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Red Steel, Shadowed Veil

by Robert J. Nuttman, Jr.

Boris Torenescu coughed in the smoky aftermath of the wizard's test.

"Well?" he wheezed, his voice muffled by the handkerchief he pressed to his mouth and nose. "What is it?"

The wizard frowned, staring at the finely wrought dagger lying on the charred lab table. "Most peculiar," he murmured. "It is like no metal I have ever seen. It is stronger than the steel from the King's armoury... yet a dagger of similar make weighs twice as much as this. If it weren't for the hazy magical radiation, I'd say this was of dwarven make."

"Bah!" Boris snapped. "If it was dwarven, I would have seen it before. Besides, the bearded ones have an almost fanatical need for purity in their metalwork. No dwarf worth his whiskers would craft such a fine blade from tainted metal."

"I do not think this reddish hue is a flaw in the steel, Boris. It seems to be more like a...a property of the metal itself, rather than a result of alloying."

The Traladaran scoffed, making his way over to the narrow window. He took several deep breaths of the clear air, admiring the few lights twinkling in the streets of Specularum.

"Where did you say you found this weapon, Boris?"

"It was... a gift. One of my agents acquired it from some careless Veiled Society thugs, who'd taken it from a drunken sailor. Funny thing, they said he looked as though he'd spent too much time in the sun."

"His skin was red?" A new light sparked to life in the mage's eye. Even as he asked the question, he was reaching for a large book.

"What has the colour of a man's skin got to do with what this dagger is made of?"

The wizard looked up from scanning the pages. "Oh, it may have everything to do with this mysterious metal, my friend." He stood up abruptly, slapping the book shut. "Come back tomorrow, Boris, and I may have more than smoke for an answer."


"No, no. I must speak with a colleague or two. I will see you tomorrow night." The mage snapped his fingers, and Boris found himself standing outside the Black Lily Tavern, halfway across the city from the wizard's apartments.

Taking a moment to gather his wits, the elder Torenescu muttered a few choice curses at the manners of wizards. Still, he needed answers, and Ivanov was the closest to finding a real lead to the origin of the strange sailor's red-hued weaponry.

Stronger than steel and half the weight.... A wicked smile crept across the man's lips as he began mulling over the possibilities.