Saturday, October 13, 2012

Swordplay

My dad taught me how to use the sword. He said to me once, "You will need it when you are in mental or emotional turmoil," and he would pick up his sword and hand it to me. We would practice dueling in the forest-- all sorts of dueling, mostly medieval swordplay where we would carry large, heavy swords, but sometimes other kinds of fighting, like fencing with a thin foil, or archery. I never understood what he meant by, "it would help me in mental or emotional turmoil." I would think, "Aren't these kinds of things physical? Surely one would use it for defending themselves from physical turmoil."

I never really connected anything. I lived in the forest, practically, and how could I, as an individual, possibly connect anything in my life? Indeed, I was innocent. But of course, father sent me out into the world as if on a draft of wind going by so fast. I went to a school for philosophy, psychology, and natural sciences, which were also mixed with artistic classes. I dropped the swordplay. My father never came to see me.

Leaned against the rail was an androgynous person, who had come from a small town and moved here to go to school because no other school would accept a person without a sex. This person called itself a "he," for personal reasons. I assumed he had been abused, a possible cause. He was chewing on something.
"I met you in class," he said to me, not even looking as I passed him by with my books almost squirming out of my hands. He had a small, red journal under his palm on the rail. I looked at him as he spoke.
"Yes?" I said. Perhaps I should stop to converse?
"Your name is Orlandis, yes?" he asked. I only nodded, yet somehow he knew and continued.
"I heard you do sword fighting. With your father. Or at least used to," he said.
How could he have known?

As if he read my mind, he turned around and faced me. His stare was blank yet wise, and he did have an androgynous look to him, kind of like me.
"I hear things. There is no need to worry," he said to me reassuringly. "I am not all that special. No special abilities. Nothing." He smiled.
I looked at him. How clever he was.
"I know some swordplay myself," he continued. "Perhaps you would like us to duel one free day?"
I nodded and smiled to him in return. I was honored to finally have someone to duel with, yet I had suspicions crawling around me, slimy.
"We could duel today," I said to him.
We agreed and did exactly that.

We picked up our swords on our way out to the field. Immediately as we arrived, he attacked, and it came as a horrifying surprise. I was fortunate enough my reflexes were fast and I blocked. We then fought for quite a while. He was much harder to fight than my father, although he was androgynous and looked frail. He was quick and strong as a mountain.
"Tell me your name," I yelled, avoiding a slash.
"Owen!" he said. 
That was the last we spoke that day.

I still did not understand what my father meant when he said swordplay would help defend me in mental, emotional turmoil. But one day I saw a bunch of boys slamming Owen to the ground on that same field we had dueled, in the exact same spot, yet Owen was not only looking frail, but being frail. I was scared for him and wanted to help, yet when he looked at me and smiled, blood seeping from his mouth, I became scared of him instead.

Later that day, girls came up to me, their fists clenched and stationed on their hips.
"Owen has debt to pay," was all they said, and they cursed me.
Debt?
Something told me his debt had to do with me. I did not understand. The girls called me slime, an idiot, stupid for even catching eye contact with Owen in the first place. They then said "Your father would kill him."

Then something clicked, like a new lock being tried for the first time. My father had something to do with Owen? Somehow, my mind was becoming torn and riled, and it seemed to pick up a sword.

I approached Owen timidly. It was only a few days after the boys had beaten him to the ground.
"Why did you let them do that to you?" I said.
"I see the girls have told you about my debt with your father," he said, avoiding the question, a slight smile on him. 
"What?" I said, overwhelmed.
I needed to figure out what was going on. My mind was clutching, swinging aimlessly. 
"I cannot be with you anymore, or one will have to kill the other," he said casually. "Or we can both be killed by your father."
"What debt have you to pay?" I said, stepping back.
"Oh, your father is a clever man," he said. "I told him I would kill someone for him, but I was a bit, let us see, timid about it one could say. He says that I owe him my life now. He said that if I ever meet his daughter, he would make her murder me. Unfortunately, there is a possibility you could be, ah, slaughtered. One could say-- he is pretty much using you for sacrifice."
I gaped. How could I respond to such a sudden flow of knowledge? Should I even believe Owen? 

My mind was finally aiming the sword. I understood now.


by Aberswyth N.T. Oct. 13, 2012