Summary: I was born because my master did a very unfortunate thing. And oh, how we all suffered for it.
I was born because my first master did a very unfortunate thing. It is possibly the worst thing that a man could do. It drives him to wicked deeds that forever stain his hearts — if he has fortune on his side. At worst,he sacrifices the lives of those around him, tossing them aside like little more than a sandal with a broken strap.
My master was wicked to start with. When his father died, he left my master with a small castle and a few hundred acres of land. He led his people with a clenched fist harder than iron. He led them into war. He spared no one that could possibly threaten him, with their words, their deceitful actions or their swords. People were either his tools or nothing in this world.
He pillaged and plundered, and turned a blind eye to the sport his men suffered upon the neighbouring lands. But you mustn’t think him a bloodthirsty fool. He held the leashes of his men tighter than any other general. His soldiers were disciplined, and disciplined meant to follow his every word, exactly as he spoke it. He only let them loose for an end that suited him.
Calculating impossible amounts of minute details in the moment it took him to catch breath to bark his orders, his mind won wars. The talent of swordsman meant nothing beyond the means to carry out his plans. For the enemy soldier, talent was nothing but bravado that he would regret as he died under one of his swords.
I know. Enough died by me to know. I watched as my master did that unfortunate deed, not understanding the implications. I could do nothing but watch, then.
He knew his mistake. His complicated mind wouldn’t allow him to enter any state unprepared.
My master fell in love.
Afterward, when they heralded the story, they would say it was inevitable. The princess was so compassionate to even break through the darkness of his demon heart. Or they would say she was too beautiful, or too wise, or a hundred other qualities that made her revered by any man or woman she met. She was all of those things. The storytellers just told one quality, which said more about them than she.
At first, he thought only to make an alliance with her father through marriage. He decided it to be a waste of swords to conquer her father’s lands when he could accomplish the same with merely a ritual.
His advisors all simpered, who wouldn’t want him as a son-in-law? In his short lifetime, my master had already expanded his territory and his fortune to rival even the emperor’s. The emperor could challenge him, and die I imagine, but he was already married, siring only four daughters, no sons. A marriage to his wealth would satisfy even the greediest man, even if they could take their eyes off of the glittering piles to notice he would never control even one coin. Only a fool would refuse — a fool without the fear of reprisal.
We traveled to propose to her. Things like this couldn’t be done through letters and my master wanted her father to see his strength. That was the mistake.
Every man she crossed paths with loved her. They rushed to obey her every command, for she never really commanded, only asked. What she asked for was always the right thing for them to do. She wasn’t just beautiful and clever. She was skilled in the classical feminine arts like flower arranging and tea ceremony, but she also took a keen interest in the welfare of her people.
No one should go hungry that worked hard, and no child should ever. She arranged for schooling for all children so that her kingdom would be well-educated, and anyone with the talent could rise in rank. She took her father’s place in reconciling disputes, and no one ever left her unhappy with the verdict.
If she was not so beloved and deserving of it, she would inevitably face accusations of using dark sorcery to control their hearts. Alas, it was just who she was. Utterly kind, utterly compassionate, and utterly wise.
They spoke a few words upon meeting, but that was enough. This living bodhisattva met with my master while performing a tea ceremony. It had surprised me that he would do so, but he had that disease — love. He would agree to anything. My master laid me in the corner, and her eyes would leave her art to look upon me while they conversed at great length, very congenially. He even listened to her thoughts, something he had never done with anyone else before.
Her father refused the proposal. He, like every other man, doted on her and let her make the decision. She had heard of his foul deeds, but waited to meet with him to make her opinion. In what seemed like a congenial conversation, she had taken his measure and did not like the cut of it. Even during such a pleasant conversation she had realized the stories were true. He really was a cruel man, and she could not in good conscience invite him into her marriage bed, never mind her lands.
A man in love will do terrible things. My master started at that point. It would only get worse from there.
The next night, alone with only me in his hands, he stormed her castle, killing everything — men, women, children, dogs, chickens, not just the soldiers. It was a feat my master and I had already done before when my master met with unbridled resistance, but with his soldiers as his weapon, and never against so large a castle. Everything died at the edge of his blade, by me. I shined with a mix of blood of a thousand different people. This thing inside me that passes for a heart began to beat then.
The servants tried to run, of course, as the guardsmen attacked my master and I. The thing called talent may not exist for a mere soldier, but it existed for him. They couldn’t land a blow on him that wasn’t parried by me. He cut them down as if in an intricate dance.
Her father challenged us with his own reserve. It wasn’t much of a challenge. He was old and slow, while my master had youth, intelligence and me on his side. He died sobbing, knowing he had brought this upon them. Weeping that his wise daughter had foreseen this.
Then all that was left were the cowards, fleeing before us.
We hid in shadows and above them, falling upon them before they could notice we were there. It was long enough for the others to scream, for they scurried in groups like rats, before they too became mere corpses on the red soaked ground. They died at the sweet point when their hope was extinguished, the wick caught short.
Sometimes they hid in closets, or behind wooden boxes or sacks of rice. We both knew they were there, could feel the racking breath that they desperately tried to quiet as if they were breathing on us. My master walked past them before turning back to drag them out and into me, his sword.
The princess, with her maids, waited in her bedroom, listening to the screams of her dying people. If she had been truly wise, she would have scurried to us, begging him to stop and agreeing to the marriage. Instead, she listened to their howls and did nothing.
We entered there, last, to find them huddled against the opposite wall. Her handmaids shrieked as we entered, shaking as they pressed themselves against the wall and into each other. She remained unmoved.
“Your father is dead. Either agree to marry me,” my master said, “or they will die.”
Her handmaids begged her not to, but she refused. Their deaths were troublesome as they scattered, like slaughtering hares when they could smell the blood of other rabbits. They frustrated my master, but that did not save him.
“Either agree to marry me,” my master said when they were but a fleshy memory, “or you will die.”
Please say yes. The first words that I ever conceived myself. Bathed in the blood of a thousand, I started to truly exist as… me.
“I pity you,” she said.
I couldn’t stop it. I don’t even know if I would have. She didn’t have to die. None of them had to die. All she needed to do was acquiesce. But I was a sword and a sword is not a sword without death. He cut off her head, and the wisest and most beautiful woman to ever live transformed into just another corpse.
They may say that my master was a demon before that night. No, he was just human. He was clever and he used it. It’s easy to blame the forces of evil rather than look into the true dark reflection of mankind. It’s too nerve-wracking to consider that they could become him — if they just became powerful enough.
That night made him a demon. If they thought him inexplicably cruel before…The terrors that we would wreak together. And I would know it. I would know what I was forced to do.
On the night I was truly born, a sword that drank too much blood and become too much more, I helped my master become a demon. They would say that like him, I was always meant to be the tool of the most despicable men. That I was forged in the hellfire by my demon master, and whomever should wield me who was not worthy would destroy himself, like my master did.
I didn’t have a choice. I am a sword, and a sword does its master’s bidding, like his human soldiers.
They would like to think that story about me. Sometimes, I can’t help but think that’s true.