Monday, May 8, 2023

The Wolf's Blade

"Ruin?" said a soft voice in the darkness. 

Ruin woke without moving, then realized that he was the middle spoon between a massive bear and a true elf druid, and stirred enough to open his eyes. His twin brother Darvinin was standing in the darkness under the sacred tree, squinting down at him. 

Ruin, of course, could see perfectly well. He shifted his weight, carefully extracting himself from the tangle of bodies. The bear stirred, then lapsed back into a soft snore; the elf, exhausted from the earlier battle, didn't move.  He took a moment to dress, and then followed his brother out from under the tree and into the moonlight. 

"That's quite the crystal," said Darvinin, who had watched him carefully check that it was still in its place in a pouch on his belt.

"A gift from Hierophant Saladhel, and the other Hierophants as well," Ruin told him quietly. "Or perhaps a debt to them, for all that they chose me to decide which of the Hierophants would die. I am to return it, 'with interest,' once this current strife is done."

Darvinin frowned. "What does that mean?"

Ruin shrugged. "I'm honestly not certain. There's nothing quite like elder druids for being ridiculously cryptic. I think I need to provide them with a new Hierophant, but it's possible that I need to enhance the thing with a new power or something like that."

Darvinin let the topic go reluctantly. "I guess we'll find out." He glanced back towards the darkness under the great tree. "Were you sleeping with a bear?" 

Ruin said, "She's not always--" 

Darvinin shook his head. "I meant, should you really be sleeping with anybody else at all? You already have two children..."

Ruin was completely still for a long, long moment. Finally he said, "Probably not, O my brother. But the things we're facing... Darvinin, I died in the last battle, and it's so far from the first time that's happened that I cannot number my deaths. All it would take would be an enemy with just the right spell at the right moment, and I might not return. So I lose myself in the pleasures of the flesh, and I take comfort in the thought that something of me might survive my death."

Darvinin weighed that for a long moment, then nodded. "And you have always been drawn to strength," he said. "Well... You have, perhaps, another conquest -- though she hasn't come in person, and won't."

Ruin cocked his head, curious, and Darvinin held out the package he carried. It was long and slim, and Ruin unwrapped it from the leathers around it carefully. 

His expression in the moonlight was very nearly rapturous as he regarded the long, curved blade, backswept so that the weight rested out near the tip, the carefully curved guard with wolves' heads looking out from either side, the third wolf's head that formed the pommel. "Magnificent," he breathed. 

"Amaranth sends her regards," Darvinin told him. 

Ruin looked up, met his gaze, and nodded. "She knows better than to break cover."

"You have no idea," Darvinin told him. "She's formidable, too. Even our mother would be forced to admit that she would be a good match."

"I know," said Ruin. He was still looking at the blade. "The enchantments on this... Gods. She put everything into it." The blade was wrought of cold iron, easy to wield, sharper than a blade should possibly be, and it looked somehow incomplete resting in his hands. It wanted to be moving, and quickly. 

"She said to keep yourself safe," Darvinin said, "and she said the blade would help." 

Ruin nodded. "It will." He paused, looking it over again. "Give me a moment, and I'll give you payment to take back to her."

"She didn't ask for--"

"I know." Ruin was still engrossed in the blade. "But she'll need it to continue her work, and for a piece like this..." He shook his head. "It wouldn't be right." He slipped a finger-length of blade from the sheath, regarded it in the moonlight. "Tell her that if she refuses the payment, I'm going to consider this not a gift, but a marriage proposal."

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