(Okay. This is something slightly experimental. The start of a story that I’d hoped would turn into a cheap-and-cheerful novel in the sword-and-spaceship genre, but which no amount of editorial bullying by the author could get past 20,000 words. It’s complete, so rather than letting it go to waste, I’ve decided to serialize it on the blog. Unlike most of what I write, it has no pretensions to being anything more than a straightforward swashbuckler, but you’ll have a better idea than me if it succeeds!)
Broken Blade: chapter 1
The blade was broken, and the man called Sword was focused on fixing it, heating the steel until it glowed white in the furnace, then beating it across the shoulder of the anvil. Heating and beating. Heating, then beating. He moved with a steady rhythm, handling the cumbersome tools of his trade without any strain. Even so, in the fierce heat of the forge, he kept his arms and torso bare beyond his leather apron and long gauntlets, and sweat ran freely over the hard contours of his broad, scarred back.
He ignored the sound of the forge door opening, and ignored the two sets of footfalls behind him—one human, one machine.
“Got a project for you,” said the machine, in a tinny, toneless voice.
Sword ignored that too; he blocked it out until he’d finished with the sword, thrusting it deep into a barrel of water. Steam leapt up as the blade plunged in, and when it cleared, the metal had hardened to a steely blue, glinting under the surface of the liquid.
“I said, got a project for you,” the machine repeated.
Sword took a long draught of water from his tankard, then turned—and found himself faced with the familiar shape of Probus… and a girl in a ragged sackcloth shift. She was slim, and small, but there was good muscle definition in her bare arms, and a hidden strength in the way she stood, weighted on one leg, holding up her cuffed wrists. Her dark hair was unkempt, like it had been cut using an axe, but the tawny colour to her complexion might be a hint of exotic origins, rather than grime or sickness.
“She got a name?” he asked the machine.
“Not that anyone told me. His Lordship seems to think you can make a gladiator out of her.”
Sword groaned silently, and rolled his eyes. “I’m too old for that, Probus.”
“Orders are orders. You humans not learnt that yet?”
Sword stared at the girl. Probus turned and left.
Just the two of them. His Lordship seems to think you can make a gladiator out of her.
“Okay, kid,” he sighed, gesturing to the anvil. “You step up here, and we’ll get those chains off you.”
She obeyed, and for a moment, she was just another project, wrought metal to work to the desired result. He fetched a chisel and hammer, and opened up her wristcuffs on the plate.
She didn’t flinch as the weight and speed and sharpness of his work cut so close to her wrists. Sword was impressed.
“You got a name?” he tried again.
She looked up at him, and her eyes, which he’d taken for some dark colour, flashed green. Her lips were parched and cracked, but the voice that came out was level, controlled, and capable. “They call me Broken Blade.”
(… continued in chapter 2!)