Copyright © 2015 Candice R. Lee
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.
Cover created by: Candice Raquel Lee
The Sword Trick
ow many stinking rainstorms? How many gray clouds had passed by, bloated with empty promises? Evangeline glared at the low-hanging belly of the sky. She gritted her teeth when the first cold spatters hit her skin. She let them race down her cheeks like the tears she could not cry. When it started to come down in earnest, she straightened her back, focused on the distant razor line between heaven and earth. She raised her sword. It flashed like lightning as she swung the blade over her head, her wrist and arm gyrating, smooth like wool on a spindle.
It rained on all sides, but not one drop could reach her through the spinning circle of steel. She swung hard and long, listening to the clean song of steel against air. She kept the storm at bay as long as her arm held, but finally she faltered. The sword flew away, cutting into the dead mud of some stranger’s plot a few feet away. She collapsed over her father’s grave.
“I did it,” she cried. “I can do it! After sixteen years! I wanted you to see, so you would be proud of me!”
Evangeline dug her fingers into the pebbly soil, as if she could reach him, touch him, and make him acknowledge her. Her hands came up empty and filthy, but the rain washed every trace of dirt from her skin. She covered her face.
“You’ll catch your death.”
An old monk had slipped up beside her. She blinked at his huge frame and hunched shoulders that fairly burst from his tattered robes.
“You should never mourn in the rain,” he said and spat. “Too sad. You’ll get sick. Next thing you know you’ll be buried right next to him. Come into my house. I’ve soup and a fire.”
“I didn’t come all this way to have soup,” Evangeline mumbled, getting up and fetching her sword. She would need it soon.
“Where you from?” the old man asked.
“Really?” he asked, looking intently at her.
She could not see his face. Only the wire scruff on his chin was visible from under his cowl. His robes clung to him like a shroud and the stink carried past where she was standing. The rain shower was probably the first washing he or his clothing had had in a long time. She turned to go.
“Did you know him?” the old man asked, poking a boot toe into the soil of grave.
Evangeline sheathed her blade. “No…not really. He was my father.”
“I thought so,” he smirked. “You got his eyes…emerald green like the jeweled hilt of his sword. There was never another like it. A lady gifted him with the emerald, and he forged the blade himself, perfect of balance, smooth and slender, yet sharp like a woman. It was a real beauty, just like you.”
“You knew him well, did you?” she asked, folding her arms.
“I knew him as well as you can know any man. He was a great swordsman once. I saw the trick you did with your weapon. Not bad. He could do it with either hand. I saw it with my own eyes once.”
“The men in town said he was bum, a low-life drifter who got into a drunken brawl with some guy and got killed,” Evangeline confessed, wiping the rain from her cheeks.
“Well, he wasn’t born a drifter. Nobody is….You know they shattered his wrists for rescuing a woman from a mob. They were going to burn her as a witch. He could barely lift a spoon after that. It broke his spirit, tainted his life till he became that man in the grave. Some people are like that—they let things hurt them so bad they never recover.”
She stared at the mound, at the rain digging holes into it.
“Do you know anything about the son of a dog who murdered him?” Evangeline asked, “They said he bragged that he was from Sobraleen.”
“Yep, to the East. His name was…Roderick.”
“You know what he looks like? Nobody could give me a description. Most of them were too drunk to talk. You could save me the trouble of killing every Roderick from here to Eternity if you do.”
“You gonna avenge your father’s death?” he laughed, his scraggly jaws cracking as his lips parted to reveal a yellow smile. “Good for you.”
“Yeah,” she snapped, wringing out her long, dark hair and twirling it into a bun. She tucked it under her coif, then pulled chain mail over it. Her face contorted suddenly, jaw bulging under her delicate skin. “Yeah, I’m going kill him, get the sword back. It’s my father’s only legacy.”
“In that case, you’ll be needing this.” The old man fished a long time under his robe, then pulled out a small pencil portrait on an ancient piece of parchment. He shielded it from the rain with his hand. “He looked a lot like this. His eyes were blue, and he had a cleft in his chin.”
Evangeline snatched the paper, looked it over. A young, very handsome man posed. She eyed the portrait a long while, then slowly handed it back.
“No, keep it. It might come in handy,” the monk said.
“Thanks. . .” she said blinking at him. “Hey, where did you get this anyway?”
“Oh, you know, I’m a hermit. I find a lot of stuff. So, you wouldn’t have any time for some soup, would you?”
“No,” she said, frowning.
“Maybe later then.” He walked off leaving her alone with her dead.
Sobraleen was a nice little town. It opened before Evangeline like a flower as the jaws of the dark woods parted. It reminded her so much of home that she nearly dropped to her knees and wept over the cobblestones. Orange, red and yellow brick houses dotted the wide streets. Bright rugs and clothes hung from the little windows. The smell of baked bread and home-cooking wafted on the wind. The townspeople stood chatting happily in the streets.
Exhausted, Evangeline stumbled forward. Getting revenge was harder than she could have ever imagined. She wasn’t the adventuring type. She had no real skills. She had been robbed three times on her way here. She’d been chased by a flaming dragon after admiring, then pocketing, a tiny chest full of gold and silver coins. But worst of all, she was forced to eat twelve meals with the Treetop Elves as she crossed their territory. All they ate was moss and mushrooms.
A sudden homesickness overcame Evangeline, and she was overwhelmed by a desire to turn back, forget revenge, forget everything she knew about her father. What would they say in her village if they discovered what she was up to? Little Evangeline, the merchant’s granddaughter, now the cutthroat avenger. What was she doing here? She could just lie to her mother, say she never found the grave. It would be easier. It wasn’t like she owed her father anything.
He hadn’t even been a real father to her. He was just some stranger buried in a grave, some hero who had swept her mother off her feet long ago. When a daughter had been born and not a son, he just rode off on a hunt one day and never returned.
After a month, he wrote a letter explaining that he had been captured by some wizard of the wood. Like a dutiful wife, Evangeline’s mother had sent him a ransom. Then he wrote back explaining that on his way home he had been imprisoned by an evil knight, then an enchantress, then a foreign mogul. Ransom after ransom was paid until her family was nearly bankrupt. Finally, Evangeline’s grandfather had enough and wrote to the mogul assuring him that even if he made garters of his no-good son-in-law’s innards, he would see it only as a kindness never to be repaid. Her mother’s credulous heart broke and the letters stopped.
Evangeline did not hear of her father again until an eager gossip whispered to her that he had been murdered. Somehow Evangeline had gotten it in her head that she should avenge him. Except for the rain trick, she didn’t even know how to use her sword, much less kill a man with it, and for what? For depriving her of her father’s last moments or the years he might have spent with her when he had grown too decrepit to fight? No. It was because she was a girl. If she were a boy, it would be expected of her to take revenge on the man who killed her father. Evangeline was just as good as a son, and she was going to prove it.
Evangeline left the respectable part of the town and wandered into the dregs. The buildings were gray with soot and flaky with peeling paint; they looked like frozen lepers. Broken men came here to drink like ghosts came to spilt blood. Nothing was clean or pretty, but the denizens would know where she could find a man named Roderick.
When she heard shouts of triumph and pain, smelled the foul smell of piss and beer, Evangeline knew she was in the right place. She pushed open a rickety wooden door. The glare of a cooking fire sparked through the smoke that belched out over her. Men sat hunched around tables, in groups or in singles, conscious and unconscious. The ruckus they were making stopped only for a moment as she was noticed and then disregarded. Evangeline sighed and strode inside, took a seat in the corner.
A middle-aged serving wench shuffled over eventually. She leaned over to clean the table with a filthy rag. She gave Evangeline a habitual smile, all lip, no eye.
“What’ll you be having, my pretty lad?”
Evangeline tossed gold on the table.
“Roderick of Sobraleen,” she said, covering the coin with her hand as the woman reached for it. She had learned a thing or two in her travels. “You ever heard of him?”
“‘Course,” she grinned, showing her gums, “Everybody has, famous as he is.”
“Where would I find him?”
“Why’re you looking?” she asked, narrowing her eyes.
Evangeline flipped another coin onto the greasy table top, pushed it toward the others. “None of your business.”
“It’s your funeral,” the woman said, gathering the gold into her splotchy, stained skirt. “But if you’ll be wise and listen to one who has a few more years on her than a beardless boy, you’ll run home to your momma. That sword’s got the devil’s curse on it, and those who seek it die. So many have come to claim it, the undertaker cannot stop smiling or working night and day.”
“Where?” Evangeline asked her, putting her hand on her sword hilt.
The wench gestured over her shoulder to a table at her left. The biggest, meanest, ugliest-looking mountain of a man Evangeline had ever seen crouched drinking a flagon of ale in one gulp. Her jaw dropped open. The wench turned around.
“No, not there,” she said, and turned Evangeline’s head to the appropriate table.
Evangeline stood corrected. The first guy was now the second biggest, meanest, mountain of a man Evangeline had ever seen. She gaped at the serving woman.
“No, but he beat them both fair and square in a hand-to-hand fight. That’s why they’re here, trying to drink away their sorrow.”
Evangeline reddened. “I didn’t pay you to preach. I asked you where Roderick of Sobraleen is.”
The wench shook her head, then pointed to a dark-haired man sitting with a large group near the fire. They looked like they were celebrating. All the noise was coming from their table. Suddenly, there was a long burst of laughter with a lot of heads falling back, and Evangeline got to see his face. He looked just like the picture.
“Thanks,” Evangeline said.
The other woman stood still. “Will you be having anything other than your death tonight, sirrah?”
Evangeline stared at her.
“This isn’t your home, boy; you have to drink to stay, and nary do we serve milk.”
“Give me an ale.”
The wench still did not go but stood tapping her foot. Finally, it dawned on Evangeline why. She fished out a silver coin and gave it to her. The woman put down a cup, poured the drink, then crossed herself and left. Evangeline didn’t even touch the filthy thing, just sat watching Roderick.
The murdering fiend was in a pretty good mood, pulling serving girls into his lap, kissing them and making an all-out spectacle of himself. He sang. He danced. He showed off her father’s sword. It glinted in the candlelight and made Evangeline’s face burn. She was going to kill that son-of-a-whore if it was the last thing she did. Her hand burned on her hilt, and she made plans.
It would be foolishness to attack him now, when he was awake and with friends, but when he was alone and unconscious… Evangeline would wait for her time. She waited long into the night. She ate dinner and almost fell asleep waiting for him to exhaust himself. Finally, in the wee hours of morning, he went up to bed with a harlot under his arm. She followed but was stopped by the proprietor, who happened to be a neckless lump.
“And where you be going, youngling?” he asked, wiping his meaty hands on a bloody apron.
Evangeline looked up the stairs. “I need a room, and I want the one next to Roderick.”
The man’s tiny pig-like eyes narrowed, and his nostrils widened.
“I’m just so…awed by him,” she grinned. “I want to offer myself to be his squire.”
The man looked her up and down until she gingerly dropped coins into his hairy palm. Then he led her upstairs and down a dark tight hall. She could hear people giggling in the first room. The second was hers. The proprietor opened the door, slammed a candle on the table and left. Evangeline rushed over to the dingy bed and put her ear to the adjoining wall, which turned out not to be necessary since it was very thin.
“So, how did you get such a big…sword?” the woman in the next room cooed. Evangeline rolled her eyes.
“From my dad,” Roderick drawled in a thick drunk’s accent.
Evangeline fell off the bed.
“The old fool was so damn drunk,” he went on, “he tripped on it, cracked his head on the hearth and died.”
“Really?” the woman yawned.
“You want to hear a stupid story?”
“Sure. You’re paying.”
“Since I was just a kid,” Roderick began, “my mom told me that my father said I should go and seek him if ever I mastered my sword so well that ‘in the fiercest storm I would need no other shelter,’ ‘cause I could keep the rain off with my skill and my blade. I practiced every day, till I was eight and then I fell out of a tree and smashed my arm.”
“Oh,” exclaimed the woman.
“They said I’d never hold a sword again. That I should take up butchering like my uncle, but I didn’t believe’em. I was even a little happy ‘cause I heard that the same thing had happened to my old man. It was like we were the same. I couldn’t let it stop me. He was going to be proud of me. I wanted so much to know him.”
Evangeline shut her eyes and pressed her head to the wall just as Roderick burst into sobs.
“So I learned to fight with my left hand,” he said, when he caught his breath. “Took me years, but I did it. Then I went to find him, show him I was his son, worthy of the greatest. And you know what that filthy drunk did? That son-of-a bitch. . . ”
Evangeline tensed, not knowing if she wanted to know.
“He laughed at me, told me I was crazy if I thought he’d give me his precious sword for that sorry trick.”
Roderick’s voice cracked, and something hit the wall above Evangeline’s head. She looked up and saw a sword’s blade protruding through the plaster. She nearly screamed. Then she reached up and touched it.
“He said the only worthwhile thing he had ever made was that sword. And he’d never give it up without a fight, but I wouldn’t fight him! I couldn’t. He was my father! I told him to go to hell and walked away. I only turned back to say something obscene when he tripped.”
Evangeline wanted to cover her ears, to run away, anything but hear the rest of what her brother had to say, yet she couldn’t. He continued speaking with difficulty.
“You can’t imagine what it was like…this big man, a fortress of bone, just fell like a bag of beans, and then his brains were all over the flagstones. I wish I was dead,” Roderick moaned. “I wish I had never heard of him or his stupid sword. I can’t stop seeing him. I can’t get the image out of my head, and I don’t think I…ever…will.”
There was a dull thud and then silence. Evangeline jumped to her feet, almost cutting her head on the sword.
“Roderick?” What happened to him? Evangeline ran to his room, pulled open the door. The prostitute was trying to yank the sword from the wall, but it wasn’t budging.
Evangeline put one hand on her hip and the other on her sword hilt. That was usually enough for most people. The woman smirked. She sashayed over, kissed Evangline on the cheek and left singing. Evangeline wiped her face and closed the door. Roderick was lying on the floor. Her brother was lying on the floor half-naked, shirt and pants open to the world. She knew she should not be looking at his goods. There was something biblically wrong about it, but they were already uncovered. Boy, he was going to make some woman a very happy wife one day, she thought, then averting her eyes dutifully, dragged a sheet over him.
Evangeline sat down on the bed. What was she going to do now? She glanced at her brother. The sheet was not hiding the one part that really needed hiding. She threw the lone pillow at him. He yelped, turned over, revealing his arse. This was ridiculous, preposterous, insane! Her noble revenge scheme had just collapsed like a knight knocked off his charger. Her eyes fell on the sword.
Well, Roderick didn’t want it anymore. It only reminded him of their father’s terrible death. It would only hurt him to keep it. She would be doing him a favor. She got up and pulled the sword easily from the wall. It was light in her hands like a feather. She turned it, let the gem hilt glint in the coming dawn light. It was beautiful. The hilt was carved into two serpents twined about each other. She held it up. It was a weapon made for a hero. She looked down at Roderick snoring on the floor. She was as much of hero as he was.
She spied his sleeping bag by the table and rolled it out. She tucked the sword inside, folded the cloth around it then slung it over her shoulder. Whistling, she opened the door. The old serving wench was standing in the hall. She hurried past.
“He’s still alive,” she gasped, kneeling by Roderick. “Thank god.”
Evangeline kept walking. The woman ran up behind her.
“I know you took the sword, and I’m glad! I hope the ill- luck goes with you,” she cursed. “He was a good boy before it came into his life. Now, look at him! I knew his mother. She’d die again if she saw him like this. He should never have left Sobraleen. Something’s happened to him, something terrible. He never used to drink. It’s hurt him so bad, I think he’ll never recover. I think, it’ll be the death of him.”
The old monk’s words echoed in Evangeline’s ears, spoke to her conscience. She saw Roderick’s grave right next to her father’s. With that sheet covering him he looked just like a corpse. Damn!
“Why did you have to say that?” she shouted at the other woman. Then she sighed. “Help me get him on the bed.”
“Because I’m going to save his life.”
“Because I couldn’t save our father’s.”
Lorelei, the wench, told her that this was the third week of Roderick’s bender, that his mother had died less than six months ago, and that he was the town favorite. He could fight while he was stone-cold drunk and ride a horse backward, sing like a lark in church, and was a fair dancer.
Lorelei talked until Evangeline fell asleep beside her brother. She woke to Roderick’s advances. She screamed as she had never screamed before and leapt from the bed. Roderick’s red eyes opened wide.
“You’re a man!” he yelled, holding up his fists accusingly.
Blushing like an apple, Evangeline pulled her coif from her head, letting her hair fall down her back. Roderick’s eyebrows almost leapt off his face, and he moved forward.
“Wait!” she yelled. “I’m your sister.”
He hurriedly turned from her to button his shirt and pants.
“Sister? What? How? What are you doing here?” he cried.
“I’ve come to save your life,” she said stupidly.
“Huh?” he stood up and looked around for his sword. He spotted it on the floor where she had put it, still in the sleeping bag. He covered it, strapped on a more worn weapon.
“Wait,” Evangeline said, getting to her feet. She grabbed his arm. It was rock hard. “Will you just listen to me!”
“What do you want?” he frowned, wrinkling his nose as if she were a piece of meat that had gone bad.
“Nothing, I just. . .” she stammered. “Well, you need help.”
“I need help? I? You need help,” he told her. “You do know you’re dressed like a man? Doth the mousey envy the snake a bit too much?”
Evangeline glared at him then cold-cocked him, sending him stumbling across the room and against the bed, where he landed.
“Are ye mad?” he coughed, holding his jaw.
She stood over him. “Listen, I only dressed this way so I could visit my father’s grave and show him that I could do the stupid rain trick. It’s not like you big burly rams will leave a girl alone when she’s traveling. God’s bones, I should have stayed home and married that stupid cobbler’s son!”
“Cobbler’s son?” Roderick asked and then broke out laughing, showing white, even teeth.
“What’s wrong with a cobbler’s son?” Evangeline asked, as if she didn’t know.
Roderick crossed his eyes, stuck out his tongue and made like he was tapping nails into a shoe.
“Ha, ha,” Evangeline said, “but at least he wasn’t a whoring, drunken, lay-about, good-for-nothing patricide like you.”
Roderick stopped laughing and turned white. He got to his feet and pushed past her. He started collecting his things again, slamming them into his bag.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it,” Evangeline told his back. “I know you didn’t kill our father. I know it was an accident.”
Roderick kept packing, “Do you?”
“I know he fell and hit his head.”
“Did you also know I wished him dead? I wished it one second before he fell.”
“So what? Everybody wishes their parents dead sometimes.”
He gave her a horrified look over his shoulder then left the room. She followed him downstairs. Lorelei saw them coming, turned to Evangeline and her long hair and was flummoxed. Roderick walked out of the bar without even a squeak from her.
“Where are you going?” Evangeline called, catching up to him.
“What do you care? We aren’t long-lost siblings separated by a cruel tyrant. We’re nothing to each other, have nothing in common except our gullible mothers fell for the same old bum.”
“Bum?” she repeated. “You mean the same kind of bum you’re turning into.”
“I’ll never be like him,” Roderick yelled.
“Look at you, sleeping at inns, drinking yourself stupid, taking whores to your bed.”
“Who are you, my mother?” he asked.
“What about her? I’m sure she’d be so proud to see you now. Just like the man who left her.”
“Don’t talk about my mother!” he yelled, turning on her.
“Oh, I’m sure you’re all she could have ever hoped for. She’s lucky she’s dead!”
Roderick slapped her face. She slapped him back. He pushed her. She pushed him back. Then she jumped him, knocking him down, and tried to drown him in a mud puddle. He grabbed her hair, and yanked her off his chest, then, straddling her, struggled to subdue her. Evangeline kicked and fought him like the very lithe young woman she was. They stared into each other’s eyes, then quickly let go of each other.
“We shouldn’t fight,” she panted. “We’re brother and sister. It isn’t right.”
“No. No. It’s very bad,” he said, looking at everything but her. “I think I’m going to go far, far away from you now.”
“Yes, that’s…No,” Evangeline said, stomping her foot. “I’m not leaving until I know you’re all right.”
“Why do you care so much?” he shouted.
“Because I don’t want to have to mourn for another relative and stranger while standing in the rain and thinking about what my life would have been like if he had been in it.”
“So, don’t come to my funeral,” He said.
She put a hand on his shoulder. “Roderick, I don’t really know why I’ve come all this way. I thought it was to avenge my dad, but then I found you. Maybe I’m here to help you get better. Maybe he sent me to you.”
“He’d never help me,” he told her.
“Then maybe your mom did.”
Roderick hung his head. “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to get better. How to make this go away.”
“That’s why I’m here. Two heads are always better than one.”
“I don’t even know your name.”
She told him.
“So what do we do now, Evangeline?” he sighed.
“Well,” she stalled while she thought. She had really never expected to get this far. “Well…you could come home with me. A change of scenery is good for you. You could meet my mom. She’d love to see you!”
“Really?” he asked doubtfully.
“Well, you know how mothers are,” she babbled.
“Yeah,” he sighed.
Evangeline had such a great time traveling with Roderick, she was almost sad to see the twin peaks of Eldrica before them. When she was with him, no brigands dared to raise their ugly heads and those that did had them quickly removed. Ogres were no problem. Giants left town when they heard they were coming. Dragons offered payments just to be left alone.
Roderick even taught her how to use her sword. She wanted to use their father’s, but he told her it was a Great Sword, one made for special occasions, like when a man wanted to feel pretty. It was not for fighting. She turned out to be very good with her own weapon though, and the best part was she no longer felt as if it were just a useless ornament at her side. When she put her hand on her hilt it was more than just a show of bravado.
She had even been in two fights. Roderick had to dispatch the first guy for her. The second one she killed in self-defense then cried and threw up while her brother held her. He was so great. He always gave her the bed when there was one, and when there wasn’t they slept with all three swords between them just to be safe. And the best of all, he had been sober for two months.
The first month was bad for both of them. He got angry a lot and had horrific nightmares. But no matter how late or early, he woke up screaming, Evangeline would listen to him, make him talk it out. His problem was that he had no one to speak to after his mother had died. He bottled everything up inside. He said it was because men weren’t supposed to cry or complain. They were supposed to be stalwart, unflinching, and hard as stone.
“You must think me so unmanly,” he told her once while wiping his eyes.
“What was so manly about being slumped over a moldy table or laying with a woman whose name you don’t know? Or for that matter, leaving children fatherless while you gallivant around the countryside like our father did?” Evangeline had asked him. “A manly man is loyal and has a good heart. As far as I know you are the manliest man I ever met, Roderick of Sobraleen.”
She made him smile. She told him things she had not even told her mother. She explained to Roderick how it felt not to have a father like other girls. There was no one to tell her how pretty she was, or make her feel special, or boost her confidence. She had said yes to the first buck-toothed Cobbler’s boy who asked for her hand in marriage because she was afraid she’d never get any other offers. She didn’t even like the boy. Evangeline made Roderick swear he would marry a nice girl and stay faithful to her and their kids, or else she’d get him good. He made her promise not to wed until she was madly head over heels and even then that she would let him have the final say.
As Evangeline took the scenic route home, she felt very different from the angry young woman who had left all those long months ago. She glanced up at her handsome brother. She felt… she felt so much like she was being watched by thirty or so gossips sitting by a river doing their laundry. The women had all stopped washing to stare at her and Roderick as they walked past on the road. Evangeline knew them all. They were the worst and quickest tale-bearers in Eldrica. They could ruin a reputation in a second.
Evangeline stood frozen in horror. It was bad enough for her to run away on the day of her wedding but to return in the company of a man! Oh god, what to do? What to do? She’d have to kill them. That was the only answer, the only way to stop them. She pulled her sword. No, no, no. She couldn’t. It was wrong. She had to think of another way and fast.
“What’s wrong?” Roderick asked, seeing her brandishing her sword. He looked around as if he were expecting seven black knights to pop out at them from the woods. Instead, he saw the little old ladies. He waved to them.
Shocked, Evageline grabbed his hand and started shouting, projecting her voice as loudly as she could as they walked past the group of watching women, “Thank you, my long lost brother, Roderick, for escorting me on my journey to visit our father’s grave. It was so good of you to guard my honor with our father’s blade the whole time and assure that I remain an untouched flower.”
“Uhhh…sure, no problem,” Roderick shrugged.
Evangeline grabbed his arm then hurried him along through back alleys to her mother’s house.
“Nice place,” he croaked as she pushed him inside and slammed the door. Evangeline peered through the window. No angry mob of cobblers yet.
“Mum! Mum?” she called.
Her mother, still pepper-haired and round, rushed out of the kitchen, dropped a dish cloth on the floor, and pulled her into her fat arms. “Oh, Evangeline, I was so worried!”
“I missed you too, Mum! I’m so glad I’m home.” And she really was.
“Where have you been? I found your letter, but I couldn’t believe it. Did you see it? The grave? Is he really dead?”
Evangeline nodded, and her mother lowered her eyes.
“But look here, Mum, this is Roderick, his son!”
Evangeline’s mother turned to smile sadly at him.
“It’s very nice to meet you,” she said.
“I’m very glad to make your acquaintance, Mi’lady.”
Evangeline’s mother made Roderick feel at home. She waited on him hand and foot, seating him beside Evangeline on a bench. She fed him tea and cake, then lunch. And only when she was sure he was properly stuffed did she take a seat across from them.
“I wanted to thank you, again, Mi’lady,” Roderick said, standing and bowing to her. “It’s been a long time since I’ve had a real home-cooked meal. I didn’t know how much I missed them.”
“Call me Bronwyn,” she said, bidding him to take his seat again. “Now, tell me, how did the two of you meet?”
Evangeline and Roderick looked at one another and began laughing, then they told their tale. Roderick was a gentleman as usual, while Evangeline interjected, interrupted and over-talked him the whole time. Then she ended by taking the sword from its hiding place in the bed roll and showing it off. Her mother shook her head in disbelief at the whole thing.
“You certainly are a lot like your father,” Bronwyn said.
“Isn’t he just the spitting image?” Evangeline exclaimed.
Her mother smiled then then frowned, moving her head from side to side as she studied Roderick’s face. “He looks a bit like him.”
“A bit?” Evangeline squealed. This was going so well. She had saved her brother, gotten home in one piece and her mother was adopting Roderick just as she planned. “He’s the water-reflection of Garron Longshanks.”
She dug the picture from her pocket and showed it to her mother.
“Who’s Garron Longshanks?” Roderick asked.
“That isn’t your father,” Bronwyn told her.
“What?” Evangeline spat.
The others reiterated what they had said then looked at each other. The sword and the drawing slipped from Evangeline’s hands. The green hilt shattered like glass on the floor. Stunned, they sat in silence for some time. Then suddenly everything became so clear.
“That filthy old badger,” Evangeline said, thinking immediately of the monk. He’d tricked her. He wasn’t dead. It was all a trick. Roderick wasn’t even her brother. He was…. She turned slowly toward him, feeling his gaze. Their eyes met. Evangeline leapt across the bench and pressed her mouth to his even as he ran his hands over her.
“Oh, thank God. Thank God,” she cried.
She didn’t even notice when her mother got up quietly and left the room.
Evangeline stared at the hanging gray deluge above her, felt the cold patter of rain against her skin. She let the drops race down her cheeks. She straightened her back, focused her eyes on the horizon, then raised her sword. It flashed like lightning in the sky. She swung the blade over her head, her wrists and arms gyrating, smooth like wool on a spindle.
“You’ll catch your death,” the old monk said stepping up beside her. Then he recognized her. “Oh, it’s you.”
“Yeah, Dad, it’s me,” she said and punched him in the face. He fell flat over the grave. She pointed her sword at him while Roderick stepped out of from behind a tree. “And this is my husband. You know him? He’s the one you sent me to kill.”
The old man stared up at her, holding his bleeding lip. His cowl had fallen back, revealing sharp, emerald-colored eyes.
“I just want to know why you did it. Not that it matters,” Evangeline told him. “I can’t be more disappointed in you than I already am. You know, I asked around and found out you got your hands broken for stealing an old lady’s donkey. Her only donkey. But let’s forget that for now. Just tell me why you did it.”
The old man looked around shiftily, but there was nowhere to go, so he started talking. “He deserved it. That no good bastard stole my look, my stories, even called himself Margon the Longshanked. It’s identity theft, for Christ’s sake. I told the magistrate, but he only laughed at me. I had to scam for years to get enough money to buy my sword. His wasn’t even made of a real emerald. It was just green glass. A toy. I told him to stop imitating me. I warned him, but he wouldn’t listen to me. He said my time was over. I showed him.”
“That’s it? This was a territorial conflict between two crazy old bums?” Evangeline stammered. “So. . . so you. . . you’re hiding out here, and see me, and just decide it would be fun to send me on a quest to clean up your loose ends?”
“But my father fell and hit is head. It was an accident,” Roderick blinked.
Garron looked away. It took Roderick one more blink to turn purple with understanding and lunge.
“You murdering dog,” he shouted. “You poisoned my father!”
“Roderick, no!” Evangeline cried, blocking his way. Her husband stopped, stood panting in front of her. He showed how much he loved her by lowering his sword. Evangeline touched his cheek. “He’s my father. I should kill him.”
She raised her weapon, but Roderick caught and held her arms. “He isn’t worth it.”
“Maybe not,” she said looking down at her father, “but his sword is.”
“My sword?” Garron blanched.
“You mean my mother’s sword? The one she and grandpa paid for when you were supposed to be kidnapped? Yeah! Give it up!”
Her father laughed. He got to his feet, clapping his hands. “Oh, I didn’t think it was possible, but you are truly worthy to be called my child. So smart. You figured it all out. Well, everything I said before was a lie. I was just testing you to see what you were made of. You are the only one I have found worthy to be my heir and carry on my legacy. I will now go and get your reward.”
Evangeline shook her head at him.
“I’ll never tell,” he shrieked.
She shook her head again and bent over the grave.
“We’ve been watching you for days,” she told him. “We know where you keep it.”
She pushed her hand into the soil and felt the shaft of the sword. She pulled it up with difficulty, brought it into the light. It looked exactly like the other one but it was real.
Her father hurtled toward her. “It’s mine. It’s my own. It’s my precious!” His groin met Evangeline’s booted heel. He crumpled into the fetal position and lay quiet and still.
“Well, he’s not having any more children,” Roderick winced.
“Who cares?” Evangeline waved the sword. She let it glint in the light. Roderick grinned. They did a little dance together.
“We’re going to be so rich. There are about a million carats in that thing,” he giggled.
Older now and wiser, Evangeline took out a jeweler’s glass and looked the hilt over.
“Actually, dear, there are only a few hundred,” she corrected, then giddily added, “but that’s more than enough for us to live happily ever after!”
“Give us a kiss,” Roderick said, grabbing her and swinging her around.
“Anytime, Brother. Anytime.”
If you enjoyed The Sword Trick, please rate or review it on Amazon and Goodreads. I will appreciate it greatly. Thank you! Also check out my other books!
Also check out my other books!
Also By the Author
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Five new, slightly twisted, bewitching tales. Some are funny, others heartbreaking. All will take you into worlds of deep magic and powerful passions that you have only glimpsed in your dreams or in a dark forest at night. Come! Share the laughter, tears and danger of those who seek that most elusive of rewards, another’s heart to call their own.
When young Evangeline runs away from her marriage to a carpenter to avenge her estranged father's death, she gets more than she bargained for in the shape of a murder mystery, a big handsome brother and a green-jeweled sword. When she finally unravels the truth, it will turn out to be stranger, funnier and more wonderful than she ever expected. The "Sword Trick" is a twist on the old Grimm fairy tale "The Three Brother's" except it about a female protagonist, her sword and her adventure. It is a funny, fantasy, comedy romance at its best.