Young Talbott

In a field north of Bletlemyn there is said to be a sword enchanted. One story states that the enchantment makes the wielder invincible. Unable to be slain by any weapon aimed at him. A second story tells of the enchantment merely guaranteeing victory in every battle but does not guarantee the safety of the swordsman himself.  A third mentions immortality. An escape from death outside of mortal wound, and that many men had lived hundreds of years while owning the blade. None seeking glory or riches. They were content living, until they grew tired of life and sought the quiet comfort of eternal silence.

For thousands of years these stories were told without a single digression. Young men, and even a few elders, sought out the sword for their own purposes. Each believing they would be the exception and claim the sword as the chosen one talked of in the villages. The one who would bring prosperity to the country and rid the people of their hunger and poverty. Each man went searching, leaving their loved ones behind, never to return. Though they all had heard the three stories since birth, none had ever heard the fourth until the laid eyes on the blade itself.

One day, a young man by the name of Talbott decided that he would be the exception. Many believed him in his village because they knew he was true of heart. That he did not desire the blade for profit in fame or gold. He sought the blade for his love of learning and wished to spend countless years learning the world through travel and text. He traveled to Bletlemyn with ease and stayed at an inn outside of town that was owned by an old man who learned to recognize all who looked for the blade from watching young men throughout the years disappear into the woods up north. The old man took it upon himself to warn the younger ones from searching. He had seen too many disappear never to be seen again.

So when he saw Talbott prepare to leave the next morning, he struck up a conversation in hopes of delaying the boy awhile. Talbott engaged the old man out of courtesy and respect. The innkeeper had shown him excellent hospitality. The old man talked of trivial things at first and though Talbott grew tired of the lack of quality, he did not break the conversation. The old man (used to his guests fleeing without even a proper goodbye) was surprised and decided to turn the discussion to a serious path. To the path of the sword. He warned Talbott of the forest surrounding the field in which the sword was said to reside.

Talbott listened intently as the man outlined the dangers rumored to guard the sword. He made notes of the poisoned nettles that fell from the uppermost branches. He made sketches from the description of fearsome beast who lives in the cave just west of the clearing. He drew a rough map of where the swamp would be so he could avoid its shallow waters that could swallow him whole in an instant.

He made all the necessary preparations while he listened to the old man. He thanked the innkeeper for the advice and the innkeeper was not at all surprised that the dangers did not cause Talbott to falter. They rarely stopped any adventurer from seeking their treasure, but Talbott was the first to listen so closely. The old man felt a tinge of regret for not stopping Talbott as he walked out the door of the inn.


 

As Talbott entered the forest, he donned a hood and covered any bare skin to prevent being struck by a poisoned nettle falling from above. He wrapped a scarf around his face as an extra precaution. If anyone had come across him in the forest, they would have only seen his deep brown eyes. He followed the map he quickly drew at the inn. He was sure to give a wide berth to where he predicted the swamp would be and made sure to approach the forest from the eastern edge to avoid the beast who made shelter in the west.

He made every precaution he could. More than any before him, and that may have been why he safely made it to the clearing without a single conflict. Within the field he quickly found the enchanted blade as it rose above a sea of corpses. The sight of the dead was almost warning enough for Talbott to turn back, but his desire drove him onward. He was careful not to disturb any of the men at his feet. Inching forward and stepping only on clear ground, he managed to make it to the sword without touching any of them. When he felt the cold steel in the palm of his hand, a voice rang out in the silence.

“You have come far, boy.”

Talbott looked around but could not locate the source of the voice.

“You did well to come so far unscathed as you have. Please, tell me why you seek the sword.”

Talbott stood frozen. His hand still gripped the sword, but the voice circled him as it spoke. He thought it wise not to attempt a quick escape.

“I wish to live long enough to see this world and learn all that it would teach me,” he said.

“A bountiful wish indeed, and one that the sword can grant with ease as long as you keep it at your side. However, the enchantment upon the sword does not grant without taking something in return. What would you sacrifice for this gift?”

Talbott had not foreseen this question. None of the stories mentioned a sacrifice. Though he was unprepared, he was wise enough to know that such a gift would require an equivalent exchange.

“Your answer, boy?”

“I would forsake my progeny. My lineage will end with me. Is this acceptable?”

“It is,” the ghost voice said, hovering behind his left ear.

“Then I may take the blade as my own?”

“Yes.” The voice faded away.

Talbott lifted the blade from the field and weighed its solidity in his arms. He felt powerful wielding it and the image of the throne entered his mind. He knew then, without any doubt, that if he truly desired to rule this land, he could do so with only this sword. A smile broke upon his lips like a fever as images of his conquests flashed before him. He was filled with an unnatural need to slay something, anything, and in a brief moment of clarity in the storm of blood before his eyes, he dropped the sword.

“Do you no longer desire what you’ve come so far to find?” the voice returned.

Without the sword, he could think clearly again.

“What would this sword desire of me?” he asked.

“Ah, a wise question. You claimed you would forsake the future of your blood for the gift of this sword. As many who came before you, they all desired something and pledged a gift in return. Now they all sleep at your feet. The sword can grant what you wish, but can only do so once you have completed your promise.”

“Then I would only be able to wield it once I am dead? Once I have proven I have not partaken in producing life?”

“Yes.”

“And the sword is able to uphold this pact upon my death?”

“Yes.”

“Then I shall return before my time is done.”

“You do not wish to begin your desired life now?”

Talbott considered this. The sword is first and foremost a tool designed to end life. He could sacrifice himself and honor the pact immediately, but he found in his heart he desired more than the possibility of an infinite number of years. He desired he few he was guaranteed. The bodies around him belonged to eager men who thought too quickly and acted even quicker. He would live his one life before he began his next.

“I shall return before my time is done,” he said again and left the clearing and the forest behind him.

 

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