The Order of the Blackened Glaive
Drakar wakes with a start. He is in his bed, and his room is dark, but this is no hinderance to one whose blood courses with the fell power of the Pit. Fire flares around his eyes, and the darkness falls away. He looks around, sees that his roommate’s bunk is empty, and then he is out of bed and scrambling for his sword and shield. His fingers grasp the hilt, but he has not yet set his shield when his door flies open, and there stands Magister Zachaes, fully armored, a long red glaive held in his hands.
Drakar’s eyes narrow. Zachaes holds one of the Academy’s weapons of power, the Red Glaive of Mars. It is a pole a bit more than five feet in length, topped with a blade that extends another foot at least. The pole is wooden, carved from a redwood, and it is enchanted for strength--if the legends are to be believed, that is. With his own eyes, Drakar can see that the Glaive’s blade is glowing an angry red. He can feel the power of its anger from across the room.
Drakar sneers and tosses away his scabbard, leaving his short sword bare. He has at last set his shield. Behind Zachaes, a gaggle of cadets stand and watch, eager for blood. Drakar says, “Finally found your courage, magister? It took you long enough.”
Zachaes’s eyes widen, but Drakar is across the gap before he can respond. Drakar feints with his short sword, drawing Zachaes’s glaive down to block, but even as Zachaes is moving, Drakar pulls back and sweeps across with the shield, crashing bodily into Zachaes’s face and chest. The magister rocks back but ripostes, drawing a line of blood across Drakar’s chest. Had Zachaes not been falling backwards, Drakar would now be dead. As it is, the magister stumbles backwards, and Drakar disengages. A gap opens between them.
Drakar’s wound is not deep. There is no muscle damage, just torn skin, but he will need stitches. Against this, Zachaes has landed on his backside and now sports a bloody nose. The magister scowls, rage and even embarassment evident on his face, but he climbs gamely back to his feet and spits blood.
“You are good with a blade,” Zachaes says grudgingly. “It is a shame that you were born… tainted. You would have made a fine centurion.”
Drakar’s attack cuts him off. His sword rings against Zachaes’s glaive, and when Drakar moves to strike again with his shield, it does the same. Then Zachaes slips the butt-end of his glaive around behind Drakar’s feet, and suddenly Drakar is the one sprawled on his backside. Zacheas reverses the glaive, bringing it around in an overhand strike, but Drakar rolls right and parries, though the weight of Zacheas’s strikes makes his shield arm ache. Zacheas resets, and Drakar can see death in his eyes. The glaive’s blade is like a living thing, whirling and slamming down on either side of Drakar’s head, and all Drakar can do is roll to avoid it. In deperation, he lashes out with his feet, and finally--luckily--his left foot tangles with one of Zachaes’s own. The magister trips and falls, and Drakar scrambles around, pinning the glaive beneath the weight of his shield arm. Zachaes’s eyes go wide, but he can do nothing to defend himself, and they both know it.
In that moment, Drakar can see into Zachaes’s soul. It is a world of fear and contempt. At last, he understands this man who has made his life so miserable these last years at the Academy. At the point of death, Zachaes’s eyes have offered a window onto the essence of his very being.
Drakar slams his blade home, ending the fight. Zachaes gurgles, and blood runs from his mouth. After that, he is silent.
Afterwards, Drakar becomes aware of the cadets standing quietly out in the hallway. They are looking at him. Staring. He scowls but then turns away and begins packing. He still does not know what to make of his dream, but it is clear that he can no longer stay at the Academy. Zachaes’s attack has seen to that, though it cost him his life. There will be an investigation, and if Drakar stays, he will eventually be hanged for what has occured this night. He must therefore leave, though it means giving up the one thing that has been his goal in life up to now.
Turning back to the cadets, he sneers. “What are you still doing here? This is not a zoo! Go gawk at some other misfit.”
Some of the older boys had begun inching towards the glaive, but Drakar’s outburst scatters them. Having just seen one of their masters killed, none of the students is eager to try his hand against Drakar in battle. It’s just as well. Drakar’s wound is bleeding freely now, and he has little desire to spill more of his blood in halls dedicated to faithless Sentralia.
Drakar finally finishes collecting his things. He spends a last minute wrapping and binding his wound, and then he buckles his breastplate on over the bandage. He may well need it before he has made his escape. He is about to gird his sword and shield when he looks over and sees the glaive--the Red Glaive of Mars. He smiles, and there is enough wickedness there to send the few boys who remain scrambling back for cover. In another instant, the glaive is in Drakar’s hands. It burns for a moment at his touch and then flares with light. Pain grips Drakar, but he bears down. Flames run the length of the glaive, scorching the weapon’s wooden haft and leaving the blade itself blackened and changed.
That same wicked smile returns to Drakar’s face. This is no longer the Red Glaive of Mars. Indeed, the glaive is no longer red at all. It has blackened at Drakar’s touch, and its blade has shifted, changing from a long thin single-edged serrated blade to a forked blade, smoothly edged on either side.
On instinct, Drakar slides the weapon over his back, as though he would place the glaive into a sheath at his back. He wears no sheath, but still he feels the glaive slide home. It disappears into the ether, but somehow Drakar knows that the glaive will be there when he reaches for it.
A few cadets are still standing there, still gawking at Drakar. None of them know what to make of what they have seen, but they can just as clearly not look away. “Begone!” Drakar scolds them again. “I’m leaving. Is that not enough for you? Is it not what you wanted?”
The boys scramble back, but they are beneath Drakar’s notice. They are nothing to him now. His road lies ahead. Somewhere out there stands Fortress Abbadabas, home to the Order of the Blackened Glaive.
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