Marlin had made a promise.
It was the last promise she’d ever make, even if she were still capable of making promises. She had learned, since, to think about the nature of the words she said.
But she knew, no matter how many times she cursed her impetuousness, that she likely would have made the same promise again.
I will guard this blade until the right bearer comes along.
The old woman of the lake had told her you will know, deep in your heart, heavy in your chest, tight in your lungs, when the right bearer comes. I did.
The old woman had given the sword to Tyleeal, to Marlin’s sovereign, to Marlin’s love.
And Tyleeal had done as all great heroes did and died in mighty battle.
Marin hadn’t realized, when she swore the oath, how long it would be.
She hadn’t realized how lonely it would be.
She hadn’t known that the castle was only visible to some people, was only visible at some times, and lived, in a sense, out of time.
All this she’d had time enough and then some again to learn.
At first, she had been proud and angry and sent away anyone who wished to wield the great sword with simple words, you are not the one.
Then, she had asked them what tribute they had brought her, what made them worthy to wield the sword, before she had sent them away with the same words.
She had demanded vigils for a while, vigils which gave her someone else to speak to for some short time.
She had demanded they fight her, and found her skills had grown a bit rusty.
And now? How when youths came from the mainland to the secret, sacred island, they came knowing three things.
They brought her tribute in foods and clothing, books and rumors and stories. For three days, they told her stories of the world outside, the wilder, the better.
They fought her in single combat and then in pairs, having brought a companion for this part.
They sat vigil for two nights while their companion kept Marin company.
And then they felt, she thought, like they had tried their best when she sent them away.
But this one, this one came alone.
The boat held one person, not in armor, and enough food and supplies to last a small company a month. It bumped up on the dock and the person, hooded, carried three packs to the place where Marin waited, when someone was coming.
The hood pushed back. Marin’s heart stopped, her chest tightened, her lungs felt on fire. She dropped to her knees in front of Tyleeal come again, and she understood, suddenly, why the old woman of the lake had spent so much time hovering in the back of the court. How long had she waited?
“I thought,” said the knight who was and was not Tyleeal, “that, looking at all the stories, you must be horribly lonely here. So I thought that I would sit vigil with you for as long as it takes. Until the right one comes along. I brought some food—”
Marin pressed her forehead to the knight’s feet. Don’t go, she wanted to say. Instead she said the only thing the oath would allow her to say.
“The great blade is yours. It has always been yours, no matter how long you take. It will always belong to you.
“Please,” she whispered, “stay a while before you must battle. Just a little while.”
“Dear heart,” said Tyleeal, in a voice she could not help but recognize, “you have waited all these centuries for me. I believe I can wait just as long here with you before I take up the sword.”
Written to @katrani‘s prompt:
the creative ways a bored Guardian of a Sacred Weapon comes up with to test would-be wielders
or at least tangential to the prompt.