The Drow Longsword


∴ A Nebulous Magic ∴

You choke back a cry as the pointed toe of your boot catches a piece of benighted debris, almost sending you to the ground. You don’t know why, but it seems wrong to curse here. Wrong to make any noise at all.

You’ll just have to let your eyes attune. You know the dangers of foraging on a moonless night, but when else would the ingredients you seek be so potent? And so you take it one step at a time, squinting at the faint lines of the path, willing them sharper.

In rebellion your eyes play tricks: a crumbled pillar looks for a moment like a looming figure. The swarming shadows at the corners of your vision send a shiver beneath your cloak, though you know that they’re not there.

Suddenly, a light appears before you – and this, you know, is real. A glowing orb of unnerving blood red, seemingly hovering some feet off the ground. Within its dull red glow, swirls twist and shift organically, like tendrils of mist in a crystal ball. You move toward the visage like a moth to a flame, knowing the danger even as you do so.

You see the figure then. Tall and angular, impassive and imperious in stance, skin somehow cold-hued even in the orb’s rosy light. You realise, then, that the sphere is not suspended in mid-air, but gracing the top of the dark elf’s staff. Beneath its glow you can make out a haft of twisted steel wire meeting dark-dyed leather.

A fellow mage, then. You sigh in slight relief, tracing the sign of your order in the air. The silvery marks are quickly subsumed by the moonless dark. The mage’s face does not move, but her pale hands do, quickly sweeping the staff up and outward into a combative stance.

It is then that you realise your second mistake: the beautiful blood-red orb was no jewel adorning a mage’s rod, but the pommel of a sword. A sword that’s now pointing directly at you.

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The Hessian Longsword

∴ A Listless Repose ∴

The trees whisper with raindrops, deluging the dark earth: that rich, reeking blackness that floods your senses as if you were already buried in it.

Water collects in the hem of your hood and trickles cold into your eyes. You stop for a second to rub at them, then hurry on. You do not know these woods well enough to travel them by night, but you have a feeling you will find your destination one way or another.

The clearing is still when you come to it. Even the raindrops, by now almost a comfort, seem muffled and muted. The tree is there at the centre, just as you dreamed it, like a body contorted in agony atop a mass of twisted roots.

And there, as you expected in your gut, is the sword. Its sinuous, writhing blade is half-plunged into the black soil, and from a distance it could be a simple grave marker, shaped like a cross. But you know better.

You know the leathern scales of the sword’s black grip, the talons that tease at its crossguard. You know the open maw of the serpent pommel, all fangs and brazen tongue. You know how it feels as it slices the air, unerringly meeting its mark.

As your palm brushes against the serpent’s head, a new sound fills the forest: a distant drumbeat, not of raindrops, but hooves.

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