This chapter of the Silver Sword Saga takes place about 80 years after the Silver Sword was returned to the fairy queen following the Magic War.
For the origins of the Silver Sword please refer to the posts Forging and Unworthy.
For the tale of the sword's 1st hero refer to Swan Warrior parts 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5.
For the second hero's story refer to Fairy Vault.
For the stories of the hero who wielded the Silver Sword during the Magic War refer to Riddle of the Stones, Great Magic War and Coronation of the Second Fairy Queen.
Terrible Gift 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
Ris narrowed his eyes as several newcomers wandered into camp and were ushered toward a wagon by its inhabitance. He had traveled with this band of gypsies for enough of his sixteen years to know that every time they invited strangers inside the caravan and shut the doors for privacy it meant the gypsies were about to use him to make money fighting some power hungry magician. This set of visitors had deep tans, blond hair and a salty smell hanging over them, marking them as inhabitance of the sea coast kingdom, Caramyth. Ris’ sun-browned complexion, accented by overgrown
golden hair and sea glass green eyes confirmed that he was also a native of that country, though it was many years since he had lived there.
After hearing the top half of the door click shut and waiting a minute to let the conversation get under way, Ris slunk forward, his bare feet making little noise on the thick grass. He slid between the wheels of the caravan to sit beneath the wagon with an ear to its floor.
“The warlock was also in love with the siren girl and became deadly jealous of her other suitor,” one of the Caramythans was saying. Ris grinned. The man’s voice was only slightly muffled by the wagon boards. “In his jealousy the warlock turned himself into a werewolf with a spell then attacked his rival and killed him. When we attempted to capture the warlock to bring him to justice, he and the siren girl escaped to a tiny island a few miles off the coast from the village. Since then the siren has been spotted on our beach on several occasions and every time she appears one of the men goes missing. We are sure that she is luring them to the werewolf on the island. The warlock has clearly gone insane and is bloodthirsty in his wolf form.”
“So you need us to travel to the island and relieve the warlock of his dark powers,” said one of the gypsies.
Ris fiddled with a piece of grass. He was troubled as usual that villagers would pay the gypsies for the service of protection when in reality the gypsies’ method involved sending him to fight magicians while the rest of the camp took all the profit. Of course if the villagers knew that a sixteen year old boy was doing all the dirty work, the gypsies would soon go out of the magician fighting business, so they kept up the deception.
“Once you rid the warlock of his power the job will only be half done,” explained the Caramythan. “Even without his magic he will be able to become a wolf. After the warlock is free of his arcane powers you will still have to hunt down and destroy the beast he has become.”
Ris sucked in a sharp breath. He had no experience with werewolves. He silently prayed that the gypsies would see how risky this job would be and refuse it.
Instead they said, “In that case I'll need a guarantee from you that all possible precautions will be taken and I'll have to charge you double.”
Ris slithered out from under the wagon and spat on its side as they haggled over price. He knew that so long as the gypsies received enough money to appease their greed they would call him into the wagon once the Caramythans left and explain his mission to him. After that they would head to the coast in Caramyth where he would fight the monsters while the gypsies distracted the villagers with tricks to make it look like they were countering the warlock’s magic. Ris shivered and crossed his arms over his chest. Corrupt magicians he could handle but could he really face a crazed blood-thirsty werewolf?
“You seem troubled, Ris,” the old gypsy grandmother called out as he exited the caravan after his briefing. “If I didn't know you better I'd say it was your first time fighting a magician.”
“You’re asking too much of me this time, Rella,” Ris replied.
“You have a unique gift, boy, and it's a blessing to us all. Be strong and you can accomplish this task too.”
“Some blessing! Being able to suck black magic out of its users has a lot of downsides when you lived with gypsies willing to make money in any way they can.”
“Shame on your head for insulting the fairy queen by saying her gift could be anything but a blessing! It spared you from being enslaved to a sorcerer.”
“I know. It’s just that I've never faced a werewolf before, or a siren for that matter. You should convince the rest of the camp to find a monster hunter to finish the job once I strip the warlock of his magic.”
“And split the cost of one of our most profitable deals yet?” scoffed Rella. “You know the others would never agree to that.”
“They’ll make even less if I fail.”
“You could run. I’ve saved up a portion of money for you from the last few deals. Hide yourself when we break camp then use the money to make your own way.”
“The siren and warlock would continue to harass the villagers on the Caramythan coast,” said Ris. “No... that’s not something I can allow. There must be another way.”
“We are camped on the borders of Fairy Wood; perhaps the fairy queen can send help,” suggested Rella. “You have found favor with her in the past. Spend the night in the forest and see if you can enlist the help of the fair folk.”
“Well, it couldn’t hurt to try,” Ris agreed with a shrug.
That night Ris spread out his bedroll on the fringe of the forest beneath the deep shadows of the first rows of trees. He was far too restless to sleep so he sang several gypsy ballads. The melodies mixed with the music of the wind whispering through the leaves, the hooting of owls and the soft shuffling noises of other nocturnal forest animals. He was on the third verse of a tune Rella had taught him when a strip of pale fabric flashed between the tree trunks, reflecting a thin beam of moonlight filtering through the roof of leaves. The song died on his lips, its lyrics slipping from his mind like smoke in the wind as a tall woman glided into the full light of the moonbeam and shuffled a pair of large gauzy wings on her back. The woman’s black locks nearly blended into the night’s darkness save where they fell across the front of her dress. She raised her head and locked her intense eyes on Ris, causing him to catch his breath.
He had seen this apparition several years before when he had run into the woods in hope of escaping the gypsies. It was after this woman, whom Rella insisted could be none other than the queen of Fairy Wood, had kissed him on the forehead that Ris had gained his unique and frightful ability.
As before, the queen spoke not a word but kept her gaze fixed on Ris. A number of tiny pixies flew out of the trees and flitted around the queen, colored lights flashing along their bodies as though they were multicolored fireflies. The queen stepped toward Ris while the pixies lit her path. Ris pushed himself off the ground where he had been sitting and stood, bowing as the fairy queen stopped before him.
The queen drew a small object out of her sleeve and held it out to him. Ris held out his right hand and she dropped a polished white stone on a leather thong onto his palm. It appeared to be an amulet. He lifted his head to nod his thanks and noticed a stern, challenging look on the queen’s face. It was clear there was something she wanted of him before he left Fairy Wood. She opened her wings and beat them in a soft, rapid motion allowing her to hover several inches off the ground. In this manner she floated into the dark woods with the pixies trailing behind her. Ris followed as well, tying the amulet around his neck as he walked.
He soon lost sight of the fairy queen. The pixies were much easier to spot because of their lights so he continued to follow them. In their company he passed a mound of stones overgrown with moss. A marker protruded from the edge of the mound but the writing on it was in fairy runes which Ris could not understand. Just past the mound, the pixies flew upward to settle in the branches of a large long-needled pine tree. Two pixies tugged at the front of Ris’ shirt as if to encourage him to join them. Ris hesitated a moment, not seeing a branch low enough to allow him to climb. Then in a flash of blue light from one of his companions he noticed a vine hanging off the tree. He tugged it to see if it would hold his weight and instantly a ladder woven out of vines and strong slender branches unrolled itself at his left elbow.
Ris climbed the ladder until it ended at a wide branch high above the ground. Here the light from the pixies illuminated another set of runes, this time carved into the side of the tree. At the end of the line of text was a small, round knot in the wood of the tree. On an impulse Ris ran his right hand over the runes then slipped the amulet off his neck and pressed the white stone into the knot. He could never explain afterward, even to himself, what had made him think to do this.
At once a section of bark and wood in the center of the tree swung inward, revealing a hollow chamber within the pine. Two pixies flew forward to light the hollow for him. In the heart of the tree what looked like several narrow, leafless branches held a broadsword in an oiled leather sheath. The dim pixie lights glinted off the hilt and hand guard where the metal seemed to twist around itself.
Ris lifted the sword, drew it from its sheath and examined it. Sudden understanding flooded him as he realized that the sword was forged of pure silver making it the perfect weapon to use against a werewolf. He sheathed the sword, swung the belt over his shoulder so as to carry it across his back and pulled his amulet free of the knot as he exited the hollow. The tree swung closed over its hiding place.
Ris put the amulet back on his neck. Though his mind was reeling he forced himself to focus on descending the ladder. The fairy queen had once again given him a terrible gift. By allowing him the use of the sword she was saying, “I will give you my support but in the end you must face the monster alone.”
Story concluded in Terrible Gift Part 2.