Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Buri’s Retirement Home for Ageing Warriors

Far away, there is a place where magic lives. Where it governs the lives and destinies of every living thing. Controlled by masters of the great magic realms, the world is observed, and watched over by ancient practitioners from the Djinn, the Sorcerers, and the Goluems…
Most mysterious of the Magic Tribes, however, are the Wishcharmers. Untrusted by all, it is unclear whether this shadowy group stands ready to save the world, or destroy it…

The Wishcharmer Saga

Buri’s Retirement Home for Ageing Warriors

Birds chirped from somewhere above. There was a buzzing, but it wasn’t clear where it was coming from. As Rajhu’s eyes slowly fluttered open, bright light suffused his vision. He tried to move, but thought better of it when pain the likes of which he had never known, spiked through his body. Groaning, he resigned himself to shifting slightly instead.
What had happened? Why was he so broken down? And why was everything moving past him, if he was lying still? The world rattled, and he rolled over, looking ahead of himself. As he did, the unwelcome sight of a horses backside came into view.
He clicked his tongue. ‘This is what I wake up to, now?’
Beside him, Rajhu could hear Will stirring. He rolled again, taking a look at his young friend, who lay beside him, bandages wrapping his shoulder and left arm.
You two boys are mighty lucky to be alive, you know…’
A hand settled on his shoulder and Raj saw a man walking beside the cart. He had a thick frame, and though he was an elder, his aged body was still chorded with muscle. Grey eyes observed Rajhu from a weather-lined face. The man scratched at a brushing of white stubble on his strong chin and smiled. ‘But perhaps… it’s less luck than I thought…’
Raj knit his brow together, struggling up into a seated position. ‘Who are you, uncle?’
Me?’ the man laughed. ‘I’m Buri.’
Rajhu started, giving the man a second look. He was old. Perhaps in his seventieth year. Though age was relative, Rajhu wasn’t able to reconcile the age of this man with his name.
B- Buri?’ He questioned. Not taking his eyes off the man, Rajhu groped around with his free hand, slapping at Will. He heard his friend wince, cursing lightly under his breath.
Raj… I swear, I’m going to gut you! I-’ Will scrambled up, pulling his fist back as he struck out for Rajhu.
Will, look, it’s Buri!’ Rajhu barked.
Will faltered, stumbling onto Rajhu as he stared at the old man walking beside the creaking cart.
B-Buri?’ Will stuttered.
Rajhu tilted his head. ‘That’s what I said…’
Will crawled over Rajhu, sending a knee into his stomach. Raj groaned, pushing Will forward, almost sending him tumbling out of the cart.
Buri, like… I mean, as in Fredrik Dorzen Buri?’
The old man smiled, giving Will the smallest nod. ‘Yes. Though… I haven’t heard my whole name since I was in swaddling.’
Will laughed, throwing a hand back and slapping Rajhu in the chest.
Raj, it’s Buri! You know, the greatest swordsman to ever have lived? He’s that Buri!’
Rajhu wheezed as he repositioned himself. ‘I thought you’d be pleased…’
The old man raised an eyebrow. ‘You’re not a swordsman, are you my boy?’
Who, me?’ Will laughed. ‘Ah, no… I don’t know. I wouldn’t call myself a swordsman. I dabble…’
Dabble…’ The man smirked. ‘Son, we all dabble. It’s a hell of a lot easier to say that, than to announce to the whole world your craft. If you only dabble, well… You don’t get into as much trouble, do you?’
You would be surprised at how much trouble he gets into, sir Buri…’ Rajhu insisted.
Will gave him a look, and Rajhu rolled his eyes. It was to be like this, he supposed. Will had talked of this Buri many times over the years. As he’d said, it was widely accepted that he was the greatest swordsman to ever have lived. A claim that had caused the man countless battles, and countless riches as he was sought by kingdoms, to fight in their wars, and tournaments. That didn’t even begin to delve into the kind of gold the man made in training…
Will cleared his throat. ‘What are you doing in these parts? I mean, the last anyone heard of you… It was thirty years ago, and you were near the sea of Constantine. Most everyone thinks you’re dead, sir…’
Oh, please…’ the man scoffed. ‘Me? Sir? No, no… That won’t do at all. My name’s Buri. It was given to me for a reason. People might as well call me by it.’
Will giggled. Rajhu glared at the boy, which seemed to do no more than cause him to repeat the action.
What are you doing, Will?’
I’m sorry, Raj. But I mean, the greatest swordsman who ever lived or fought just asked me to call him by his name.’
Don’t mind the boy, sir Buri. He’s a little dazzled by you.’
Hmm, so it seems…’
My name is Rajhu… The giggling boy is Will. We’re simple travellers… Down on our luck.’
Buri nodded. ‘Now that I can understand. But never fear. All travellers are welcome here. And any boy who dabbles in swordsmanship is a friend of mine…’
Will’s smile grew past what Rajhu thought was physically proper, and again, he giggled.
Rajhu sighed, letting his eyes droop. He supposed such was the way of young people. They were easily influenced by the sight of their heroes. Even Rajhu had to admit some excitement at being in the presence of a legend. There was a thing called decorum, however. He didn’t see why Will was incapable of exercising a little of it at the moment.
You boys have a reason for being this far up the mountainside?’ Buri asked, a knowing twinkle gleaming through his glance.
Yeah. Raj… How did we get up here? The last thing I remember is that Djinn coming at me…’
Rajhu waved Wills comment aside with a flippant gesture as he smiled at Buri. It took a good deal of his remaining energy to conjure up the expression. Even so, he was confident it held little substance. ‘It turned out it was a Magi, honestly. No big thing, I assure you.’
Uhuh…’ the old man nodded, the twinkle returning to his eyes. ‘And yet, I found the two of you at the base of a crater. If I were a younger man, susceptible to fantastic ideas, I’d have bet you fell from the sky, crushing that gouge into the stone.’ He paused, raising a hand in a placating gesture. ‘Ah… If I where a younger man, you understand…’
Rajhu held his smile, letting his head bobble side to side. ‘Sir Buri. We… don’t want any trouble. It… simply has a way of finding us.’
Say no more, Rajhu… I may be on in years, but I can still figure out a thing or two on my own. Don’t take this the wrong way, but… I think I have you all figured out.’
The cart began to slow as it crested a rise on the winding stone path. As it clamoured over the last peak, a wide meadow opened up before them. Rajhu could see birds in flight as they darted from one tree to the next. Forest teemed at the edge of the meadow, with soaring evergreens, and wide poplars. Short grass lay underfoot like a rich carpet laid by the creator of the universe. Across the way, sitting just in front of the beginning of the forest, stood a large log home of four stories. It was an elegant affair, but rooted in the work of a mans hands, making it retain a humility not afforded to the mansions of the great cities.
Sir Buri… What is this place?’
This? This is my home, Rajhu. Welcome to Buri’s Retirement Home for Ageing Warriors…’
Buri stepped forward, slipping his hand into the halter of the horse, leading it gently across the meadow, toward the building. Rajhu stood up in the cart, steadying himself against the uneven ride. He shifted his feet, and looked over the horse at the approaching building. There was a small porch covered by an overhanging. There were chairs set out, and even from where he was, Rajhu could see a pair of elders seated on the porch, talking. They turned, waving to Buri as the cart came to a stop just short of the porch.
A couple of new arrivals, Buri? Look a little young to my eyes,’ a wrinkled man with a skiff of white hair atop his head said, laughing.
I don’t think they’re here to stay, Xur. I found them in a crater down on the lower slopes.
Xur?’ Will laughed. ‘Xur Keffet? The man who took two thousand men against an army of ten thousand, and didn’t lose a single man?’
Xur laughed, running a hand over the little hair he had left. ‘It was a long time ago, my boy. No need to dwell on it…’
No need?’ Will scoffed. ‘Sir, you’re a legend!’
We’re all legends here, Will.’ Buri smiled, walking up onto the porch and leading Rajhu and Will inside. ‘Of course, at this point in our lives, we just want to be left alone. Maybe have a game or two now and then.’
As Will and Rajhu entered the building, they saw dozens of people, ranging in age, wandering about a wide room. There was a bar to one side, and smoke hung heavily in the air. The acidic smell of it mixed with alcohol and drifted to Rajhu, its sharpness stopping him in his tracks.
You all live here?’ he asked.
Buri nodded. ‘There’s a passel of rooms upstairs, and a couple more buildings this size, just back a ways, into the trees.’
Why?’ Will wondered. ‘I mean, you could go anywhere, do anything!’
When you’re my age, my boy, you don’t want to. No, what we have here, is perfect. We have our freedom, and our lives. That is more than any warrior dares hope for.’
But the mountains?’ Will protested. ‘I mean, you people deserve better…’
We deserve whatever we build for ourselves, Will. With our own hands… No one owes us anything, and we claim no privilege, save the right to be left alone and to live as we please.’
Buri led the two to an open lounging area. There were dozens of soft chairs laid out, with short bookshelves sitting beside them. About half of these chairs were occupied by people. Rajhu recognised a few of them, though they looked much older than any portrait he had ever seen of them.
They passed a woman who must have been in her late years, past eighty, Rajhu would have guessed. Her hair was snow white, bushy, short, and curled tightly. She fingered a diamond pendant around her neck. The jewel was as clear as water, save a small ruby coloured stone at its centre.
Is… Is that Madame Resolux?’ he asked, stepping to Buri’s side and leaning toward him conspiratorially.
Buri laughed. ‘Yes… Although, don’t… don’t mention that business with the Djinn war in the north…’
You mean when she battled with four giants? How she bested them, and managed to steal a horde of treasure they had kept in their mountain cave?’
Buri nodded, leading them to three empty seats that faced a large window. It looked out the back of the building, a trail snaking across its view, then slipping into the extensive forest as it climbed up the side of the mountain.
Sit, please…’ he smiled, sinking into one of the ample chairs. ‘You know, I was amazed when I came upon you, Rajhu. Such a thing, I haven’t seen in many, many years. Do you mind telling me how you survived such an impact?’
Me?’ Rajhu questioned, stiffening. He had no idea what to say. He was wary of telling anyone what had happened to him, considering the reactions he had received from friend and foe alike. This Wishcharmer business was far beyond him, and the longer he remained in this state, the more he feared he was becoming some kind of monster.
Rajhu shrugged, smiling candidly. ‘You never know what the Divinity has in store for you, correct? I suppose, it was luck…’
Buri laughed resting the side of his head on his hand, and considering Raj. ‘That’s quite a thing to say, isn't it?’
What do you mean?’ Will asked, sitting in the seat closest to Buri. Raj continued to stand. He felt himself growing more and more anxious. With this man’s questioning, he wasn’t sure if it would be a good idea to stay here very long.
Well, your friend here invokes the Divinity as cause for his survival, and in the same breath, credits luck as the reason he stands alive, after crashing into the side of a mountain…’
I wouldn’t say I crashed,’ Rajhu laughed. ‘Such things… They are impossible, no?’
Buri smirked. ‘No, Rajhu. You don’t get to fool me. You see, I witnessed your arrival on my mountain. I saw with my own eyes as you slammed through the stone flesh… You are a wonder the world has not seen in quite some time.’ He laughed, leaning back in his chair, letting his hands fall onto the armrests. ‘Yes, I haven’t seen strength like that since… since…’ He looked past Rajhu, his eyes unfocused.
Since what, Buri?’ Will asked.
Buri took a deep breath, his smile returning. ‘Wishcharmer… You’re a Wishcharmer, aren't you?’
I… We’re just travellers, Buri…’ Rajhu stuttered.
Wishcharmer?’ Will asked, furrowing his brow.
Buri nodded. ‘Yes, it couldn’t be anything else, could it?’
No!’ Rajhu snapped. ‘I’m not a monster!’
Rajhu, Wishcharmers aren’t monsters…’ Buri attested. ‘They’re powerful… feared. But there are very few things in this world that are inherently evil. Wishcharmers, are not one of them. Although I’ll admit, I haven’t seen a new Wishcharmer since the great purge in the east…’
What are you talking about?’ Will scoffed. ‘I’ve never heard of any Wishcharmers before…’
There are more of them?’ Rajhu asked.
Oh, a few… Not many. Perhaps… twelve, not counting you. The purges took the lives of most of them. You see, Wishcharmers are one of the great Universal Powers. The unfortunate thing is, the other three fear them, as if they were a plague. The only Wishcharmer I’ve seen in over fifty years would be… Rua. Rua Fíoch. He’s the only survivor of the last purge. Of course, that wasn’t many years ago. I believe, if I remember correctly, the Djinn eradicated his tribe. Slaughtered them to the last man. But the last man escaped. Rua’s not been the same since. I’ve tried to tell him, show him the writings. There are a few more Wishcharmers out there. A few left alive… But he was destroyed by the purge. His spirit was crushed.’ Buri smiled sadly. ‘Rua used to be such a happy boy…’
Rajhu shook his head. This was all too much to process. He couldn’t take all of this in, not at once, not like this…
What if I… don’t want to be a Wishcharmer?’
There’s little that can be done about that, Rajhu. You can run from your fear… but you can’t run from yourself. Where ever you run, you will be there. But, as you said… the Divinity has plans, correct?’ He stood, smiling at Rajhu. ‘I would suggest… you meet Rua. There are few people who could help you better than he. You seem confused… Rua can explain things that I can’t…’
Could you take me to him?’ Rajhu asked. He wasn’t sure how to feel about any of this. He was still scared. He still feared that despite what Buri said, he was turning into a demon of some kind. But if there were another Wishcharmer, then maybe he could get to the bottom of all this nonsense.
To Rua?’ Buri laughed. ‘He lives high up the mountain. In a cave he carved with his own hands. At least, that’s the story he tells me. Yes, I can take you to him… Just let me grab a few things. I’ll take you now.’
Buri stood, walking away from them. Will smiled as he climbed to his feet, stepping up to stand by Rajhu.
See… Didn’t I tell you everything would work out? We’ll go talk to this Wishcharmer, and he’ll explain everything. You’ll see.’
Rajhu had no idea what to believe anymore. He forced a smile, and nodded, however. ‘I am sure you are right, Will.’ He bobbled his head, ‘Let’s just try and keep out wits about us, okay?’
Will gave him a lazy smile, ‘Whatever you say, Raj…’
There was a great commotion near the entrance to the building, drawing Rajhu and Will’s attention away from their predicament.
There was a sudden bout of shouting, and Rajhu turned more directly to face the entrance. He could see many of the elderly inhabitants standing up and peering through the windows that hugged either side of the large wooden door.
Buri!’ a voice growled from beyond the barrier. ‘Come out, Buri, or I swear, I will come in!’
Will started toward the entrance, but Rajhu grabbed him by the arm. ‘What do you think you’re doing?’
I’m gonna go see what’s going on,’ he explained, his brow furrowed.
We are not owing these people anything, Will. Let’s just keep our heads down, hmm?’
Raj…’ Will breathed, a look of displeasure crossing his face. ‘We’re already involved. And I’m not going to stand by and let something bad happen to these people. They’re heroes.’
He pulled his arm free as the door to the building burst from its iron hinges and crashed to the floor. Will bounded up the steps, and walked toward the door.
Shaed…’ Rajhu cursed. ‘You’re going to get us killed, Will…’ He ran a hand heavily through his hair, then followed his friend.
Buri hurried from somewhere deeper in the building, striding past Will as a large man stepped through the entrance of the building. Rajhu cursed again as he saw the huge man run his deep brown eyes over the inhabitants of the retirement home.
Chorded with thick muscles, the man stood taller than any of the people in the room. He had short, dark hair and a strong, sharp jaw. A scowl hung from his lips as he took another step into the building. The man wore a heavy suit of armour that covered him completely, save his head. The dark, unpolished steel looked matte in the daylight, and seemed to reflect not the faintest image. The whole body of armour was a terrifying plate-mail suit. To Rajhu’s eyes, however, it looked more akin to great steel scales, as if the man who stood before them, were some dragon, taken human form.
The skiff of a beard he wore, hung only from his chin, and was, as his hair, trimmed short.
Buri…’ the man sounded, his voice a low, smooth tone.
General,’ Buri nodded. ‘What is it that brings you here?’ His voice was tight, though Rajhu sensed no fear in it. There was something else there. It wasn’t anger. In truth, Rajhu thought it sounded more like sorrow, than anything else.
Give me the sword, old man…’
Is that why you’ve come here, Val’kez? My answer is the same as it’s always been. I will not hand over the Taintless Blade to the likes of you!’
I will have the Blade, Buri. Despite what you think of me, I’ve done only good for this land. Now, when I attempt to continue this work, when I try to make peace in the world, you deny me the tool that would allow such work to take place.’
You’ve no right to that sword, General. What you would do with it, the way you would use it, would be in violation with it’s truest intent. I will not give you the Taintless Blade. Not today, not ever.’
The man took a step back, an armoured hand flexing as he looked over the gathered crowd.
This man you hold in such esteem… Is an enemy of justice!’ he growled. ‘While the world out there rots… While the Powers conspire against humanity, he sits! You are as guilty as he is!’ he spat. ‘Whatever end comes to this world, the blood of every child rests on you! The screams of the innocent will haunt your ears, not mine!’ He stepped to Buri again, his form looming over the older man.
If you will not give me the Taintless Blade, after all I’ve done… Then I will take it!’
Val… Think this through,’ Buri pleaded. ‘Don’t force violence.’
The blame is on your head, Buri. If the sword is not brought to me by moonset, I will return with my army, and you will know the full extent of my strength. I will burn this forest to the ground. I will end every last one of you. Then, I will take the sword from amongst the ashes…’
The man turned, storming out of the building, and out of sight.
Buri sighed, turning. His eyes searched for a while, before finding Rajhu’s.
Raj could see a great sadness within the man, and though he wanted to turn from him, he couldn't.
And now, you see… This is why I brought you here… I need your help, Rajhu. I need the majesty of a Wishcharmer. Only that can save us.’
Rajhu swallowed, his eyes never leaving Buri’s.
I am… at your service. Whatever it takes…’

Moss clung stubbornly to the crumbling stone. Heedless of the cold air, or the pouring rain, it clung to the ancient castle. In the cracks that had resulted from age and war, the moss thrived. General Val’kez looked down on the soft, green growth. Despite everything, that moss had grown on the stone, high in the mountains. Like it, Val’kez had needed to thrive where others would die. In this, he had succeeded. There was far more to do, however.
Turning from the open window, Val put the moss and the midnight storm from his mind. In the cold, small room before him, five of his commanders stood, huddled near the struggling fire they’d build in a small hearth.
For generations, the destiny of humanity has been chained by the three Powers of the Universe. While they stand removed from our struggle, they yet refuse us the freedom to expand our strength. They lock away the beings who bore this world through the darkness at the beginning of time… They placate to us on what we are to do. If only Buri knew what I’ve discovered… If he could simply speak to the force we intend to set free…’ He shook his head.
What do you plan on doing, General Val’kez?’ a stout man asked. He was bald, and his face held little intelligence, but for Val, such a thing wasn’t needed from the man. He was a brute. Val’kez was content to let the man live as one. Such a man served him well, and would, in what was to come.
I will take the Taintless Blade from Buri. Nothing has changed, Deret.’
But, General… Master Buri was-’
I don’t care for what he was!’ Val’kez growled, taking a step toward the man. Deret shrunk against his advance, sinking into the group of men. He looked away, pretending to tend to the small fire.
Even so,’ Galak, Val’kez’s second in command, grumbled. ‘They do pose a threat… None of us possess the power that you do, General. Unlike you, we bleed. We are at risk.’
We will not engage them, unless it becomes unavoidable. I will engage who I must. For you, it will be to keep anyone from escaping. The Taintless Blade will make me unstoppable. I must have it. If we are to bring war against the Djinn, the Sorcerers and the Goluems… I will need it.’
Our army isn’t assembled, yet. If we take losses before we reach Dwell, we might be routed.’
Val’kez shook his head. ‘No. We are protected. The old god has told me.’
Does his influence reach so far?’ Galak asked.
He is bound, but he still speaks to me. Our armies will be more than enough to deal with the Dwell guardsmen.’
Then why bother with this sword?’
If we are to free this god, Galak… we must have blood drawn by the Taintless Blade. One way or another, we must gain this, before moving on… Before reaching Akri.’
All this magic… I don’t like it, General. Your armour is one thing… but my skin sets to crawling with this talk of dark oaths…’
Val’kez glared at the man. He flexed one of his armoured hands. ‘With time, Galak… you will see. Everything I do, every sacrifice I make… In time, it will all be worth it.’
Galak bowed at the neck. ‘Of course, General…’
Val turned back to the window, looking into the raging storm. He took a slow breath. ‘Ready the men,’ he growled, striding to the window. ‘And bring me my sword. We march in an hour… At dawn, Buri will fall…’
Galak bowed again. ‘By your command, General.’ He turned, striding from the room.
All of you… Get out!’ Val’kez hissed.
He heard the rest scatter. He heard the whispered fear. He knew all of it. What he planned to do terrified them. As it well should. By any means, Val would free this wretched world from the slavery it was bound to.
The Powers… They would fall. If Buri was a casualty of this war, so be it. They had both made their choices. Val’kez had heard the old one speak. Buri had not. No matter what happened, no matter what he did, Val’kez had to obey the old god.
There was no other way.
Dawn was breaking. The world outside was wet from the night’s storm. The air was as fresh as any Will had ever known. It was a beautiful day. And yet, he shivered in the early morning light.
What’s wrong, boy?’ Buri asked, coming to stand beside Will.
Looking to the old man, Will smiled. ‘I needed some air…’
Buri harrumphed. ‘So, you wandered out of the house for air? Wasn’t there sufficient supplies inside?’
I…’ Will tried, but Buri waved a hand.
I’m only teasing, Will… I know what you’re feeling.’
You do?’
Buri nodded. ‘You’re scared. Terrified, if I’m correct.’
I don’t know if I’d go that far…’
Aren’t you?’ The man asked, dipping his head, his strong eyes boring into Will.
Yes, sir… I am.’
A better response than I got from your friend…’
Will arched a brow. ‘Raj? What did he do?’
Buri waved a hand again. ‘He pretended to faint… It’s reasonable, I assume. Neither of you want to be put in the middle of our little war, and yet… that’s exactly what I’ve asked you to do…’
It’s not like we have a choice… I mean, even if we left, they’d probably send someone after us, too.’
That’s a tactical idea… I suppose they would. Send someone to make sure you don’t have what he wants.’
Will nodded. ‘I’ve heard about it… But I always sort of thought it was part of the legend, you know? Master Buri, cutting through the side of a castle to take out a despot… I never really believed the Taintless Blade was real.
Buri laughed, patting Will on the shoulder. ‘If only it were a legend, Will…’ He shook his head. ‘Alas, things are never as easy as we wish them to be. Sometimes the Divinity puts things before us. Tools, which could as easily be used for evil as they are for good. I think He puts them before us as a test. To see what we do with such power.’ He paused, taking a slow, even breath. ‘I hope I’ve done well with the power I’ve wielded. But the time to use such power is past… At least, it is for me.’
Will furrowed his brow, looking to the man intently. ‘You’re going to give up your sword?’
I can’t see another course of action. Even with the help of your friend, Rajhu… We’re too few in number. We need every warrior we can muster. Some of us are simply too old, now Will. As much as we did, as high as we rose…’ he shook his head. ‘Time takes its toll, you know…’
But…’ Will tried. ‘Do you really think that guy will use your sword for good?’
The man smiled, his eyes sad. ‘No, Will… I suppose he won’t.’
Looking up, Buri scanned the sparsely treed yard. The early morning light seemed to paint the short grass in shades of orange and pink. He stood, for a long moment, silent.
Would you accompany me somewhere, Will?’
Sure, but… shouldn’t we start making plans? General Val’kez will be here soon.’
Yes… So, we will make plans. Come on, I have something I need to show you…’
The old man turned, hurrying toward the large building. Will followed as Buri climbed the steps of the porch and slipped into the building. The lounge on the main floor was empty now, as it had been most of the night. He lead his way through the room, trailing off to the right. Beside the bar, hidden by a wall, a small staircase climbed to the second floor in an unwavering line.
What’s this all about, Buri?’ Will asked.
The man was silent as he climbed the stairs. Reaching the second floor, he walked down the long hallway. Doors lined the walls, large silver numbers hanging from their faces. He stopped at the last door on their left. Will saw a tattered number clinging to the door, but it was in a strange script he’d never seen before.
What’s this?’
Buri opened the door, stepping in.
It wasn’t a large room, but it was tidy in its layout, making it seem less crowded than it actually was. A large glass window was built into the roof, letting in the soft dawn light. Even so, it was enough to reveal the contents of the room, and in so doing, its purpose.
Every wall was lined with swords of every imaginable variety. Each weapon was placed and hung with intricate care. Hundreds of them hung against the four walls. Wooden displays dotted the floor, as well, each full of swords.
In the corners of the room, large wooden barrels stood, stuffed full of even more of the masterful looking swords.
Will turned around several times, looking, but not able to take in every one of the weapons. There were legends here. True legends.
It’s my collection. Some of these aren’t mine, actually… I’ve bought a few, and more were given to me by swordsmen and women from my travels…’
Will found the capacity to nod, then turned again, his eyes falling on a glass cabinet in the centre of the room. Only one sword was within, and unlike most of the swords on display, this one was firmly rooted in its scabbard.
Buri walked to the glass, touching it softly. The surface shimmered and vanished in a barely audible rush. With two hands, he reached in and lifted the sword from its stand. He turned to Will, holding the weapon up.
This is my prize… The sword that took me from a boy who dabbled in swordplay, to the man so many called the master…’
The Taintless Blade…’ Will whispered. ‘So it is real…’
Yes, Will. It is… And more than that, it’s powerful. More so than you could possibly imagine… This sword is different. It’s not a creation of man. And so, it’s powers are greater than even I have been able to understand.’
What do you mean?’ Will asked.
I mean, it’s not just a sword… It’s a warrior, a priest, and a vulture… This sword, alone… could defeat empires. I can’t let it fall into the hands of a braggart. And yet, I’m constrained from using it anymore… I’m too old for this blade, Will… I don’t want what it brings.’
Will eyed the man suspiciously. ‘Then what do you plan on doing with it?’
Buri smiled. He looked down on the scabbard, running the back of a finger across its surface.
The sword looked heavy in his hands, but he held it deftly, as well he would, having wielded it for so many years… The scabbard was of polished blue, with silver strappings at the tip, and the mouth. A strong cross-guard of polished steel stood out from the wrapped hilt. The pommel, too, was polished.
The Taintless Blade had never indulged to telling me its own desires. At least, that’s what I’d thought… It has guided me through my travels, protected me from evil… and what it asked, I never understood.’ He looked up. ‘Though it spoke, though I heard, I never truly understood…’
Buri, I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about…’
The man chuckled. ‘I suppose you wouldn’t… This sword isn’t forged of man, but of Wishcharmers…’
Buri nodded. ‘It’s true, Will… And there will be much more you learn about this forgotten group in the years to come… They are feared, above all else… They were the greatest of the Powers of the Universe. Even this sword, itself, is alive… When I asked it, time and time again, what I should do with it, when my fighting days were done, it always answered the same. “Give me unto thy own will…”’ He laughed, ‘I never understood… But I do now…’
Gripping the hilt tighter, Buri drew back, pulling the blade free from the scabbard. A loud sound rung out, as it was released, like glass scratching stone.
In a flourish, a perfectly clear blade was drawn out from the scabbard. Buri stepped to Will, laying the blade in his hands, as it shimmered in the low light, catching the sun. The sword was larger than Will had imagined, but none of that compared to the impossibility of the blade.
It… It’s…’
Diamond,’ Buri finished. ‘And forged, too… Look, the fuller is of the finest workmanship…’
Will had to agree with the man. A finer sword, he had never seen. And yet, the whole thing was made from a material he’d thought impossible to forge.
Will stared down at the blade for a moment longer, then pushed it toward Buri. The man stepped back, shying away from Will, and the sword.
What are you doing?’
It’s you, Will. You’re the one the Taintless Blade has chosen. As I wielded it, now, you must, too.’
Buri, I… I’m no master swordsman,’ Will insisted. ‘I wouldn’t know the first thing about how to use such a… such a powerful weapon. I’m not the right person for you to pass this to.’ He shoved the hilt into Buri’s hands and stepped back, wiping his hands on his pant-legs.
You are, Will. I’ve watched you from the time you arrived…’
Which was yesterday!
‘…You have a different way about you.’
You can’t know that! Buri… You can’t just expect to know the right person from seeing them…’
I have been waiting for the next bearer of this sword for a very long time. I have known what that man would look like, what he would sound like, for a very long time, Will. Regardless of your faith in my judgement, I am correct in this. With all that you are going to face, with the trials that are ahead of you, the Taintless Blade is yours.’
What trials?’
Buri shook his head. ‘Will, you are the companion of a Wishcharmer. Do you know what that means? Every country, every soldier, every Power of the Universe will seek you out. They will hound you for one purpose… To kill you.’
What?’ Will snapped. ‘I’m not a Wishcharmer!’
It doesn’t matter if you are or not. You’re his friend! The Wishcharmers are seen as a curse, as destroyers of stars, of worlds! They are spoken of as an unstoppable plague that will bring about the end of everything!’
Will stopped, his heart hammering in his chest. The stories, the Magi, the way Rajhu’s friend had reacted… It was all linked to this Wishcharmer business.
Is it true?’ Will asked, his voice no more than a whisper.
Buri was silent.
Will looked at the man, his eyes finding the master swordsman’s. He shifted, avoiding Will’s gaze. The simple reaction sent a cascade of terror through Will, making his skin crawl. It couldn’t be true… Not all of it, not with Rajhu…
Buri…’ he said, his voice growing an edge. ‘Is it true?’
The man looked up, the sword lowering in his hands.
Will, there is much about the world that we can’t understand… The Wishcharmers… They’re-’
Sir Buri! Sir Buri!’
There was a great commotion, drawing Will’s attention. He turned as Buri looked up. Rajhu rushed through the open doorway, skidding to a stop before he collided with Will.
Rajhu, you’re awake…’ He forced a smile. ‘What can I do for you, my boy?’
Raj took a rattling breath, his eyes wide. ‘They’re here!’
Will felt his stomach lurch. ‘Already?’
Rajhu nodded. ‘Many soldiers…’
Buri growled under his breath, sliding the Taintless Blade back into its scabbard. ‘Val’kez…’ he breathed.
What do we do?’ Rajhu wondered.
Buri sighed, slowly looking to Will. He lifted the sword again, extending the hilt to him.
We are warriors, Rajhu…’ Buri frowned.
Will nodded. He saw himself reaching out, his hand grasping the hilt of the Taintless Blade. As his hand met the soft cloth wrapping, he felt something surge through him. He couldn’t explain it, but it set afire every sense he had. He felt the purity of rage shift through his veins. The need to protect Rajhu, and the people of this little home arose in him like a storm. He pulled the sword from Buri’s grasp and looked up, meeting Rajhu’s eyes.
Warriors fight.’
The words felt like thunder from his lips. They were not a platitude, but a commandment. A promise.
As he moved from the room, the sword firmly in his grip, Will knew, in his heart, that things had now changed, and would continue to do so, from this moment, and forever.

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