A corrupt wizard and a pointy object.
The air in the tent had turned sour. I flicked a rather aggressive fly off of my hand for the third time.
“I don’t feel good about this,” Grant said.
“It will be fine,” I said. I looked up from my spell book and found the prepubescent peasant eyeing the sword.
He then turned his terrified, gaze on me. “But, I’m not supposed to be the king.”
I sighed and shut my book, which caused a thump which in turn caused Grant to jump. “Listen, boy, the tea leafs led me to you.” I stood and clapped him on the shoulder. A shoulder that was more bone than anything else. “And they have never led me astray.”
The boy glanced at the sword again.
I couldn’t blame him for being intimidated by it. The sheathed katana hovered a foot off of the ground in the middle of the tent, with the pointed side down. Even without the blade exposed, there was an unnatural black glow about it that caused most people to look away.
“A sword is just a tool,” I said as I pat the hilt. “It is like any other weapon. It will do as you tell it and nothing more.”
“But what about the rumors?”
“Rumors?” I raised my eyebrows.
“The rumors that if the wrong person tries to wield it that it will slice them to pieces.”
I waved my hand. “The sword has been in my possession for a generation. It has never shown such powers.”
“I heard the last boy who tried died a horrible death.”
I snorted, causing my white beard and mustache to billow out. “Yes, because that fool crept into my workshop, stole the sword and then tried to claim the throne.” I looked down my crooked nose at Grant. “The tea leafs did not lead me to him.”
Grant swallowed, causing the lump in his neck to bob up and down.
He’s on to you.
The sword’s voice echoed in my head, and I shot it a glare before turning back to Grant.
This was going to be more difficult than I had originally thought. Most of the boys that had tried the sword had been thrilled at the prospect of being king. Now this one decided he didn’t feel good about it.
“Take a seat.” I pointed to one of the cushions lying on the ground.
I settled in and gave him a hard stare. “The one thing I haven’t told you is that I’ve traced your lineage back to the last king.”
Grant’s eyes went wide. “But, how?”
“Your mother’s, mother’s, father was the second son of the king. Reportedly he died in the attack, but someone got him out, and he lived his whole life as a peasant.”
“How do you know this?”
I reached into the folds of my robe and withdrew a ring. The blood-red jewel glistened in the faint light, and the black metal glowed in the same way the sword did. I held it out for the boy, and he reached both shaking hands out and took it.
“I found this in your mother’s things. It only took a few spells and talking to the right people to figure it out.”
I never should have told you where the ring was.
Grant’s eyes moved from the jewel back to me. His mouth opened and closed a few times before he finally spoke. “But…but how come she never said anything?”
“Probably to keep you safe. There are many who would still rally under the old king’s banner, and if someone were to raise that banner, the kingdom would fracture.”
“But, then why do you want me to take up the sword now?” Grant asked.
I sat forward. “Because, it is time.”
“Time for what?”
Yes, time for what?
I shot the sword another irritated glare before returning my attention to Grant. “Time for the old kingdom to rise again. Time for ancient magic to return, and time for this land to move forward.”
I’d told this all to Grant before, but now he nodded. “I think I understand.”
“Oh?” I asked.
“Yes.” He shook his head. “I’m sorry.”
“Sorry about wh—”
A stabbing pain ripped through my side and went all the way through me.
I glanced down, mouth agape, and stared.
The sword sat hilt-deep in my ribs.
I opened my mouth and managed two words. “You bastard.”
I told you I would betray you. You should have listened.
Grant’s eyes were wide, but he stood. “I will be king, and your name will go into our history.”
I tried to speak again. Blood was all that came out.
Grant slid the ring onto his finger. Then his hand wrapped around the sword and he pulled it free.
The world went black.