Chapter 3

Sarina was awakened by the not so distant sound of a hammer striking an anvil. She rubbed her eyes and looked across the room for her hostess, but she wasn't there. 'As I surmised.' she thought. She slowly sat up on the pallet and threw her legs over the side. She glanced out the small window. It was still dark out, and by the height of the moon in the clear night sky, it was near midnight. 'I wonder if this is how she got the nickname Midnight Rose?' pondered the weaponmaster as she rubbed her eyes again. 'Guess I won't be able to get any more sleep tonight.' She grabbed her boots and pulled them on, found her cloak and threw it over her shoulders as she walked out the door and into the night.

It only took her a few minutes to reach the smith's workshop, and there she was...furiously banging away, muttering under her breath. Sarina reached the edge of the work area and rapped on one of the posts to announce her presence. Rose whipped her head around at the sound, her eyes falling on the disheveled looking weaponmaster leaning against the frame.

"What are you doing here?" she asked.

"I could ask you the same thing." Sarina looked at her intently. "May I keep you company for awhile?"

The smith narrowed her eyes at the request. "Suit yerself, but don't expect me to be a chatterbox...I have work to do."

The blonde strode in and took a seat on a crate a few feet away from her hostess. They sat in silence for a bit, Sarina watching the smith labor with her task and Rose watching the weaponmaster out of the corner of her eye.

"I'm sorry if I awakened you." stated Rose, without looking up. "I'm not used to having to worry about someone being here."

Sarina smiled warmly. "It's ok. Don't change how you do things just because I'm here." The smith nodded. They sat in silence for a time, while the smith hammered away at the piece of metal that looked like a short sword. "Do you always come out here to work in the middle of the night?" she asked.

Rose looked up briefly, then continued pounding. "Not always." she replied. "When I can't sleep I do." (a pause) "Plus it's cooler to work around the forge at night."

"Ah yes, that is very true." said the weaponmaster. She knew there was another reason, but the smith's tone had a finality to it, and she didn't want to make her angry with prying questions. "So what is that you're working on?" There. She thought that was an innocent enough one.

Rose stopped her hammering and held the piece up for her guest to see. "This is just a little project I've been working on. Something to pass the time." She brought the sword closer to her and eyed it from tip to hilt, checking for imperfections. Satisfied it was as she wanted it to be, she plunged it into the stream to cool. She grabbed her cloth and wiped the sweat off her brow as she turned back to her guest. "So what possessed ya to come traipsing out here in the middle of the night?"

Sarina had to think a minute on that. What indeed? "I don't know really." She honestly admitted. "But here I am." She smiled. "I guess I just wanted to see what you were doing."

"Well now ya know." replied the smith turning back around and pulling the now finished sword out of the stream. She inspected it again before grabbing a clean cloth to dry it with. Then she set down with a whetstone to put an edge on it.

Sarina watched as Rose expertly sharpened the new sword. She had never known that so much work went into each weapon, and was amazed at how effortless the smith made it seem. Finished with the sharpening, she began to polish it. Even in the dim light, it shined like no other she had ever seen. Finishing that, the smith held it up one more time for inspection. Finally she was done. Turning, she tossed it to the suprised weaponmaster, who nearly dropped it. "Come. Let's test out yer new blade." She stood, walked over to the wall, grabbed a second weapon and headed out into the field. Stunned, Sarina could do nothing more than stumble out after her.

"Wait wait!" she called out. The smith stopped and turned around.


"MY blade?"

"Yes, is there a problem with that?" asked the seemingly perturbed smith.

Sarina's brows furrowed in disbelief. " No problem. I mean, you're just gonna give it to me? Why?"

Rose didnt have a ready answer for that. To be honest, she didn't know why she had done that. She just had. She thought for a moment before she answered. "Yer the weaponmaster. Ya need the best weapon." She turned and proceeded toward the open field behind her workshop.

Sarina hurried to catch up with her. "Are you saying the smiths in my village stink?"

"No." She smiled slightly. "I'm just sayin ya need the best weapon."

"What's wrong with the one I have?"

They reached the center of the field and squared off. "You'll see." replied Rose as she started her attack with a flurry of sword strokes and a lunge.

It was everything Sarina could do to block the first set of maneuvers. She backed off a couple steps to get her bearings. Tossing the sword from hand to hand to get a feel for the new piece, she noticed the balance was precise. And it felt lighter than her own, which was the same length. She looked up to find Rose's eyes pinned to hers, seeming to be waiting for her appraisal. "What is this made of? It's incredible!"

The smith again launched into a flurry of movement, and this time the weaponmaster was ready for it. "It's something I found in the 'ol mountain." Rose made two parries before continuing. "It's lighter and stronger." A slice to the weaponmaster's knees, which was expertly blocked. "It allows ya to swing faster, be more accurate, and hopefully inflict more damage."

Sarina chuckled as she blocked another swing meant for her head. "A better sword can help a great warrior.....but the sword doesn't MAKE the warrior my friend." She leaped over the smith's attempt to take her legs out from under her. "A warrior's skill is what makes the difference in a battle."

Rose stopped her attack and stepped back a few paces. "Is that what ya think?"

"It's what I know."

"Is that so?"

"Yes." replied the weaponmaster matter of factly.

"Alright then Miss Smartypants...let's switch swords for a bit, and ya kin prove yer theory to me."

"Ok, but I'm warning you...I AM a professional." She smiled as they made the exchange.

"Do I look scared?" The smith chuckled as she squared off against her opponent. Sarina attacked quickly and was shocked that every blow was blocked. Not that she would have hurt the smith anyways, but Rose should not have been able to counter all of her best moves. She frowned slightly, which was not missed by her hostess.

"Yer skill is higher than mine, but with this sword the odds are a bit more even." Rose launched herself at the blonde, raining lightning fast blows down upon her opponent to prove her point. Sarina desperately tried to fight it off, but she was gradually being pushed backwards by the ferocity and swiftness of the smith's attack. She saw the heavy shot coming and stepped back to absorb some of the force, but her toe caught a rock and she began to tumble backwards. She hit the ground with a loud thud and her breath flew out of her lungs for a moment. The smith jumped on top of her and brought the tip of the sword to Sarina's throat.

"I win."

The weaponmaster slowly brought her eyes up to meet the smith's. "Indeed you have." She smiled at the woman above her, and for the first time the smith smiled back.

"So what do ya think of yer new sword now?" asked Rose, not moving it from Sarina's throat just yet.

Sarina was still caught up in the smith's genuine smile. "I would have to admit that it's beautiful....and deadly. Just like it's crafter." She saw the suprise on the face of her opponent, felt her weight shift just slightly...enough for the blonde to knock the tip of the sword away, get her arms up and push the smith backwards, where she landed with a dull thud, the sword clattering harmlessly away. She sprang up and came down on her opponent, effectively pinning her arms to the ground over her head.

"What was that you said about it being more even?" She smiled. "My skill wins in the end."

Rose smiled back. " definitely threw me off my guard with that comment. Touche, and lesson learned." She tried to get up, but the weaponmaster held her firmly in place. She looked up to see what was going on, and found piercing hazel eyes looking deeply into her own.

"I meant it."

Rose barely had time to register the statement before Sarina leaned down and brushed her lips across the smith's. The blonde pulled back slightly to gauge the reaction before leaning in again, only this time the contact was longer. She pulled back again and looked into Rose's eyes. "Since you're not much for conversation, I thought this would be a better way to tell you that I was drawn to you the moment I saw you." A pause. "Are you going to hit me if I let you up now?" Rose shook her head no. "Ok then." She let the smith's arms go and stood up, offering her hand to the woman. Rose grasped it and allowed herself to be pulled up, turned a bit to the right, then hauled off and cracked Sarina right in the jaw and walked away. The poor weaponmaster just sat there on the ground for a few minutes, rubbing the bruise and cursing before standing up and trudging back to the hut for her sleeping roll. "Thank you Aphrodite, for that warm and fuzzy feeling of a fist in my face." She looked forlornly up to the sky. "What the Hades were you thinking??" She shook her head and continued on her way.

Chapter 4