A Weapon for Rowan
Calla frowned, concentration etched clearly on her delicate features, a line of worry creasing the skin between her blue eyes and causing her button nose to wrinkle at the steady rise and fall of the hammer and the clang of the anvil. She was absorbed in her work; it was important work, and she felt a strong sense of urgency to get this project done. Pausing, she set down the hammer and backed away a couple of paces from the fire and the hot metal. The sleeve of her heavy denim shirt was already almost soaked, but she used it to wipe the beads of perspiration that dripped into her eyes. Mopping her brow eased the salt sting, but did not clear her sight. The ever-present mist frustrated her, but she no longer wasted time wishing. She accepted herself as she was. Yes, it made everyday tasks more difficult, but over the last few years, she had begun to realize that what seemed like a cruel joke that the gods played on her was the key to seeing other things. She saw visions to which others were oblivious, visions and secrets that held the key to breaking the cycle of hurting that was driving the kingdom to the brink of madness. She saw the shadowy, malevolent creatures that seeped out of the walls. She saw, but no one would listen; no one but Rowan.
The queen looked up fondly from her drawing to see her children huddled, heads together over the small table in front of Calla, still a small child. The young Princess was busy hammering on….something. The queen’s smile was accompanied by a sigh of joy to see her children playing so intently together, and she idly wondered what magical world they had created this time.
After quenching her thirst with cool water, Calla snorted, “Maybe these visions are a curse after all.”
A soft laugh sounded from nearby, and although she could not see more than his outline, Calla knew it was her brother. The shape of him filled the doorframe, and there was an aura of power emanating from him, but her inner vision saw more; she also saw the heart inside, and it was as broken as hers over what was happening to their kingdom. “Eh, sister dear, boon or bane, it matters not. Your visions are what they are. It is for us to act if no other will listen.”
Calla smiled as the shadow loomed near and she felt her hand lifted to his lips. Her earliest memories were of his doting tenderness. “Rowan, some days I just don’t think I can face all the hate. Why do I have to feel it so much.” She pulled her brother down closer and kissed his cheek, “Ugh, you’re growing out your beard.” Then she giggled and patted his furry face. “It is scratchy, but I bet it makes you more handsome than ever.”
Rowan snorted, “Not that it will does me any good. Yes, all the young women think so, but they are so…so vapid, so empty. They try to talk to me, but they don’t think the way I do, can’t see the patterns and connections I see, and they don’t even want to try. They end up getting scared or bored because I won’t talk to them like they want.” He found a towel with tiny purple flowers embroidered on it and gently dabbed the beads of moisture from his sister’s face, then stepped further into the forge, looking at her work, “How is the project coming?”
Sure footed in her domain, Calla moved around him and over to the anvil, the metal calling to her hands. Hefting the beginnings of a sword, she shrugged, “There is something missing, some key, and I don’t know what. I must find a way to make this sword strong enough, to give it enough power. They are coming; the spirits are coming.” Her brother shrugged out of his black cape and hung it on a peg. His eyes were shining as he looked at his younger sibling. She understood. She was one of the few who knew that he saw the world from a different perspective than most, and she related to him the way he needed.
Rowan watched as she turned the partly formed sword in her hands, fingers reading the cooling steel more surely than eye ever could. His whisper was barely audible, “Magic? Does it need magic?”
Calla nodded, “Yes, but where will I find it?” She paced, feet familiar with her environment so she did not stumble. “Where? Where?” Rowan’s face wore a frown as he joined her, and he jumped when she suddenly burst out with, “Mother! Mother keeps the magic in a box. I know where it is.” With that she was away, hurrying out the door and across the snow-covered ground. She shivered at the sudden change from the heat of the forge, but Rowan was close behind, and he threw her forgotten mantle over her shoulders and wrapped one arm around her. She smiled her thanks as they hurried into the castle.
The queen looked up with a smile as her two children stood up from the corner of the long room, faces glowing. They wore conspiratorial looks, and that made her wonder what was up, but she shook her dark gold tresses and rose, her slender frame draped elegantly in a shiny green fabric that set off eyes nearly the same color.
Calla was leaning on her brother’s arm as he helped her navigate the room to the easel where her mother was working on a new drawing. The queen noted the mysterious look on their faces and wondered what was going on, but it thrilled her to see them together, especially the young prince doting on his sister. At seven, he was filled with love and tenderness. Both hurried to embrace her, and she drew them into her arms. She was proud. Her son had been studying with the royal tutors for a couple of years, but they were often frustrated with him. He was particular about what he wanted to study and to whom he would speak. Some of the tutors had left, declaring him unable to learn, but she knew better. The tutors simply did not have his trust because they refused to understand him. The queen knew what he was really like, a brilliant, tenderhearted boy who would one day make a marvelous king. If. She dropped the thought. Trouble was brewing in the kingdom, and she and her husband the king were baffled. They had sought the source of their foreboding, but were stymied. Putting such thoughts away, she kissed both of her babies warmly and asked, “Well, my loves, what have you been up to this morning?”
Calla tugged on Rowan’s sleeve, and he bent for her to whisper in his ear. He nodded and stood up straight, eyes glittering and a wide grin on his face. “Mommy, Calla needs something. She needs the magic.”
The queen looked puzzled, as Calla headed for the cabinet where the supplies were stored. “Magic? I’m not sure what you mean by magic.”
Calla opened one of the doors and was carefully examining each container. She was not allowed to touch them without permission, but she could get close. With a shriek of glee, she pointed, “Magic! Magic!” The little girl, barely five years old and small for her age was fairly bouncing with excitement.
Her antics drew a laugh from the queen, who followed the pointing finger with her own gaze and saw the stick of rainbow glitter that had been delivered from a distant land. She picked it up and examined it. Magic? She had only just received it and had not studied what it actually was. A hint of a frown creased her brow, but Calla was more excited than ever, so she held it out to the small questing hands that eagerly clutched it to her chest as she hurried back to where she had been so diligently working. “What are you making, my love? The queen called out.”
Calla grinned up at her as she began to pound away at it, “Sword. Magic sword.”
The queen laughed and returned to her own creative activity. Her children had certainly come by their curiosity and sense of wonder and imagination honestly. Both she and the king loved magical tales of adventure, and loved to create. Now she sat and watched as Rowan was almost dancing around his sister, toy sword flashing as she pounded on the glitter stick with her tiny small hammer. Both wore serious looks. For a moment, a familiar feeling of danger overtook her, a feeling that had been growing. Could her children feel it? She shrugged.
Back in the forge, Princess Calla returned to her work, reverently holding the glitter stick, applying it liberally to the metal she was forming. Rowan spun away and yelled in alarm, his sword hissing from its sheath. It whistled in the air as he swung mightily at the spirits that suddenly poured in through the walls. Fighting furiously, he danced this way and that across the floor, desperate to keep them away from his sister. He had to protect her. He had to. Calla was helpless at the forge, all of her attention focused on pounding the blade into shape and forming the edge. She worked quickly, but with precision, not a motion wasted. She knew that Rowan needed a better sword, one that would be effective against the ghostly invaders. She did not spare a glance at his battle, but could feel him beginning to lose ground step by step, could hear the rasping of his breath. “Hold on, Brother, hold on a little longer!” she cried.
As he was forced past the forge, he felt as much as saw the spirits swirling madly about him, trying to get at Calla. He had to keep her safe! He could not fail, would not fail. One hand swung the sword in a desperate arc to back them away, then he swept up a handful of brightly colored dust that had been shaken free during the forging of the sword and flung it at the nearest wraiths. They shrieked in agony as the flakes of color struck, but even as those faded to mist and winked away, they were replaced by several others. He could not keep this up much longer. His sword was not potent enough.
A cry of triumph split the air and froze the demonic spirits for a split second, and Calla spun, holding aloft her creation and tossed it to the prince. From tip to pommel the sword contained every color of the rainbow, each flowing into the next as if the whole was a beam of light that had emerged from a prism. It was long and slender, much like the Prince himself, with a silver guard and black grip, and she had inserted an emerald into the pommel. The blade was longer than his arm, with a slight curve. He caught it out of the air, and at contact with his gloved hand, blazing light burst forth, joining man to weapon. Wind whistled as he turned it on the spirits, his face wearing the exaltation of battle. Screaming in pain, they attempted to flee from this talisman of power, but they knew not which way to go, randomly running into walls and each other in their confusion and panic. Rowan roared in triumph as he chased down the stragglers, dispatching each to the delighted squeals of his sister.
It was all over in moments, and the young Princess hugged her handsome brother, looking up into his eyes with wonder and admiration. He returned her gaze, then spoke softly, “Come, we must tell Mother what we have done.” Calla took his arm and they returned to the drawing room of the castle.
The queen set aside her pencils and turned her wide green eyes on the children, aware that something profound had happened. She had seen and heard the sound of her children at play, but she saw not the remains of the spirits, nor the fire of the forge. She did not discern the swirling evil that had invaded. She saw only her two children, souls knit together forever as they hugged each other, faces lit with joy. She had not seen the battle that had raged moments before, but realized that something profound had happened and that something was now different in the air of the castle. The queen found unexplained tears in her eyes as she knelt to embrace them and and whispered, “My heroes.”
Calla clasped Rowan’s hand in hers and looked up at him, “yes, Mommy, heroes.”