from The Right Weapon
They left the shop and entered the vault.
The Keeper turned to a broadsword hanging on the wall behind him, coughed as though to clear the last of that jocularity, and then carefully took the scabbard off the rack and unsheathed the brilliant silver blade.
Mauro looked at the Demacian sword and knew, with almost transcendent certainty, that it could slash him in half without slowing down.
The Keeper looked it over. And he seemed to frown. “I’ll never keep a roof over my head if I let myself talk customers out of sales, but…” He looked into Mauro’ eagerly widened eyes and frowned all the more deeply. “Magical weapons are tricky things, you know.”
“Well, I like to think I know something about magic.”
“Yes. You do. And that’s the problem. So do these weapons.”
Mauro raised an eyebrow. “I don’t—”
“Here.” The Keeper turned the blade around and presented the hilt to Mauro.
Mauro reached out. And his hand paused just over the hilt.
The Keeper spoke right at that pause. He gave voice to the question working its way through the back of Mauro’ mind. “What’s your cause? What matters more than your life?”
Mauro slowly curled his fingers around the hilt. His arm tingled into numbness. I am not yours to wield, ye who seek to kill to escape death. Strength drained from his flesh as though the words had sliced his skin open and let his blood ebb out. He felt that if the Keeper weren’t supporting the weapon by the flat of its blade, he’d drop it. I will not kill for one who is not prepared to die.
“Peace for Valoran, and Nyroth,” he said, quite respectably. He did want these things. And he thought of himself as fighting on the side of good. But the words were hollow, and he knew it. Not solid, like the enchanted steel of this weapon.
When he met the Keeper’s eyes, he saw disdain. The disdain you might show a person who’d just insulted your intelligence with a particularly pathetic lie.
He still couldn’t seem to get a good grip. The hilt seemed the wrong size.
The Keeper shook his head and took the sword back. He pointed to an inscription on the hilt. “You’re the Summoner. You read those for me.”
Mauro looked at the characters. They were etched in an archaic Demacian script. Mauro doubted most Summoners could read it, but he’d always had a mind for languages.
A flat baseline, with two thick jagged lines coming down into it perpendicularly. Strike.
A circle within a circle. In-the-light-of. A cumbersome construction in most languages, a very common one in Demacian literature.
A wavy baseline, with rays projecting up at solar angles. The sky. Well, no. The common symbol for sky was a wavy baseline with an ellipse above. This was more poetic. The heavens.
The symbol for a person, beside the symbol of a shield. Warrior. With a hook indicating the sense of something “for” this warrior.
Three wavy lines, then a thick straight line. To die. Then a conjunctive particle: a pair of matching straight lines, then a straight line on one side and a slanted line on the other. Yes but no; something is true, but something one might expect to therefore also be true is in fact not.
A circle, the first half intact, the second half struck through with a jagged line. Defeated.
He summoned up the linguistic logic of Demacia in his mind, and the ideograms came together.
“Struck in the light of the heavens, for a warrior dead but not defeated.”
He paused, and tried to make sense of it. A memorial inscription honoring the previous bearer?
“Did it belong to someone who died?”
The Keeper sheathed the sword. He said nothing until it was locked in place once more. Then, speaking as though someone had just gone out of earshot, he said, “Well, that’s how a sane person would read it. But read it like a Demacian.”
He considered Mauro, and seemed to search for signs of understanding. Mauro was honestly a bit confused.
The Keeper explained, somewhat reluctantly. “Anyone who wields this blade is dead. Every Demacian soldier thinks of themself as dead. The sword’s just promising them that they won’t be defeated.” He paused, awkwardly. “It’s a bunch of Well-Measured Tread stuff. Don’t ask me. I’m not a philosopher. But as a businessman, I know Le Blanc wouldn’t be happy if I sold you a sword that sliced a few of your fingers off during practice one day. And that sword, Summoner? That sword would take some of your fingers off, just to stop you wielding it again.”
The Keeper put the broadsword back on the rack.
“Well, let’s try something else,” Mauro suggested, trying to change subjects from so I just got rejected by a sword. “I’m not sure how Le Blanc would feel about paying for a Demacian sword, anyway.”
“Now that’s also a fair point,” the Keeper agreed, politely. “And that leads me to the next candidate.”