Contract Killer

“Is that the sword?”

It had been dug out from between fallen layers of a ruined castle, a solid week of labor by twenty men at great expense. When it was uncovered, they called him down, knowing better than to touch it themselves. It felt warm to the touch, then, even through his gloves, and it still did now. “It is, your Majesty.”

“May I?”

It was an uncomfortable moment for Karol, but he knew it to be a test. He drew the blade, rested it across the backs of his hands, and knelt; the king stepped down and leaned in, close enough to trace the filigree with his eyes. He knows the legend, he knows better than to take it.

“Beautiful. Beautiful and deadly. I won’t touch it, of course.” The King stood up, tall, and smiled. “I have known women like that.” The joke was answered by laughter from the assembled courtiers, a little too loud, lasting a little too long.

Karol sheathed the sword and stood, silent.

“How many dragon heads do you think, in all?”

“No one knows. Including the Old Grey Worm-King, at least five.”

“And with ours, six.”

“If I live, yes, your Majesty.”

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