Chosen (short fiction)

Wren & Hess

 

Wren got the kid.

He was young, fresh off the farm. He hadn’t been in the city long. She could always tell because the grime hadn’t caked its way under his nails yet. It didn’t take long for that to happen. Maybe a couple of weeks if you lived in the city proper and not the Hills or Reaches.

He sat in the interrogation room with her. His hands and clean fingernails fidgeted, and he couldn’t look at her.

She unbuckled her cape and set it on the table between them. He glanced up at the sharp click of the clasps being undone, perhaps thinking her preparing some manner of torture device to secure his confession.

That was the old way. The Tower didn’t sanction such methods anymore, but Wren wouldn’t have used them if they had been. Torture and torment was a way of securing confession if you didn’t give a damn about guilt or innocence. She did. And the kid was clearly guilty, had been the moment they’d picked him up and brought him in.

“How old are you, kid?” she asked.

He glanced at the wall. “Sixteen years.”

“Uh huh,” she said. “And I’m told you attempted to assault a necromancer.”

The kid mumbled nothing in particular.

“Do you want to tell me why?” she asked.

“He was a necromancer,” replied the kid. “He traffics in dark, forbidden magics.”

“He had a license.”

The kid frowned. “You allow things like that here?”

“But most necromancers aren’t doing anything more dangerous than reanimated beloved pets, so we have more important problems to deal with. Like kids who come to town and attack our law-abiding citizens.”

The kid’s disgust faded, replaced by a nervous fear. He lowered his head and shielded his face with his hands. “It was the sword’s idea.”

 

Hess got the sword.

It lay on the table. It wasn’t much of an enchanted sword, aside from a few runes scratched into the blade, it would’ve been indistinguishable from a weapon cranked out by a competent, if unexceptional, blacksmith.

Hess disliked magic weapons, a corruption of honest steel.

“So one more time,” he said. “Why did you tell the kid to attack the necromancer?”

“Necromancers are evil,” said the sword, her runes flashing as she spoke. “It is my duty to slay all evildoers.”

“Did you see this necromancer doing evil?” asked Hess.

“I could smell the stink of death magic on him,” said the sword.

“I’m sure.” Hess reflexively flicked his tongue. He could smell most necromancers from across a room, mildew, rot, and fresh dirt. It put him in mind of the caves he’d been hatched in. As such, it inspired a complicated mix of emotions.

“Why the kid?” asked Hess.

“Because he’s been chosen for a grand destiny.”

“Chosen by whom?”

The sword hesitated. Its runes glittered as it thought about it.

“By the gods, of course.”

 

“You’re not the first,” said Wren.

The kid looked up. “What?”

“You’re not the first kid off the farm to wander into the city with grand aspirations of heroism and glory,” she said. “The slums are filled with them.”

“You’re wrong.”

He tried to sound defiant, but there was a waver in his voice.

“Do you think you’re the first kid to find a sword or spear or helmet or talking raven that offered promises of greatness? We see a dozen like you in a slow year.”

“But the sword said–”

Wren resisted the urge to reach across the table and slap some sense into him. It never worked.

“The sword lied,” she replied. “The sword always lies.”

 

“I was forged in the fires of Mount Hell by the famed magesmiths of an ancient  and forgotten order,” said the sword as Hess turned it over, checking for a maker’s brand.

There wasn’t one, and it wasn’t surprising. Enchanted weapons of true power always bore an insignia of their maker, a point of pride and a requirement for any magic worth the effort. This sword was most likely the product of an assembly line of smithys and low-grade enchanters, churned out by the hundreds. Talking blades, singing halberds, and glowing warhammers most often sold as novelties to those who might find amusement in such things.

“Where’d he find you?” asked Hess.

“His attic,” replied the sword. “How I got there is quite a tale of legend, I can assure you. So amazing and improbable, you wouldn’t believe the tale.”

Hess studied the straightness of the blade, gave the weapon a few practice swings. It wasn’t bad quality. A little better than the one he normally carried in fact.

“Are you going to tell me where you really came from?”

“If you insist. At the dawn of time, the gods fought a great war among themselves–”

He sheathed the sword in its scabbard, and it went quiet.

He joined Wren in the hall, where they were leading the kid away.

“Managed to keep him out of the dungeons,” she said. “The necromancer isn’t pressing charges. I’m having the guard escort him to the gates. Told him to go home, marry, have too many children, and be more skeptical in the future.”

The kid walked with a defeated slump and a low head. He’d dared dream of glory, and it was easy to see how the sword had conned him. That sort of wishful ambition would make him easy prey to the worst the city had to offer.

“Think he’ll take the advice?” asked Hess.

“Who knows?” She nodded toward the sword in his hand. “Are you going to take that to the armory?”

“Thinking about keeping it.” He unsheathed it and tested its weight.

“Great news, my friend,” said the weapon. “You’ve been chosen by the gods to–”

He thrust it back in its scabbard and shrugged.

“It’s a good sword.”

“Whatever you say, Chosen One.”

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2 Comments

  1. Nathan (Wilson)
    Posted September 2, 2017 at 12:24 am | Permalink

    I love this. It goes back to what first made me love Wren and Hess, the parody or satire of fantasy tropes, and deconstructing them. I like seeing Hess on his own a little more too. Before this, Hess seemed kind of faceless, and I only felt like I met Wren. But I feel like I’m meeting Hess now too.

  2. Zachary
    Posted September 4, 2017 at 12:33 am | Permalink

    Absolutely wonderful!

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