Shadow’s Blade – Snippet 29

“If this thing is as old as you say, why are people suddenly after it now?”

“Q don’t know the answer to that either, but it’s a good question. A knife like this doesn’t just appear out of nowhere. Somebody found it again, or decided now was th’ time t’ use it.”

I didn’t like the sound of that one bit. An ancient blade, with what looked like blood embedded in the stone. I had no doubt that the “somebody” Q referred to was Saorla, and that she had Fitzwater and his buddies scouring the city for this knife. Even having no idea what the weapon could do, or what kind of magic it possessed, I was certain I didn’t want it falling into her hands.

“Brother J?”

“Yeah,” I said, shaking my head to clear my thoughts. “Sorry.” I took out my wallet and pulled a crisp twenty from the billfold. “Here you go.”

He took it and slipped it into his pocket. “Thanks.”

His brow had furrowed, and I sensed that he was wrestling with something. I watched him, saying nothing.

“You might want to ask yourself,” he said after some time, “how it came to be here in the first place.”

“What do you mean?”

“From what Q’s heard, this isn’t an Indian knife. It doesn’t belong here.”

“Do you know where it’s from?”

“No idea. But not Phoenix, not even the Southwest. Q heard that a long time, back when he did want to find it an’ sell it, back before he knew the dark ones were after it. Understand?”

I nodded. “Yeah. Thanks, Q.” I started toward the door.

“You going after this thing?”

I pulled the door open but paused to face him once more. “I’m not sure I have much choice. I don’t know who else is trying to track it down. But even if Fitzwater is the only one, I have to find it before he does.”

“Q doesn’t know what it takes to use it, but that kind of power . . .”

“I’m not sure I’d want to use it. Can it be destroyed?”

“It might be a thousand years old. In all that time, it seems likely somebody’s tried. Don’t you think?”

It was worth considering.

“Take care, Q.”

I stepped back out into the afternoon sunlight and checked the street. A part of me expected to see weres and weremancers coming at me from every direction, led by the silver-haired gentleman. But the sidewalks were empty. I slid into the pickup, started her up, and pulled away from the curb.

“Namid, I need to speak with you.”

The last word had barely crossed my lips when he materialized in the passenger seat of the truck, his waters roughened, so that the sunlight shining through the windshield made him sparkle like a tropical sea.

“Ohanko, the glamour your father put on you still protects you. I would not have found you but for your summons.”

“That’s good to know.”

“And yet, you have summoned me again, something you and your father do with entirely too much frequency. I have told you this before.”

“What do you know about a magical stone blade?” I asked, ignoring the reprimand.

He stared back at me, his eyes shining, his translucent features conveying enough surprise to tell me that he knew of the knife.

“I would ask the same question of you,” he said, his voice like waves pounding a rocky shore. “What do you know of it?”

I trusted Namid as much as I did any person or creature I’d ever encountered, but I had given Q my word that I wouldn’t tell anyone where I got my information. Not even Namid. “I know that dark sorcerers are searching for it. They killed a pawn broker, a man I knew, and wrecked his shop. I don’t know where their search will take them next, but they’re after it.” Something occurred to me then, something I should have considered earlier.

“They cannot be allowed to find it.”

I put that other thought aside for now.

“Why not? What is it?”

I wasn’t sure he would answer me. Namid wasn’t always forthcoming with this sort of information. He usually preferred to handle matters of magical intrigue on his own, rather than to involve me. He surprised me, though, and that scared me.

“It is a weapon of unparalleled magical power.”

“I get that. But what is it, Namid? What can it do?”

“It is the Sgian-Bán, the Pale Knife.” He pronounced it as Skee-an bawn.

“That sounds Celtic,” I said.

“Very good. It is.”

“So I take it this belongs to Saorla.”

He faced forward, his expression hardening. “It would be more precise to say that she belongs to it.”

I frowned. “I don’t understand.”

His waters were growing more roiled by the moment. He might have been confiding in me, but he wasn’t happy about it. “The Sgian-Bán is the blade that was used to sacrifice the necromancers. This blade made Saorla and her kind centuries ago. It is infused with the blood of every necromancer empowered at that time. And just as it preserves their blood, it preserves as well an element of their power. It is a blade of awesome might, of magic you can scarcely comprehend, all of it dark, perverted by their avarice and malevolence.”

He faced me once more. “It is the one weapon in your world that can be used to kill runemystes, and as far as we know, it cannot be destroyed.”

I had long since learned to expect the worst where Saorla was concerned, and yet, as dangerous as I had thought this knife might be, I hadn’t imagined it could be this bad.

“Why haven’t I heard of this before now?” I asked. “During the summer, Saorla and her friends went to great lengths to kill another of your kind. Patty Hesslan and Regina Witcombe put me through that elaborate ritual so that they could use me to kill you. We both almost died. Why didn’t they use this Pale Knife instead?”

“It was lost,” he said, as if the answer should have been obvious. “Until this moment I assumed it would remain so. You are sure that the weapon is here, in this city?”

“I’m not sure of anything. I’m trying to piece together a story I was told and a murder I all but witnessed. Tell me more about the knife.”

“I would not know where to begin. I have told you in the past that Saorla and her fellow necromancers sought to set themselves against the runemystes. They did not approve of the Runeclave’s attempts to protect your world against dark magic, and they opposed its decision to sanction the sacrifice that created my kind.”

“Was a weapon used to kill you as well? Is there a blade that can counter theirs?”

He shook his head. “Our sacrifice was a ritual of magic. No blood was spilled, which is why we can take the form we do, without the hint of corruption that lies at the core of Saorla’s being. But theirs was no sacrifice, not in any true sense. They used their magic and their blood to imbue the knife with unnatural power, and they transformed themselves into demons, powerful, fell, and all but immortal.”

“And then?”

A small shrug rippled his waters. “And then the knife was hidden away. It remained an object of power, and they wished to keep it secret from the runemystes and the Runeclave. We learned of it, but only hundreds of years later, as the true nature of what they had done became clear. By then the knife had nearly passed out of knowledge, to become little more than lore. Rumors of it floated on the air, as insubstantial as smoke. It was in the land you know now as Germany. It was in Eire. Some claimed that it found its way to the New World before your nation gained its independence. But all of this was said in whispers. We knew not what to believe and what to dismiss as hearsay.”

“But we know now it was more than rumor,” I said. “It turns out it was here in America, and we know that the necromancers didn’t have it, because they would have tried to use it long ago. So if it wasn’t them, who would have brought it here, who would have kept it for all this time?”

“There are those who collect such items,” the myste said. “There is a lucrative market for such magical artifacts. Some of these collectors are weremystes, some are not. But all of them would recognize the value of this knife. It is beautiful as well as powerful, and its hilt and blade are marked with carved runes, so that even those who cannot sense the magic in it would know that they held an object of power.”