EDITOR'S NOTE: The following manuscript was discovered among the
papers of Douglas Arkingham, which had been archived by Motavia Academy
upon their donation by his niece, Kyli Madison, in AW 1952. It
purports to be a transcription, or perhaps a translation into a more
modern form of Parmanian, of the ninth stanza of a volume entitled
The Testament of Xayn. The veracity of this claim cannot be
analyzed, as the last known copy of the Testament was reported
to have been destroyed by the hunter Alys Brangwin. It has been
verified, however, that this same copy had been donated to the Academy
by Ms. Madison as part of the 1952 gift, so it is at least possible
that this transcription may be authentic.
After reading the document, this editor is not inclined to
research the matter further.
* * * * *
I curled my lip in scorn as I looked at the three men who stood
before my throne. These were the only three among my followers who had
the courage to step forward and accept the challenge I presented? Bah!
Were they no better than the puling outsiders who strove to deny our
Master's might, to let their ambition be so easily cowed?
"I am Cordas," declared the first. "I am your greatest warrior,
most holy Xayn. I have slain many in your service, and only I am
worthy of the sword granted to you by our Master."
"I am Pryll," announced the second. Unlike Cordas, he was small and
lithe, dressed in dark gray. Not a soldier, but an assassin. "I have
destroyed more of our sacred order's foes than any who is not a priest.
The blade that hungers for life is rightfully mine."
The third man looked derisively at the first two. His eyes shone
with the corrupted light of the fanatic.
"I am Geor. I hunger for the power of the blade our God has sent!"
I drew out the enchanted weapon from behind the throne. I had spent
long hours on the rituals of ensorcelment to contact my sealed Master
and draw forth some of the ebon power of the ultimate darkness to
invest in the blade. The weapon was long and curved, single-edged with
a savage, ripping point. I drew off its wrappings and let all see the
blade. Once made of common steel, it now seemed to be a single piece
of black stone that gleamed with a faint, dark aura. It was pure
malevolence, distilled pain and hatred, and I could see how it beckoned
to the twisted souls of the three. They would do anything to possess
"Cordas!" I commanded. "Step forth and take the sword! We shall see
if it chooses you!"
I extended the hilt to the broad-shouldered soldier, and he seized
it. Cordas raised the blade aloft and swept it through the air,
feeling its heft and balance.
"A test, Lord Xayn! Provide me a test for this weapon!"
I snapped my fingers and pointed at another of my soldiers, one who
was to be punished for some minor transgression. He was brought
forward by two of his fellows.
"Strike to wound only," I warned Cordas, who was always eager to
reave and slay even when it was not in his best interests. Our Master
desired to spread death, but it was all done to serve a greater
Purpose, not to slake a thirst for murder.
The enchanted blade sheared through wormhide armor and flesh,
causing the soldier to gasp in pain as Cordas opened a bloody gash
across his chest. Leering sadistically, the warrior cut again,
engraving an X on his victim's skin. This time, though, the cry was
cut off sharply. I felt the surge of magic, the impression of the
death-rune in midnight blue in my mind's eye, could sense the precise
moment at which the prisoner's spirit was driven from his body.
Cordas stared, wide-eyed, then began to laugh.
"Such power the Master has provided! With this weapon, I shall
destroy our foes utterly."
This weapon. There it was, the reason Cordas, for all his
blade-skill and dark devotion, would never be a worthy wielder.
I extended my hand.
"Return the blade."
Cordas' eyes widened, and cupidity warred with his fear of me on his
homely face. Silently, I began to focus my will on a spell that would
obliterate the warrior if he chose to rebel, but very wisely he backed
down and placed the sword in my hand.
I next offered the weapon to the assassin Pryll. Having seen the
Deathspell magic, he wanted it even more; a weapon that could
slay with even a minor wound would be a great asset to the
nightstalker. His fingers eagerly reached for the hilt.
Then they stopped.
His outstretched hand was still three or four inches from the dark
stone. Indecision was clear in his expression, and fear lurked in the
corners of his eyes. Watching was much like watching Cordas a moment
ago, the same emotions doing battle.
Like Cordas, Pryll surrendered to his fear.
"No," he murmured, "I do not deserve this honor." What he meant
was, he did not dare accept it.
Pryll was growing wise, I reflected. He would bear watching.
"You may be too much the coward, assassin, but I am not!" proudly
boasted the last contender. Geor took the offered hilt, then raised
the blade high, its gray radiance shining down on him.
Then, the true magic of the shadowblade became apparent. Geor was a
follower at heart. He did not have the warrior's will, nor the
assassin's cleverness and caution. His soul yearned for guidance, for
a strong hand to show him what to do. In the face of our Master's
power filling the blade, his mind was as nothing.
The gray light seemed to flow into Geor's body, slipping beneath the
skin and filling his form with the essence of darkness, consuming him
from within. His back arched and his lips opened in a soundless scream
as his flesh lost its color, becoming gray and withered. Only his eyes
still held color; they were two pinpoints of burning red.
"You have accepted the power of the sword," I intoned to the
corpse-thing, "and so too have you accepted its duty. You are no more
a weak Parmanian, a mere follower of darkness; you have no name to call
your own. You are a Shadowsaber, one of our Master's countless
I descended from the throne and beckoned to the creature that had
once been Geor. Armor had been crafted to accompany the blade; once
clad in it, the Shadowsaber would stand at my side night and day. It
would be a bodyguard with no need for sleep or food, but more than
that, it would be a living reminder that the greatest virtue in a
Follower of the one true and eternal Darkness is not strength or
cruelty, not wisdom or cunning, but servitude.