The Right Weapon—Icathia


from The Right Weapon


The Keeper put the Zaunite gun aside, and turned to the wall. He traced a pattern against the stone, then pushed his palm into it. The outline of a panel appeared, and a circle of stone sank in and fell down to reveal an interior vault of null-magic metal.

“Now, I don’t show this to just anyone. But someone with the favor of Le Blanc, well.”

The Keeper opened the internal vault. Resting inside was a ceremonial dagger of most peculiar shape. The asymmetric blade forked and curved into flamelike points and wicked hooks. The hue of the metal ran from black to gold to silver to purple.

“You aren’t telling me that’s a practical weapon,” Mauro said. His voice came out distracted, because there was something tingling at the edges of his perception. Like a soft voice that began whispering only when he spoke. He found himself instinctively quieting his own voice so that he could hear the whispers. But they were just a little too faint.

The Keeper gestured invitingly toward the dagger, and took a step back.

Mauro reached into the vault and took the dagger by the handle.

Such a strange shape. But seeing it from the dagger’s point of view, or points of view, he began to see the sense of it. It could hook. It could slash. It could thrust. It could wind its way around any parry and find blood.

It whispered fantasies of power and cunning. Victory, not through brute strength, but through transcendent understanding. A swordsman fighting in three dimensions could not hope to win.

And the blade. The mixed colors had seemed almost…tacky. But now the colors began to flow, as though the metal were molten. It was beautiful. Purple of Icathian crystal. Silver of null-magic alloy, coexisting beautifully with arcane metal in a way that only Icathian enchanters were clever or crazed enough to devise. Lustrous Shuriman gold. The red of his blood, flowing bright and sweet along the edge of the blade. The smoky black of obsidian, a rivulet of darkness which drew his blood in, turning it from ruby to amethyst as it ran its twisting course.

His wings spread, and so did his vision. He did not lose sight of the room. But it was though the dagger was a window. When he turned it one way, he saw another reality, dotted with eager yellow eyes.

He could almost make out the whispers. He touched a finger to his cheek and traced out what they said in the script of the voices’ own language, which he could not comprehend. He whispered with them in this alien tongue, and as he sank deeper into the sound, he heard his voice echoing, splintering into strands of Valoranian and Nyrothian speech. Faint, but present. He could understand them. And they were trying to tell him something. Something so very important. He had to know. If he could only hear them a little better—

“Steady now.”

The Keeper took hold of him, one hand clapping his shoulder, the other thunking onto his wrist.

Mauro broke out of his trance. “What?”

The Keeper slowly but firmly worked the dagger out of his white-knuckled grip.

“You got along with that one just a little bit too well. Heh.”

As the Keeper wiped the blade off on a scrap of silk and replaced it inside the vault, Mauro began to regain sensation. He felt a stab of pain from his forearm, and looked down to see a jagged cut weeping drops of blood.

He took a breath and channeled a healing spell. But the sparkling viridian light turned black as it reached the cut and dissolved into nothing.

The Keeper tossed him a clean rag, which Mauro wrapped around the strange wound. “Your magic won’t be much good for healing that for a while.” He frowned at Mauro’ cheek, then took another rag from the pile, wetted it with a splash of some astringent spirit he kept in a flask at his hip, and rubbed something off his face. “There we go.”

Mauro looked around the vault. He had the strange feeling that this was a dream from which he would soon wake. It just didn’t seem like it could be real.

And so he felt rather less trepidation than he otherwise might have when the Keeper took him by the shoulder and guided him over to another vault.

“If you’re thinking extradimensional, well…you know, there’s another option. A bit more austere. Heh heh.”

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