Flash: Hck’vitch

Image from Dreamtime (paid for)

Eldritch fire dances along the blade, emerging from the pit it hovered over unsupported and continuing through the opening ceiling of the pavilion the Everdeens built around it to dissipate as sparks among the stars. I shift from one foot to another, studying my classmates between my mop of bangs and curls as well those of our age from the surrounding villages the Greenbies had conscripted for this year’s test.

Each year the invaders and their soldier forced children to grasp the sword. They called it Macheuvee – the Sword of Heroes. According to the legends they have been teaching in the school, their Sword of Heroes would bring a new Age of Champions to the Everdeen Empire, once again allowing them to expand. The Winter Wall Mountains had ended their progress to the West, the Fierce Ocean mocked them to the East, only allowing the Lasuo Islanders safe passage. They traveled so far north they were going south again, but the ManClaimer Ice Shield did not provide passage for armies. Nothing to forage. The South was blocked by a long narrow peninsula passing between Fierce Ocean and Widowmaker Waters; only a day’s march wide but nearly a year’s march long, conquering even a mile of that constricted land mass is a nightmare of unforgiving plants and animals, leaving the gems of the Paradisa Republics beyond the Greenbies greedy reach. Rare merchant’s ply the waters close to land, running trade goods between the Empire and the Republics, constantly wetting their appetite for the treasures beyond their reach.

But that sword, the one before us, was not their Macheuvee, if that forlorn fantasy even exists. No, it is Hck’vitch, The Gods Unreasoning. No one here would ever willingly grasp it. At least none of the locals. It was forbidden to the hands of Men.

The Greenbies discovered adults grasping it always died.

Hck’vitch did not abide people touching it.

I knew how it felt.

Unfortunately, they also discovered the fire was slightly more forgiving with children; youths grasping it mostly faced blisters, though sometimes the flames claimed fingers. But since they didn’t die, the Lords sent by the Emperor figured some poor boy could pull the sword out of its mystical confinement, then they could give it to a true hero. And rather than damage their own children, they sourced the task to the locals.

The soldiers push Marv forward first. I heard the mutter, words the soldiers hated, our native language, but for this they let us have the comfort. Marv prayed the gods would forgive him his affront. The prayer ends in screams as he pulls back his hand covered in blisters and peeling skin. Afric is next. Lever. Masur. A villager, Zef, who pretended to be dumb when the Greenbies came collecting students for their school, proving himself smarter than most.

He loses most of his little finger and all the middle. The flesh bound to the leather, cooked, when he yanks his hand away. The flame turns it black, glowing cracks like coals, until the flesh falls off. The younger among us cry and try to run, but pikes block all exits.

The soldiers, officers, nobles, and judges would keep this up until the hysterical children feared the blade more than the pikes. Usually the first death did it, sometimes it takes two.

The nobles start with the tallest and work down, trying to find a worthy wielder for their Sword of Heroes, assuming the gods want muscles, not passion. Until this past year, I have always been on the small size for my age. Still am. But now my age is enough to make me large enough to be close to Hck’vitch, even if I am the shortest of the oldest students. I might make it before the thirteen-year-olds panic.

I’m two away when I start speaking to the gods.

But I don’t pray.

I demand.

These petty conquerors, pretend statesmen, greedy children have lived among the True too long. It is time they understand why our gods are unnamable and their whimsies and rulings deranged.

Hck’vitch would not claim another child’s life this day.

Beybey holds his arm to his body when he pulls it back, he is sobbing but he gave no screams when he gripped the sword. I cannot tell how much damage he took as he walks to join those who never have to return to this hell, the only kindness these interlopers give us is we do not have to experience the insult to Hck’vitch more than once.

Around me, the other boys eyes are more white than color, and their skin a plaster lighter than the marble façade the Greenbies built around the Hck’vitch’s Prison.

The soldiers push me forward.


For I am more than ready to end this. I say in the language I learned on my mother’s knee before the invaders tried to change who I was with their laws and their school. “Hck’vitch harm me, I care not. But I claim you as you claim me. You say you will not be wielded by Men. Then I shall no longer walk as a Man.”

I thrust my hand through the fire, the hairs on my arm burning away in whisps. I twist my hand over, like I was drawing Hck’vitch from a sheathe, for I am. A sheathe of fire, the prison the True’s unnamed gods put the Unreasoning into.

I hear it cackle and crackle as it is freed; it’s only desire to be sheathed again in warm blood.

The soldiers who touched me died first.

(words 930; first published 11/24/2023)