Steel Ever Shining

Tea of roses scented the room where Jeru knelt, head bowed as she spoke her devotions to the saint of steel-ever-shining.  As a girl, s he had stared at her father’s shrine and the beautiful mural of the saint with her long, curly black hair and her flawless dark skin, her unfathomable smile.  Her father had caught her one day and cuffed her lightly.

She’s beautiful, Jeru said.

You’re admiring the wrong thing, her father said bluntly.  Of course the artist painted Nyatessa-of-the-Steel to be beautiful.  That’s what she was paid to do.  Look instead at the way Nyatessa holds her blade, the correctness of her stance.  If you devote yourself to a saint, do it for the virtue they embody, not the pretty picture.

Jeru prostrated herself and did not get up until he left.  Then she spent an hour practicing sword-stances in the shrine.

Her father was an old man now, and she had not seen him in many years.  When she had taken the sword-oath, she had left her family behind.  She was no longer young herself, although neither had she attained the honor of long years fully lived.

“Sister,” a young woman said from the doorway, “I have come as you requested.”

Jeru gestured at the tea.  “Sit, and drink.”

The young woman did.  When she had finished, she looked with narrowed eyes at Jeru.  “Do you come from one of the other chapters, sister?  I feel I have seen you before, but I cannot remember where.”

“You will remember me soon enough,” Jeru said.  “Let us speak of the here-and-now: I am passing down my sword.”  She held it out.

The young woman accepted it reverently.  The scabbard was of plain ebony capped with rose gold.  The young woman pulled the blade free exactly three fingerspans, revealing the patterns in the watered steel known as Nyatessa’s Chain.

“Forgive me if I am blunt,” the young woman said–how like her father, Jeru thought–“but are you certain?  Your movements are precise, your posture impeccable.  Surely your vigor has not yet begun to fade.”

“Age takes us all,” Jeru said, “and in time you may find that not all swords are made of steel.”

“What sword will you wield next?” the young woman asked.

“Myself,” Jeru said, smiling wryly at her younger self.  She closed her eyes and murmured a blessing.

When she opened her eyes again, she was the only one in the room, but her other-self was with her always, the inner heart of the steel.

for Nancy Sauer