Chapter XXV: A Struggle of Weapons

“Why do you look like you just jumped from a moving horse. . .and liked it so much you plan to do it again?” Boy asked after the prayer had ended.

“I stood upside down for the entirety of my morning lesson and I still don’t have sensation in half of my foot,” she told him matter-of-factly, grabbing another slice of ham.

“Wait a second,” Brandon narrowed his eyes.  “I recognize that look anywhere.”

Marley grinned. “You are going to go see Kivan today, aren’t you?”

Lucy couldn’t keep her smile to herself much longer and began to beam in excitement.

“I knew it! I knew it!  It is the exact same look Sebastian had on his face when Lewis took him.”

“I didn’t look exactly like that,” Sebastian pouted.

“Well it’s pretty exciting isn’t it?” Lucy said, ignoring her brother. “You guys sit here and talk about your weapons loads of the time.  I can finally relate!  I absolutely can’t wait.  This is a big deal, right?  I remember being told stories in the bakery about the weapons people would see on the street.  I think someone even told me one of the Top Hats carries a lantern.”

“That would be Thornton,” Brandon said, waving his fork as he spoke.

“So then what do you all have,” Lucy asked the group.

“I have a scythe,” Marley shrugged indifferently, as if having a long stick with a curved blade was the most natural thing in the world.

“Why does that not surprise me?”Lucy said, giving him a look before laughing.

“I’m sword wielding, as to be expected,” Sebastian admitted.

His sister nodded in agreement.  Even when they were young and being taught by their brother, Sebastian had an unnatural talent with a blade.

Brandon scoffed into his drink. “That’s an understatement.”

“What do you mean?” Lucy asked, a puzzled look on her face.

“It’s huge! At least the half of the height of you.  It’s a wonder Kivan even let it go, to be honest.  Sort of an antique,” Boy pointed out.  “But then again, it’s not up to him.”

“It’s up to the weapon,” they all chimed in, imitating the Scots man.

“I got lucky.  I have the same weapon as Thornton.  Makes training way easier for me than these blokes,” Brandon thumbed around the table at his friends.

“Why do people talk about the lantern so much? I’ve heard rumors that it has a great power, but what does it actually do?” Lucy questioned.

“It may not look like it can do much in battle, but you’ll need to see it in action some time.  May the next Duel Games.  I believe it should be a weapons battle.  Either way, that thing has quite a nasty bite to it when used right,” Boy explained. “There is a very good reason why people associate Top Hat’s with that lantern.”

Lucy eyed Brandon. “So the Duel Games change?  Does that mean I might get to see it next time around?”

Brandon grinned. “You do more than see it.  If I’m in the games, you’ll get to see it in action.  Absolutely brilliant.”

“We shall need to see about that!  If I’m in the duel, better watch out for whatever I bring to the table,” she turned eagerly to Boy. “What about you?”

Boy couldn’t help but blush bashfully, “I have a sword as well,” he tried to brush off.

“Oh come now,” Sebastian said. “Now don’t be modest.  He has a sword from one of the warriors of old.”

“Really? Another antique?”

“It’s not that amazing.  It’s just from the East,” Boy replied.

“The realm of mystery!” Marley waved his hands through the air.

Boy rolled his eyes. “He likes to tease.  It’s an old sword Kivan inherited from his Master.”

Lucy’s eyes widened further.  She never thought about where the Top Hats had come from – that they too were once apprentices with masters.  Even more shocking was the fact that these teachers could come from across the sea.

“Do you mean. . .your Master had a teacher from the East?  A completely different country entirely?”

Boy nodded nonchalantly as he began to push his dishes together to make it easier for the lunch crew to pick up.  “I mean, there are plenty of demons in the world, so there are hundreds of Tops Hats scattered about.  I think we even have a few taking care of the colonies.  Anyways, according to Kivan, his teacher felt drawn to this place, as if he was meant to be here.  Still, he only tells me bits and pieces about the man from the East.  But he seemed to have an impossible focus and perfect strike.  Unfortunately, it’s also one of the reasons Kivan holds me to such high standards.”

The bells of the Clock Tower rang out as the lunch hour came to an end.

“I’ll see you lot at dinner,” Boy waved. “Got a load of coursework from the teacher, himself.”

The rest left in a similar fashion as Lucy held back and waited for Vaan, just as she had been instructed.  Sure enough, as the hall began to close for the hour, Vaan arrived with Kivan at his side.

“Hullo again,” the Scots man smiled though his sharp eyes began to grasp her every advantage and weakness. “Not much of a poker player, is she?”

“She’s learning,” Vaan admitted. “Give her some time.”

“No, she is one you can always read.  A blessing and a curse if you ask me.”

Lucy blushed in embarrassment before muttering, “Hullo sir.” She bowed stiffly, not quite certain if his comment was a compliment or an insult.

“Shall we?” he said, looking to her teacher.

Lucy took the moment his gaze left her to take in the intriguing man before her.

Kivan had a humor to him but his movements composed and committed with complete and utter care.  There was no hesitation, only powerful certainty.  Every feature, from the clean cut of his beard to the fall of his coat tails was a display of his precision to detail.  Before she could further inspect the built man, his gripping gray eyes returned.

“Are you ready, lass?” he asked, a doubtful eyebrow raised.

“Yes, sir,” she nodded.

Down the hall and around looping corridors they went.  Part of the way, Lucy recognized the familiar arenas and study halls.  Other rooms were quite eerie and strangers to her as though they were simply a bounty of false rooms and trap doors.  By the end of it all, Lucy didn’t know which way was up.  For all she knew, they could be heading towards the roof or deep into the recesses of the basement.  She was properly lost.

“Where are we?” she whispered to Vaan.

“In a part of the Clock Tower that need not bother yeh,” Kivan cut off.

That quickly shut the apprentice up.   She felt the familiar burn of red against her cheeks.  Nothing would get by this Top Hat.

Finally, they arrived at a set of double bolted entries, the only ones in this long dead-end tunnel.  At some point in the journey the wooden walls had become brick once more – just as they had in the basement during Lucy’s first daring adventure.  At least now, she was not quite so lost in the sea of hallways.

Kivan pushed the doors back with ease and a mechanism that had been holding them shut, cranked open.  That is, until Lucy passed through them.  At that point, they promptly shut behind her.

“Woah,” Lucy barely mustered the words, her heart beating wildly as her breath caught in her throat.

My darlings, could you imagine it?  A room open and echoing with the sounds of their footfalls.  But walls, oh the walls!  All were lined with weapons of all sorts in various designs and details.  Long swords, short swords, bows and arrows, axes, lances, boes, and so much more.  Along the floor space were scatterings of various glass shelves and displays with daggers, knives, a few crossbows, and all sorts of stealthy weapons.

Lucy’s eyes darted first to the swords, taking in the care each blade had received.  Eacg appeared quite sharpen, even the ones of old.  And the bows!  Each must have been restrung hundreds of times and yet they each looked worthy of battle.  Even the daggers whispered their deadly aura that made her skin prickle.  But that was one she noticed, they were lacking a particular weapon many men were fond of.

“Where are the guns?” she asked Kivan.

“Absolutely not,” he told her as he repositioned two crossbows on a nearby stand.  “Guns are violent, finicky things.  They can easily kill a human but when magic is involved?  Hah!  You learn quick that holding a pistol full of dry gunpowder and throwing fire don’t mix.  Besides, what do you think could kill a demon faster?”

“A gun?” Lucy replied in honest ignorance.

“Kivan gave Vaan an exasperated look. “Someone hasn’t been doing her coursework.”

“Forgive her.  She only just started to show her true potential a few days ago,” Vaan apologized.

“I understand.  Ye have a lot to learn yet, lass,” he motioned for the girl to come closer. “So, my dear, what do you think yer weapon shall be?”

And that was the moment Lucy realized, she had no idea.  She had never taken the time to seriously consider what sort of weapon would fit her best.  And now, as she stood in this vast cavern of swords and bows, she still felt clueless.

“I-I,” she looked about her once more. “I don’t know.”

Kivan and Vaan looked at her in surprise before the first gave the latter a knowing look.

Finally he asked Lucy, “What do you mean, ‘You don’t know’?  Every Top Hat knows.  Every Top Hat has a feeling, a connection with something.  Even Adrian found his weapon within a few days of being at the Clock Tower.”

Lucy began to feel panic working up inside her.  “I just don’t know! I’ve never thought about it.”

“Calm down,” Vaan told her and put his gloved hands upon her shoulder.  He bent himself so they were at the same eye level. “Just think about, Lucy.” The glare from his glasses lifted so they could look between one another.

His apprentice stared back into his yellow eyes as her body gradually relaxed. Her mind, however, continued to flutter from weapon to weapon, but found no safe place to land.  She was stuck in midair without a single lead to where she was to go.

“There’s nothing Vaan,” she finally told him. “Nothing.”

Vaan turned to look at Kivan, his eyes still shining through.  “Perhaps we can let her try some of the weapons.”

Kivan raised a sketpical eyebrow. “You do remember what has happened in the past?”

“She’ll be careful.  Just. . .let her try.”

“Your responsibility, your funeral,” the Top Hat warned before going to fetch a few items from the wall.

“We’ll give it an attempt,” Vaan explained to his student. “We can see what sticks with you.”

Lucy nodded as she watched the glare gradually return until his eyes were gone, vanishing under the icy glass.

Kivan returned, holding two spears and a quarterstaff. “Where do you want to start?”

“Let’s give her something without a point,” Vaan said.

“Good plan,” Lucy admitted as she stepped up to the quarterstaff.

The wood broke in half within minutes, the spears went flying into the ceiling rafters.  When they tried swords, Kivan practically leapt from his spot to avoid getting beheaded.  Vaan was a little more lucky and only suffered from needing to catch daggers mid-air –  a feat he seemed entirely too comfortable doing.  It was after an axe came raining down inches from the girl’s feet and the bow string snapped at her finger when trying to knock an arrow that Lucy gave in.

“Done!  Done!  I’m just done!” she threw down her weapon in frustration.

“Woah! Gentle! I will not take disrespect towards these weapons,” Kivan warned.

“Sorry,” Lucy lowered her head as she cradled her wrist. “It hurt.”

“Well, clearly they didn’t like you,” Kivan pointed out as he collected the fallen arrow from the ground and snapped up the bow.

“What does it matter?” Lucy looked at him in bafflement.

“It is the only thing that matters,” Kivan growled lowly.  As Kivan went to put it away, and before Lucy could protest anymore, Vaan pulled her back.

“Don’t,” he whispered. “What he says is valid.”

“What on Earth do you mean?” she said from under her breath.

You do not choose the weapon.  It chooses you,” he explained.

“I still don’t understand.  Are you saying all of those weapons Marley and Sebastian and even Boy -”

“Yes,” Kivan cut in, his arms folded, a straight frown on his face.

Lucy fell colour flood to her cheeks once more.

“Sit, little bird,” he told her.  There was no argument that could be made with that tone.

Lucy dropped to sit on her knees and Vaan casually followed suite.  The hall around them quieted and the world practically dimmed.

“We,” he gestured between the small group. “are different from normal humans.”

Vaan nodded in recognition as his hands fell to his knees.  Lucy couldn’t help but quickly do the same as she leaned forward to listen more closely.

“Humans, pick weapons.  Ordinary men pick guns, swords, with only one objective in mind – power for themselves.  We are different, girl.  We work with weapons for the betterment of ourselves: all of mankind, all Top Hats.  So no, we cannot simply “choose” a weapon that satisfies our fancy.  The weapon chooses us the moment we are born.  It lies in waiting, resting in the back of our minds.  Think about it.  Think about your brothers – how did they play?  What did they choose in childhood?”

Lucy rested her fingertips on her forehead as her memories turned in her head.

 

“Lucy! Look!” Sebastian pulled out the biggest stick he could find from the wooden area.

“That’s huge! Put it back,” she waved a hand at him as she continued to search the woods for small sticks to play with.

“No! It’s my sword,” he said stubbornly before grinning and swinging it around wildly.

Lucy furrowed her eyebrows as her big eyes narrowed. “How is that a sword?”

“It just is,” he huffed, irritated that his twin could not see the same picture as he did.

“Fine,” Lucy stuck out her tongue. “Have your dumb sword.  I’ll find my own. . .thing.”

 

She never did find it.

 

“I’m tired,” Lucy complained to Andrew.  She remembered how raw her arms had felt from practicing with him.

“Come on, Lulu,” he told her. “It’s good for you!”

She stared at her and her brother’s thin cheap sparing blade.  He had received them at Camden Market for a fair price. “Why are you and Sebastian so obsessed with swords?”

“It’s not an obsession!” Andrew fired back. “We just enjoy the feeling of a good blade in our hands, that’s all.  It’s hard to describe.”

Lucy pouted and crossed her arms. “It’s stupid.”

Andrew furrowed. “Fine.  What do YOU want to use, little princess?” he snipped.

 

Lucy never did have an answer.  Not even with Adrian.

 

“What are you doing?” Lucy asked one day when she had come home from the market.  “Are those books?”

Adrian wrinkled his now. “Of course they are.   I read sometimwa!”

“On rare occasions,” laughed Lucy. “What are you poking your nose into this time?”

Adrian held up a book full of pictures of bows and arrows.  Each was a different size and every pose was held differently.  It as was if each weapon contained its own personality.

Lucy raised an eyebrow. “What exactly are you planning, Mr. Mischievous?”

Adrian coloured and yanked the book back in front of him. “If you are just going to sit there and make fun of me-“

“Oh hush, I was only joking,” she sat down next to him. “I’m sorry.  Really, what is it you are doing?”

“I want to learn,” he admitted after a moment of huffing. “I really do,” his fingers grazed the delicate pages.

Lucy looked to her brother’s face, and she knew he was entirely serious. “Alright,” she sighed. “I’ll see what I can do. MAYBE we can get you some classes,”

“Really?! Do you think so?!” Adrian’s face lit up.

Lucy couldn’t help but smile back. “We, of course, need to talk to Mum.  But maybe we can arrange something.”

 

Kivan was right.  Her brothers always had something ticking the back of their minds – something they were missing.   Except for Lucy, there was nothing.  Sure, Andrew taught her how to wield a blade, but she was never drawn to it like Sebastian.

Lucy hugged her shoulders as her mind tried desperately to grasp at something. Anything.

Stop.

The girl froze and looked to Vaan and Kivan.  They were both looking at each other in disappointment when the familiar wispy voice spoke again.

They do not understand.  You do not understand.  You have no weapon.

“Why?” Lucy whispered as the Top Hats turned to give her a puzzled look.

“Are you alright, Lucy?” Vaan asked.

She looked to her teacher with desperate eyes.

You are the Lady of Dawn.  You were never meant, nor ever shall, have a weapon. 

“That’s rubbish,” she snapped back.

One day, you will understand.

Only after a moment did she realize she was most certainly not alone.  Her eyes traveled over to Kivan and then back to Vaan.  Her cheeks flushed.

“S-sorry,” she stuttered. “Perhaps we should just forget about it.”

“Are you sure?” Vaan asked carefully.

“Yes.  I don’t think I was meant for these,” she admitted, her voice distant.

Vaan frowned. “We will discuss this later,” he turned to Kivan. “Can I talk to you?”

“Of course,” he nodded before clearing his voice.”Boy!” he bellowed.

From the double doors came the eavesdropping apprentice.  He turned his eyes to the ground. “Sorry, sir. I-”

“Take the girl out,” he waved a hand carelessly.

Boy didn’t miss the opportunity and ran forward to grab a hold of his friend and quickly drag her from the room.

Vaan put a hand to his forehead, sighing deeply. “Thank you for giving us a chance to test things out.  I know it took time away from your studies.”

Kivan laughed loudly. “Boy needed to do some readings anyway.  It was a good time for him to think on his dragon.”

“Which one did he end up with?” Vaan asked curiously.

“Galahad,” Kivan slyly grinned. “And you know that dragons choose their masters just as weapons do.”

He looked to the door. “Yes.  That child has a great destiny ahead of him.  He just doesn’t know it yet.”

“Well, thank you once more,” Vaan bowed.  Just before he left Kivan called to him.  Vaan turned his head, fearing that the weapon’s master would say precisely what was spinning through his own head.

“She is more like the Ladies than we expected,” Kivan remarked, “Just be careful.  She might not-”

“That is yet to be decided,” Vaan snapped back. “I, too, rarely use my weapon.  Perhaps she will be the same.  We’d all do well to remember that.”

Kivan sighed as the door closed. “But nonetheless, a weapon you have.”

©2017 E. M. Vick

 

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