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One Easy Step to Saving the World
Dylan had to be going crazy.
There was absolutely no reason why he should be walking by the window of an antique shop, staring at an old sword and trying to figure out how he could re-arrange his funds in order to buy the thing. He was a fry cook at McDonald's for Christ's sake, he didn't have the money to spend four hundred dollars on anything, let alone some three hundred year old sword.
And yet here he was. Standing outside the window of an antique shop, trying to figure out how he could arrange his finances in order to buy some three hundred year old sword. It wasn't even a particularly pretty looking sword, either. The scabbard was plain leather, and looked like a toddler could tear it apart if he had half a mind to. The handle looked as though it had been replaced some time after the scabbard was made, though the hand guard looked worn and beaten. It was a sword that had clearly seen some use, and was never made to sit pretty on someone's mantle.
Which begged the question, how did it get put up for sale in an antique shop? But Dylan couldn't even begin to ponder on that mystery. He was still trying to figure out how to buy the thing. He could probably get away with not paying his water bill, or his gas bill this month. It would put him back for a few months while he tried to pay it back down, but he was caught up enough on payments that they wouldn't cut him off.
Decision made, Dylan stepped into the antique shop. The door chimed as he entered, and a stocky little man peeked up from behind the counter. Dylan smiled politely as he approached.
“Hi! That sword you have displayed in the window? I'd like to buy it.” He sounded sure of himself. Or at least, he hoped he did. He still had some doubts in the back of his mind.
The antique dealer gave him a small look of appraisal, and apparently found him wanting. He sniffed lightly, before adjusting his glasses.
“If you'd like a nice display piece, sir, I'm sure you can find something nicer at the knife shop down the street. That sword is a sixteenth century piece, with a rather robust history, and I'm not sure it's really suitable for what you likely want it for.” Dylan found himself wondering if the antique dealer even attempted to keep the snootiness from his voice. Probably not.
“Sir, you have it listed as four hundred dollars. I have four hundred dollars. I'd like that sword, please.” The rudeness of the dealer steeled Dylan's resolve, and where before he might have been able to be talked out of buying the thing, now he had to do so on principle.
The dealer sighed, and moved from behind the counter. With a slow gait, he moved to the display window, grumbling under his voice the entire way. He brought the sword back, and began to wrap it carefully in tissue paper.
“The scabbard is likely on its last legs. I'd place it at a good fifty or sixty years old. You can oil it and make it last longer.” The dealer spoke in a very business like tone, as if he was reciting information to avoid saying anything else. “This sword was created in CE Fifteen...”
“Uh...can you e-mail it to me?” Dylan was curious, but he'd just gotten off work. He really didn't feel like standing in an antique shop and hearing the entire history of the sword. The dealer gave him a look clearly designed to convey contempt, before sighing.
“Just leave your e-mail address on one of the cards by the register here.”
The sword was boxed, and Dylan handed his check card over. He almost winced as the dealer rung up the four hundred dollar price, but a few minutes later he was leaving the shop with his brand new sword.
He felt rather excited about it, all told. Sure, it would ding his finances, but for some reason, he felt like the sword was just the thing he needed. Needed for what, he couldn't be certain. After all, what use could a fry cook have for a sword? But somehow, it felt right that he had it.
He stepped into his apartment building, and then practically skipped up the two flights of stairs to get to his apartment. With the steadiness of a five year old on Christmas morning, he unlocked his door and bounced into his apartment. Seconds later, the box was open, tissue paper was lying about the floor, and he was pulling his new sword from its scabbard.
It was an old sword. The metal of the blade was well tended, but showed signs of its age. Several brown spots stained the blade, presumably where rust had gotten to it before it could be taken care of. The edge was meticulous, however, as if it was ready and able to be used right that moment. And it felt...strong. Dylan couldn't describe it any better than that. Something about the blade nearly thrummed with power. Almost like it was …
“Thank the Gods you heard my call!”
Dylan nearly dropped the sword in surprise. A voice, deep and powerful, had spoken very nearly inside his head. He looked around, making sure no one else was in the room, and then peered at the sword.
“Was...was that you?” His question was hesitant. He was talking to a sword, after all, and it felt rather dumb.
“Because so many of the other objects you have within your home make a habit of speaking to you.” The sword's tone conveyed more contempt than the antique dealer's had. “Anyway, we haven't much time. There's much to explain to you, Dylan.”
Dylan blinked. So not only was the sword talking, but it knew his name. He tried to remember if he'd dropped any acid at any point in his entire life, and was quite sad when he realized that he hadn't. That actually would have made things a lot easier.
“Ok, how do you know my name? And how are you talking? You're a sword, you're not supposed to talk. You don't even have a mouth.”
“I'm not really talking so much as projecting words into your mind. And that's how I know your name. Look, Dylan, we can discuss the whys and wherefores, but that's not going to get the job done. The important thing is that you answered when I called.” The sword's voice reminded Dylan of James Earl Jones, he decided. Without the Darth Vader rasp. Dylan sighed.
“Alright, I'll bite. Why did you call me, and what's so important?”
“I'll try to make a long story short. I am the sword Gladius Magicus. I was forged long ago by a great wizard. My power boosts the power of whoever wields me. But some time after I was forged, a dark sorcerer killed my master and took me for himself. Great evil spread across the earth before a heroic lad slew the sorcerer and used my power to heal the land.” Dylan arched an eyebrow. Right out of a fantasy story, it seemed.
“Isn't Gladius Magicus Latin for 'magic sword'?”
“Don't interrupt. Throughout the centuries, wars were waged for possession of me. Evil beings, some human, some beyond humanity's wildest imaginings, all fought each other for the right to claim me. Heroes battled bitterly. Lives were lost, tears were shed, nations were destroyed. Until one day, at great risk and cost, a wizard put me to sleep.” Dylan scowled lightly, pondering over this story in his mind for a few moments before speaking.
“...Didn't the antique dealer say you were from, like, the sixteenth century? I mean, I remember high school Latin class saying...”
“What did I say about interrupting? For many years, I lay dormant. Sleeping. None could find me, and none could use my power. Until a month ago. One month ago, I awoke, no doubt from the power of some great sorcerer. I can feel his tendrils searching me out. Should he find me, Dylan, evil will once again spread across the land. This can't be allowed to happen.”
Dylan blinked, the sword's words echoing in his mind. This was something serious. If the sword was to be believed, evil the likes of which only basement-dwelling geeks had ever envisioned could be running through the streets. There could be demons, heads on pikes, even...absurdly spikey-haired scrawny guys carrying swords as big as cars.
“Ok. That sounds serious. So what am I supposed to do?” He adjusted his grip on the sword, setting it down on the couch. He was getting tired of holding it, and the couch seemed as good a place for a talking sword as any.
“You must keep me out of the hands of the sorcerer, Dylan. You alone can stop the evil that would spread across this land.” Dylan's heart leapt into his throat at those words.
“What, am I some kind of...God but this sounds stupid. Some kind of chosen one?” He couldn't believe he'd said it. But there it was. Out in the open.
“Well...no. You're just the only person in the past month who's actually responded to my call. But that's neither here nor there. The important thing is that you are a force of good. I can feel it inside of you. I believe you can stop the evil sorcerer who seeks me. I believe you can keep me from being a tool of evil.”
Dylan began pacing, his mind a flurry of activity. He clasped his hands behind his back, his brow furrowing as it often did when he was deep in thought.
“So, if I'm not some kind of chosen one, exactly what do you expect me to do? I mean, yes, keep you out of the hands of evil sorcerers, but how, exactly? I don't know how to use a sword. I didn't even take fencing in high school. I can't...”
“What are you, stupid?” The swords rebuke came quite suddenly, and quite scathingly. “What part of 'I awaken inner power' did you not comprehend? You have but to wield me, and you will be able to use me.”
“Hey!” Dylan scowled at the sword. “First off, how would you know? You're guessing and hoping. Secondly, would I be able to use you well enough to battle an evil wizard?”
“Sorcerer,” came the sword's haughty sounding reply. “Wizards are something else entirely. If you weren't so busy whining about your appointed task, I'd be telling you these things.”
“Whining?” Dylan's incredulity showed quite clearly in his tone of voice. He stopped pacing, staring harshly at the sword. “I'm whining now? Need I remind you that this is my appointed task only because you decided to appoint me to it. Without doing any research on precisely what a fry cook might be capable of, I might add! Yeah, who's the stupid one now?”
There was silence for a few moments, and Dylan could feel the sigh inside his brain.
“Dylan. There are more important things to concern yourself with right now than your inability to summon the courage and fortitude to deal with this. Suffice to say, it needs be done, and you are the only person in a position to do it. Now, will you kindly cease crying like a small child, find your manhood, and summon the courage to keep me from the hands of evil?”
Dylan stood there, staring daggers at the sword. A little child? Seriously? He was three seconds from finding this supposed evil sorcerer and handing the sword to him giftwrapped. The only thing stopping him was the evil that would apparently spread across the land. Even if he hated the sword, he realized he couldn't let that happen.
And then an idea dawned on him. And he smiled.
“So, let me see if I understand this right.” Dylan heard another sigh echo in his brain, but he pressed on. “The main thing is that I keep you out of the hands of evil. But of course, anywhere you get hidden, some evil magic user is likely to find you. So you need someone to wield you, lest someone evil wields you. Right?”
“Oh, good. I was worried you hadn't been listening.”
Dylan nodded. “Alright. I'll keep you out of evil's hands. Just let me make a phone call...”
* * *
Dylan stepped back, letting Andrew do what Andrew did. The garage was always hot, and right now was no different. The kiln was made to heat pottery, after all. He took another long sip of his beer, watching the fire flare up.
“So, tell me again why I'm melting this sword in my kiln, man?” Andrew asked as he kicked up the fire a bit.
“You're saving the world, and I brought a twelve pack. Want another beer?”
a quest story with an 'edge' - loved it!
I love the last line! That was priceless.
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