The Sword and the Stone

January 27, 2006

The stranger had taken little Art away from his parents in the middle of the night. It hadn’t been a strange night in any way, nor an overly unpleasant one – it had been just another slightly warm summer night, where the smells of the city had been a tad strong when they invaded Art’s bedroom. But then the stranger had entered, and things had been different.

Art knew he was supposed to be scared of strangers, especially as he was only twelve years old. But surely, he had thought, that didn’t apply to wizards?

And the stranger had looked every inch the wizard, from the bottom of his rune-covered and slightly disheveled blue robes to the top of his oh-so-pointy hat. His long and flowing beard was the very essence of… beardness, and his twinkling eyes were full of mischief.

He told Art he that they were to go on a wonderful journey, where Art would be able to find his destiny. That sounded fun, at the time, and Art – in love with tales of knights and dragons and heroes – didn’t think twice about going on what was sure to be a fantastic tale.

But they had stepped through the door that wasn’t quite a door, and he found himself in the wizard’s world of ‘fantasy’… and Art wasn’t quite so sure anymore.

It was a dreary place, filled with flickering stars that didn’t seem to want to stay lit in the night sky. He heard the snarls and growls of what were surely beasts never seen on plain old earth – but listening to the sounds of pain and anger and battle has never soothed a child’s worries. The towns they walked through were full of people with downcast eyes and sour looks, as though they were constantly sucking on some incredibly bitter piece of hard candy.

And the Wizard merely strode along in front of him, paying no heed to stars, nor beasts, nor villagers, dragging Art along behind him with every step.

He stops, at last, at the center of the most recent village they had entered. They are in the town square, surrounded by small, abandoned buildings. No light shine down on this part of town save for the intermittent stars overhead. At first, Art thinks the blob of shadow in the center of the square to be a well, likely gone dry after years of disuse.

But as he draws closer, the stars get a little brighter, as though eager to see for themselves the scene playing out before them. The blob becomes more tangible, more real, and the well of Art’s imagination is replaced by a simple stone – with a plain black sword buried in it to the hilt.

“I am sure you know what to do, dear child? You’ve heard the story of King Arthur, and the sword in the stone, have you not?” The Wizard’s voice is pleasant and comforting, but Art goes very still everytime the Wizard speaks.

Slowly, the child nods. “Yeah. It’s… it’s a story about brave knights and heroes who do… do good things, and save the land. But this… this isn’t like that story, is it?”

The Wizard’s laughter is as soft and inoffensive as everything else about the wizened old man. “Well, no, not quite. But, my boy, that story didn’t exactly have a happy ending, did it? No, this is quite a different tale – but it starts the same. You draw the sword and then this land will be yours, in heart and soul.”

“Will I… will I be evil?” asksthe boy, shyly. “Will I, sir?”

Another chuckle meets his question. “You’ll be what you were meant to be. The shadowed blade will be your own, and the darkness in the land shall call you king. Evil? It is a term of little meaning, here and now.”

The boy turns and looks at him directly. “You didn’t answer the question.”

The Wizard coughs. A heartbeat passes. “Yes, Art. You shall be evil.”

“Oh.” The boy walks over to the stone, and places his hand on the rock. He thought it might be warm or feel faintly alive – but it feels just like what it is, cold hard stone.

With a sigh, he grabs the sword, and easily draws it forth from the rock, displaying its obsidian blade to the cold night air, and the dying stars overhead.

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