A Sword of Roses, The Sword of Roses

“Agh! Bugger me, that’s a bloody hard thing to do!” Mericet’s patience, something he had always marvelled at in his old life, had gone with that life, it seemed. “I swear if I miss that bloody stump one more time, I’m going to tear it apart with this!” He swatted at the sword strapped to his back.
Khalikk looked as amused as his dour face allowed. “I hardly see why you carry that steel stick anymore. Your hand would no longer recognize its use, nor,” his blue tinged face grew sly once more, “do you need it.”
Mericet whipped his head around. His hair had grown out longer now, it was wild and untamed, and he had grown a beard around his chin and nose, giving him the look of a predator. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Learn how to use the Rose Sword, and you’ll know.” Khalikk shrugged and turned away. “Good day, Mericet.”
Mericet replied with a rather unrepeatable remark.
“BLOODY ‘ELL! Ow… ow… sonova…” Mericet held out his arms and concentrated on the skeleton that was mastering him in combat. A surge of power filled him as he felt the life force draining from fragile animation into his tired limbs. His mind exploded in fury. “DIE!” he screamed, and the air blistered around him, shattering the form of the reanimation. Mericet slumped to the ground, spent and tired from his exertion.
A soft chuckle came from behind him. Turning around, he saw another Britton man, flaxen haired and dressed in the unmistakable habit of a friar closing on him. Scowling, Mericet made to get up, but his limbs simply didn’t have the strength.
“Oh, don’t get up on my accord, heh heh.” The friar said a quick prayer, and Mericet felt the life surge in him, the old hatred rising as well.
“Don’t…. don’t do that again, friar.”
“Oh, heh heh, you be one o’ dem reavers wes been ‘earin’ bout. Heh heh.” The friar slumped down next to Mericet. “Beer?”
“Beer.” The friar offered a earthenware jug. “‘s good, made it mysel… excuse me.” He belched. “Ah, better, had that one stuck as a lump for a while, heheheheh. Binge’s the name, don’t ask, chum, I ain’t tellin’ why. Anyway, beer. Have some.”
Mericet’s eyes narrowed. “Uh, no thank you.”
Binge shrugged. “Your loss, eh. Anyway, saws you was havin’ trouble, figgered ya could use some help from a friendly face, and I’ve been told I’ve a more friendly face than most. Heh heh, mostly from people that don’t know me well.” He burped again.
“Do all friars talk as much as you do, Binge?”
“HAHAHAH! ‘Do they all talk as much?’ he says!” Binge looked up at the sky. “Did you hear that one, boss? What a funny man, oh man…”
“Who are you talking to?”
“God, of course. I guess I could ‘ave been talkin’ to that robin up there, but they don’t listen none good and they always shits on my robes, bloody bastards…”
Mericet just blinked.
“Oh, anyway, help, yeah. Saws you slashin and bobbin’ and weavin’ wit’ dem undead buggers and well that ain’t gunna do you none good.” Binge reached into his robe, producing an oaken staff. “Here, lemme shows ya.” He lurched to his feet, swaying slightly. “Whoa, heh heh… steady there boyo, hold the world up a bit for me now.” Binge steadied himself, looked out in the trees and nodded briefly once.
“HEY OVER HERE YA BOTTOM BUGGER BLOODY BASTARD YA IM TALKIN TO YOU YA NINNY BOY PANSY SHITE FOR BRAINS!!” Mericet jumped at the sudden change of the friar’s tone. From the trees, a skeleton, anger fueling its movements, rushed at Binge, and Mericet could feel the rage seething from the undead’s attack. Binge simply dodged out of the way and chuckled.
“Now, heh heh… watch this, eh?” Binge sidestepped, planted his right foot and spun his staff around him so fast that Mericet could barely follow it. With a flick of the wrist, Binge broke the arm at the shoulder clear off the skeleton, and then reversed his swing to break the shin bone next. The skeleton staggered forward, swiping at Binge with its one good arm before Binge deftly shattered the skull with another spinning sweep of his staff. He spun the staff dramatically around him and planted it in the ground with his left hand.
Mericet was impressed… until Binge’s hand slid down the pole and he crashed to the ground with a thump. He rushed to the friar’s side without thinking.
“Ah, that’s a good lad. Now… get me another beer?”
“Its the texture of the thing, Mericet. See, you’re tryin’ to slash at something as hard as rock. Whatcha need is somethin’ that can WHACK! crush somethin’ like that, see?”
Mericet frowned. “It seems unnatural to me. Besides, I’m still trying to figure out how to use this thing,” he shook the Rose Sword coiled on his hip.
Binge nodded. “Try one of these buggers, then.” He took a heavy flail off the weapon rack. The shopkeeper, a burly highlander man, gave Binge a dirty look, which the friar ignored. Mericet took the weapon in his hand, weighing it out in his palm. “Heavy,” he said.
“Heh heh, yeah. Cool, huh?”
Mericet laughed. “Okay, then, let’s give this a try.”
They walked back out to the hill where they met. Innconu and Britton men and women were scattered over the hill, which Khalikk had told Mericet was a training area, the skeletons and zombies reanimated by Priests of Arawn for weapons and magic practice.
Binge pointed out a lesser skeleton. “Now… try that one there. Remember, you wanna shatter, not slash the poor thing.” He made a quick, almost unnoticable sign of the cross. “Now, do it.”
Mericet focused his power as he’d been taught, imagining the soul fleeing, peice by peice, down to the Underworld, and the skeleton, wincing as if it were struck, began to move towards Mericet. He readied his shield, his left hand vaguely remembering what it was like to hold another weapon, and held the flail ready. The skeleton closed and struck a weak punch that Mericet easily blocked. Knowledge clicked, and once again, time slowed for him, just as it did for Mertel once upon a time…
Mericet struck, the flail whistling in the air, shattering the ribs of the skeleton and then crossing back, breaking the skull open. Binge let out a wild whoop, and Mericet felt once again that surge of life. Suddenly, he felt better than he had in what seemed like years. A grin crossed his face, as he felt a small surge of what felt like satisfaction from where the Rose Sword was hung. Mericet looked down at the weapon.
Binge cocked his head to the side. “Did… did that thing just pulse?”
Mericet made no answer, but unstrapped the sword from his back and let it fall to the ground, folded up the flail and tied it down with the sword straps. He took the Rose Sword off his hip, gently, cautiously, even, and looked at the whip, its cord still glowing with the same sullen red. He could almost feel the weapon urging him on, begging to be wielded…
He spun on his heel, eyes seeking out a decaying zombie from the distance and once again, he lured it towards him with that same tug at the thing’s hastily repaired soul. The zombie closed distance but Mericet lashed out with the Rose Sword, tearing a large chunk out of the zombie’s arm, and feeling that surge of life. The Rose Sword sung out in victory as Mericet dealt blow after blow with it, tearing off peices of the corpse. Everything seemed correct at that moment, and Mericet hacked and tore as if it were natural to him, dancing through the corpses that all surged forth from the training hill, laughing and crying all at once, knowing that he had finally discovered who he was.
“Rose I am! Bright red rose of tomorrow’s coming! Rose I have always been! I was a lost boy in a dream! I was a nightmare of reality! The nightmare of Camelot!”
Mericet stopped. Something felt different in his arm, and he stared down at the weapon in his hand. Nothing had ever felt more right in his life, but some corner of mind screamed in alert.
In his hand was no longer a whip, but what he could only guess was why the Rose Sword was named as it was. A length of steel, its blade wrapped in a cord of thorns, that same sullen red glowing along the blade…
The Rose Sword smirked in his mind, with the voice of Arawn destroying all thought…
… to be continued.

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