fairy queen glided from under the trees, Norin bowed to her then took the Silver Sword out from under his cloak.
“I thank you for the honor of using this sword and I am grateful you found me worthy of it,” he said holding it out to her. “However, it is too much to hope that all my decedents will be worthy heroes. I wish to return the Silver Sword to you so that you may keep it safe until the time comes when it is needed again and someone else shall rise to take it.”
The fairy queen gave him her knowing smile, took the sword and said, “So be it.”
Norin bowed to her again then walked out of the forest. Fairies and elves lined his path, peering out of trees and from behind branches to catch one last glimpse of the first hero worthy of the Silver Sword.
Silver Sword Saga continued in Fairy Vault.