me, damn you!” the angry scream echoed out from behind me. I sighed, coming to astop, my hands resting at my sides. I was cold, wet, and tired, and I wanted nothing more than todrop off at the nearest inn and to get some rest for the night, but it was not to be.In fact, I was farther away from any inn than my mind wanted me to be. I was not in factresting, but being challenged by a peculiar highwayman dressed in black, looking very bat-like inthe darkness, topped off by a severely, and ridiculously, pointed hat. “What will come of this?” Isighed as I drew my sword to answer the man’s challenge. I would only disarm him and be on myway.The young man danced around in his ridiculous costume, greed making his eyes gleam ashe watched me turn to face him. He chuckled to himself and then lunged forward with a rather loud, “Hiya!” and a very badly-executed lunge which I didn’t even bother to parry. A step to theside sufficed in throwing him into the mud as the rain fell down around us.“So how ‘bout it,” I asked him. “Let’s see that challenge of yours. Show me what you’ve got.Stop mucking about in the mud.” He sat up with a glare, trying to shove the hat off of his face. Hegave up and let it hang there in front of him and got to his feet.With a snarl, he attacked again. Blocking a widely-thrown punch with the hilt of my sword, Idropped my weapon in time to grab up his other fist that had followed the first. Putting my weighton his crossed wrists, I yanked them down near my hip and threw the lighter man neatly over myshoulder. He landed in a clump of bushes.As he untangled himself, I plucked my sword up from the mud, wiped it off as best as Icould with my mud-covered clothes, and set off down the road, leading my horse beside me. Therain began to fall in earnest now, and I began to think of home – before I had to leave.Things were easy then – I was apprenticed to the blacksmith of the town and my job wassteady and I learned a lot. The blacksmith had told me that I was to the point where I wouldn’t beable to learn anything else from him any longer. He told me that I could put an edge on a bladethat no man could, hone a sword so sharp it would cut through anything, and weld a horseshoeonto a horse faster than any man alive. He was proud of me – and he was like a father to me.Then, there was his daughter, the pretty girl that I fell in love with.Serafina was the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met, and she had the sweetest soul in theworld.