Editor's Note: If you have not yet read the previous chapters to this story, please go to the Fantasy Archive and read those, first. Thank you, TDS.
Humphrey's small group moved slowly upriver in silence; the only sounds heard around them were those of water singing softly over stones, and a continuous chorus of crickets and frogs from the nearby bank. A waxing, horned moon had long since set, so their path now lay in darkness. Humphrey relied on Bastion's keen sight and senses to find the safest route for them in the shallow water near the river's shoreline. He planned to keep to the river until after sunrise, then look for a secluded place to break their fast and rest through the morning. They had a long road ahead of them and Isabelle would soon require some sleep after being ahorse these many hours.
The dark knight's hand went to the hilt of his sword as he thought again about their eventual destination. This sword had been in his family for several generations, and was passed on to Humphrey soon after he achieved knighthood.
"Here, lad," his father had said softly, many years ago, as he reverently held out the long sword. "This blade was forged for mine own grandfather, Sir Walden of Longwood, by master craftsmen of the Three Mountain Clan, to honor his service in returning the dwarf king's throne during the goblin and orc wars." The old man handed over the sword; he who had wielded it himself for many years while warring with the former king, Isabelle's own grandfather
Humphrey took the weapon and slowly removed the blade from its scabbard. He held it upright before him, torchlight seeming to run up and down the length of the polished steel, and saw etched into the blade, just above a slightly curved guard, the sigil of the Three Mountain Clan; three peaks together, the middle one raised somewhat higher than those on either side. Nearly as wide as his thumb was long at the guard, the three and a half foot long blade narrowed to a sharpened point, while a tapering fuller ran the length of the blade on both sides. Rainbows of light leapt from the shining metal as Humphrey rotated it to admire the entire sword.
He turned and put his arm out straight; the sword was light and well balanced in his hand--it seemed almost an extension of his own arm. While he had seen the sword many times before this day, he had never been allowed to actually wield it; that privilege being set aside only for he who owned the blade. But on this day, Humphrey was given possession of the sword, and it was now his to wield as he saw fit. The blade whistled through the air as Humphrey made several swift passes, and then raised it before his face, once again. The blade shone and sparkled in flickering torchlight, and he brought the cool steel to meet his forehead, eyes closed for a moment, then finally and gently sheathed the weapon.
"My thanks, father, for this great gift," he told the older Longwood. "I shall guard it, always, with my life, just as our forbearers did, and just as it protected their lives, my it also protect mine, that I may be able to pass this sword on to those who follow me."
"Well met, son," the old man said, and clapped a heavy hand on Humphrey's shoulder. "Remember always where this blade was forged, for if ye should ever find yerself in great need, return your sword to that place. The dwarves remember their friends."
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