Read A Stone's Throw (The Gryphonpike Chronicles Book 3) Online
Authors: Annie Bellet
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Horror, #Ghosts, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Epic, #Sword & Sorcery
“But…” Drake said again. “I’m left-handed.”
He slapped a thrust out of his way and darted forward, forcing the shade back and back again as every swipe of the shade’s sword was met with Drake’s own blade and forced to the right. The rogue strafed to his left with dizzying speed and whipped his blade around, first low, then high. Rucao tried to block and turn, but the cuts came too quickly and his sword blade was out of position.
The shade screamed and fell to his knees, blue smoke pouring out of his leg and side. “Mercy,” Rucao whispered, and he tilted his head back, baring his throat. “My sword is yours.”
Understanding and sadness sobered Drake’s features and his smile faded. He brought his rapier up and cut quickly across the shade’s throat. The dwarfwork blade tumbled to the stone with a clear bell’s ring and the shade faded into blue smoke which drifted upward until nothing at all remained.
I tried the steps again and found no barrier. His scabbard lay nearby and I picked it up, bringing it to him. He took it and sheathed his sword before bending with a hiss of pain and picking up the dwarfwork rapier. Red light shimmered on its surface and a word appeared.
“Reason,” Drake muttered. He looked at me with wide eyes. “I see its maker. This is dwarfwork, Killer.” Drake ran a hand through his hair and flicked the tip of the blade in a small circle in the air. “They’ll never believe this. I can see them. Not short and bearded like the stories. Tall as you or me with scales on their skin the color of fire.” He shook his head and chuckled. “You are a terrible conversationalist, elf. Here I am having one of the craziest moments in my life and you stand there like a statue.”
I smiled at him. There was no way to tell him that I believed him completely. I had often looked in on the Fire-kin and their forges from the Hall of Windows. Whatever that sword was showing him, from what he had said aloud, he was seeing truth.
“A smile, eh? That’s something I guess.” Drake peeled back his shirt from his arm. “Shallow wounds. I’ll live. Come on.”
I stayed put, thinking how to ask what I wanted to know. Finally I tapped Thorn on the ground where the shade had died. Drake paused on the edge of the platform and squinted at me. I held out my left hand while turning my body sideways and my curse let me know with another gut punching wave of nausea that this was pushing a little too far.
“You want to know how I defeated him?” Drake guessed.
I raised both eyebrows in what I hoped was an expectant look.
“He wasn’t used to fighting another lefty. So he was slightly slower to cover his off side because he trained and had to block more attacks from the right. It’s complicated.” Drake waved a hand. “He was good. I was better.”
I followed him out of the chamber, replaying the duel in my mind and renewing my vow to learn more swordplay. My companions, well, other than Rahiel, had shown me that having skills with a close-in weapon came in handy during unpredictable fights with the myriad of deadly monsters, bandits, and other ill-meaning folk that adventurers encountered on a near daily basis. Drake’s duel had shown me something different. Swordplay could be beautiful when so much was at stake. My elven heart still craved beauty, and I yearned to learn that dance. Perhaps with time I, too, could communicate something powerful through my blade.
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Dawn had stained the sky rose and ash by the time we emerged from the caverns and climbed the chain rings to the surface. Makha, Rahiel, and Azyrin were waiting for us. Makha leaned on her shield, holding the chain steady as I climbed over the lip of the sinkhole. Rahiel perched on Bill’s back, playing cat’s cradle with silver thread. Azyrin stepped up to me, his ice-blue eyes searching me for injuries.
He helped pull Drake up and over behind me, clucking at the bloody stains and tears in the rogue’s shirt. All of them gasped when Drake held up the rapier.
“It is real.” Rahiel shook her head. “It is very shiny. Probably cursed.”
“I sense no evil in it,” Azyrin said as he touched hesitant fingers to the bell guard.
“You’re still a hambrained idiot for going off like that,” Makha said. “And you, Killer, for letting him.”
I pressed my lips together and raised an eyebrow. This was definitely not my fault. They could quibble about it all they wanted as long as I got a bath and soon. My scalp still itched.
“It is dwarfwork and its name is Reason,” Drake said. “It’s not evil. Also, I found the cave bacon. It’s stone. Seriously.”
“Where did you get the sword?” Rahiel asked, flying down closer to examine the blade.
“Let’s get back to The Duelist’s Daughter and I’ll tell the whole story.” Drake pointed toward Stonebarrow with his new sword.
“All right, you and the elf there could really use a bath, I guess.” Rahiel turned Bill away, her wings flicking open and shut. I hid my smile by ducking my head. She might have been the most vocal about not continuing on the day before, but the pixie-goblin couldn’t stand the idea of someone else having an adventure without her.
There were no millipedes in my hair, just a mountain’s worth of dirt and stone chips. After cleaning up, I followed Drake to the tavern. They weren’t open as yet but relentless knocking on the door to the kitchen got Myrie to open it. A coin and a quick word from Drake got her to let us all in.
We piled into the empty tavern as Myrie’s sister joined us, wiping her hands on her apron.
“What’s all this about then?” she asked.
“He said it was about the sword,” Myrie said. She held up the silver coin Drake had given her. “Wants another go.”
“It can’t wait til we open?”
“No,” Drake said. “You won’t want to wait, trust me.”
He strode to the hearth and took down the sheath. With an extravagant bow, he shook the sword free from the cloak he’d hidden it in. The sisters gasped. Not giving them time for words, Drake sheathed the sword.
Both sword and sheath disappeared and everyone jumped a little. Except for Drake. He grinned and took another bow.
“Word on the scabbard is ‘hidden’ in Dwarvish,” he said. “Sword is named ‘Reason’. And I believe I have won the scabbard from you.”
“Gods above,” Myrie murmured. “Where’d it go?”
Drake unsheathed the sword he still held in his hand and both scabbard and blade reappeared. “Nowhere. It turns invisible until it is drawn. The…ah…I suspected as much from the names.”
“Granmama said it was elvish.”
“I’m guessing Rucao told no one the true origin because he feared no one would believe him.”
“I’m not so sure I believe it,” Makha said.
“My point exactly,” Drake said. He resheathed the sword and came over to the bar. “Now, if you’d like to pour some cider, I’ll tell you how I won this sword from your great grandfather.”
“And how you got past the whipmaw,” Rahiel said.
“That was all Killer’s doing, but I’ll tell the whole of it.”
Drake told the most of it, anyway. He left out the crawling and any mention of being wounded in the fight though his cuts still had Azyrin’s salve on them, hidden beneath his shirt. He also neglected to mention the warakin encounter. But he got it mostly right and had everyone leaning a little forward in their seats just as I had leaned during the duel itself. I could almost hear the ring of blade on blade in his words, and I smiled.
“Who ever knew that there were such amazing places underneath our very feet?” Myrie said after asking him to describe the caves and the glimmer moss more.
“Yeah. Beautiful places full of wonder and things that want to eat your face off,” Makha said.
“Hush, love.” Azyrin slid his arm over her shoulders. “Drake?”
“Ah, yes.” Drake sighed.
He’d had a quiet conversation with Azyrin earlier. I’d been absorbed in getting my hair clean, but I’d caught the gist enough to not be surprised when he untucked a small velvet bag from his belt and offered it to Myrie and her sister.
Myrie opened the bag and dumped out five good-sized rubies that gleamed like fresh blood droplets on the copper bartop.
“For you two. Since I’m taking the sheath and all. Don’t want to deprive you of so much extra income.” Drake’s smile was almost sincere.
“Oh, it wasn’t…” Myrie started to say but her sister elbowed her and smiled at us.
“We thank you for your kind thoughts. And you’ve given us an end to the story about our great granddaddy.”
“Least I could do,” Drake said.
We left Stonebarrow at midday with full bellies. Drake whistled the refrain of a bawdy song about a pirate and unlocked windows, his step light. I walked beside him for a time, glancing at his happy face. He caught my eye and winked at me, patting his side where the invisible sword and scabbard hung. I wasn’t sure this counted against my banishment as a good deed, but I knew my friend better now and his happiness made the day a little brighter and the journey seem not quite so long. Smiling, I strode ahead, ready for whatever heroic opportunities our next adventure might bring.
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Also by Annie Bellet:
The Gryphonpike Chronicles:
Twice Drowned Dragon
Dead of Knight
The Barrows: Omnibus Volume One
The Twenty-Sided Sorceress:
Murder of Crows
Pack of Lies
A Heart in Sun and Shadow
The Raven King
Pyrrh Considerable Crimes Division Series:
Short Story Collections:
The Spacer’s Blade and Other Stories
Forgotten Tigers and Other Stories
River Daughter and Other Stories
Deep Black Beyond
Till Human Voices Wake Us
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About the Author:
Annie Bellet lives and writes in the Pacific NW. She is a Clarion graduate and her stories have appeared in magazines such as AlienSkin, Digital Science Fiction, and Daily Science Fiction as well as multiple collections and anthologies. Follow her on her blog at
“A Little Imagination”
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