Continued… (for a full list of the parts to Ancient Fire, click here)
(Previously: Ulaf the smith agreed to do his best to reforge the ancient sword, Fyre. Lottie and Elad were finally able to practice with real swords, and during their first practice, Lottie’s lost memories at last returned.)
“Lottie, are you alright?”
Her eyes snapped and refocused, and she returned abruptly to the present, catching a long breath. Elad had abandoned the stroke and was looking at her with concerned puzzlement.
“I’m fine,” she managed, wedging the sword point-first into the planked floor among the thousand other dimples from thousands of other students before her. “It just all came back…” Then a grin broke over her and she bounced on her toes, eyes alight.
“I remember!” she squeaked. “I remember it all! Now I can go back and find them. I know my parents’ names. I find them and we can be a family again!” She slapped her knees in exhilaration and twirled about the room. “It’s all there in my head! I can see them. I’ll know them, I’ll find them…” she laughed hysterically, eyes wet with happiness, and plopped down onto the table-bench. “Oh, I can’t wait to see them again! I’ll go through the Portal and maybe bring them back here. Leave that ugly place behind. But with them here, it’ll be complete. And we’ll be a family again! I can’t believe it!”
Elad’s smile had faded to a troubled look, and he followed her to the bench. She grinned at him and was about to go on, but stopped abruptly when he rested a hand on her shoulder. He didn’t meet her eyes.
“Lottie, you are the last in the line of Nimrod.” His voice was serious, almost consoling.
“Yeah, so? I come by it honestly. I’ll have to ask them which of them is descended from Nimrod. I don’t suppose they even know.”
“Yes…” he hesitated, then went on, “but don’t you suppose that you wouldn’t be the last if whichever of your parents who is descended from Nimrod was still… okay?”
“Wait.” All the jubilation drained from her face as she realized what he was getting at. “You’re saying my parents might be… be… dead?” she whispered at last.
Elad bit his lip, clearly hating what he was having to say. “Maybe or maybe not. We can’t know anything. But I would think that at least one of them… well if whoever was a descendant of Nimrod were still alive, why couldn’t they kill the Witch? Why then would it have to be you?”
“But, but,” Lottie struggled to come to terms with this sudden development. “But I only just got them back. They can’t be dead!”
“I hope we can prove me wrong here, more than anything I hope that. I’m not telling you to give up hope. You have your memories back, and they will always live on there now. Just don’t go too far from there. You have something wonderful. Wait to see about the rest. Don’t assume more than you have or… or it’ll just be harder in the long run. But there’s always room for hope.”
Lottie’s face fell, her previous surging joy turning into overwhelming sadness and loss. She tried to keep back the tears, hiding them behind her firmly squeezed lids, but she couldn’t.
“I’m sorry,” he said softly, and pulled her into a hug. Lottie didn’t even know what to say. Everything was going wrong and coming right all at once, and her feelings were all in a complete confusion. She had her memories, but her parents were probably dead. She was alone in the world. But she also had a friend, the first one in eight years. Eight years was an eternity to live with no friends.
After so many days trekking about the wilds with too little to eat and less rest, it was odd for Lottie to return to a more normal life in the tower. She ate regular meals, slept through the night, and of course, spent almost the entire day practicing swordsmanship with Elad. Ever since she had recovered her full memory, she had the odd feeling of staginess, and of being someone else than she was before. But Elad assured her that she was still the same as she had been as long as he had known her, and promised that if she went off the deep end he would let her know. So far, he hadn’t.
So Lottie continued on, and on the second morning since their arrival, Ulaf sent word that he was finishing the sword and they should seek an audience with the king to explain and arrange things.
The throne room was unimpressive. After all, it was only intended as the Hall of Justice, not the regal residence for royalty. It was small, narrow and lined with benches on either side. They were nailed to the floor and so hadn’t been removed when the king moved in. At the end opposite the plain double doors was a raised dais, at the front of which was a square section pocked with many nail holes where the podium had been. It had been removed, nails or no nails, so as not to obscure the king’s view of his visitors.
He sat now on the carved wooden chair in the center of the dais, looking exhausted and bored and sick of all matters related to the Witch. Lines of care crossed his eagle features, earned from long years of battling for survival beneath her shadow. He drummed his fingers on the carved arm of his throne, obviously uncertain whether to be amused or insulted by the small girl standing defiantly before him. Apparently, he hadn’t liked her assertion.
Lottie had just declared that she could kill the Witch. The king was tempted to laugh.
“You are in the company of Elad the Fallen,” he began.
“Elad de Capola,” Lottie corrected.
The king waved his hand, brushing it aside. “Whatever. Has he not told you his story? He was the greatest swordsmen of our people. No one could match him in a duel, not me, not my warriors, not anyone in any kingdom around. I am aware you are training with him; I’ll give you that. But do you honestly think to best him? He could not destroy the Witch.”
“I know,” Lottie said obstinately. “He did tell me. But –”
“Ulaf the smith wishes to speak with your majesty!” announced the door guard. He gestured to Lottie and Elad. “And with them,” he added.
“Well then, send him in. I suppose no time like the present, eh?” If the king expected an answer from Lottie, he was disappointed.
Ulaf stepped in. He was wearing ridiculously huge leather gloves, and in his gloved hands he carried a sword that glimmered golden. Quickly he set it down on the bench nearest the dais. Ignoring the king – at what breach of honor and dignity she could only guess – he turned first to Lottie.
“Per your request, Lottie, I have finished with Fyre. It is remade, good as new.”
“You did… WHAT?” The king demanded, rising from his carven chair in his surprise. Ulaf turned, as if only just remembering, and gave a nod of deference.
“Oh, I must’ve forgotten to tell your majesty. This girl, Lottie, brought the last shard of Nimrod’s ancient sword Fyre and asked that I reforge it as a personal sort of favor for the Cloak Girl. As the Cloak Girl and I were old friends, I suppose I didn’t realize it was important enough to bother you with.”
“So this is why you thought you could kill the Witch,” the king said knowingly. “The secret piece I did not see, a hidden card. Well, you’ve done well I suppose.” He waved his hand. “You’re dismissed. I’ll take care of the rest. Bring it here, Ulaf.”
Ulaf shrugged and, picking the sword up gingerly, he carried it to the king. Lottie opened her mouth, starting to say something, and then fell silent as the king swished it from its sheath without blinking. She glanced at Elad. He shrugged, but she thought he was hiding a smile. She looked back at the king.
“You’ve done good work, Ulaf. This is a sword like no other. With this sword, I’ll be able –” he broke of sharply with a strange gasp of pain. The sword clattered to the floor and skidded away. The king was clutching at his hand, which she saw was red and blistered.
“What are you doing, bringing it here still hot from the forge?” he shouted, glaring at Ulaf, his pain expressing itself mightily.
Lottie stepped forward and picked up Fyre, holding it with both hands. It was slim and light, double-edged and deadly. The golden glow radiated from the tip where it was strongest, but it rippled down the whole blade. Perfect silence gripped the room. A full minute passed as she held it, looking down at it in her hands. Then she raised her eyes to the king, whose furiousness was overcome by wonder.
“What I was trying to tell you was that I can kill her. Not you. Because I am the last of Nimrod’s line. I am the only one left with the right to hold this blade. It will burn all those who touch it who are not of the blood of Nimrod. That’s why Captain Vladimir Hawk couldn’t touch it, that’s why Ulaf couldn’t handle it, and that’s why you can’t wield it. I could give it to Elad and it would burn him too.” She turned, offering him the sword with a mischievous smile.
Elad shook his head, holding up his hands in surrender. “No, no, I know better than to try, thank you.”
Lottie shrugged, her smile broadening, and turned back to the king. “It’s not like I want to do this or would choose to. I mean,” her smile faded and she became deadly serious, “I looked on her as a mother for perhaps eight years. It’s not an easy thing to do. But I’ve also seen some of her darkest side, and I know she’s an evil that needs to end. I’m the only one who can do it. And besides, the Cloak Girl believed in me. She died to buy me the time to get here so that this sword could be reforged. She prevented my discovery at the cost of her own life, and I can’t let that be for nothing. I’ve lived this long, and I have to think it’s for a reason. Each time I gave up,” her voice thought about wavering but she ordered it not to. “I told the All-Maker more than once that I couldn’t go on. That he’d have to find someone else. That I was out of strength and out of plays and if he wanted me to succeed and go on he’d have to work a miracle. And each time he did. When I was about to lose this sword forever he made a way. Just before I drowned I was washed ashore. That can’t all mean nothing.” She searched the king’s face, but couldn’t read his expression.
“Fine,” he said at last, and his voice was flat. “Fine. Go. Kill yourself. I don’t see how we can help you.” He paused, then seemed to relent a little. “But if you do need help, we’ll do what we can.”
Lottie felt a smile break free from her and she met his eyes with gratitude. “Thank you. I will need a little help. If her men are back, you’ll have about a few score of them to deal with if I kill the Witch. I’ll try and shield you like the Cloak Girl did me, but you should probably keep a good distance behind me just to be sure.”
The king sighed. “Very well. It shall be so. In a few hours’ time, we can be ready to march.”
“Then we’ll call it a plan.” Lottie tried to smile again, but sudden horror and dread of the fight to come was sweeping over her, and she couldn’t quite manage it.
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