The Beautiful Blade

In the darkness a mouse scampered across the dusty floor in search of a meal. As it travelled something caught its eye. A faint glint of reflected light shattered the eternal midnight of the cavern, luring the mouse out from behind the cover of a stalagmite and into the center of the decrepit space. As it approached, its keen eyes could make out a stick of polished steel lying in the dust. Suddenly the mouse rushed back into the depths of the pit as footsteps resonated through the cavern. A young man ducked through the entrance of the cave carrying a torch high above his head. Its flickering light cast ghastly shadows throughout the cave, bringing the dull grays and blacks of the rock out of their hibernation for a moment.
“Come on Jakes!” the intruder called back down the passage behind him as he haughtily strode into the center of the cavern. The mouse in his hiding place heard a clang and followed by a hiss and then a small, shrinking voice came from the adjacent cave.
“What was that M-Mather? Are you al-alright? Did the m-m-monsters eat you?”
“Oh, quit your ceaseless whining Jakes and get in here.” Came an irritated reply. “I just stubbed my toe on an old sword.” The interloper bent down and examined the stick of metal he had just kicked. Under the torch light the sword appeared to be in quite good condition. It had a thin blade sharpened on just one side with a pommel the color of dried blood. As the man reached into the dust and shadows that obscured the hilt of the blade, he felt something hard on the firm leather that was wrapped around the end of the sword. Pulling the sword from the inky blackness of the cave, he paused. Strangling the hilt of the weapon was what appeared to be the remains of a human hand.
The bones were tinged green and looked like they had melted onto the hilt. With disgust the man began to try and remove the desiccated remains but was surprised to find that the bones were completely melded into the leather of the grip.
“W-what is that? W-w-what did that?!” Jakes managed to squeak out of his constricting throat as he slinked into the cavern.
The man slowly turned around to face Jakes. “This” he said slowly, drawing out the word. “Is what I will use to return myself to the glory I deserve. Now will you help me or just keep whining about how cold it is here in the darkness?”
“W-what do you mean M-Mather? We’re bandits, what glory did we have? All I hope for is that I can have one more mug of ale before the filthy creatures in this cave decide that I could make a tasty dinner. How would you find riches in a stinking hole like this?”
“So that is how it is to be.” The man muttered, staring at the flickering of torchlight reflected in the blade. For a second Jakes almost thought he looked regretful, then there was a flash as the sword’s form blurred. The weapon returned to its master’s side and all was deathly still in the cavern for a moment. Then Jakes let out a small groan and crumpled to the earth with a hollow thump. The man regarded him for a moment then turned his gaze back to the blade. He starred at it for a long time there in the light of his torch. Finally, as the last ember died, he turned his gaze from the polished metal. Only the mouse heard when he muttered his vow to the darkness surrounding him.
“I will rise from these ashes, I will! And then none will drag me down again.”
- - - - -
In the mountains of the West a plume of smoke could be seen rising above the trees of the forest. If anyone cared to investigate it’s source this chill morning, they would have found a man standing by a campfire. He was sharpening his sword. His bedroll and pack were beside him, ready for his departure. As to what he was doing in these forsaken parts, his equipment gave no indication. The only town nearby was Hilme, but it was only a stop for traders and publicans.
A few hours after setting out that morning the man arrived at the gates of Hilme. A gruff guard accosted him and demanded to know his business. The man was silent for a time then said, “I am Figaron. I have come to fix your problem.” The guard’s jaw went slack for a moment.
“Not the Figaron? Savior of Grelth, slayer of villains?” he said in disbelief.
With a frustrated sigh Figaron strode past the guard, who made no move to stop him this time. As he walked down the main street of the town, he left a trail of curious faces in his wake. Only three or four visitors ever came to Hilme each year, and this man’s arrival was the most interesting thing to happen to the townspeople in months.
He strode straight up to the inn and through its doors. Approaching the innkeeper, he rummaged through a pouch at his waist. Removing a gold coin and placing it on the counter was all it took to set the innkeeper into a flurry of motion and get a key placed in his hand. Placing another coin on the table he said “Dinner” and a bowl was swiftly set in his other hand. He went to a table in the back, ate, and without another word went up the stairs to his room.
The next day Figaron left the inn. He walked north out of the town and into the trees. His destination, a fort made of hewn black rock, could be seen rising in the distance. As Figaron stepped through the entrance of the mound of charcoal colored stone, there was a grinding noise and the doorway behind him was consumed by a wall of shadows. With a sigh, Figaron pulled a torch from off his back and lit it. The circle of light given off by the torch didn’t illuminate the whole room, but it did reveal a cloaked figure standing there. Not an inch of his skin could be seen except for one withered hand that clutched the hilt of a long thin blade.
“That was very foolish of you sir.” The man in the cloak muttered. “Now my blade must be made to shine. It must be made to glisten in the light you have so recklessly brought into its presence.”
Figaron drew his own sword as the cloaked man suddenly dashed forward in a flurry of cloth and steel. They fought for what seemed to Figaron an eternity. Yet the whole time not an inch of the cloaked man’s skin touched the light except for that horridly withered hand that clung to the sword with a grip like death. Suddenly, the cloaked man lunged with inhuman speed and Figaron let out a gasp as the sword was smoothly sheathed in his thigh. The cloaked man sighed with pleasure as Figaron felt blood begin to pour out of his wound and he slowly sank to the ground. The cloaked man stepped back into Figaron’s fading vision and pulled out his sword.
“You don’t recognize me, do you?” He said. “Maybe this will aid your memory!”
With that he ripped his cloak off revealing that his hand was not the only part of him that was shriveled and deformed. The corruption ran up his arm, through his shoulder and up his neck. What was left of his face wore a hideous grin and his emaciated body began to quake with laughter as he cackled. “Yes, you do recognize me, don’t you? Before you die, I want you to know that you made me.” His voice hissed between cracked lips and bleeding gums as he drew closer. “You failed.” He whispered. Then, with nothing but contempt for the now unconscious man, he slit his throat. Staggering over to the now fallen torch he sat down and starred into the ruby coating that now covered his blade, lost in a world of light that it seemed only the beautiful blade could show him.