Story: The Sword and the Staff (chapter 8)

Authors: bleeding.blade

Back to chapter list

Chapter 8

Title: Chapter 7

Decades after the destruction of Camelot...

She dreamt of meadows. In her dream, she felt the thunder of horses' hooves, smelt the fragrance of grass and hay, heard the hearty laugh of a dark and blue-eyed man. She had loved that manhad looked up to him as a brother and a father. But he had given her away, as the necessary sacrifice to a land that demanded only the noblest blood. She had become a king, perhaps the greatest of all. Somewhere in the distance, a horse neighed

Saber woke up with a start. The gentle warmth of the sun was on her face; underneath she could feel the coolness of the morning damp.

She knew it immediately. She was home.

"Did you rest well?"

She looked up at the figure seated on its haunches and nodded. The scent of the grass, the nip in the air, the very curve of the land was so intensely familiar to her she didn't know whether to laugh or to cry.

As if she'd read her mind, the Mage cautioned her. "We're in Britain's past, Saber, but this is not the age to which you belonged."

Saber nodded, then smiled. "It hardly matters which age it is, I recognize the land."

Rin smiled back. "And the land recognizes you. That your dream changed is a sign of its welcome." Rising to her feet, the Mage walked over to her sack and pulled out a long, oblong package.

"It's not the quality you're used to, but it will have to do until we find what we seek."

By the time she'd untied the strings, Saber's hands were trembling. It had been so long since she'd held a blade. Her voice was husky when she spoke.

"It's not Excalibur, but my mentor always used to say, ‘Power lies not in the sword, but in the person who wields it.'"

"Your mentor was a wise man," Rin smiled.

Rising to her feet, Saber sheathed the sword and surveyed their surroundings for the first time.

"There's one more thing we need," she said after a slight pause. The Mage looked at her questioningly.

"Horses. We need horses."


She could have used magic to accomplish their intentions, but it had been far more economical—and far more fascinating besides—to watch Saber's approach.

It was a side of the blonde woman that Rin had never seen—nor had any of the others for that matter. She had always known of Saber's devotion to her kingdom, but had never witnessed her affinity with her land. She could decipher the language of its hills, its rivers, its forests and its skies in the same way Rin could decode the symbols of the most ancient magic. And despite the span of the centuries, the land spoke to Saber still.

It told her where the horses were.

They were magnificent creatures: wild, spirited and unbroken. For all her proficiency as a rider, Rin sincerely doubted that they could be mounted—or even approached. She briefly wondered which of the spells she had at her disposal could be used to effect their obedience.

Only Saber was already halfway down the hill, walking openly towards the horses. And to Rin's utter amazement, none of the creatures bolted. They stood quietly, heads erect, ears alert, as the blonde figure approached them.

Saber reached the largest of the stallions and gently extended a hand. Rin held her breath. A moment passed between the horse and the woman. Then the stallion whinnied softly and, with the agility of a born rider, Saber swung herself onto the animal's back.

Rin shook her head and chuckled. The Council Master had once told her: "Animals respond to only two things: the power of an enchantment or the nobility of a soul. Only one of them lasts."

As Saber approached, Rin could detect just the slightest hint of satisfaction in the blonde woman's smile.

"He's agreed to help us," she told Rin, "but he's the only one the herd can spare."

"He's more than enough," Rin said, taken aback by the creature's sheer size at close quarters. "In any case, I've never ridden bareback, so another horse would have been useless."

"So there are things after all that even you can't do."

It took Rin three seconds to get over her shock. "And there are things after all that you do do," she responded wryly. "I don't think you've ever shown your sense of humor before." 

"There were never very many occasions for me to display it." The blonde woman looked slightly sad as she said this, and Rin felt an immediate rush of contrition.

"So," she said, averting the sudden change in mood."How do I get up there?"

"Very awkwardly, if you haven't done it before."

"I'm staggered by your encouragement. Seriously, how on earth am I supposed to get on him without a crane?"

In response, Saber reached down and hauled the Mage up with one arm. Rin had just enough presence of mind and agility to swing her left leg over the creature as soon as Saber had brought her up to a sufficient height.

"Not bad," Saber conceded. "Now for the hard part."

"Which is?" Rin asked distractedly, trying not to gauge how far she was from the ground.

"Holding on."

And with that, Saber pressed a foot into the horse's flank—and all hell broke loose.

Back to chapter list