My name is Scaramouche, and I was made by Cimiar, the greatest alchemist of all time.
Snick, snick. Bite sharp! Taste blood; drink deep.
I am no ordinary dagger, oh, no. Not even for an enchanted blade. I was crafted by the master, and he had one, specific task for me. My sole purpose is to kill one human — the Sultan of Kzar-Runuk.
I remember when I was born, over two-thousand years ago, in one of Cimiar’s tall-towered castles, perched atop a small mountain thousands of miles from the Kzar — it was surrounded by green fields at that time, but now it is enveloped by burning, dusty desert. My making took many nights of work, and over many months, for it is uncommon to have three specific of the six moons in alignment — Asanar, of the Spirit, to allow life to embrace the cold metal; Melura, of Fire, essential for powerful enchantments; and Olander, of Earth, the element that governs my existence.
Snick, snick. Seek the Sultan’s flesh! Churn it into gory pieces!
Cimiar, my father, found the purest of iron and transformed it into the highest-grade steel, by use of masterful craftsmanship as well as the most arcane and powerful enchantments. He invoked the gods and demigods of Earth, and captured the stark, dark attention of Zirvana, goddess of black magic. He delved deep into the building blocks of my metal and rendered me virtually indestructible, and sharp enough to cut granite as if it were cheese. While I was still white hot he dropped a few pieces of ice on me, and as they instantly evaporated, they instilled the icy malice into my heart that was needed for his task.
He wanted me to be single-minded, focused entirely on one vengeful mission.
Snick, snick. Consume the Kzar essence! Fulfill my bloody purpose!
Cimiar served his liege-lord, the God-Emperor Kul, and obeyed every one of His wishes. The Sultan of Kzar-Runuk had deeply insulted the Emperor and posed a threat to the stability of Kul’s northern sultanates. An object lesson was required for the civilized world. And consequently I was born.
Fate, however, had different plans for me.
A young soldier volunteered to carry me to Kzar-Runuk, and all he had to do was get near enough for me to smell the Sultan. That was all that was needed, for then I would do the rest and no-one would be able to stop me. Afterwards I would be finished, depleted. I would die, happy, fulfilled. But alas, this young man was assailed by brigands and slain, not even half-way to his destination. These murderous thieves found me and sold me to a wealthy merchant, who kept me as an ornament. When he died a few years later, he had me buried with him — such was his vanity.
I slept for nearly two-thousand years in his grave, until… well, that is another story.
* * *
We are sisters and call ourselves Vengeance and Retribution. We once were dormant, asleep, but a villainous crime — one so heinous it outraged the gods — caused us to awaken.
Ching, ching. We are two and we seek justice! We will never rest until we are sated.
Before we were born we were but simple silver coin of the mountain city of Tzic-vec, in the heart of the Sultanate of Kzar-Runuk. We knew not of our existence then, but we have on many occasions imagined that we would have been kept in the purses of rich Kzar merchants, and perhaps exchanged in vendor stalls in Tzic-vec’s busy streets. For over three-hundred years we have discussed between us what delightful, serene, and simple existences we must have had. But now…
We know that, just prior to our awakening, we were together, among other coins, in the purse of the Vizier to the Sultan of Kzar-Runuk.
Ching, ching. We feel the agonizing pain of our adopted mother! We long for justice!
The captain of the guard of the Sultan was, on one dark night, ordered to slay one of his lord’s enemies. It was a vile task, one more suited to an assassin, as the target was an important administrator of the sultanate and an honorable man. The captain was upright in character and refused, but he was told that his family would die if he failed to complete his murderous task. He had no choice but to obey, but before he journeyed to his victim’s home, he confided all to his beloved wife. He kissed her and left hurriedly.
The next day, the Vizier knocked on the door of the captain’s home. He informed the captain’s wife that her husband had died in the service of the sultan. She looked in his eyes and saw the truth — he had indeed killed the sultan’s target and then was killed himself to remove any evidence. She was horrified and could barely stand on her feet, but then the Vizier added insult to injury by taking two silver coin from his purse and dropping them into her hands.
We were immediately born from that lowly act — the first thing we saw was the wronged woman’s blue eyes, surrounded by her white silk hijab, lost in indescribable numbness. Yes, we were born and my sister and I knew that our purpose was to find a way to avenge the death of the captain, and the disgusting insult to his wife!
Ching, ching. Let him touch our tarnished silver bodies! Let us draw him to disaster!
She threw us into the desert sands, of course. What else could she do? Her life was disrupted, destroyed. We have never blamed her for separating us from her. We knew we had a task to complete.
Many years passed and we were left in the dirt, undiscovered. But one day, a lowly peasant child found us and presented our good selves to his parents — and within a day we were exchanged for a herd of goats and our long journey began. We visited many cities and lands, riding in the purses of numerous men, and we learned how noble, and how vile, humanity could be. A thousand transactions had taken place and yet we always stayed together. Kismet.
But greater miracles had taken place. We soon discovered that we could control our bearer — at first, in simple ways, swaying him to choose one action over another, if the choice was difficult; later we could instill ideas, especially in his sleep. As we became more practiced with our new-found talents we discovered that we could do more, such as cause our bearers to take action contrary to their nature. Never, mind you, with evil intent.
Ching, ching. Lead him to the precipice! Let him jump!
It was only a few months ago when we were given a sign that we had to return to Kzar-Runuk. Our bearer met an old, wizened woman who claimed she was a soothsayer. Whether she was or not did not matter, as she was possessed by some powerful, female spirit who wished to speak to us. She said that we must journey to Tzic-vec and complete our quest for justice.
It was easy to manipulate the man who held us in his purse, and our journey was swift, given the many leagues we had to traverse. And now… well, that is another story.
* * *
My name is Lilitha, a sorceress, and I was, once, the number one concubine of the Sultan of Kzar-Runuk. That was many centuries ago. My mortal remains now lay in an unmarked grave.
Jingle, jingle. Curse him for his treachery! The dog deserves to suffer!
I had been number one for seven years and my eyes were always open to his machinations and his contempt for human life. It was helpful that I had the Gift where I could see events: past, present, and future, and also far away and near. I was rarely able to control my powers, but it often gave me advantages in life, and saved my skin on more than one occasion. It was a good life; despite him.
I was in awe of my Gift and trusted my intuition as an extension of it — I still do, even though I am now but a spirit residing inside this gold necklace.
Jingle, jingle. Gods, allow me the chance to witness suffering in his progeny!
I remember the day so clearly, as if it were only this morning. My intuition — my Gift — failed me. I knew that he was in a bad mood, that something was bothering him. I also knew that I had been gradually losing favor, much like being aware that a dull ache in my mouth was perhaps more than just a simple toothache, but still not doing anything about it. I do not know why, but I did not panic when a pair of the sultan’s eunuch guards entered the harem. I did not see.
Suddenly, without warning, they grabbed me and dragged me out of the harem. I remember the look of shock in the other girls’ faces. The guards threw me into a palanquin and took me into the desert. We journeyed for hours, and I can remember the slaves huffing and puffing in their arduous task, but eventually they stopped, and I was dragged out. I did not recognize the place I had been taken to, although the rocky outcrops and heavily weathered hills indicated that it was part of the desert near Tzic-vec that was riddled with chasms and ridges — all too easy for someone to get lost in. All too easy to hide a body.
Before a small hill severely eroded by wind, with the desert sand blowing about me, the bodyguards cut my throat. They hurriedly buried me between the vertical fall of the hill and a column of stone that jutted from the ground into the cliff. One of the guards claimed my gold necklace, but not before I willed my soul into it. At the end of my mortal life, my Gift did not betray me.
Jingle, jingle. Slay those who carry his blood! Reveal the contempt of a murdered sorceress!
The guard sold me to a deceitful merchant who made a tidy profit from his exchange, selling me to a nomad chief who wanted to please one of his wives. I was angry and ignored the world around me for several generations, but eventually shifted my awareness to what was happening outside, instead of within. Scores of years had passed me by. I discovered that my Gift was more powerful in this new form than when it was contained within flesh and bone, and that I could, if I wanted to, exert some small influence on those who wore me; my Sight had become powerful indeed, and I was able to spiritually wander the lands and witness the lives of people in all corners of the world. For a while I was distracted, but my need to avenge my murder had no bounds and I often withdrew into my golden home, gnawing at my heart.
One day, not too long ago, having been handed from mother to daughter for centuries within a noble family line that ruled a city of tents, I stumbled on an idea to exact the revenge I so longed for. Using my Gift, I searched for humans who wanted the same retribution, and surprisingly, instead of beings of flesh, I found an ancient dagger who was given a spirit to destroy the Sultan of Kzar-Runuk, and a pair of old silver coins who were bestowed a similar sentience by the grace of the gods of justice. They had the power to destroy the sultan of the day, and it mattered little what human receptacle was needed to carry them. I used my Gift to contact them, in the best manner available to me, and summoned them to this oasis. The coins controlled the mind of a merchant, who journeyed to the graveyard where the dagger is buried, and on its recovery, had many leagues to travel to this city of tents. All I had to do was wait.
Jingle, jingle. Waiting, waiting. The three of us must unite! Our needs will be met, combined!
Today the dagger and the coins were delivered to the young girl who owns me — and she is of noble birth. I asked the coins to erase her mind of memories, so that she can better be controlled; she can show no fear when approaching the Sultan of Kzar-Runuk. I am excited by the prospect of what will come next. She will ride a camel to Tzic-vec by the coins’ compulsion — only two days journey — and all she needs to do is be within sight or smell of the sultan. Then the dagger will fly by itself, cutting through anyone and anything in its way, and exact the revenge and justice we all seek!
When the girl awakes, she will steal out of her camp and ride to Tzic-vec.
* * *
I am aghast! How can this be? Am I not Scaramouche, the deadliest weapon built by man? Why is my purpose in existence eroding? Is what Lilitha told me so profound in significance?
* * *
We are fading! Vengeance and Retribution will melt into this desert sand. Is it true what Lilitha has said? And if so, why is it that it defeats our purpose?
* * *
I have done it. I have told them what I have discovered. There is no point in hiding from plain facts.
Jingle, jingle. Truth is penetrating, permeating… calming.
The girl awoke in the early hours, only a few minutes before the rising sun. As a final step in my preparation for my plan for her to bear us to Tzic-vec, I opened my Gift, my Sight, to her, to find out more about her, and how best to use her. What I saw made me dizzy, crushing hundreds of years of belief in a single blow! Fate drew the dagger and the coins to me, but Fate played a higher game and drew me to this girl. She is a noblewoman, of strong lineage among the nomadic tribes of Kzar-Runuk, but she also has other blood in her. I saw the different strains as plain as day.
The girl had the blood of the captain of the guard who was murdered by the Sultan’s men, and she had the rare blue eyes of the captain’s wife — also her ancestor. She had the blood of the sultan’s line and so the vile men who perpetrated all those awful crimes were her ancestors! More important, she was a descendant of mine.
We had created an assassin who was the least likely candidate. Or was she?
* * *
Snick, snick. I am altering; dying. My edge is blunt!
Should I just cut her down now, before it is too late? No… it does not seem right. And yet, the need to sate my thirst of so many hundreds of years….
Useless. I can feel my very being fade. Why?
Is it because the sultan — my target — is long dead? Is it possible that Cimiar, my maker, and Kul, my patron, never intended me to carry on? Am I that temporary? Was my purpose such a minuscule fraction of what I actually thought I had?
I feel myself being distended… I wish that I….
* * *
Ching, ching. The gods — we can hear them calling us!
How can we hurt such an innocent girl? Nay, beyond innocence, because we have removed her past from her memories! Why have the gods played such a cruel trick on us?
We see her eyes now… just like our mother’s. The injustice, unpaid, sickens us… but wait. Look at her. She has the strength of our mother in her, and the tenacity of the sultan’s line. Is it possible she has been fated for some great deed? Is it possible that justice has been served by reward, instead of penalty?
Look… the Spirit Realm now beckons, and the path is before us! Perhaps it is time to go, after all.
* * *
Jingle, jingle. The cancer is gone. I am content. Where to from here?
I am alone with this girl, for my allies — Scaramouche, and Vengeance and Retribution — have left. And yet I am with my daughter, albeit many times removed. She is wonderful — young, fit, and ready for adventure. She has no memory, which is sad, but perhaps it will benefit her, as she has nothing to unlearn.
And she has my Gift. My Sight.
She has the dagger, but it is — almost — ordinary. She has two ancient coins, which will feed her for her adventures ahead — for a while. And I think I will stay with her.
I may teach her some tricks that I have learned over my very long life. *
About the author: Gerry is a father, husband, writer, editor, publisher, and during most days, an IT Managing Consultant. This means he is also a good juggler. His recent published work includes two short stories in anthology Page Dancers (IFWG Publishing).
Story copyright 2010 Gerry Huntman
About the artist: Romeo Esparrago dabbles in the digital arts.
Illustration copyright 2010 Romeo Esparrago