A Sword of Sunlight

A flash fiction story for Where the Stars Used to Sing

I flew to the moon on the back of a white winged horse to gather the light of the sun.

Gathered in the deep pools and wooded valleys of the moon, the spent sunlight shimmered and rippled gold and silver as I filled the water skins. The liquid weighed me down as I walked back to the horse and I caught a glimpse of our home down below on the planet.

The swathe of land the dragon had laid waste was clearly visible, a scar that I could trace along the edge of the mountains. The woods and grassland had all burnt like twigs the day the dragon awoke. Villages and towns on the periphery of the woods were only charnel houses when the fire was finally quenched by rain and some dared to go and see if anyone — anything — was still alive.

Those who had set out to find the survivors came back, but only one, the blacksmith Ashja, would speak of the horrors they had witnessed. A heavy resolve built in us to kill the beast and be done with it for all time. We would not wait for an attack on our lands.

"Crept into the gold mine, can you believe?" a burly said and took another gulp of the beer the innkeeper had set before him. Half the village was crowded around the table and we hung on his every word. "Should've been more careful after we found the gold up there," his voice drifted off and we all knew what he meant. It was after we blasted through the rock to get to the rich ore that the dragon came. We had awakened it. We'd all but called the beast to us.

"Someone needs to go kill it before it kills us all." The words slipped out of my mouth before I could stop them.

The burly man snorted. "Someone? How 'bout you? What will you do?" His words cut deeper than he realised.

"I will gather the light for the blade," I said and squared my shoulders. "I will fly to the moon and bring the light back."

At this, many guffawed. "A legend, child," one said. "Nothing more."

I may have backed down before he called me "child", but it was as if the word put new resolve in me to prove them wrong.

I landed on the village green, thankful to be back on my home soil. Villagers barely took notice, though some of the elderly women looked me up and down. The eldest — a wrinkled and bowed lady that some said had seen a hundred winters, not to mention lived through a previous attack by a dragon — nodded approvingly. She was the only one.

I carried the heavy light to the forge where Ashja was waiting. His father's sword already lay on one of the benches, ready to be dipped in the heated light.

"Pray this works," Ashja said when at last the light was white hot and ready for the blade. I didn't tell him that I've been doing nothing but praying since he lit the fire underneath the gold and silver liquid.

The blade, even once it had cooled, retained the look of white hot metal and Ashja walked from the smithy holding it out in front of him as if it would burn anything that it touched.

"Who will go?" he asked as people crowded around to see if the sword really looked like one of those from the stories we still told. No one answered, rather looking away or inspecting the ground than meet Ashja's stare.

"Well, if no one else will go, then this old woman will." The woman who had smiled at me when I returned from the moon came forward. "Someone has to do it."

Ashja's eyes softened, but there was sadness in his voice when he spoke. "No. I will go. I know the road to the mine well."

He left for the mountain the next morning. Only a handful of villagers were there to see him off.

"Godspeed," the bowed woman said. "Don't make me us bury an empty coffin." Her voice broke and she turned away, slowly plodding back to her home.

Ashja looked at me one last time before leaving the village, the strengthened sword sheathed at his side.

In the village we could feel the ground shake as Ashja and the dragon fought. Smoke billowed from the mountain in vast black clouds, then, and with a last mighty tremour, the ground became still once more.

We waited.

He arrived in the village two days later. How he had made it home we never could tell, as his injuries should have meant his death on the mountain.

"It's dead," he managed to say before sinking to the dusty road. The sword, it's steel blade almost completely melted, fell from his burnt hand.

I flew to the moon on the back of a white winged horse to bury Ashja's heart beneath the trees of the valleys of the moon. I chose the largest — maybe the oldest — tree that I could find beneath which to bury the lacquered cedar wood box.

The bent and melted sword I took to the river close by the tree, and flung the blade into the water. For a moment a blue light flickered over the surface of the water and I covered my eyes, seeing the bright light even through my closed lids.

Ever after, when the moon was full, I would go to the village green and lie down on the thick grass and stare at the silver sphere. I fancied that I could see the lake where the sunken sword now lay and where Ashja's heart was buried. Where part of my heart was buried as well.

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