The Azure Lilly Returns

A Blacksmith’s Adventures with Weapons of Legend: Azure Lilly, Sword of the River Tears, Pt. 2

Tom barged into the grand hall of the castle, Catalina trotting closely behind. Normally such urgency was brought only by a sense of immediate danger, but something else drove Tom this time, something akin to excitement. The guards stood at the ready but did not impede Tom’s progress. Had anyone else charged in, loaded to the teeth with weapons, they would have immediately jumped into action. As it was, he was a known friend of Lord Cradleborn, and his visits were not so uncommon that they did not remember his face. At the far end of the grand hall stood a richly dressed man talking to a beautiful young woman. At first glance, Catalina mistook him for Tom’s better dressed, cleaner brother. Tom said nothing in response to Catalina’s questioning stare.

“And that’s when I said, ‘Lord Salmonrush, your name isn’t the only thing that’s fishy here,'” the young lord joked, causing the young woman beside to giggle, more as a result of awkward attraction than the humor of the joke.

“Still trying to woo the ladies with your unique brand of humor, Baldy?” Tom observed, interrupting his friend in the middle of his awkward flirting.

“Who dares disturb me while I entertain my gorgeous young guest?” Baldemar asked, irritated at the interruption, but his scowl quickly turned into a smile. “Tom! How are you, you rascal?”

Baldemar grasped Tom’s left hand with his own and placed his right on Tom’s left shoulder. Tom mirrored his actions.

“I’m alive and breathing so I must be doing fine. You?”

“I’m doing great. It’s good to see you again!”

Catalina watched these two interact, reinforcing the notion that they could be long lost brothers. Small differences distinguished them. Tom’s mess of hair stood in startling contrast to Baldemar’s shoulder-length hair, pulled back into a ponytail, well-groomed, with a single silvery bang covering his right eye and reaching down to his shoulder, the mystery of its color vexing to Catalina’s mind. Tom’s face was framed by facial hair, reaching from ear to ear, hugging his jaw and encircling his mouth, while Baldemar’s face was well-shaved, as smooth as the surface of a pond. Tom’s face itself was almost entirely unmarred, while Baldemar had a long scar across his nose, almost perfectly horizontal. The battle that caused it must have been furious indeed. Their styles differed, though more due to the difference in their station than the difference in their sense of fashion. Tom wore ragged attire: a dingy long-sleeved shirt, a pair of fingerless leather gloves, battered trousers, a pair of leather traveling boots, a holey traveling robe from his days with the guild, all in black. Over his shirt he wore a well-fitted breastplate, largely plain in design, except for a small lily carved into the metal between his shoulder blades. Baldemar, however, wore pristine attire: a navy blue shirt accented with gold, a pair of fine white gloves, white silk trousers with gold accents, a pair of ornate black leather boots, a navy blue cloak, clearly a sign of his nobility. A delicate diadem in the shape of a dragon crowned his head. He must have been preparing for some form of conflict, because he too wore a breastplate, though one with more intricate designs, a single sapphire adorning the chest. They were like two sides of a coin, images mirrored in the ripples of a murky lake. Even their stance was the same. Tom carried himself a bit more regally than the common man, and Baldemar a bit more lax than the typical noble. Catalina quickly snapped out of her trance when the other woman began speaking.

“Baldemar, won’t you introduce me to your…interesting companion?” she said, looking at Tom’s attire with an expression of displeasure.

“Oh, yes! Certainly! Lady Elsewater, this is Mr. Thomas Riversedge. He is a blacksmith by trade, under the tutelage of his father, William Riversedge, of the Lilly Forge. His main occupation, however, is best summarized by the term ‘adventurer.’ He is a good friend of mine, from when I was younger, and not quite a noble yet. Tom, this is Lady Isabel Elsewater, of the House of Elsewater in the Rainy Dales. Her family is known for there impressive diplomats. I must say,” Baldemar chimed, turning to the noblewoman, “after having spent some time with you, my lady, I can understand why. You certainly wield your beauty as a warrior wields his sword.”

“Oh, my, you have a way with words yourself. Had I not known better, I would have sworn you were part of my own house. We could easily make that a reality, if you’d like,” Lady Elsewater flirted.

“You make an enticing offer,” Lord Baldemar replied, returning the affection. “Perhaps we should discuss this later. In my chambers. However,” he continued, straightening up, “I have guests, and I should hardly think they want to wait on our important conversation.”

“Oh, no. Please, go on,” Tom laughed, a wicked grin on his face.

“What horrid thoughts are going through your head, you moron?” Baldemar scolded, in a very unsophisticated way. “Psh, nevermind. Please, I’ve introduced my company, and now I would be honored if you would introduce this lovely young Woman of the Dales. Don’t be so shocked, milady, I’ve spent enough time with Rainy Dales nobles that I could recognize a person of the Dales anywhere.”

“Ah, yes. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Lady Elsewater. Please, allow me to introduce Catalina Faintwhisp, Paragon of Sorowa and a personal friend of mine. She’s been traveling with me on my journeys.”

“A pleasure to meet you all,” Catalina meekly curtsied.

“Woah! A paragon, eh? Nice catch, Tommy lad!” Baldemar guffawed.

“It’s not like that, you oaf,” Tom shot back, with mock insult.

“Hey, you’d better be careful with those jabs. I’m a noble now.”

“Yeah, you keep threatening me with your power, but when ya gonna use it, big shot?”

“Excuse me,” Isabel interrupted awkwardly, suddenly embarassed by the situation she found herself in. “Don’t you have important matters to discuss, my lord?”

“Ah, yes, thank you, my dear,” Baldemar replied. “Now, Tom, I have your sword. What do you have for me?”

“A friend asks you for help in good faith, and you demand payment? I am offended, sir! Just kidding. I have yours, as well.”

“Excellent! How did you get it? Was it difficult?”

“Not at all. The thieves who stole it, while impressive thieves, were awful fighters. Pretty terrible security, too. They were living in a cesspit of a hideout, with their logo painted on the front door. Bashed it in, caught ’em off guard, stomped the leader, got the sword, made it out with all my belongings safely on my person. How about you, Catalina? You still in good shape? Well, you’re always in good shape, so I guess the real question is do you have all your things still?”

“Hm? Oh, yes, all accounted for,” she mumbled, preoccupied with Tom’s first question and the corresponding answer.

“Smooth, Tom. Smooth,” Baldemar grinned mischievously.

“What? I didn’t do anything,” the warrior replied. “Anyways, I have the Sword of the River Tears for you. You’ve got the Azure Lilly?”

“Yes, absolutely. Here it is. I still don’t know how it got there, but Lord Bywater found it in his grandmother’s quarters after she passed away.”

“Oh, is that so?” Tom inquired, confirming to himself certain suspicions.

“You don’t seem terribly surprised, Tom. Is there a story?”

“I have a guess, but that can wait for later. Let’s trade.”

Tom pulled out a blade from his pack that Catalina had not seen. It had a gorgeous blue gem-encrusted silver handle with an equally ornate sheath. Baldemar took the blade and unsheathed it, revealing a sparkling blade emblazoned with a dragon the same shade of blue as the great River of Tears, for which the blade was named. Tom did the same with the Azure Lilly, his earlier description of the blade spot on. The two blades, in the hands of their respective owners, looked like twin shards of of the moon, glinting with a cold, yet beautiful, silver light. Though crafted by two smiths, from two different families, in two entirely different areas, the blades looked eerily similar, as if they shared some greater destiny. Though of a simpler design than the Sword of the River Tears, the Azure Lilly was just as beautiful in its own way. Catalina could not help but think to herself that there was something special about the Men of the River and the things they crafted. She would have to inquire about the Sword of the River Tears later. For now, Tom and Baldemar were comparing blades, testing them out, and sparring. Baldemar invited Tom and Catalina to stay the night, an offer which Tom accepted. That evening they feasted with the two nobles, sharing tales and exchanging stories of their adventures. When they finally settled into the room they were to share for the night, Catalina made her inquiry.

“Tom, I have a question. Other than being the symbolic sword of a noble house, what is the story behind the Sword of the River Tears?”

“Is that what’s been eating at you? I was wondering what was on your mind. Huh, well, let me think. As I recall, the Sword of the River Tears was forged right after the death of the River Dragon. It was treated at various points throughout the process with the River Dragon’s collected blood and cooled in the waters of the River of Tears. Its sheath is believed to be made out of the leather of the guardian’s wings. They stained the blade with the dragon’s blood to create its likeness. It was presented to Eloy the Cradle-Born, the first Chosen of the River Dragon and the first Lord Cradleborn. With the Sword of the River Tears, or the Dragon’s Spirit, as it was called at the time, Eloy struck down Ragnar the Scorched in a gruesome avenging blow. It is said that in that moment, the blade absorbed Ragnar’s spilled blood, evening the scales of the world. A life for a life. In that moment, the legend adds, the spirit of the River Dragon was restored, and having no body to return to, inhabited the blade, which contained its blood and skin. Now, from what I can tell, the blade has displayed no magic that one would expect to find in a possessed blade. It is, however, uncommonly sturdy. It hasn’t simply adorned a noble’s wall for all these centuries. It’s seen many, many battles. That’s why Baldy wanted it so bad. It may not have obvious magic, but the smith who crafted it used supernatural methods. There is strong merit to the notion that the dragon’s blood preserves it and the dragon’s leather restores it. Furthermore, the lords of Sorowa’s Cradle have never fallen in battle as long as they’ve had the Sword of the River Tears at their side. Only the Lord or Lady Cradleborn, however. Any man not of the bloodline who has wielded the blade in the hopes of using its power has met with no such fate. And those who have wielded it to bring harm to Sorowa’s Cradle have met eerily timely ends. A tale is told of an assassin who tried to kill Lord Hadrian Cradleborn with the Sword of the River Tears. He stole it from the noble’s room, unsheathing it as he approached the sleeping lord’s bed. When he raised the blade to strike Hadrian, however, the blade shone with a brilliant blue light that awoke the slumbering noble and he moved aside before the assassin could bring it down on him. The blade hit the bed and seemed to supernaturally fuse with the wood. While the assassin tried to pull the sword free, the guard came in to dispatch him. His only hope was to abandon his operation and flee, which he promptly did. When Lord Cradleborn went to remove the blade from his bed, it slipped out easily enough, as if he was removing a knife from a tray of butter. Even another Man of the River doesn’t have the divine blessing of the blade that the Cradleborns have. It didn’t fight me, but it didn’t favor me either. I hope Baldemar really belongs to the bloodline.”

“What do you mean?”

“Baldemar did not know he was a noble until the death of his father, Lord Jeremiah Cradleborn, eight years ago. When Lord Jeremiah passed away, he left no legitimate heir, but men came to Lilly Pond seeking out Baldemar, claiming was the illegitimate son of Lord Cradleborn and the one with the strongest claim to the lordship. His adoptive family vouched for this tale, and before long he was whisked away to a life of nobility. His noble birth combined with his common upbringing has allowed him to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor.”

“Oh. I see. Why not hand the reins over to another noble, though? Why an illegitimate son?”

“That is a question for someone else. I can’t answer it. I don’t know.”