After a long journey following the torn and wrinkled map, the ancient castle finally stood before us, shrouded in mist and legend.
Actually, it was shrouded in a fog just short of another annoying rain and a scent that was legend in a whole new way.
"Someone needs to clean that moat out," I said with a shake of my head.
"Ugh," Swiden said.
Swiden wasn't much on conversation, but he hefted a mean ax and cooked an excellent venison with mushroom dinner. The rest of the questing group had gone back home. Adventurers just aren't made of the same stuff as they were in my dad's day. I'd grown up on tales of daring groups....
It wasn't easy being the only child of Sir Krinton the Bold, and worse being a daughter. He told tales of adventure and then would sigh, wandering off mumbling about a long family tradition brought to an end. I decided to prove I could be more adventurous than the rest. I was going to take on Bowen the Good and win the famous Sword of Wisdom.
Now I feared time might have taken care of the knight.
"Egh," Swiden said. That might have been because of the stench.
I dismounted from Horse (I'm not big on names) and handed the reigns to Swiden. Horse had a healthy respect of Swiden, having heard several muttered recipes for various 'Horse and' meals.
"The door is cleared of vines and debris. I guess someone is here after all," I said. "Well, this is the moment of truth, right?"
I shoved the door open. It creaked of course.
Movement came from the hall to the right where a huge shadow appeared against the dim light from an open window. My hand went to my sword. I wasn't ready for this -- not yet! I didn't expect him to appear --
"Bother," the shadow said. "I suppose you've come searching for Wisdom, too."
"I don't need --" I began. Then stopped. "Oh, you mean the sword."
"Well, smarter than some of the fools who come here," he said and moved forward, though I still couldn't see him. "Most answer that they don't need wisdom. That disqualifies them from even searching for the sword and I send them on their way. You're going to be a troublesome one, aren't you? Female, too. That's a first. Well, come along. We've things to discuss."
He came out into the light. Younger than my father, older than me -- not bad looking in a scruffy sort of way.
"My horse --"
"Oh, leave her there. It'll be fine. You won't be here long."
I didn't like that attitude. Swiden grunted and stayed with the horse. I went with Bowen the Good.
When I got close enough, I noticed two things. First, he wore the sword. There was no doubt about it because it glowed slightly. He also wore it in a harness on his back so that the pommel rested close to his head. And the sword whispered.
"Are you saying what the sword tells you to say?" I asked
He had stopped at the entrance to a room. It was neat and smelled of herbs and spices. Something cooked on the hearth and a loom stood to the side with a mostly finished rug still hanging there. I saw no sign of anyone else.
"Come in. Sit down." I sat as he removed the harness and hooked it over a chair by the bed. He came back and sat by me. "I'll tell you a quick story about Bowen the Good. His name in the village was actually Bowen the Good for Nothing. Whatever his father put him too, he messed up. Not intentionally, he just tended to daydream at the wrong time. When the roof collapsed and his father broke his leg, Bowen decided it was time to leave before he did worse. He headed into the forest. A day later, he met a man who asked if he was looking for wisdom. Bowen said yes. The man gave a laugh of delight and handed over the sword. I've been stuck with it every since. We went on a few quests -- Wisdom is good at that sort of thing -- and I sent the coin and jewels to my father. Then we retired and just deal with people who show up here."
This was not what I had expected. "I suppose we have something in common. My father never thought I was good for much, being a daughter. He's Sir Krinton the Bold."
"We did a quest together. He always wanted the sword, but he was a nice guy. I couldn't do that to him."
Bowen was a nice guy, too. That made the whole idea of fighting to the death for the sword kind of distasteful, but at the same time, I didn't want to go home empty handed.
So that night, as I rested in a guest room -- nice rugs -- I thought up a plan. Just before dawn I slipped into his room. As I hoped, the harness was still hooked over the chair. Bowen slept soundly. I slid quietly across the floor, grabbed the sword and harness, and ran.
"Hey!" Bowen shouted. He tangled in his blankets while I darted out the door.
"Oh, good girl. Wise girl," the sword said. "Smarter than that fool. Yes, let's go. Straight out, yes. You need the horse. Stop for the horse. We can't run all the way. That wouldn't be wise. We can't -- what are you doing!"
I swung the harness over the bridge and dropped it and the sword into the muck below.
Bowen reached me just as it hit the water. He looked down. He looked at me.
"Well done. He had too much control of me, and I couldn't get his far. But now what do we do?"
"We go on a quest," I said. "And we leave the sword for some other fool to find."