The settlement under the dome was a lot like the village we had just left if you disregard the overwhelming power that was everywhere around me. The farming was all hydroponics located up on nearly all the roofs, and the closest thing to livestock I saw were some small dogs, but they probably belonged to rich tourists ‘cause I didn’t see any down in the town. Our hotel was a little back from the town square since it was a bit of a latecomer to the town plan. It was the town square I was interested in, though. I was hoping the strangeness of the mining colony would distract me from my concerns, at least for a little while.
As I walked, I noticed that very few of the people I saw were the scientists or even the tourist types my mother had always tried to surround us with. These people were predominately miners and spacers, and they looked different. Almost everyone went armed; at least what they had hanging from their belts looked like weapons, and very likely could have been used as such, regardless of what they had been originally made for. The most popular belt decoration was a wide variety of swords, and it put me in mind of something I had heard in one of my classes.
With the advent of space travel, hard projectile weapons went out of fashion, in a way. No one who frequented the space ways wanted to risk their life by punching a hole through their hull with a bullet, but that didn’t stop pirates and terrorists from operating, so the business of selling sonic guns, tasers and punch guns flourished, but they were expensive and required maintenance of one sort or another. Swords were every bit as effective since the range in a fight aboard a space ship was seldom greater than five feet and they only required a little sharpening once in a while.
With Durmas’ words in my ears, I went looking for a shop that sold swords. I was going back; I had to. If he was going to teach me how to use a sword, I might as well come prepared in that much at least; I wasn’t likely to find a bow or a staff here.
The shop I found was fascinating and far more than I could have hoped for. Everything my imagination could conjure was here. Best of all, plastered across the wall behind the counter was every kind of sword and knife one could ever want.
I’m pretty sure I looked like a gawky teenager, but the man behind the counter didn’t seem to mind. Either that or he took his craft very seriously. Looking over the glittering array I said, “I want to buy a sword. What do you think would be best for me?”
He looked me over with a critical eye. I’m sure I cut a fine figure. I was standing on crutches with both my feet in casts; my pant-legs had been split to my knees to accommodate them. My face was all cracked and bruised up, and who knows what kind of damage my clothes concealed. He probably thought I was in dire need of some kind of protection, and being a teenager, I probably didn’t have a lot of money or I had just been robbed. “Have you ever used a sword before?”
I shook my head. “That’s a cool one.” I pointed to a big blade directly over his shoulder.
“How old are you?” he continued after only a glance at what I’d pointed at.
I looked at him, but he wouldn’t be able to tell where I was looking behind my shades. He didn’t seem to be mocking me so “Fifteen.”
He turned around to survey his display. “Fifteen, you say. You’ve got some growing to do then.” He started lifting down an assortment of swords for me to choose from - none of which was the monster that kept drawing my eye. “Heft ‘em. Swing ‘em a little, and see how they feel.”
I leaned one of my crutches against the counter and did as he said. They were surprisingly heavy, but I swung each one in turn. Some I set aside immediately; they just didn’t feel right. I tested the others again, and finally, I settled on one that I liked the best, though I couldn’t tell you exactly why. It had a real cool hilt and guard though. The hilt was wrapped in black leather, wrapped in turn with a fine twisted wire giving it a cool black and silver striped look. Grasping that, in a position that nested nicely in the palm of my hand was the body of a small dragon made out of blue gold. The spread wings were the guards and they curved out over my knuckles, even shielding my wrist somewhat. The front joint of those wings had little claws protruding from them and they were sharp. The head of the dragon was laid out along the base of the blade, and etched along almost half the length of the blade itself was the tracery of fire emerging from the mouth of the dragon. The long tail coiled up to the large round pommel and wrapped around it as if it too were holding on.
The man nodded sagely. “That’s the one I would have picked for ye, but you should be the one pickin’ the blade you’ll be using.” He handed up a sheath and held it for me to slide the blade into. “Now, let’s find you a belt.” He had been hanging the blades back on the wall as I discarded them, so now he came around the counter and took me to a rack that was laden with all kinds of belts. “There’re different kinds of belts. Do you have a preference?”
I shook my head. The selection was overwhelming, but my eyes focused on a wide belt that had a dagger sheath sewn into the middle of it.
The man smiled. “Good choice, a wide belt is the most comfortable and stable kind of sword belt. He took the belt down and slung it around my waist. He nested it around my hips and buckled it. He never knew how many bruises he brushed. There was almost a foot of belt left over when he was done, but I didn’t object when I heard him mutter something about ‘room to grow’. He took the belt back off and we went back to the counter where he added the sword to it and then buckled it around me again. “Can you stand without those crutches?”
I could walk a few steps without them, but I wasn’t too sure about just standing. “I can try,” I replied.
“Draw the sword and see how you like it. I’ll catch you if you over balance yourself.”
I did as he suggested and the sword slid from its sheath like silk. I didn’t loose my balance the first time or the second time, but I was grinning so hard by then that I lost it on the third try; he didn’t let me tip too far though.
“Now, do you want a blade for this?” he touched the sheath that was stitched into the belt that now rested horizontally in the center of my back. I would be able to draw a knife from that sheath with my left hand. The sword sheath and belt were sturdy enough that I could draw both simultaneously.
“It’d be a crime not to, wouldn’t it,” I said.
“I have just the one for you,” he said, grinning. He went back behind the counter and laid a double-edged dagger on the counter. It was a miniature version of the sword that now rested at my hip.
I took one look at the little dragon. “It would be a crime to separate them,” I said, and slid it by touch into its sheath, pricking my thumb in the process. “I would also like a little knife to fit here.” I patted my belt opposite my sword.
“Ah, a little sticker, good idea. I’m beginning to like you, kid. Are you sure you’ve never done this before?” He laid another knife, half the size of the one at my back, on the counter with its sheath beside it. It was a plain little knife though the hilt was wrapped like the others, lacking only the dragon.
“Sold, all of it,” I said, as I slid the little ‘sticker’ into its sheath. He helped me get it on my belt and then wrote up the ticket. I pulled my credit chip out of my pocket and handed it over. I hadn’t bothered to carry one since before we had moved to that planet where I had just spent the last three years of my life. The place was so newly discovered, it hadn’t earned a name yet and I didn’t remember the number.
The bill was seventy-two credits. Mom would croak, but I thought the price was more than fair and mom’s reaction would be more about what I bought rather than how much it had cost.
I shook hands with the man and hobbled out of the shop to go back to the hotel. I had made my decision and now I needed to tell my parents.
When I got back to our rooms, my parents were nowhere to be seen. They had left a note for me saying they went down to the restaurant for dinner. I could join them if I hadn’t already eaten. That sounded like a good idea, but I was tired so I ordered room service instead and sent a message down to them saying as much.