It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, and after pulling my query letters out of the dusty depths of my computer, I couldn’t stop thinking about my invisible swordsman. It’s funny how you forget about characters after you’ve locked them away for a while. Finding this scene put me right back in the moment, and reminded me that once upon a time, I spent a year hanging out with these people.
I might have to rewrite this one, someday.
After guilt trapped her in the house with her mother all weekend, Sarah was grateful to climb in a cab Sunday evening to head downtown to fetch her car. As she climbed the stairwell of her parking garage, the remnants of daylight crept through the Plexiglas windows, leaving the steps dim and silent. She clutched her bag more tightly and surged around the bend in the stairs, ready to get in the car and go.
The man with the sword stood at the top of the steps.
She gave a short scream and stumbled on the stairs, staggering to a halt.
He stood absolutely still, staring down at her from ten feet away.
She shut her eyes, hearing her breathing, ragged and uneven. “You’re not real,” she whispered. “You’re a figment of my imagination. I don’t really see you. You will be gone when I open my—”
Steel, cold and hard, touched her neck. Sarah gasped. Her eyes snapped open.
He was right there in front of her, less than two feet away. The sword was in his hand now, the edge resting against her skin.
Okay, that feels real.
This close, she could see he was…different. His hair was dark, almost black, and the consistency was different from human hair somehow, with a flatness that didn’t shine in the fading light. His skin was fair, especially against the black of his clothing. She could see now that the sword was not the only weapon he carried. A long dagger sat sheathed on his hip, along with a shorter sword, and a knife or two were tucked into his belt. But what she couldn’t look away from were his eyes. The irises were colorless but almost multifaceted, like his eyes had been inlaid with diamonds.
Sarah swallowed, but she couldn’t talk, not with the way that blade sat on her neck.
“I’ve been ordered not to speak to you,” he said, and his voice was ethereal, somehow almost crystalline like his eyes.
“How about killing me?” she whispered, threads of panic lacing her voice. “Have you been ordered not to do that?”
“No. Who has sent you?”
She almost said her mother. “I’m just—” She squeaked as the blade moved slightly on her skin. “I’m just getting my car.”
“Who sent you?”
She shook her head, stopping when it pressed the weapon into her skin. Her mouth was dry. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I feel truth in your words.” He moved his head slightly and sighed. “But you are a risk. Forgive me.”
He lifted the sword, his movement graceful.
Oh, god. Sarah scrunched her eyes shut and moved, knowing she’d never be quick enough.
But steel rang against steel. She gasped and opened her eyes.
A sword was in her hand.
Sarah stared at the juncture of the blades, her breathing shakier now. It was the shorter weapon, the one she’d seen strapped to his belt. She’d gotten his weapon and pinned his sword to the wall.
And she could feel the leather wrapped hilt of his weapon now, the balanced weight of steel, the chill of the quillon where it edged against her hand.
The swordsman’s eyes were as wide as hers must have been. “Oh, yes,” he said. “You are a risk.” He pulled his weapon free and swung.
The blades met, and her body deflected again, trapping his sword against the banister this time. She could feel the pull and strain in her shoulders, that her body was doing something it hadn’t practiced for.
“Who sent you?” His voice was sharper now, like broken glass.
“Please don’t kill me,” she breathed. Sweat was slicking her palm, and she adjusted her grip.
His sword slid free.
But laughter echoed from below. Someone was coming up the stairwell.
The swordsman frowned. “Another time.”
She didn’t even have to blink. He vanished.
But he’d left his sword. Her hand still clutched the hilt, and she traced the edge of the blade with shaking fingers. It bit at her skin, sharp.
Sarah knew she held more than just a weapon. This was something tangible. Something that hadn’t disappeared like a trick of the light.
This was proof.
The swordsman was real.