It was a sweltering summer night when Aven finished the sword.
The runes would be added later. The wizard Larin, who commissioned Aven’s work, would add the runes himself, for the sword was sacred.
Aven wondered about such things, but not overly much; he was a simple man with an honest trade, and believed he was better for not being too curious. People didn’t come to him for the crafting of arcane weapons, normally, but that was exactly why Larin wanted him: Aven was off the beaten path, and there were certainly those who might have been better at ornamentation, but that wasn’t what mattered.
Larin had made inquiries, and heard from the few who bought from him that Aven’s weapon work was true. He was, unbeknownst to himself, a well-kept secret among his customers. But Larin was a wizard, after all, and news unwelcome and otherwise filtered to him eventually.
He’d invited Aven to see the sacred ritual of Lore-binding, where the sword’s lore would be placed into it. The blacksmith had heard of such things, but didn’t necessarily believe them. He wondered how steel could contain magic properties. It seemed an impossibility, but again, such things were beyond him.
It was nagging him, though, how such things could be, so he accepted the invitation. Tomorrow night he’d deliver the sword to the wizard himself.
Sloshing a bucket of water over himself, washing away the sweaty soot and ashes, and tending the burns the sparks left (though they scarred anyway), he managed to get himself ready for bed.
In a beam of moonlight he lay on his bed and put his hands under his head, contemplating about magic swords until his mind grew tired and his body succumbed to the day’s labors.
There was a presence in the room, radiating a scent of decay.
Aven sat bolt upright to see a presence in his doorway, outlined by a soft red aura.
A nightmare…nothing more.
“You know that to be untrue, Aven. I’m right here, right now, and I can see you as clearly as I know you can see me.”
Aven’s senses were not dulled by sleep, and as much as it frightened him, he had to admit he was awake.
“You know what I’m looking for,” the presence said. “Go get it for me, and see once more that it’s ready for binding. If you hand me an unprepared weapon, the price you’ve set on it will be nothing compared to the one you’ll pay.”
Aven got up, and felt the pull of the spirit’s power sweep over him. He retched and fell to his knees as the spirit enclosed his flesh with a dark, cold magic. When the sickness had passed, he pushed himself up on his hands, and looked at the demon through puffy, bleary eyes.
“And what,” he said between coughs, “shall I tell Wizard Larin, spirit?”
The specter softly laughed, but said nothing in reply.
Aven, his will stripped from him as easily as sundered gossamer, got up, retrieved the sword, and came back with the blade dripping water across his hands. The demon forced him to his knees, made him raise his hands, presenting the sword as to a rightful king.
The eldritch creature took the blade with the illusion of hands that were young, smooth, and had never shed blood, and inspected the blade with clear eyes that had never seen the corruption of mortal souls.
“You’ve done well, Aven. You may rise.”
Aven stood, his hands balled into impotent fists of defiance.
The spirit came close, looking deep into Aven’s eyes; he could no more look away than if the being had put his own eyes into the smith’s sockets.
“When this battle is done, Aven the Blacksmith will no longer be an obscure peasant tucked away in an unknown valley in the middle of nowhere; he will be a rich man beyond his wildest dreams, making weapons for the likes of high kings until his heart stops, and his name will be on the tongues of bards for centuries to come.
“Rest now, Aven, there will be no ceremony of Lore- binding for you to attend, but rather, the barely attended. funeral of a wizard who crossed me. You’ll know him by the coffin leaking his blood. We will be the only two that see his departure from this world.
The spirit faded, and as its power receded with it, setting Aven free, he wasn’t sure if his cry of anguish was from pain, sorrow, fear, or a swirling combination that made him piss himself as he passed out on the floor.