Walking back through Bottlecreek, I could believe that. Walking back to the Black Castle, I couldn’t. I should have gone hiding behind my couch with all the other knights and let the kings army storm the castle. But then Tanith would never forgive me. I would never hear the end of it.
I sighed and just kept clunking back up the hill to the Black Castle, the White Sword hanging at my side.
When I reached the doors, I paused to pull off my boots. I didn’t want Manny screaming at me about dirt on the floors, much less Eva’s scolding. Once was bad enough.
I pushed open the doors and found all of them gathered in the entry. I just stared at them and pushed the door closed behind me. We stared at each other as I pulled the White Sword out.
“Ahh!” Euclid screamed. “It’s going to get me!”
Euclid threw up his arms and went running and screaming from the entry. We could still hear him screaming for several more minutes, and then glass shattering.
“If that’s the dining room stained glass windows, I’m going to kill him,” Eva said.
“What a mess,” Manny grumbled as he turned and headed off in the direction of shattering glass. “And, of course, I’m the only one who can clean it up properly.”
“It certainly is a fine specimen of craftsman work,” Bede remarked. “I must look up that design. Its quite stunning.”
Bede walked off after Manny and the rest of us looked down at the hilt to see a very intricate design created by a large amount of tiny white gems.
“You know,” Ferguson spoke up, “I was once an expert swordsman.”
“Not to be trusted,” Virgil said, peering intently at the sword. “I say, is that a sword? I daresay it is. My goodness. Haven’t seen one in years.”
“Is it made of wood?” Drago wanted to know.
“I saw it first,” Gina said.
“No you didn’t,” Gray countered. “I did.”
“Be quiet,” Tanith ordered.
The two gargoyles sniffed at each other and then headed off in opposite directions.
Flavian glided over to me and peered down at the blade. He lifted my hands so he could admire himself in the metal.
“Flavian, it’s not a mirror,” I said.
“Could have fooled me.” Flavian laughed and glided over to one of the actual mirrors in the entry.
“You might want this,” Ferguson said, thrusting a sword out to me.
I took it and looked down to examine the two swords. They looked exactly the same, but the Black Sword had a design created by tiny black gems on the hilt.
I looked up at Tanith helplessly. “What do I do?”
“You put them together.”
“You don’t know?”
“Tanith, we’ve got four days to figure this out.”
“Four days?” she said in surprise. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, your father is amassing an army of knights from all over and they’re going to storm this castle in four days.”
“They can’t!” Eva gasped, covering her mouth with her hands.
“You can’t let that happen, Shane,” Tanith said. “You have to put the swords together now!”
“I don’t know! Just stick them together.”
Frustrated, I pushed the two swords together. We all saw a spark, but that was it. I twisted the swords around each other, pressing them together any way I could, but there was no Gray Sword to be had.
“Here,” I said, thrusting the two swords at Tanith. “You do it.”
She took a step back. “I can’t. I’m a princess. Princesses don’t touch swords.”
Now she wanted to act like a prim and proper princess? Now?
“Then someone else has got to do this,” I said, exasperated and frustrated with Tanith and this whole situation. “I can’t figure it out.” I threw down the swords and marched off, clunking all the way up to my room. If they wanted the Gray Sword, then they could make it themselves.
Once I got into my room, I pulled off my armor and stretched out on my bed. I was just about to drop off to sleep, with Euclid’s screaming echoing in my ears since he was just down the hall from me, when a knock came at my door.
“Come in!” I called out, too tired and lazy to get up and open the door.
The door opened slowly and Tanith poked her head in. I sighed and sat up. She walked over to me, the swords in her hands and an apologetic look on her face. She sat on the edge of my bed and gingerly set the swords down between us.
“I’m sorry, Shane,” she said quietly. “I know I’ve been pushing you a lot lately. But, the truth is, you’re the only one who can put the swords together. You’re a protector. Only a protector can make the Gray Sword. And I realize you’re still loyal to my father and still a little afraid of the creatures. Your loyalties are pulled in opposite directions and that’s why you cant make the Gray Sword.”
“So what do you propose I do now?” I asked wearily.
“In four days, you will meet my father on the bridge and tell him the creatures have agreed to discuss and sign a treaty.”
I sighed. “Okay. But if this isn’t over by then, that’s it. I’m through. No more. Agreed?”
“Agreed,” she said with a firm nod.