Freebie Mondays: The Spindle of a Spinning Wheel

Freebie Mondays: The Spindle of a Spinning Wheel

This is an indirect follow up to Mirror, Mirror On the Wall, which tells the story of what happened to the evil queen’s magic mirror after the events of Snow White. This darkling tale features another enchanted item, specifically found in Sleeping Beauty.
. . .

“They call it the Hero Slayer.”

Yamine’s jaw fell open as she beheld the polished metal gleaming in the bright light beneath its glass-covered case. She wanted to set her hand on the glass, as if that would allow the weapon of legend to transfer some measure of its glory into her mundane form, but she feared leaving a smudge on the pristine surface.

“But it’s real name is Spindle,” her guide finished. The old woman’s face was covered with wrinkles, but they didn’t hide the sharp downturn of her brow or the hawkish nature of her nose. A pair of too-small glasses perched near the hook of her nose, making her eyes look huge from Yamine’s angle of vision.

Despite the archivist’s disapproving scowl, she allowed Yamine to press her face against the side of the glass so she could peer more closely at the blade.

It was short for a sword, probably more like a long dagger. Though its hilt was intricately decorated, the metal formed into all manner of thin, spindly shapes, the blade itself was flat and thin. The edges didn’t even look sharp, though the point seemed to sharp, it looked as though it might poke Yamine’s eye through the glass.

“Why don’t they allow one of the champions to wield it in battle?” the girl protested as she straightened and tossed her long, black braid over her shoulder. “Why should they want the daughter of a famer to touch such a fine thing?”

“Were you not listening, child?” the archivist demanded, exasperated. “It is called the Hero Slayer. It will not bear a soldier’s touch.”

So it was a magic blade. That made sense if it was a legendary thing, but it made Yamine even more uncertain about setting her hands upon it. “Why is that?” she pressed. “Why would it hurt them and not me?”

The old woman drew a short, sharp breath and released it as a sigh. “When the faeries realized what the witch had made, they strove to make certain that it could never again be turned against the innocent. The first used her magic to make sure the sickly glow could never hypnotize the unwitting. The second made certain that only an innocent hand could be set upon its hilt without consequence. And the third dulled the magic contained in the point so that it must be driven deep in order to take effect.”

“But I have no training,” Yamine protested. All the village children were eventually trained for collective defense, though no one ever believed the skirmishes would penetrate this far into the shires. Her older brother had received his certification just two years before, and now he wore armor and stood in the ranks with the king’s proper soldiers. But Yamine wasn’t supposed to take her first lesson until next summer, when she reached her fourteenth year.

She had begged her parents to let her take part in the training session that started two months before. The war was coming, she argued. Every able body was going to be asked to defend the village. But her father put his foot down. You have one more year to be a child, he told her sternly. Given the state of the world, I suggest you make the most of it.

But now the war was on their doorstep. The green knights stood in long lines on the fields outside the village, hoping to fend off the attack, and the purple knights marched from distant shores to claim what did not belong to them.

If Yamine had known what to do with a sword, she would have been able to defend her family’s home. Instead, the best she could hope to do was fling rocks if the invaders penetrated the walls.

“If you had training, child, you wouldn’t be able to touch the blade,” the archivist explained with sudden patience. “Only one with no concept of what a blade can do can even pick it up. I, myself, must be careful not to let my hand brush it.”

The old woman stepped forward and lifted a key from her necklace. There were dozens of tiny keys on the chain made from gold, silver, copper and brass. Somehow, she separated the thin sheaf of gold from the rest of the clump and slid the key into the tiny hole on the side of the case.

She repeated the process with two other keys, then carefully slid the glass pane aside.

“Now, girl, listen to me…” The archivist held up a finger to make sure Yamine was paying attention. “Do not look at the point of the blade when you lift it. Though the faeries suppressed its hypnotic glow, it can still be seen if one looks for too long at its source. Focus only on those who would threaten you. And remember, stab deep.”

Yamine had no idea what to say. Her excitement at being able to assist in the siege defense was quickly overridden by nerves as her fingers closed around the hilt of the blade.

It was heavier than she expected, and it was difficult not to stare at it while she tried to find its balance. Luckily, the archivist lifted her chin and directed her back toward the door.

Yamine carried the blade at her side as they made their way out of the rickety old building and down the streets that comprised her village. They led her through the front gate – where the archivist bid her farewell and good luck – past the lines of soldiers all standing at attention, to the very front of the ranks.

In front of her, there was only the ruined grass, the remains of old fires, and the lines of enemy nights come to claim her homeland. For a small, terrifying eternity, she stood in the no man’s land between the armies, clutching the needle in front of her, its tip pointed down so she wouldn’t be tempted to look at it.

Then someone shouted.

Yamine had no idea if it was her side or the other side that shouted orders, but suddenly the purple-clad knights were moving. Yamine knew that the knights behind her would protect her. The elders had gone over the plan with her several times before she was sent to retrieve the legendary weapon.

But for the moment, she was alone, without the press of protective bodies at her back. She stood against the might of hundreds – thousands, perhaps. And she was expected to stem the tide of these hungry warriors from a distant land eager to expand their territory.

She had no idea how she was going to stand against so many but, when the first knight reached her, she lifted the blade, closed her eyes and trust with all her might.

The dagger was surprisingly easy to wield. Though the weight had initially seemed intimidating, the blade cut through the air with incredible ease. Yamine’s arm never grew tired, though she must have swung the weapon thousands of times in the span of the day.

By the time the chaos around her abated, the sun was low in the sky. The soldiers of her home country were scattered around her, keeping careful distance but also making sure the enemy wasn’t able to get behind her, out of the reach of her blade.

She was sure many of her own must have fallen but, for the moment, she could only see the wide swath of destruction carved by the thing in her hands. Soldiers lay at her feet, their chests rising and falling slowly in the dimming light. None moved, none made sound, but all were completely motionless aside from their breath.

Yamine’s eyes widened and her mouth fell open again. The dagger she held grew suddenly heavy and she let it sag in her grip.

A great cheer sounded behind her, and the knights of her country surged forward, wading into the sea of still bodies on the ground in front of her. Without hesitation, they lifted their weapons and drove them into the bodies at her feet, stilling the gentle rise and fall of breath.

A cold hand wrapped around Yamine’s heart. The dead didn’t breathe.

“What…” She cast around for someone who would speak to her and clasped the wrist of one of the nearby knights. “What’s happening?” she demanded. “Why haven’t the soldiers gone back to their camp?”

“They need to finish dealing with the knights you sent to sleep,” the man explained, his voice low and gentle. He set  his free hand on her shoulder. “Are you all right, young miss?”

“Sent to sleep?” Yamine asked. She felt dazed, like her head was spinning in a direction opposite that her body was taking. Everything seemed far away, as if the man in front of her spoke from the opposite end of a long tunnel.

“Yes, miss, that’s what the Spindle does. Didn’t you know? It sends those it stabs to sleep.”

Yamine felt like she was falling, like the earth had suddenly opened up beneath her, and would soon close over her tumbling body. She recalled a story her mother used to tell her at night before she slept. It involved an evil witch cursing a newborn babe. On her eighteenth birthday, her mother’s wicked witch voice declared, she will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and die!

If not for the good faeries who lurked among the party guests, that would have been the young girl’s fate. But the faeries had used their magic to protect the child. She shall not die, their spell proclaimed, merely fall into the deepest of sleeps.

She hadn’t killed anyone. She hadn’t really thought about whether or not that was what she would be doing when they sent her out here with the Hero Slayer. It was something of a relief to know that none of the men she stabbed had died at her hand.

But they were dying now in droves without any means to protect themselves. And wasn’t that her fault, really?

“Are you okay, miss?” the knight asked. He shook her gently, but she barely felt it.

Whether or not she struck the killing blow, those men were dead because of her.

“The war is going to end,” the knight reassured her, his tone soothing and persuasive. “And it’s all thanks to what you did here today.

What I did here today? Dear gods…

How would she look her parents in the face? Let alone her future husband or future children. How could she ever live with what she had done?

Sleep…

Sleep would be so much easier…

Yamine lifted the blade she still held and turned her wide eyes on its point. Instantly, green light flared to life. It shifted and swirled, hypnotic and comforting.

In the story, there was some way to break the spell. The sleep was not eternal, merely persistent. But at the moment, Yamine didn’t care if she was never able to wake. She simply didn’t want to have to think anymore.

She allowed the glow to guide her hand. She was dimly aware of the knight yelling, of shadows closing in on her.

She felt only a small prick, just the lightest of pain.

Then there was only darkness.

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