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The Broken Blade

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Delavan stood outside the guard barracks and read the tattered proclamation again as he waited to be admitted to the training arena. Today, the arms master of Bretinia would be testing those interested in joining the guard. He had grown up in the aftermath of the long war with the elves; hearing stories of those who had defended the city and those who had been killed—like his father.

His mother had never told him much about his father; only that he had died fighting the elves during one of their attacks against the city. His grandfather, a knight of Oliaric the Just, had also been one of the fallen heroes of that war. It was his grandfather’s sword he carried with him today.

Delavan did not have the patience to follow the path of a knight; but he did want to honor his grandfather and father’s sacrifices. So he was here today, to join the guard and to defend his home against the elves.

“Delavan, son of Elsbalth, step forward.”

He looked up to see a tall, well-muscled woman standing in the doorway. Delavan took a deep breath, straightened his back and approached the woman.

“Inside,” she said.

He stepped into a dimly lit room where several people were waiting. Most stood just outside the light, their bodies only patches of darkness in the shadows of the room.

“Delavan, son of Elsbalth, you have given us your mother’s name but not your father’s; why is that,” a deep masculine voice asked from the shadows.

“I do not know my father’s name. My mother has only told me he was killed during the war sixteen years ago; nothing more.”

“Is your mother sister to Tol?” another voice asked.

“She is.”

“He is the son of the mage Valynwyr,” the first voice said. “We will not allow him to test.”

Delavan watched as several of the shadowed figures stepped further back into the darkness—away from him. Certain things in his life now made sense to him: His ability to sense the weather and to call fire. The time he had accidentally called down a bolt of lightning and the feeling of power he had suppressed for the last ten years. He had suspected he had a talent with arcane magic, but he also knew the consequences if he tried to practice it. That his father had been a mage made it more likely he was also. It also explained why his mother never talked about his father.

“Is it now the will of the council that children be punished for their parent’s crimes?” He squared his shoulders as he watched the shadowed figures.

“It is not!” The woman who had admitted him said.

“However,” a second woman said softly. “It is also an accepted fact that mages beget mages.”

“I do not practice the arcane chaos that is magic!” Delavan drew his sword and held it before him. “This sword belonged to my grandfather, Tyrrian, a respected knight of Oliaric. He left it to me.” He raised the sword in front of him. “By this blade I swear I do not practice arcane magic,” he said.

“As arms master, I will accept him,” the woman who had admitted him said.

“Then it will be on your head, Frelarie, if anything happens. You are bond for his actions and his non-use of the arcane,” the first voice said.

“That is providing he has at least enough basic talent with that blade to justify his acceptance into the guard,” another voice said from the shadows.

“I stand before you ready to be tested,” Delavan said. “My blade, my skill and my life I pledge to Bretinia.”

“Defend yourself!”

Delavan spun around in time to catch the arms master’s blade with his. He forced her blade high as he stepped back and brought his own weapon into a defensive posture.

Frelarie lowered her blade and held out her hand. “You defended yourself against them and against my attack. I accept your pledge,” she said.

Delavan shifted his sword to one hand, but didn’t lower it as he took her hand. He felt her grip tighten and her balance shift as she started to bring her sword back up. He brought his own blade across to block hers. The ring of the metal hitting metal echoed in the chamber.

“Good,” Frelarie said. “You have learned the most important lesson. Never trust anyone enough to let your guard completely down.”

“Thank you arms master,” Delavan said as he stepped back and sheathed his sword.

“Caywyn, escort this recruit to the barracks,” Frelarie said.

A young man stepped out from the shadows. “This way.” He turned and started down a long corridor, not waiting for Delavan to catch up. “Mage whelp.”

Delavan hesitated for a moment. There had been no reactions from any of those in the testing chamber to Caywyn’s muttered comment. He realized there would be no assistance given him in dealing with the prejudices and hatred of the other recruits when they found out who his father was.