Saturday, 20 February 2016

The 'Sword-of-the-Dead' by Andy Farman



The Shisha-no-Ken katana (the Sword-of-the-Dead)  from the book series 'Of Demons and Blue Moons'



The hellhound seemed to read her thoughts.
    “If you mean to recruit the human then you must move swiftly for they know who slew their brother… he may be dead by the end of this day.”
    “What do they intend?”
    It coughed, bringing up a stinking sludge that pooled on the floor.
    “There are six more Shadows and you cannot defeat them all, one will either seduce you or behead you, and then you will be reunited with your mother as a succubus for all eternity, as damned as I am.”
    “I asked you what it was that they have done?”
    Cerberus ignored the question, nodding one head at the yellow bile staining her carpet.
    “I bring you a gift.”
    Within the mess she saw the gleam of gold and knelt with care, a wary eye upon the hellhound as she extended her free hand and dipped the index finger into the mess. The bile vanished at the application of faerie magic, leaving a beautiful chain of gold from which hung diamonds, rubies, emeralds and a single sapphire, thirteen in all.
    “Hold it up to the light, girl.”
    She did so and within each stone she saw movement.
    “It is the Shisha-no-Ken, the Sword of the Dead,” Cerberus declared, “You must wear it about your hips at all times.”
    Fae looked from the exquisitely lovely item of jewellery to the hound.
    “Sword?”
    “It will not become a weapon until you have worn it… to wear it is to be accepted by the souls of the swordsmen and warriors trapped within the gems, and their skills become your skills… put it on now as time is short.”
    She stepped back warily, putting distance between the beast and herself. She ruined a perfectly good leather-bound armchair by stabbing the tip into it, where it was within easy reach.
    Warily, she stripped off the shirt, standing naked as she clasped the belly chain and draped it about her hips.



    It looked lovely, but nothing happened, nothing at all.
    She glared accusingly at the hound from whose throats now issued rumbling laughter.
    “Where days of sweet words fail, it is but the work of a moment for a gift of gold and jewels to have a beautiful girl naked, and you are every inch the beauty that your mother was.”
    Her hand moved towards the dagger’s handle.
    “I but jest at your expense, girl… remove the chain but retain a grasp of one end.”
    “Which end?”
    “It matters not.”     
    Unclasped at the hip the free end swung down, changing, no longer a fabulously expensive adornment but now the weapon was a Katana, the blade of a Samurai warrior.





    She gasped, shuddered, going up onto tiptoes with her back hollowing and her eyes wide with surprise as she was invaded. The thirteen souls that were captives within the gems shouted their joy within her head, exploring her, enjoying the sensation of again having a body and senses, even if that body was female and a novelty to all but three. Once ‘at home’ they took stock of the situation and whispered suggestions to Fae as to how best to deal with Cerberus.
    In an instant she knew each warrior’s name, their history and the crimes that had led each to be imprisoned in the jewels.
    Nikuya, ‘The Butcher’, whose name said it all.
    Funanori, ‘Sailor’, a naval officer turned pirate.
    Chīfu, ‘Chief’, headed a company of sell-swords.
    Shōgun, ‘General’, lost a war but refused seppuku, the ritual suicide.
    Uma, ‘Horse’, also gifted in ways not connected to the martial arts and his popularity with his superiors wives and daughters were his undoing.
    Nōnēmu, ‘No Name’, a samurai who betrayed his master and bore a further curse which prevented him from uttering his name.
    Chīsana, ‘Tiny’, a mountain of a man, food was his vice.
    Paiku, ‘Pike’, master horse archer, slew his own family in a fit of misguided rage.
    Kasasagi, ‘Magpie’a gifted warrior, turned master thief.
    Kinu no yōna, ‘Silky’, a con artist.
    The three girls had been known as the Ninja Mitsugo, The Ninja Triplets, Rōzu, ‘Rose’; Keshi,‘Poppy’ and Kurōbā, ‘Clover’, a trio of dancers, singers and assassins who fell in love with their final target and slew each other out of jealousy.
    After a moments distraction, their combined experience, skill and dexterity became as second nature to Fae, and once ‘at home’ they took stock of the situation and whispered suggestions to Fae as to how best to deal with Cerberus. She could tune them down but not completely out although they were well practiced at knowing when to be silent.
    She may well be their first mistress but she was not their first host.
    Fae was most adept with Gladius, Rapier, Sabre and Claymore, although she had handled countless others in the category of ‘sword’.
    “It was made by a master.” She hefted it easily, feeling its weight and despite never having held such a weapon before it became an extension of her arm, the blade sang as she swung it, pirouetting first one way and the next, moving smoothly into each of the prime stances.