To read the previous adventures of Sabine, click here. The story continues below. *** One hundred and fifty miles to the south of the Mystic’s Pylon, King Erik Serekson the Ever Indebted, looked up from
To read the previous adventures of Sabine, click here. The story continues below.
One hundred and fifty miles to the south of the Mystic’s Pylon, King Erik Serekson the Ever Indebted, looked up from his ledgers with a raised eyebrow. A thought that seemingly never occurred to him had just passed through his mind, and he wanted to see if he was alone in having it. “Wife,” he called. “Do we have a daughter?”
Queen Wyphina sat up in bed, yawned, and asked, “Pardon?”
“It’s funny,” Erik said. “It never occurred to me before until just now, but I can maybe, perhaps, mayhaps recall we used to have a daughter.”
Wyphina opened her mouth to object, considered the question for a few seconds, and ultimately answered, “You know, I’m not sure. You’d think we’d remember that, wouldn’t we?”
“I’d suppose so,” Erik said. “But I don’t think we have any other children, so I don’t have a point of reference. I think she might have been married off, over and over again.”
“Is that why the kingdom is so strapped for gold?” Wyphina asked. “Did we have to pay dowries over and over again?”
“Sounds about right.” Erik rubbed his beard in thought. “Let’s see if we can find anything else on this.”
Elsewhere, Sabine dipped and dodged around the swings of Onandon’s hammer, but his next strike always followed before she could get in an attack edgewise. It was conventional warrior wisdom that the hammer was a slow weapon, sure to leave openings, but the Mystic’s speed and strength seemed to negate the disadvantage.
What’s a Mystic doing hammering things in the first place? Dahkhal said. This is why I hated this whole order; Mystic just means whatever they want it to mean. You’re too far out, you’re asking for a hit from the head. You need to get in close, too close for him to get a decent swing.
“Oh yeah, get closer to the madman, that sounds safer,” Sabine said through grit teeth. She knew she needed to focus on the battle at hand, but her fury at being manipulated by such an obnoxious bastard grated on her. “So, everything—the friends of theirs you killed—it was all a ploy?”
“I couldn’t sell the journey without a party to go along with it.” Onandon lost a fraction of his speed when he spoke but kept up hard and quick. “They were necessary sacrifices.”
He said you compel truth from him, he might need to answer whatever you throw at him, Dahkhal said. Keep accusing him!
Between two slightly slowed swings, Sabine rushed in and got a tiny cut at the Mystic’s ribs, which he gave only a tiny grunt in reaction to. “And back at the inn, you were just using me to keep up a smokescreen?”
Too close to swing at her with the hammer’s head, Onandon turned his weapon and smashed the handle into Sabine’s face. As she shouted and jumped back with a bloody nose, he said, “That’s right. And I’ll see to it that rude bartender gets what he deserves on my return.”
In fact, at that very moment, an ill-informed adventurer had just strolled up to the bar at the Stubborn Ass and requested a glass of ale. And as Slizzer opened his mouth to shout, he suddenly found his tongue tied in a knot, and the cold glass of lager in his hand had somehow turned to a golden, piss-warm brew.
Back at the Pylon, mere feet from Sabine and Onandon’s battle, Billy swallowed hard as he stared into the rushing rapids of the Crystalline. It had surely already pulled Byrns away and over the edge, and even if it hadn’t, he couldn’t hope to overcome it. And yet he could accept nothing less of himself.
The lying sword of his ancestors raised, he told himself, “It’s not so bad. And she can’t have gotten far.” And as he leapt in, reality acquiesced to the blade wielder’s words.
With her hands around a bloody nose, Sabine said, “And those trolls in the forest, they never meant us any harm. You tricked Billy into reducing them to stereotypes.”
“Stereotypes are based off of facts.” Onandon rammed the head of his hammer into Sabine’s gut, stealing the breath from her lungs. “Like how women are the weaker sex!”
With her opponent in so close, Sabine stabbed upward and got a deep jab up underneath his sternum. The ancient one shouted in pain but forced her off with a backhand and started to pull the blade from his chest.
After a hard-fought battle against the icy waves of the Crystalline, Billy gasped for breath with Byrns bloodied, unconscious body in his arms. As he spat up water, he laid her back on dry ground and held up the sword again. “Come on, Byrns, come on. It’s not such a bad wound, is it?”
Byrns let out a pained, quiet moan. It was more than Billy could have hoped for with a wound like hers.
Sabine had a chance to gain some distance from Onandon as he continued to pull the blade out of his body, but now that she was unarmed, she needed to make the most of his talkative weakness. “And I’ll bet you’re in on it all with that deacon guy too!”
Onandon paused from his struggle with the sword wound. “What now?”
“Deacon Struct, that guy who keeps screwing everything else up. He put you up to this, didn’t he?”
“The Mystics recognize no religion but our own boundless wisdom.”
And indeed, less than five miles away, in the midst of a blustery sermon to his university-age congregation, Deacon Struct of the Unholy Parish of the Great Indolent One, declared, “There is no religion but the Mystics’ boundless wisdom!” He stopped immediately thereafter, clamped a hand over his mouth, and mumbled, “Wait, what?”
His acolytes, ever the sycophants, repeated, “There is no religion but the Mystics’ boundless—”
“No, no, no! Excuse me for a moment.” Deacon Struct scowled to himself, stepped away from the lectern, and pondered whose evil plans had apparently just interrupted his own.
With Byrns held close to him, Billy looked toward Sabine’s struggle, back to Byrns, and sobbed, “I’m so sorry. If I was stronger I could have stopped him. If I just half the hero my ancestors were, I could just beat him myself.”
Even as trembles ran through her, Byrns raised a hand to Billy’s cheek. Her voice raspy, she said, “If you’re so pathetic, how’d you stay the course when all the old man ever did was put you down?”
Byrns coughed but then managed, “He told you that you were weak every step of the way. If you believed him, the sword made it true.” She turned and hacked. “But you kept going anyway.”
Back in the battle, Onandon closed the distance between himself and Sabine before she could ask another incriminating question. With a motion like a sheleighly swing he dealt Sabine a huge, agonizing blow to the gut and knocked her to the ground.
Oh gods, is this how it all ends? Dahkhal sounded more annoyed than anything else. Beaten by the same order I mocked Groan about. Maybe this is just what we deserve.
Byrns gripped the sides of Billy’s face and turned him so they could meet eye to eye. “So, what are you going to do now?”
He looked toward the fight.
The Mystic raised the hammer over his head.
Sabine braced for impact.
Everyone else in the Pylon froze for a moment before all eyes turned to Billy, his stance tall, and the Sword of Flion gripped in both hands. With a confident stride, he stepped onto the bridge that ran over the river.
The Mystic rolled his eyes. “Silence yourself—”
“No, you silence yourself!” Billy’s blade glowed with power and something, though Sabine was unsure what, seemed different about his physical form. “I’ve had enough of you. And your scheming. And your babbling. And your friend killing.”
“What’s this, a Flion with an independent thought in his head?” No mirth reached Onandon’s voice, but he laughed anyway. “That’s a first for your bloodline.”
“I’m going to stop you. I won’t see another member of this company killed!” The sword flickered after he said it. Billy cringed as he realized the exact nature of his words and stumbled, “Wait, wait no, I meant—”
As Billy tried to right his words, Onandon rushed forward and caved his face in with the hammer. Byrns let out a raspy scream as he fell to the floor, and the mystic smashed his head like a bloody watermelon for good measure.
At least that was what one princess saw.
From Sabine’s confused, see-through-the-lies point of view, Billy disappeared the moment the mallet contacted him. Afterwards, the boy sat on the ground next to Byrns, blurred as if under a veil and completely unharmed, with the shimmering sword in his hands.
“It was… an illusion?”
Dahkhal asked, But why?
Still unaware of the truth, Byrns screamed, “You monster!”
“This will be the face of all who oppose the Mystics.” Onandon raised his hammer in triumph. “We write the truth, about chem trails! About micro-chips—”
With a satisfied smirk, Billy called out, “And the strange ships and strange men from other worlds?”
“Yes! Especially the—” Onandon stopped and looked toward Byrns as Billy suddenly reappeared. “How—and what did you—”
The sword shimmered, and a deafening explosion high overhead overwhelmed them all. Down from the heavens came a great vessel like a flying saucer that collided square with the middle of the bridge and buried Onandon under tons of steel and rubble. And somewhere, barely audible in the wreckage, Billy shouted, “Amazing how it only struck him!”
When the dust and debris settled, and after much struggle fumbling through the chaos, Sabine found her way back to the duo. With her ears still ringing, and her blood still rushing, she asked, “Is… is it over?”
Billy breathed an exhausted sigh and looked toward the destruction. “There’s no way he could have survived that.”
Somewhere in the middle of the twisted wreckage, a hand beat upward through blazing steel and tried to claw its master out.
Byrns shrieked and asked, “Are you sure about that?”
Billy, pale as a ghost, looked to the sword and said, “I mean—anything’s possible—right?”
The hand clawed in vain for another second before it went limp.
With Onandon dead and Sabine’s help patching Byrns up, Billy raised the Sword of Flion over the river a last time. Byrns put out her hands, channeled what remained of her tree-born magic into the blade, and nodded to him.
“Whatever good you once did the world is done with now,” Billy said. “You have no influence over reality anymore, and whatever happened when you were dropped in the river will be undone.”
“And we are not—and have never been—siblings,” Byrns said.
“Yes, that too!”
The weapon and the river shimmered a final time before it returned, forever, to its rusted temperament. Every lie Billy told counteracted a lie that came before it. Within minutes Slizzer was back to screaming at his latest patron and Deacon Struct found he could resume his sermon.
When all seemed back to normal, Billy cast a last look at the sword and said, “And the mercenary we hired was a princess all along.”
Sabine, out of sheer exhaustion, let out a,“Ha!” before she added, “Better do another, just to be sure.”
“I… um… I’m wearing Byrns’ knickers right now.” When the sword did not shine, Billy slipped a thumb down his pants, checked to be sure, and sighed with relief. “And may this damned thing never bother our bloodline again.” With a heave he threw the sword into the river, and it was swiftly taken with the current.
Byrns rose, laid a hand on his shoulder, and a little smirk crossed her face. “Did you say our bloodline?”
“What? I—I only meant that—”
The princess leaned in and kissed him, hard and full on the lips. Billy’s eyes went wide in shock and confusion before he shut them and leaned in as well. Sabine’s heart rushed with both happiness and nervous anticipation. Dahkhal just said, That boy just better hope the Mystic hasn’t figured out how to reincarnate.
When the two separated, Billy gasped for breath, laughed, and shook his head. “But—but Byrns—this is ridiculous. You’re a princess—”
“Oh please,” she said. “Do you have any idea how indebted my parents are right now? I’m sure they want to marry me off to someone wealthy, but they’re not exactly in a position to make any demands.”
At that, the flutter in Sabine’s heart sank and she asked, “What?”
When the implication reached the princess, she frowned and looked to her protector. “Oh gods, Sabine, I’m so sorry. Onandon didn’t tell you, did he? He was funding this trip out of his own pocket. There’s magic in my blood, but we don’t have much of anything we can pay you with—”
Dahkhal sighed and muttered, Whomp whomp whomp.
With an excruciating exhale, Sabine turned her back on the two. “Come get me when you’re ready to go,” she said. “In the meantime, I better see if there are any artifacts in this place I can pawn.”
Byrns called, “Good luck,” before she rested her head against Billy’s chest. “Father can complain all he wants, but he had to let the royal baker go last month, he doesn’t have much power left.”
With red in his cheeks, Billy said, “As it happens, perhaps I could be the new royal baker. I’m twice—maybe three times as good at that as I am at being a hero.”
From across the pylon, Sabine called, “Hey, Bill!”
He turned to look in her direction. “Yes?”
“You didn’t need your ancestor’s enchanted stones,” she said. “Yours were plenty enough.”
It was as Erik and Wyphina looked through the old, beat up book of baby names and arrived on a page that ended with, Sabina, that the king frowned, looked to his wife, and asked, “What were we doing again?”
The queen yawned and said, “You know, I can’t rightly recall.”
“Should we return to bed then?”
The queen and king set aside the book and thought nothing more of it.