“The Swordsman of Tanosa” is a short story set in the Middle Sea world of Duncan M. Hamilton, which has also been the setting for his Society of the Sword Trilogy and the standalone novel The First Blade of Ostia. And while I was totally unfamiliar with the author or his world before this story, I fully intend to pick up one of the Middle Sea novels in the near future.
The story itself centers on one Bafion: a swordsman who has seen his better days. The way he carries himself, his tattered clothes, his skill with a blade, and his courtly manners all suggest to his underworld employers that he once was much more than a sword-for-hire. But no one can say for sure, because Bafion will not speak of his past. It is a subject strictly off-limits. Any attempt to pry into it sure to result in blood being drawn.
But now Bafion is going to be called upon to face that mysterious past. For you see, a boss of the underworld has a job. A rather lucrative opportunity that he has offered to the swordsman. If Bafion fulfills said contract, he will finally have enough money to start a new life for himself. But in order to do so, he will have to go back to the place and the people he once left behind.
Call me a sucker for Three Musketeer-like swashbuckling but I really, really liked this story. It had a mystery, a down-on-his-luck and past-his-prime main character, and people dueling with rapiers. How can anyone not adore that type of fantasy? My only complaint was it was too short.