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The Tale of the Techo Blademaster


by precious_katuch14

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Most Neopians would cower at the sight of King Terask. The Red Draik stood taller than any of his subjects, with eyes like blazing embers, claws that rivalled the sharpest swords, and knowledge of the most dangerous spells. He glared down at me as though hoping to tease secrets out of me with his gaze alone.

     “What use have I,” he rumbled, “for another self-styled swordmaster? I already have many blades at my disposal, Techo Blademaster.”

     I looked him in the eye, a wrist resting on my sabre hilt, and observed his stance. He was not raising a claw to cast a spell or to send me flying into the nearest wall. However, he did dip his head, ever so slightly, and from the corner of my eye, a Faerie Buzz darted out from behind a column, their scimitar upraised. I sidestepped and flicked my sabre out, causing them to veer away and lose their balance. They managed to land on the floor, and I immediately thrust, slashed, and cornered the Buzz until they dropped down, the point of my blade at their head.

     Then a Skeith thundered forward, mace poised for my head. I danced away and allowed him to try and swipe at me before daintily stabbing at his hands, causing him to drop the mace with a loud clang. The Buzz had recovered, but I traced a dangerous arc with my sabre toward them, and when they backed away, I headbutted them, causing them to crumple to the floor.

     Terask hummed – a deep sound that echoed in the back of my head. I tensed, and grinned; did he have any more tricks up his sleeve? No matter, I had mine.

     “And why do you want to join me?” he asked. “Do you desire victory? Power? Wealth?”

     I tipped my plumed hat after the Buzz flew dejectedly away, their defeat at my hands still stinging, no doubt. The Skeith merely picked up his mace and seemed to melt away into the shadows of the palace columns.

     “Oh, no, your Majesty,” I answered. “I live only to master my craft till the day I can no longer lift my sword. I’m always searching for stronger, worthier opponents to fight. And if I must join you to find and defeat them, then so be it.”

     I wondered what Terask was thinking, behind his great, scaly face and the wisps of smoke billowing from his nostrils as he stroked his chin. Perhaps he thought it better to have me on his side, than to risk me fighting his own?

     “Very well,” he said, nodding slowly. “You will be stationed here, at Faerie Palace. You have my blessing to destroy all who cross your path, if that is what you wish.”

     I grinned more widely as I saluted with my sabre.

     “Then I shall be your blade. The greatest blade you will ever wield in battle.”

     * * *

     Whether it was ambushing the Faerieland resistance from hidden chambers or waiting out in the open for anyone foolish enough to challenge me, I revelled in turning Faerie Palace into my own Battledome. I smirked as I parried a strike from a pink Lenny clad in Faerieland livery, found an opening, and jabbed toward her chest. She gasped and stumbled as she tried to avoid the tip, before turning tail and flying away.

     “Hmph,” I said to the cloaked blue Lupe and the Dimensional Faerie behind me. “Are these truly Faerieland’s best? Then, it’s no wonder King Terask took control of Faerieland in the first place.”

     The Lupe curled his lips in derision. “Sounds like you’re having fun being the king’s attack Doglefox. But if the reports we’re hearing are correct, your fun has only just begun.”

     I raised my eyebrow. “You mean, the warrior of the prophecy has finally made it to Faerie Palace?”

     “That is correct,” the Dimensional Faerie answered. She seemed to flicker into the air, her silvery hair a play of light and shadow.

     “The son of one of Meridell’s greatest knights, trained in combat from childhood,” the Lupe continued. “After fighting through four Neopian lands, he is said to have surpassed his father.”

     A traveller forged by his adventures into a keen blade. My eyes widened, and then I could feel the corners of my mouth moving up into a smile.

     The perfect opponent to test my skills against.

     I was more excited at the prospect of facing such a swordsman than at earning King Terask’s approval for my victory.

     I didn’t need Terask’s approval, after all.

     “Hey! Blademaster! Faeries flying in at three o’clock!”

     The Dimensional Faerie’s voice snapped me back to reality, and I drew my sabre. I may not be fated to meet this warrior now, but if he wanted to try and face Terask, he would have to enter Faerie Palace. He would have to go through me.

     And oh, our battle would be legendary.

     * * *

     I threw back my head and laughed, sheathing my sabre as I watched a Gelert pull her bedraggled Grarrl companion away from me. They did not even bother to grab their swords from the floor as they fled. I imagined my laughter echoing in their ears, haunting them, destroying any hope of advancing through the palace to save their queen as I resumed patrolling the corridors of Faerie Palace. The plan was simple, almost childish: force the four adventurers into taking a single route of hallways by filling the rest of them with our troops.

     Now, all I had to do was wait – and introduce anyone from Fyora’s army to my sabre, whenever I saw fit. I rested a hand on my hat and leaned against the wall, my breath slow and steady as I braced myself for the next battle.

     “Here’s the shortcut. This will take us to the next tower.”

     My rest was short-lived. At the sound of a mellow female voice, I straightened up, sabre in my gloved hand. I saw shadows loom around the corner, and more voices.

     “I hope so, I’m beat! Can we sit down? Maybe open our rations?”

     “Let’s just clean up here and find someplace quiet to rest afterwards.”

      “I think this is a quiet enough pla – oh.”

     The first Neopian stepping into my corridor was a Red Techo, like myself. He was wearing armour like a Meridellian warrior, but he carried a staff instead of a sword. I knew a warrior when I saw one – and this Techo wasn’t a warrior worth my time.

     “Well, well, look who the Devilpuss dragged in,” I drawled as I watched the rest of the Techo’s companions emerge, standing before me. A Blue Acara in a silvery robe, a Green Eyrie in blue and gold livery with a bow in her hands, and…

     When the white Blumaroo held his sword at the ready, I knew I was in the presence of a real warrior. I grinned from ear to ear.

     “Oho! You must be the hero of the prophecy everyone talks about,” I said, leaning on my sabre.

     “Don’t remind me,” the Blumaroo grumbled. “I’m not here because of some prophecy. We’re here to free Faerieland.”

     My body was tingling with the thrill of crossing blades with him, but I had to remember my duty as King Terask’s loyal blade.

     “I’d love to see you try.” I threw my head back and laughed before whistling, long and hard. The floors and walls shook as a hulking blue Moehog thundered into view, snorting and howling like a wild Werhond. A Halloween Nimmo swooped into the hall and snatched at the Acara, who dropped to the floor to avoid him. A corrupted light faerie seemed to materialize out of the walls, blasting at the four adventurers. The Eyrie took flight and took aim at the Nimmo, the Techo twirled his staff and spoke words of power that forced the Moehog and the light faerie back, and the Acara fired jets of multicoloured light at the faerie.

     That left me and the Blumaroo. I remembered his name whispered in the darkest rooms of the palace. It stirred fear in the hearts of some of Terask’s grunts, but not in mine.

     It wasn’t fear I felt, as I watched Rohane lunge forward at me, broadsword held high. I chuckled as I whirled out of range, trying to tag his thigh with my sabre. I missed, and I had one moment to shake my head in mild disappointment before I stabbed viciously toward him, searching for the gaps in his armour that a thin sabre could punch through. But I had a feeling he knew what I was up to; whenever he parried my strikes, he angled his sword to keep me from making a precise thrust.

     The rest of the chaos suddenly seemed so far away. It was just the two of us, weaving our dangerous dance across the floors of Faerie Palace. I would answer Rohane’s upward strike with a block that threatened to wrest his weapon out of his hands, but his grip was almost viselike.

     “So, it’s true,” I whispered in between gasps for breath, “you have surpassed your father – Sir Reynold of Meridell!” If Rohane weren’t my enemy right now, I might have felt some pride for him. A swordsman attaining his goal – I could relate to him.

     He didn’t respond. Instead, we continued to trade blows, neither of us gaining the advantage at first. Then I swung my sabre down and up, forcing him to back away, wincing as I managed to scratch his gauntlets.

     All fights must come to an end, after all.

     “But,” I added, “you won’t surpass me, the Techo Blademaster!”

     An arrow whizzed past my head and thudded into the wall. I made the mistake of looking up at the Eyrie perched on a windowsill, already nocking another arrow to her bow. That was all it took for Rohane to dash forward, swinging his sword almost wildly – but it successfully knocked my sabre out of my hand. My weapon clattered uselessly to the floor, and he fled from me, plunging down the hall we had been guarding. His companions followed, not looking back, leaving nothing except the single arrow that had interrupted our battle.

     “Are you all right?” the Moehog gruffly asked, staggering toward me. His leather armour was singed in places, and he was clutching his side.

     How could I be all right? That duel ended with a lucky arrow. I couldn’t call it a victory, not by any stretch of the imagination.

     I snorted. “Hah, of course, I am. Now come on, we can’t lose them. Get patched up and meet me on the third floor.”

     * * *

     I was determined to continue that duel. The fight with Rohane was all I could think about; perhaps if it hadn’t been cut short, I would’ve won. I knew what their goal was, so it was only a matter of ensuring that we met again.

     We had unfinished business, after all.

     Since taking over Faerieland, Terask spared no thought of cleaning up the palace. Instead, rubble and refuse littered the corridors and halls. And with Fyora’s resistance forcing their way inside, little by little, tidying up after his revolt was even lower on Terask’s priority list.

     I crouched behind a pile of broken lavender and lilac marble. I tensed at the sounds of footsteps, scuffling, and voices. They were punctuated by the whistle of arrows and crashing. I pulled my sabre out of its sheath and smiled. My reflection in the keen blade smiled back.

     A faerie held up a shield bearing Terask’s shield over a purple Aisha with overlarge fangs, protecting themselves from both a salvo of arrows and several well-placed spells. The Eyrie, the Techo, and the Acara gave their opponents no quarter.

     “Go, Rohane, we’ll cover you!” the Eyrie cried as she dodged my blue Lupe companion, who had appeared out of nowhere with the Dimensional Faerie by his side. Rohane hesitated only for a moment – no doubt thinking of his friends – but he turned and ran.

     Straight toward me.

     “We meet again,” I said, brandishing my sabre. “The warrior of the – “

     He didn’t let me finish and rushed at me with a series of quick slashes. I blocked and parried before stabbing toward him, our blades almost like silvery blurs. I swung up and out; he halted my sabre in its tracks. We backed away, we circled, and our swords sought openings. I smiled, but he did not.

     “Good to know we can pick up where we left off, eh?” I flicked my sabre toward the Blumaroo’s ears, forcing him to duck, but he thrust his broadsword out toward my chest, and I jumped back. I leapt onto an overturned crate and laughed as Rohane tried to slash at my ankles. He missed, and I tried to jump down on him, but he sidestepped swiftly, pivoted, and successfully struck my hand. I winced, but one quick pass later, my sabre clattered to the floor.

     I looked from my fallen sword to him, pointing his blade at my face. Despite everything, I cracked a grin.

     “I have been waiting for worthy opponents – and you did not disappoint. But mark my words, I will defeat you.”

     A ghost of a smile flickered across his face before he turned away to follow his comrades.

     “You can try.”

     Oh, I certainly planned to. I watched him leave as I bent down to pick up my sword, feeling a mix of both frustration and thrill.

     I had to defeat him. I was sent by Terask to defeat him, certainly, but this was far more than a job.

     * * *

     If I wanted to find him again, all I had to do was retrace the route they were taking to free the Faerie Queen and possibly fight Terask. With my hand on my hat and the other on my sabre hilt, I boldly marched into the room they had claimed for the night. The four of them were sitting around a table and the remnants of a dinner when they saw me, and immediately all of them jumped into action, grabbing their respective weapons.

     I held up my arms, even though I knew they could clearly see my blade strapped to my waist. “I’m not here to fight all of you. Only him,” I said, pointing to the white Blumaroo who was out of his armour, dressed only in a simple shirt and tunic, and breeches tucked into his boots. He almost looked less intimidating, like a typical commoner you’d run into in Meridell’s marketplace, but his stance and his grasp on his sword reminded me not to underestimate him.

     “Me?” he repeated, arching his eyebrows. “What is this, did Terask or anyone else send you?”

     “Hardly,” I replied, taking off my hat and bowing flamboyantly. “I, the Techo Blademaster, am here to challenge you to a duel! Take up your sword and meet me, Rohane of Meridell!”

     Rohane scowled but did not move from where he was.

     “And why should I?”

     “Because if you don’t, I shall!”

     With that, I rushed him, sabre flicking like an irate Wadjet. He dodged and I crashed into the table, falling along with it to the floor. From the corner of my eye, I noticed the Green Eyrie taking aim at me, but Rohane gestured with a free hand for her to lower her bow.

     “I’m the only one he wants, it’s okay!”

     He parried my quick riposte and responded with a wide swing of his own sword. I backed up against the wall, ducked another slash, and wriggled past him and onto a chair, gesturing grandly with my sabre.

     “Oh yes, I want your head!” I cried. I pushed off the chair hoping it would fall against it and make him stumble, but he immediately extricated himself and we proceeded to cross blades in that room while his friends looked on in various degrees of uncertainty and suspense.

     “I don’t know if you’ve noticed – but I like my head where it is!” Rohane traced a crescent in the air that prompted me to dive aside. From where I was on the floor, I blocked his next moves before rolling away and jumping back onto my feet.

     The rest of the duel was an exhilarating blur. Our swords clashed several times, and for a while, it seemed like we were evenly matched.

     Then Rohane switched from a downward strike to an upward slash which caught me by surprise. His sword point ended an inch shy of my throat. I was breathing heavily, and so was he, and while I knew I had lost again, I smiled anyway.

     “I see,” I whispered. “You won’t go down without a fight. Then I will just have to…fight you, over and over!”

     “Seriously?” the Blumaroo asked, lowering his sword. His friends tensed; no doubt on their guard in case I tried anything funny. “Why?”

     “Because I have never fought anyone like you,” I answered. “I look forward…to the day that you bow to my blade.”

     “I won’t bow. Especially not to your blade.”

     “I will make you. The Techo Blademaster shall make you grovel at his feet, one day.” I turned on my heel with all the dignity of an enlisted soldier and left.

     * * *

     Thus, I continued to pursue him, each time demanding a duel, no matter where they were – be it marching toward their goal or seeking refuge for the night, or lying in wait for my allies. But it was only a matter of time before my job with Terask came to an end.

     Terask’s fate was sealed when Rohane found him at last. Not because of some faerie prophecy, or destiny, but simply because to this day, no warrior with whom I ever crossed blades possessed the same strength and courage. If he could defeat me, time and again, it was but a matter of time till he found my old master. True enough, Faerieland was restored to its rightful queen and found peace at last.

     Sometimes I wonder if Terask ever realized I had left the palace – left him – or if he never found out. It didn’t matter either way. He was gone, his allies scattered to the winds, his forces too broken to ever rise again. I went my way as a mercenary, selling my skills to the highest bidder. I continued to sharpen my blade, and continued to seek stronger and stronger opponents.

     And I continue to hope that someday, I will cross paths with Rohane once again.

     Our battle will be even more legendary, for I refuse to lose.

     The End.

 
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