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It was a sword. Nothing else. I looked at the museum exhibit with skeptical eyes, not bothering to listen to the young tour guide as he gushed out his pre-written speech.
The exhibit featured the sword of my grandfather, the late High Emperor Mafalgar. From the way the tour guide was talking of it, it might as well have been the magical weapon of a fearsome heathen god.
Yes, the workmanship was superb; after all, he had been an emperor. The blade was keen, without a speck of rust, gleaming like the full moon in all her awesome glory. The hand guard was simply made, with silver vines inlaid upon it. A fine silver chain was wound about the hilt with a bright blue star sapphire in the pommel. In short form, it was deadly, pretty sword.
I remember when I first held it. I was five, and the time had come for my mother and father to present me to the emperor in the Court of the Sun. Though I have been there many times since, I still remembered the feeling of breathless awe upon entering the brilliant hall.
The ceiling was of stained glass, laced with stone, like a spider’s web. It was high noon, and the sun shone through it upon the golden hall, illuminating the great marble pillars that lined the walls, and causing the gold upon the floor, walls, and furniture to blaze with breath taking glory. The myriads of color from the stained glass danced upon the waters and silver basin of the vast Silver Fountain, whose waters reflected the ceiling, and made water shadows appear.
My mother and father had led me past the fountain, past lords and ladies all garbed in many beautiful colors, to the far end of the Court of the Sun.
There I was given the privilege to look at my grand father. His throne was upon a white marble dais with seven steps. The throne was of white marble inlaid with silver and gold. From the wall behind the throne extended twelve great rays made of pure gold. The sight of the sun shining upon them made my eyes water, and when I closed them, I could still see the glare. At my grandfather’s side was his sword.
I did not know to be nervous, I only felt pure excitement and wonder. Surely I was in heaven; no place else was this beautiful.
“Avaleon, come here.” At first I had thought it was my father’s voice calling my name, but then I realized that it was the emperor. My mother and father gently pushed me forward, and I started to mount the steps. They were very tall steps, but my parents did not help me. I had to obey the emperor on my own.
I remember my grandfather’s face as I reached the top, gentle, yet strong and proud. I was too excited to be tired, and did not know what to expect from the High Emperor before me.
Gracefully he stood up. His hair was black, though streaked with silver, and upon his head was a circlet of gold. His mantle was simple, the shimmering grey of the High Emperor. He and I stared into each other’s eyes. My father had the emperor’s eyes, and I had my father’s eyes. Everyone was silent. No one in the court stirred; all that could be heard was the laughter of the fountain.
“Grandfather?” I asked. He smiled gently at my impertinence. Sitting in his throne he beckoned me forward. I obeyed, until I was standing right in front of him. Taking from his side his sword, he held it for me to see. His face was solemn.
“Would you bear this sword, little one?”
“Only if I must.” I had whispered. He took the sword, and taking the blade so that the point rested on the ground, he offered it to me. The sword was taller than I was, and as I took it, I had to back up. The sword was too heavy for me to hold horizontally.
“It’s a little too heavy,” I said. The High Emperor smiled and took back the sword.
“I am not expecting you to hold it for a while yet, little one.” Again he stood up and turning me around to face the court, put his hands firmly on my small shoulders.
“She is the daughter of my son, and I accept her as mine.”
“What are you doing here, and-- Get away from that sword!” I turned out of my reverie to see a young woman striding toward me. The group had passed on, leaving me to my thoughts.
“Excuse me?” I asked. The woman stopped, and I recognized her from when I had entered the museum. Her curly brown hair was restrained by a dark green silk headscarf and her light brown mantle marked her as the museum curator.
“Only guided tours are allowed in this section,” she sneered, “or can’t you read?” She pointed to a sign on the other end of the hall.
“I must have lost my way.” I said. I pulled back the hood of my travel cloak.
“Lost or not, it’s a hefty fine for freelancing in tour guide areas, especially around the sword of the High Empress.”
“Really?” I said. I turned away from her to look at the sword. I smiled as I held out my hand and picked the sword up. “I was five when I first held this.” I said quietly as I turned once again to the curator. She gave a screech as I lifted the sword from the glass case.
“I will have you thrown out of the museum for this,” she snarled.
“I was ten, when I could hold the sword steadily with both hands,” I continued, still smiling. The curator went suddenly silent, her eyes transfixed upon the sword that I held easily in my right hand.
“At twelve years of age, I could block and strike, holding this sword with both hands.”
“You?” the curator’s voice trailed off in horror.
“When I turned fifteen, I could fight with it using one hand.”
“When my grandfather, the High Emperor died at the hands of Kile, the betrayer, as the High Princess, it was I who took up his sword at nineteen years of age, and challenged him.”
“But that was-” I interrupted the curator, and undoing the clasp of my cloak, I let it fall to reveal my mantle of grey.
“And it was I who beheaded Rishta the Conqueror, when my father fell in the Battle of Fridantor.”
The curator gave a strangled sob and thrust herself down at my feet. She did not see me put the sword back in the glass case.
“Rise, Sarda, yes, I do know your name. I can read a nametag when I see one.” Sarda rose shakily to her feet, her face bowed before her High Empress.
“Why?” She whimpered as I picked up my cloak.
“Why would I put this sword in a museum?” I said. It was a question I had been asked many times, since long before the exhibit had ever opened.
“A sword is only useful in times of war. It is a burden that I only use when I must. One thing all must remember is that it is only a sword, only good for taking the lives of others. It would be good to write a better speech concerning its history. Anyway, I think this sword looks very good in that glass case. Don’t you?”
I did not bother to hear Sarda’s shaky reply. Putting on the cloak, I donned my hood and walked out of the hall.