The sword had appeared in Farmer McCutcheon’s field six weeks ago. It was embedded deep in the soil as if it had fallen from a great height. If I hadn’t taken a shortcut and risked McCutcheon’s shotgun, I would never have stumbled upon it. If I hadn’t found it, who knows when McCutcheon would have found it. He could have even run over it with his stupid tractor. I figured that I kind of deserved it. Finders keepers and posession is nine tenths of the law and all that. Besides, whenever I picked the thing up, the runes glowed bright blue and an electric thrill went through my body.
I had taken some scrap leather and hooked up a pretty decent sheath for the thing. At least the sword didn’t cut anything up when I shoved it in my backpack. I had to carry it around because I was pretty sure my brother went into my room while I was out. I kept it pretty hidden even from my friends. I still wasn’t sure that this thing wasn’t stolen from somewhere. It was a really nice piece and I had never had anything so nice.
My name is Ewan McCloud and I haven’t amounted to much in my life yet. Well, unless you count a record of petty theft, vandalism and getting into fights. The local police rarely saw fit to arrest me or my friends. They didn’t see us as a threat. I was tired of school and thankful for summer vacation. Despite my best efforts, I had still not been expelled from school and believe me, I tried.
My friends and I called ourselves the Kings of Landon County as all of our spray paint efforts illustrated. Nobody ever noticed our tags much. They just painted over them and moved on. Nobody respected our little squad but we soldiered on regardless. We went out each day to raise a little hell and we didn’t stop until we caused some trouble. I still believed we were destined for greatness.
Today I was heading to behind the gas station to meet with Helen, Ricky, Jase and Katya who was the self-proclaimed Queen of Landon County. That was our crew. We were going to the county fair and we were going to conquer the games by hook or by crook. If they tried to cheat us, we would cheat them right back. The Kings always got what they wanted or trouble got started. I had a feeling we were headed toward trouble.
When I arrived at the meet up, only Katya was still there. She leaned against the wall and slowly smoked a cigarette while looking disinterested. She wore the same leather jacket that she wore all year even on a day when it was over ninety degrees out. She also wore the dime store tiara in her bleach blonde hair. She had picked it up somewhere after the last day of school. It strangely suited her and I had never seen anybody make fun of her for it.
“You’re late, Ewan. You’re also an asshole.” She said before she looked up. She dropped her cigarette and stamped it out with the nicest shoes in Landon County.
“Whatever. Pretty sure I’m mostly on time. Did the others head over to the fair?”
“I think so. That means you can escort me personally, by the way.” She said. She made a show of standing straight and holding out a hand with freshly painted nails. I rolled my eyes and took her hand briefly. We all let her have these playful little royal fantasies. It didn’t hurt anybody but it could be annoying sometimes.
“Come on, ‘your highness’. Let’s go to the fair.” Which got her to stop leaning against the wall as she grabbed her purse.
“Yeah, we should make sure the others aren’t screwing it up.”
So we made our way through town and across the Smith’s west field and headed toward the fair. Our little gang was lucky in that we all managed not to be the children of farmers. Those kids had a crap load of chores to do and usually rarely any leisure time. We lived in the small town of Gable which was all of four blocks by three blocks. That was surrounded by a glut of houses and those houses were surrounded by farmland and we didn’t really care what was beyond that.
The fair looked the same as it did every year. It was a bunch of striped awnings with a ferris wheel and a tilt-a-whirl towering behind them and several smaller rides scattered around. There was a tractor pull or monster trucks or something but once you had seen all of that it was not worth seeing again. Most of the fair wasn’t worth seeing again. There was only so many times you could disrupt the livestock auction or make fun of all of the 4H projects before it got dull. The only thing worth it was the food and the games.
We decided to skip the line and I climbed over the barrier when nobody was looking and then lifted Katya over. The queen does not climb over barriers unless we’re all running from the sheriff. We casually slid out from between two tents and into the crowd and started looking for the other guys. It was the usual mix of townspeople and farmers with clashing fashions and attitudes. We belonged to our own little culture and it was no surprise we usually got into a fight at this thing every year.
“Why do you carry that backpack around all the time?” Katya asked.
“What?” I said which was a transparent stalling tactic. If I wasn’t careful she would get too curious and demand to see what was inside. I really didn’t want her to do that.
“The damned backpack. Don’t ‘what’ me.”
“I usually carry food around in it. It just got to where I hardly realize I’m carrying it.” Which was mostly true. I did have a lot snacks in the backpack and the sword was so light that sometimes I forgot that I had it on me.
“You’re a god damned nerd, Ewan. Wait, what’s that?” She pointed and at first I was relieved that she was changing the subject. What we saw was hard to explain. There was a shapeless mass that I quickly realized that was a lot of something. I realized that it had suddenly gotten very dim out and it was hard to make out what these things were.
A woman to our right screamed and something sharp burst through her chest and blood sprayed everywhere. I could feel a faint mist as the spray hit us and I nearly lost my lunch right there. Katya started to stammer but I grabbed her and pulled her behind a tent. I idly thought that this was something I had been daydreaming doing with her for a while but not like this. Katya was still stammering and the fair was in chaos which made it really hard to think straight.
I don’t remember grabbing the hilt of the sword but I felt that familiar surge of energy that made me feel good. Then the blade burst into flame and scraps of my backpack and burning snacks fell everywhere as I stared in shock. I no longer felt in control of myself as I charged back into the midway with a burning sword. Reality no longer meant anything, not with what I was seeing. There were dead bodies everywhere and the ground squished under my feet. Most of the screams were receding which I hoped was a good sign. I couldn’t see the things anymore.
“You are not him. You can’t be.” A voice said.
“What?” I asked and realized it sounded less than impressive while I stood there holding a flaming sword.
“You can die anyway but I thank you for bringing us the sword.”
In my minds eye I saw a fully armored person holding the sword. It was hard to tell if it was a woman or a man because the armor covered everything and was so thick. I saw them using the sword, the blade cutting into enemies effortlessly. I squeezed the sword’s grip tighter.
“I am a champion of this realm and you will not have this sword. I will make you pay for the lives lost here today!” I wasn’t sure where the words came from but the last few were shouted louder than I have ever shouted anything.
With a shriek, shadows quickly unfolded themselves from the ground and surrounded me but I was ready for them. I started to slash wildly with the sword, using more skill than I knew I had. The things shrank back as if startled but pretty soon they were on the offensie again. I had a burning sword but I could only cut them down so fast. I pulled the sword from one as it gurgled in what I hoped was death. I was very sure that the one behind me was about to cut me down in revenge.
There was a series of loud pops and a shriek from behind me and I turned as the shadow melted into the ground. I looked past it and saw Katya holding a rifle with a determined look on her face.
“Fuckers try to kill me. Let’s fuck ’em up, Ewan.” Katya growled, taking aim at another shadow.
“Of course, your highness!” I shouted as I went back on the attack.
Before long, nothing rose from the shadows to attack us and we found a bench to rest on. I noticed neither of us let go of our weapons. Katya carefully settled her tiara back in place. The sword was no longer on fire and was just a cool, dull metal again though I was pretty sure it should have still been hot. There was absolute silence and we just let it wash over us before we decided to move again.