Characters: Malcolm, Ione, Sabriel, Terrace
Universe: Canon, Infinity's End Oneshot
Description: Malcolm never wishes to be unarmed again.
The first is a dagger tucked under his pillow, pressed into his hand by a knowing Ione and hidden before the healer can notice that it's there. Malcolm sleeps with his hand under the pillow, fingers curled around the leather wrapped grip, and takes comfort in knowing that even if Ione isn't there to protect him, she'd given him the means to protect himself.
Once he's declared healthy and ready to get out of the bed, Malcolm keeps the dagger tucked into his waistband at the base of his spine. It's hidden from the casual eye and ready to grab at a moment's notice. He doesn't think he's in great danger here in Paragon but then, he hadn't thought that there was danger to be had in Grayshire either. He never thought he'd be ordered to death, but here he is, in the rebel base because they are the only ones who cared.
Sabriel takes him to the armory, once Malcolm works up the courage to ask someone where it is and whether he's allowed inside. Ione had offered to go with him but Arlen was looking a touch aggressive and Malcolm let it slide. With time, perhaps, Arlen would be more amenable to the friendship between Malcolm and Ione. But right now, Malcolm can understand the discomfort. He doesn't begrudge Arlen and would never force Ione to choose.
Besides, if it came down to it, Ione would never stand for someone to restrict her in any manner. Especially not her significant other, for significant he is, even if Ione can't see it yet. Malcolm can because he has two eyes and he's not stupid. His little Spitfire's head over heels for the Arlen noble, but that's a story for another time.
The Armory, Malcolm notices as Sabriel unlocks the door and gestures him inside, is sparsely stocked. Weapons are not so easily acquired, though the Theravada have a few blacksmiths in their employment. They simply cannot keep up with the demand. Nevertheless, Malcolm is free to choose from what they have available.
His fingers twitch. His back feels naked. Malcolm looks at the assorted weaponry and feels a greed come over him he's never experienced. He wants them all, but he's prudent. He doesn't want to take a weapon out of the hands of another soldier, so he selects a couple. One is a dagger, plain and unadorned, that he tucks into his right boot because it fits perfectly. The other is a claymore, a heavy two-handed sword that Malcolm knows he can bear in either hand should he need. He grabs a sheath for it, one that will enable him to sling the blade across his back.
The weight of the sword on his back is a comfort. He gives it a few practice swings, testing the balance of it, and though it's not as familiar to him as his own lost sword, it's a decent substitute. There's an amber jewel in the hilt, the decoration the same shade as the Wyndham crest, and he wonders if he should consider that fate or coincidence.
"Are you sure you don't want something easier to handle?" Sabriel asks, his gaze unreadable as he leans in the doorway and watches Malcolm test the blade.
"This is perfect," Malcolm replies and drags a finger down the length of steel, frowning at the slight accumulation of dust. It's also in need of a good sharpening and polish. "Is there a whetstone?"
"I can have one of the blacksmiths sharpen it for you," Sabriel offers.
Malcolm shakes his helm and slides the sword back into the sheath. If it proves a good blade, he'll give it a name. "I'd rather do it myself. All the better to accustom the blade to my touch."
Sabriel makes a noncommittal noise. "That's right," he says. "You're a Wyndham."
"Was," Malcolm corrects, ignoring the flash of pain that the statement invokes within him.
Sabriel shifts his weight. "You still are. Grayshire's betrayal doesn't change your blood. And our spies suggest that your father is quite displeased with your 'death'."
Malcolm's hands tighten into fists. He has tried and failed not to think of his family. And he has often wondered how involved his father was. It bothers him enough that it was his grandfather who ordered Malcolm's unit into Varos with the full knowledge that they would likely die.
"I suppose," Malcolm says, because he doesn't want to talk about it, especially with someone who is a stranger to him.
He looks at the weapons again, resisting the urge to grab several more, even though he could easily carry a few more. He forces himself to turn away, stride back toward the door.
"Thanks," Malcolm says, managing a thin smile. "Feels better to be armed again."
"Want to get some practice with that new blade of yours?" Sabriel asks as he locks the door behind them, tucking the key into his pocket. "I think Grayson's been eager for a new sparring partner."
Sabriel flashes him a smile that's just shy of hilarity. "He's tired of Ione beating him every time."
Malcolm laughs despite himself. "Yeah, she's a terror." He contemplates, feeling the weight on his back and remembering, all too well, the overwhelming sensation of helplessness. The faster he's comfortable with his new blade, the better. "Practice sounds good."
It's a start, Malcolm reasons. And sparring with Grayson is a good way to pass the time since Malcolm's not official Theravada yet but he still needs something to do. He's going to join them; it's a given. But Azriel's a decent leader and he's given Malcolm something like down time, a few weeks to get himself acclimated, to decide if joining the rebellion is what he really wants, or if he'd be happier leaving for some distant village for the rest of his life.
Malcolm is a soldier. He will always be a soldier. Settling down with a family in some quiet village is not the future he wants.
Quiet time gives him too much time to think. Malcolm does not want to think right now. Dreaming is difficult enough.
Most of the Theravada are civilians: bakers, weavers, artists. They are grossly understaffed when it comes to soldiers. It's enough that Malcolm marvels they have lasted this long against the might of Grayshire and the Brigade. Especially since Grayshire is under the impression that the Theravada are twice as large as they are.
Still, that makes it easier to get to know the soldiers and warriors that are members of the Theravada. The leadership, the Sergei as they are called, are obvious enough. But there are others and Malcolm gets to know them all, befriend them all.
Ogden is the one who gives him the mace. It's lightweight enough that he can wear it off one hip, not so long that it restricts his movement, but is a good blunt instrument for destruction. It's suitable for close quarters combat and easy to wield. It's a good last resort weapon and Malcolm is all too glad for it.
Terrace's father is a blacksmith. He takes one look at Malcolm's claymore and shows up two weeks later with a broadsword that Malcolm can wear on his hip. It's a one-handed weapon, with two sharp edges and a crossguard.
"More suitable for close combat," Terrace says with a raised eyebrow at Malcolm's claymore. "And a lot easier to wield than that meat cleaver you have attached to your back."
"I like my claymore," Malcolm retorts, indignant, but he takes the broadsword anyway, admiring the craftsmanship, the new-steel scent of it. "But I like this, too."
"I figured you might." Terrace grinned, dimples making him look much younger than his nearly forty years. "Claymore's are for slashing and hacking. This? Requires finesse."
Malcolm nods, twisting his wrist, letting the blade flick through the air and admiring the slight sound it makes as it slices through empty space. "I know. Thanks. This'll be of great help. Do you have a sheath for it?"
Terrace hands him one that'll sit around his waist. All that's left is to decide which hand should wield it. Left or right. It's nice to be ambidextrous when it comes to weapons. Makes it easier to fool the enemy, too.
"Think you have enough now?" Terrace asks as Malcolm buckles the hip sheath around his waist, putting the sword at his left.
Most soldiers are right-handed. Let it be a surprise when Malcolm comes out swinging left-handed in a battle. Yes. That's the better option overall.
"Enough?" Malcolm asks absently, adjusting the weight on his hip, making sure there's adequate balance so that it doesn't impede his stride.
"Weapons," Terrace clarifies, though at least he sounds amused.
Malcolm shakes his helm. "No such thing." But he doesn't elaborate. There's no way to put into words what happened in Varos. No way to describe what it's like to use your magic, only to find it useless, and then fall back on your weapon, only to find that it's been knocked from your hands.
There aren't words for watching your fellow soldiers being drained dry by a Merihem, the attack bloodless but no less gruesome. Or for feeling the aether dissipate to nothing, to watching your friend, a person you trusted to watch your back, go blank in the eyes, skin turned ash grey. Or for running when there's nowhere to go. All with the knowledge that it wasn't an accident. That no one had warned you. And there's nothing you can do.
He hopes Irvine is having a much easier time in recovery. Thank Kaiyu at least one other of his quintile had survived.
He counts again.
Two swords. A mace. Three daggers.
It will have to do for now.
Ione's the one that finds him back in the Armory a week later, waist deep in weapons that are in a sad state. Malcolm thinks it a shame that no one's paying much attention to the armory. That they acquire weapons, toss them into a pile near enough to similar designs, and that's as much effort as anyone gives. Good weapons needs to be maintained, polished and kept sharp and stored well. Else they might fail on you when you need them most.
Malcolm doesn't have any other duty. So he asks, to fill a need, and Sabriel is surprised but amenable. The Sergei come to a consensus and Malcolm is handed the master key to the Armory. This is his task now. His job.
Sort. Categorize. Manage. Maintain. Assign. Train if he must. Refine when necessary. And keep command apprised of what weapons are needed, what they have in overstock, and how better to meet the needs of Theravada. He reports to Sabriel, which is fine by Malcolm.
It's good work. Important work. Busy work. But Malcolm, at least, enjoys it.
"So," Ione says, drawing up a chair and perching backward upon it, resting her arms across the back of it. "You have a job now. Congratulations."
Malcolm shoots her a wry look. "You should follow my example, freeloader. Oh, wait. You're dating the commander. Never mind."
Ione rolls her eyes. "I'm not a freeloader."
"Prove it," he says as he examines a bow, one finger plucking the string to check it's tensile strength. Hmm. He might need to replace it. "What do you do other than warm Gale's bed and whip Grayson's ass in the training area?"
Ione frowns, scrunching up her nose in that cute way she does when she's backed herself into a corner and she knows it. "I do things. I go on patrol."
Malcolm laughs to himself. "Why, you're practically running the whole place by yourself."
"Oh, hush your mouth." Ione huffs and leans her chin on her crossed arms, still watching him. "How are you doing?"
Malcolm blinks and backs out of the crate he'd been rummaging through. "Fine. Why? Did someone tell you otherwise?"
"I don't need someone to tell me anything. I've known you for half my life, Malcolm. And I know when you're not one hundred percent."
He braces himself on the edge of the crate, looking down into the assorted bits of replacement parts. Everything from grip wraps to bow strings to bolts and screws and spare guards and pommels.
"I'm fully healed," Malcolm says because that is the truth. "Physically at least. The rest? Well, I'm getting better. It's a process."
Ione makes a noncommittal noise. "You know you can talk to me and I'll listen. I won't even offer advice if you don't want it. It helps, sometimes, just to talk." Her voice softens, her gaze shifting elsewhere. "It's hard to handle things alone."
There's knowledge in her tone, a darkness of which Malcolm is not aware. He turns toward her, reading the pain in her expression. "That goes double for you. If you want to talk. I'm always here for you, Spitfire."
"I know." Her lips curve in a soft smile, one that he returns. "I'm glad we found you, Malcolm. Life would be pretty colorless without you in it."
"I'm glad you found me, too." His attention returns to the bin and he starts digging through it for the bow string he needs. "And for what it's worth, I am not good. But I'm not bad either. I'm surviving."
"That's all any of us can do," Ione says with an agreeing him. "Want to spar later? Grayson's still sulking, Gale doesn't believe I'm not fragile yet, and Sabriel keeps making me eat dirt."
Malcolm laughs at the bit of a sulk in Ione's tone. "I'll be there," he promises and for now, it's enough.
a/n: I'm getting ready to edit through Nycthemeron and start shipping Break of Day Part II off to my editor so start expecting updates from both of those. I'm also working on more little oneshots set in this universe. If there's a particular character you'd like to see more of, let me know. I'll make sure to focus on them, too.
Feedback, as always, is welcome and appreciated.