The Sword in the Sand
This is one of the stories which was originally posted on my Fictionpress account. This was written for a project that I did in college, and was inspired by a trip to the banks of the Thames.
“Sweetheart, we have to go!”
“In a minute!”
She watched as her stone skipped across the water, bouncing off of the thin film that coated the surface. In the distance, there was a dull plop as it disappeared into the depths of the ocean, ready to make a journey she herself would never take.
She came to this beach with her father every summer, and every summer she would go up and down the sandy banks and collect twelve stones – whichever ones she thought looked the strongest, the bravest – and one by one she would sling them into the ocean, sending them off on their next great adventure. She had five stones left, and she would not leave until they were all gone.
Her father had always humoured her when she was younger; perhaps it was because he had been younger himself, and had more stamina or patience to deal with this particular idiosyncrasy of hers. Yet, as the years passed by, he became more eager to leave the beach as soon as possible, regardless of whether or not she had finished. Perhaps he had hoped that she would grow out of it, that by the age of seventeen she would have no longer have any interest in such trivial things.
Even so, he always waited for her.
Ten minutes later, the very last stone had disappeared beneath the water, and out of the corner of her eye, she saw her father turn around and begin to walk away, at a slow enough pace to allow her to catch up. She sighed at the sky, turning pink as the sun began to set, and swirled on her heel to follow her father up the beach.
The beach was probably her favourite place on earth; her partiality may be rooted in childhood nostalgia, but she never seemed to long for those days gone by. As long as she returned every year, new memories would be made; different stones would be flung; she had no use for the old memories as long as she always made new ones. There was merely something about the feeling of the sand between her toes, of the warmth of the sun despite the chill of the sea air…
Then, of course, there was the pier.
The pier had long ago been abandoned; after a scandal a few years back involving a rumour that the town’s water had been contaminated with mercury, the tourists had become fewer in number, and so the tourist businesses had gone bust, one by one. The pier had been the first to go. The town did not have the money to demolish it, so they left it to slowly rot away. Perhaps they held the optimistic notion that they would be able to repair it again, one day.
As they walked beneath the pier, she saw up close what those years of neglect had done to the wooden poles that held it upright, stabbed into the sand and absolutely rigid. The wood had begun to rot, taking on a sickly green tinge that had nothing to do with seaweed. Parts of the poles had already been completely eroded, so that they appeared to have had large bites taken out of them, and the pessimist in her head wondered how long it would be until they gave way altogether; she supposed that perhaps it was not the best of ideas for them to be walking under such an unstable structure, but she found it difficult to be scared on this beach.
“We’re losing light!” her father called back to her. “We’d better hurry up; I don’t much fancy driving back in the dark.”
Scowling slightly, she picked up her pace, her arms swinging at her sides. The pier was wide – and it would probably take five minutes to walk from one side to the other – but they had only reached the halfway point, where a large metal panel was hammered into the wall at the point at which the beach met dry land.
Suddenly, a sound reverberated through the stale air under the pier; she froze, transfixed by the eerie echo that filled the space. The sound was one that she had only ever heard on television or in films: the sound of a sword striking a shield.
She turned left and right, looking for the source of the noise. Who would be having a sword fight under this pier? And where were they? The only other person she could see was her father.
She wandered off of the path that her father’s footprints had made in the sand, heading for the metal panel on the wall.
“Ow!” she cried out as her foot collided with something hard hidden beneath the sand. She swiped her foot across the surface of the sand, pushing grains out of the way until she revealed a T-shaped metal object buried beneath: it looked like the hilt of a sword.
She knelt down and wiped away the last few grains of sand from the hilt, in no doubt that if she carried on she would unearth the entire weapon. Her eyes widened when she saw the word carved upon the hilt:
She stood up quickly, staring in disbelief. Was this the sword that had made that ghostly sound, possibly having been struck against that unassuming metal panel?
“Come on, honey!”
She looked round to her father, who had almost cleared the pier entirely.
“C-coming!” she replied, and took off at a run.
Maybe, after all these years, the knights had decided to reply to the messages that she had sent them, in the form of stones flung out across the water…