The Right Weapon—Piltover


from The Right Weapon


The Keeper chose a gold-lacquered box to follow the Shuriman weapon. The seam around the lid was pressed so tightly that it could scarcely be seen. It almost looked like a solid block. There was a geared mechanism at the front, with tiny valves and a couple glass bulbs. The Keeper flicked some finely wrought switches in a complicated sequence, and the seal released, with a little puff of blue smoke from one of the valves. Some kind of thaumic environmental control, perhaps.

Inside was a sturdy-looking pistol in polished dark wood and shiny brass. Mauro could see the lines of thaumic energy flowing perfectly along its physical and arcane contours. The craftsmanship was breathtaking. A sword was really quite a simple shape, when you got down to it, and in that regard much easier to harmonize; Mauro was in awe of the patient skill necessary to accomplish such a feat with something like a gun. Every gear, every trigger, every catch and spring and slot…all in perfect mechanical and magical balance with one another.

“Piltover. Surely.”

The Keeper lifted it out of the box and nodded. “Indeed so.” He handed it to Mauro.

“Looks to be…a black powder revolver,” he said, a bit surprised. “I thought the latest thing was pyrikhosian ultravelocity weapons.”

“Yes. But with enchanted weapons, sometimes the old forms are the strongest.” The Keeper smiled, while holding his attention on the gun, and in particular, on where the muzzle was pointed. “The smith who built that gun died a hundred years ago. She never heard the word ultravelocity in her life. Or pyrikhos. Or League. But that gun will hit harder than an ultravelocity anti-armor rifle.”

“It feels just a bit…” Mauro searched for a word. “…loose.”

The Keeper frowned. “Not much for machines?”

“Well, they’re certainly an interest.”

“What about those golems you have on Nyroth? Automata? Quite clever, I hear.”

“Some of them are,” Mauro agreed. “Couldn’t really tell you how they work. It’s all based on the Nyrothian arcane firmament. Valoranian magic doesn’t have the language to describe it. You have geological rather than geometric leylines.”

The Keeper held up his hands, warding off the lecture, as something not completely deadly, but partially so: it would certainly cost him a piece of his life that he’d wish back.

Mauro sighted down the barrel at a blank patch of wall. He felt the thaumic pattern of the weapon extending out into his mind. It was baffling. Intricate. A thousand problems all of which he wished he could solve, but could not. Unfinished school assignments, so to speak, accusingly piled up.

When you pull that trigger, what exactly is going to happen? Do you have any idea? And don’t say “It’ll make a loud bang and put a hole in the wall.”

He remembered Caitlyn. And how she could take her gun apart and put it back together with her eyes closed. How she clearly had done so many, many times. And he began to understand that this was her Wuju, her martial study, ever bit as much as learning to keep her hands from jittering as she took aim, or timing her shots between breaths and heartbeats. Even Vi, for all her swagger and her enthusiastic appreciation for heavy blunt force, had a mind filled with thoughts about techmaturgic ratios and flux balancers and manaspike tolerances.

You’ll pull the trigger. And the firing mechanism will strike the hammer against the charge. Or will it start the rotation of the barrel, then start the hammer? It matters which one happens first, doesn’t it? How long does each action take? And what about the enchantment on that trigger? Death-curse, isn’t it? But it’s carved into brass. Have you considered how that will alter the harmonics? And don’t say that it will add a solar aspect. Don’t be stupid. It’s a subtle little trigger, not a big broad shield; there’s nothing sunlike about it. Have you ever read research on death-curses resonated with a brass medium? No? But you think it would be fun to cast one in a closed room filled with magical artifacts? No wonder Nyrothians are mostly extinct.

So it’s clear you don’t know how this trigger spell works. Perhaps someone can help you with that. But where is this mysterious hex going to end up? In the bullet, surely. You’re not going to kill anyone with the trigger guard, are you? Well. Maybe you are, you ape. But this gun is meant to kill with bullets. So what metal are the bullets jacketed in? Do you know? What’s the metallurgical enchantment cross-formula for that alloy?

And you seem to be assuming that there’s a fire spell worked into the firing mechanism, but have you checked? What else could ignite a kill-hex that’s gone through a brass trigger and into bullets cast in…oh, you didn’t figure that out, either, did you.

What do you think you’re doing, waving this thing about? Maybe you should go find yourself a nice simple sword. Or a club.

Mauro felt a subtle bite on his finger. While his mind was wandering, a charge must have built up between his fingertip and the hexed trigger. It went completely senseless. The death sigil had discharged into his finger. It was the arcane equivalent of shooting himself in the foot, though fortunately with much more temporary results.

He used his other hand to carefully pry his stiff finger from the trigger, and handed the pistol back to the Keeper with newfound respect for the lethal mechanism.

As the Keeper resealed the box, Mauro shook his hand a few times and ran a healing mantra back and forth along his fifth meridian. Feeling soon came back.

“I think I just realized what Piltovians are really thinking when they’re being so polite.”

“Hmm?” the Keeper asked, turning back to him.

“Nevermind.” Mauro paused, and said, rather bitterly, “Do you have anything from Zaun?” He spoke up loud, as though hoping that the Piltovian pistol would hear, and take due offense. “I feel like trying something Zaun-made. I’ve always thought that Zaun takes what Piltover does and just does it better, you know?”

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