Blade of Glass: Chapter 1

“This is your tree.” The big man stood beside the sapling, hand on the slender trunk, and looked down on Geneve. The timbre of his voice was chocolate rich, which she knew because she’d talked to him before, but this time it held something deeper, more insistent. This tree was important.

Geneve looked about the field. It lay inside tall stone walls that protected everything inside. The ground was turned earth, tended with exquisite care. She’d noticed that as the big man led Geneve down broad, worn steps to the flat ground. Her tree sat with hundreds of others in the field. They were well-spaced, so the sun’s light could reach them all. Some were broken, as if by lightning, but no charring marked the wood. Other slots where trees should be were empty, the earth turned and ready for planting.

The big man had brought her here through a keep. Outside was nothing but rolling grassland. The keep stood on a small hillock. It was visible for klicks in every direction. The stone was white, without the staining she’d expect of marble left to the elements. This structure shone like new.

She couldn’t remember from where she’d come, or what she was doing, but her clothes smelled bad and had rips. Her hands were smudged with old dirt. Geneve couldn’t remember if the rest of her was dirty.

It was the not knowing that was bad, not being dirty. She was certain she’d been dirty a lot, and never died from it. But everything prior to the cart ride here was gone from her life and reaching for the memories brought nothing. No pain or discomfort, just an absence of anything.

The tree looked like it might fill a part of that gap. Geneve put her hands on hips. “So?”

The big man’s face cracked, the stern facade allowing the smallest glimmer of a smile through. He fingered his necklace, a small stone crystal set in a length of silver chain. “So, you will break it one day.”

“Why would I break my own tree?” Geneve took a cautious step forward, because she didn’t know the big man at all. He was impressive in the way a huge rock might be if it could talk, all bedecked in gleaming steel armor, a golden sun on his breastplate. A black sash carrying the weight of three gold bars crossed his heart. A sword was scabbarded at his waist but worn in a rear-draw style. Geneve knew the blade was glass without knowing how she knew. She’d seen it, perhaps, before her memory was gone. Geneve felt like there should be blood on his armor, but it was clean like it’d been freshly forged.

She put her hands on the tree’s young bark. It was smooth, without the knots and whirls time would bring. It was younger than her, and she didn’t want to break it.

“The tree grows as you grow. When you’re ready to live here forever you will come to this field. You’ll break this with your bare hands.” He crouched before her. “All Knights do.”

Geneve bunched her hands into tiny fists. “I don’t think I can do that.” She glanced at the tree again, as if seeking moral support. “I don’t think I want to.”

“It’s just a tree.”

“It didn’t do anything to me.”

He laughed, stood, and gestured with a sweep of his arm. “These trees mark time. In ten years, you’ll undergo the Trials. Your tree will be strong and wide.”

“What about your tree?”

He raised an eyebrow. “My tree isn’t here. I was a Novice at a different Tresward.”

“I mean, did you break it?”

“That seems a curious question.” He frowned, like he felt he’d explained this part already. “I’m a Knight. I passed my Trials.”

“So many things could happen to a tree.” She frowned right back at him, this strange, large man, with his armor, sword, and glittering necklace. “Lightning. A fire. Thieves and bandits.” She rubbed her arms, which goose-bumped in memory. It wasn’t chilly inside the keep, but outside the touch of the southern winds brought cold. Geneve didn’t know why she wore only a shift without winter warms to keep her soul inside her body. “Thieves steal wood all the time.”

The big man nodded, rolling the jewel at his neck between large, strong fingers. “No lightning strikes here. The Three,” he held a palm to the heavens, where the moons would shine in the night, “keep it safe. To set fire to a tree, a villain would need to get past a fearsome collection of fighters sworn to protect them.”

“It could still happen.”

“It could.” He nodded. “Do you know why we need people like you?”

Geneve bit her lip. She was tiny compared to him. Five years old, skinny, knock-kneed, uncertain, and hungry. “I’m not like you at all.”

“That’s right. We need all the difference we can find. The Vhemin roam, hunting people. The Feybrind hide in their forests and ice plains, ignoring us. Royalty wants control of everything, including the fires of desire inside people’s hearts.”

She thought about that. Vhemin seemed an old threat, well-used in her hearing. She’d never seen one and didn’t think they were real. Feybrind were amazing, and she’d known one, but couldn’t remember when, or how. If she was amazing like them, she might take herself away, too. “I don’t know what that means.”

“Difference left us. We need to remember it for ourselves.” The big man spoke like he was reciting something he’d heard from someone else. “The Tresward hold the Light for our allies and against our enemies.”

“How do you hold light?”

“With your heart.” The big man offered her another smile. “Are you hungry?”

Geneve nodded so much she thought her head might pop off. “I haven’t eaten in…” Her voice faded away, remembering—grr!—she couldn’t remember. “I think it’s been a long time.”

“Do you remember who I am?” At her head-shake, he crouched again, taking off his gauntlet. Underneath was a hand like any other man’s. Callused, a little paler than the dark honey-brown of his face. Strong, though. She could see how a hand like that could hold up the very world. He held it out to her.

She took it in her small one as best she could, wrapping her hand around two of his fingers. “Hello. I’m Geneve.”

“Hello, Geneve. I’m Israel.”

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Miss the other parts of Blade of Glass?

[First Chapter] | [Next Chapter] (Live 27 June 2024)

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