Girl Meets Weapon
The Council was gathered in the room, murmuring amidst themselves. They had been roused from their rest at Dyros’ request, to deal with the unprecedented matter before us. A few members of the Council looked visibly reluctant to be present, with some of them whispering complaints about being forced to attend. Perhaps they forgot that I could hear everything within the Council chambers. I made a mental note to reprimand them afterwards.
“Lady Aethry, is the stand comfortable?”
I wasn’t entirely sure what comfortable was supposed to mean, given that I was presently in my spear form and therefore had no sensation of touch. I supposed he wanted to know whether the new stand that had been carved for me fit my needs. Well, the frame did fit my shaft perfectly, so I suppose that qualifies as being comfortable, however little sense that made. The jewel embedded in my head glowed green as an affirmative. Drinul, visibly relieved, sat back down in his seat and began fidgeting. I mentally sighed. He needed to learn to settle down. For that matter, all these Elders needed to learn to settle down.
Incidentally, I was in my spear form as a sort of secret countermeasure. In the event that an armed conflict broke out in the Council room, I could assume my humanoid form and protect the Council. Staying as an immobile weapon until then was to catch the potential enemy off guard. The other reason was that our human prisoner might have used my humanoid appearance as a negotiation tool to weaken the strength of our positions by attacking their consistency. For example, if she were to seek refuge in our city and we were to turn her away, she could possibly claim that it was unfair to refuse her when I, who looked human, was allowed to remain. Therefore, until I was needed, I would pose as a decorative piece at the head of the room.
The murmuring quieted down as the large double doors to the chamber opened. Dyros and his 2nd Vanguard marched in, leading a bound and blindfolded human woman in a ragged, white robe. Dyros forced her to kneel before us and ripped off her blindfold, revealing her face.
A collective gasp issued from the Elders – the woman in question was a beautiful human with black hair and strange features. Even among the new humans, her hair colour and facial structure was unusual – only those of the Eastern continent bore those features, and that land had been destroyed centuries ago. Was she a descendant? Whatever the case, when I saw her face, I was struck by another one of my splitting headaches. Seriously, I didn’t even have a head, so how was I getting a headache?
My jewel glowed yellow as I endured the pain, then changed its glow back to green after the headache passed. The human woman’s gaze was drawn to my jewel, and her eyes travelled down my body with interest. Finally, she spoke up.
“Now that’s a fine weapon. Whose is it?”
She was struck from behind by one of the escorting soldiers.
“Do not speak unless spoken to, human.”
The woman coughed a bit from the impact, but otherwise remained smiling. I felt a shiver along my immaterial spine. How was she so calm despite her situation? The Elders looked at her with expressions of astonishment, tinged with a bit of fear. Drinul was the first Elder to speak up.
“State your name and business, human.”
“Elysium Ling. I was told to come here to the Runi Wilds. Can’t say I expected to find elves and catpeople.”
My head throbbed again. My body felt like it was on fire. My head felt like it was a spiderweb of cracks, with pressure being applied across it at multiple points. It was as if something inside was screaming, burning me up. Something unknown. It was not a sensation I recognised. It was not a sensation I had ever felt. Yet I knew exactly what it was. I felt a chill of fear.
…Was it possible? Was I really imprinting on this woman?
I had always known I might face it one day. It was a part of my nature as an Intelligent Weapon. It was, so to speak, built into my being. I was a weapon. A weapon needed a wielder, an Owner. Someone to use me, to direct my power. I always knew that one day I would imprint on an Owner. It was inevitable. I was prepared for it. I just didn’t think that it would happen in this situation. I trembled.
At least let me ascertain that this woman isn’t hostile to the city.
I did not wish for my power to be turned against the city I had promised to protect. I held myself in check and fought the urge to pledge myself to her.
Just a while longer. Please.
I would wait to see if she was hostile. If she meant the city any harm, I would flee from here immediately. With all my centuries of discipline and experience, I forced myself to ignore the urge. Meanwhile, Drinul was continuing to speak.
“I heard you have news about one of ours.”
The woman nodded.
“Yep. I had a ring to prove it, but that dashing catman over there took it away.”
Drinul turned toward Dyros, who walked forward and produced a signet ring, offering it to the Elder. Drinul took it and examined it. I, too, seeing all that occurred within the chamber, saw the design on the ring. Indeed, it was the crest of Dyros’ house, the Faircleaves. It was an heirloom, granted only to the next family head. It was one of the objects that Serena had taken along when she escaped. There was only one such ring in the world. The ring was passed among the other Elders, some of whom casted magic on it to check for counterfeiting. It was the genuine article.
Drinul turned back to the woman.
“How did you come into possession of this ring? And what happened to its owner?”
“The ring was given to me, and its owner is dead.”
The short answer set the room abuzz. The Elders turned toward each other, expressing their collective sympathy. Dyros remained in the middle of the room, his face stoic. It came as no surprise – she had been presumed dead for a long time now. Having confirmation of the fact was regretful, but not unexpected. Drinul followed up her response with another question.
“How did she die?”
“Before I tell you that, I’d like to receive a guarantee of asylum in this city.”
“You do realise that you’re in no position to demand that? You are an intruder in our land.”
“Oh, I’m fully aware that I’m being unreasonable. But I stand by my statement. If you want to know about how I got this ring, promise me asylum.”
“Asylum from whom? Why would you require our protection?”
“From the Mercynth Empire. I’ve done something that they didn’t really like, so I’m on the run from them.”
“What exactly did you do?”
“Grant me asylum, and I’ll tell you.”
“If you’re wanted by that Empire for being a criminal, there is no benefit in granting you asylum. We want to avoid the attention of that country by all means, so it would be foolish of us to accede to your request. Now, if you would tell us about what befell Serena Faircleave, we would be in your debt – we would then be more amiable to granting you asylum in return for this favour.”
Of course, Drinul likely had no intention of sheltering someone from the Empire. He was just trying to extract information from her before having her thrown out. Perhaps the woman recognised this as well. She shook her head with a smile.
“That’s not going to work on me. No asylum, no story.”
“Under the present circumstances, we have no choice but to conclude that you have killed Serena Faircleave and taken her ring. Justice shall be served. Blood shall follow blood. You shall face the judgment of death.”
He gestured, and the Vanguards all drew their swords, pointing it at the bound woman. She sighed and shook her head, unfazed even in the face of death. A soft murmur escaped her lips.
“Was hoping it wouldn’t come to this, but I suppose this was inevitable…”
With that, she effortlessly broke out of the ropes that bound her. Moving at a speed that was far too fast for someone with her build, she broke out of the encirclement of surprised guards and dashed towards my pedestal, reaching her hand out for my shaft.