The sword was ancient, tempered over generations, a project demanding the skills of a hundred hands, their owners having long since died in battle as all honorable warriors are wont to do. The name of the blade, too, had died on countless fields of blood, having unwound the cycles of innumerable fell beasts. Menfolk had fallen in its wake too, of course, but never without reason: if anything, its master was a man of logic.
At least he used to be.
The Unnamed is what the hooded man called the blade, as all the blood it’d drawn over the cycles -- enough to fill the basin of yonder Com-Labi to his estimation -- had eroded its proper name. Besides, he estimated, death needed no name.
Now the sword stood upright, its blade buried in a slab of quartz at the topmost peak of Mondauth, its hilt skyward and proud. Upon its wide cross-guard was perched its master, who was staring into the distant haze in the direction of the entrance to the Outer World. How long had he left those strange lands to take up court in Thorgithe? Memories had become queer things to the man, like slippery shadows on moonless nights. His mind, once as sharp as his blade, had lost its luster.
And so, more than a quarter moon ago, his last student had passed his age-rite and become a Thorgithen warrior in a most spectacular way. The boy had slain a daemon lord, called Bafal, son of Bahafut, had severed his crown with the sacred blade of the land. Still the tribe spoke of this feat, the words of fellow warriors quickened with awe. The hooded man was not impressed, however. He’d known more than the fortune-seers and prognosticators of the land that the boy would come to face the beastking of that hidden realm, for it was he who’d planned the ambush.
An ancient plan had been set to course.
The man stood, his feet balanced perfectly along the cross-guard of his sword. He narrowed his eyes at those distant, uncharted lands. He’d traversed them, cutting through the heart of the badlands with only the Unnamed at his side. A thousand days he’d journeyed through the black fog, his stomach aching with want, his hope siphoned by the curses that trailed him. The training he’d imparted to the age-rite boy had saved him, though.
They’d also saved that young warrior even against such odds. All for the better, the hooded man thought, for his time will come... and soon. He grinned, the dark hood rippling beneath the face it obscured.
All in proper time, he supposed.
The grin was severed by a tinge of pain flaring beneath his broad chest. There a crossbow bolt had blown his ribcage asunder, an injury he’d taken willingly in the name of the land’s king, Bergrin, a noble ruler and a deadly warrior.
The man pushed through the pain, memories of Dethalān and the Low Wars fading with it. Even after twenty cycles the pain was still fresh. Or had it been thirty? Memories are fleeting creatures, the hooded man thought as he disembarked his blade, and all creatures someday die.
And so death will come to death.
The dust of the mount settled beneath his boots as he came to rest, his aged hands on the hilt of his sword where he’d been standing for hours on end. He pulled the handle, the blade coming free from the stone it’d cleaved. Then the sword he’d mastered long ago was held skyward once again.
“Perhaps this makes me king, yes?” the hooded man asked the still day.
Another memory came to him just then, an ancient prophecy he’d carried through the Outer World to the heart of civilization. He recalled it beneath his breath, his black hood rippling with the words, though the peak of Mondauth was windless that day.
“Hwanne thæs kyklos enti viūt ginnan,” he chanted in the old tongue, “hē velle awæcnian...”
Then the man took pause, a sudden rustling behind him having drawn his attention. A young warrior appeared in the clearing at the hooded man’s back, not he who’d ended Bafal, but one who’d passed the Rite of Daemon Slaughter just a few cycles prior. Though the hooded man had his back to the boy, the young warrior still saluted him, crossing his lank arms before his chest and bowing as the man turned to meet his gaze.
“What do you want, Donovyn?” the hooded man asked.
“Hail, Brōg,” the boy, Donovyn, said at the trough of his bow. “Bergrin requires your seat at the Ovate. He wishes to speak to you of his son’s Rite of Daemon Slaughter.”
“I’ll be along, boy,” the hooded man, called Brōg the Unknown, told him. “Now scatter fore my blade takes root in your skull.”
“As you wish,” the boy said, removing his eyes from the face within the hood. He did as told, praying to the Motherwolf that Brōg hadn't been serious with his threat. So once again Brōg was left to his meandering thoughts.
“On to Kgortel,” the hooded man said, taking one last look at the haze on the horizon. The plan was now in motion, the end close at hand. Brōg brought the Unnamed to his shoulder, its weight satisfying in his cruel hand. He balanced it there, its hilt in his palm, its blade rising in a steep angle like a single, silver wing.
In this way Brōg made his way back to Bergrin and the king’s triumphant son, who’d passed his age-rite by legendary means and who’d one day come to satisfy ancient prophecy...
...or be sent to the Great Beyond long before it could come to pass.