Midwinter Day

The street of smiths was quiet. There was no sound of hammer or forge, and the crowd that filled the narrow street was a faint shadow of its normal bustling, shouting self. Midwinter day, a holy day, and not one for trading or working. Dannotali rode down the street of smiths, his stallion shorting at the smells and startling the few passers-by. The steam from his breath made curious patterns in the air. He paid them no mind. He was searching for a door.

Near the end of the street the upper stories of the timber-framed buildings thrust over the street, creating pools of shadow rarely broken by the sun even in summer. There in a narrow alleyway was a red door trying very hard not to be noticed. People walked by, paying it no mind. Even for Dannotali the door drifted sideways out his view if he relaxed even for a moment, like trying to focus on the surface of a pot of boiling water.

Dannotali dismounted, and called softly in an ancient tongue. The door flickered twice, and became fully visible. A moment after, it opened. Before the opener could mouth his objections for the disruption, Dannotali strode forward, dropping the reins of his horse in his hand. “I need a word, Sa Tigirsenos.”

Dannotali walked into the broad room behind the red door. It was simply but finely furnished. Rich woods and elegant carvings on the posts and paneling. Spare yet comfortable chairs surrounded a small brazier. A high and narrow table set against the far wall served as a desk, covered with scraps of parchment and candles.

Tigirsenos secured the horse to the post outside and shut the door behind him as he entered. He paused, and made a sign to restore the wards.

“Midwinter day is a day for prayer and rest, your Grace.”

“Yes, yes, of course. But it is also an auspicious day for certain… undertakings.”

“You would commission me?”

“I would. You will remember that once we discussed swords.”

“We have discussed swords many times, your grace.”

“We have discussed swords. But only once did we discuss the nature of swords.” Tigirsenos’ eyes widened.

Dannotali pulled Mai Soior from his belt and passed it to the smith. Tigirsenos drew the sword. For a long while he gazed at the blade, moving not at all. Then he turned the blade slightly.

He looked up. “The sword is a fine one, Dannotali. What is its provenance?”

“It was forged by a dead race on another world. I forget the name. It was taken by a chief of the lainan tuiniche, who brought it here.”

“How did you come by it.”

“Does it matter?”

“You know it does, if I am to do what you ask.”

“I betrayed him and caused him death, by the laws.”

“Well and good. You have what I asked? Know, that if you attempt to betray me, it will fall seven-fold on you. And seven times seven on your lineage.”

“I am aware of your reputation, Tigirsenos. I have what you require.”

“Then let us begin.”