“What a dull ending that was!” A large form in the back of the room stirred; some recognized it as Zaldi Xianuende, one of the foremost female wrestlers in the famed Mud Pits as well as a retired mercenary. An elf-dwarf mule, she was tall as her father, but with her mother’s stout build, casting a truly formidable shadow. “I like the goblin’s better!”

Nacee, the milliner from Exor, pressed her lips together. “It is not necessary to be interesting in order to be holy and pleasing to the Creator,” she said.

“I’ll say not,” Zaldi laughed. “Who wants to hear a better story? It has a pirate sword in it! I heard it during my mercenary days working out of Toan.” She paused, then whispered again, for added effect: “Pirate sword.”

“I’d like to hear about a pirate sword,” the small child who had told of the lava sword whispered.

“Good enough!” Zaldi boomed, overcoming any objections through sheer volume. “The Seven Sisters of Naïx are all pirate havens, but everyone knows that the great free port of Gizan is wealthy and powerful because it’s the most friendly to troublesome corsairs. One day, a pirate captain sailed into port laden with gold and silver; he had captured an orcish trade ship destined for Layyia, where the orcs traded the spoils of their conquest for the weapons and supplies their holy war needed but that they could not make themselves.”

“The captain, Robas, took the finest treasures to a jeweler in Gizan and ordered a fine sword to be made with them. But the jeweler, knowing the look of orcish gold, refused. He was gently persuaded via a black eye, but went about his work with a warning: the orcs do not believe in an afterlife, he said; they attain immortality through remembrance. And gold never forgets.”

“Robas responded with a quip from an old Crimson Emperor who had instituted a urine tax: money doesn’t stink. He collected his blade and soon after set sail afresh with his crew.”

“Ten days out from Gizan, they intercepted another orcish merchant ship, but this one was escorted by a trireme, loaded with armed orcs girded for battle. Flying the black flag, Robas demanded their surrender. They refused. With arrows and shot. Robas ran up the red flag, then. For those of you who don’t know your pirates address for shame!–the black banner means that surrender will be accepted, and the red banner means that the pirates will kill every man aboard save a single survivor to spread the tale.”

“With the gleam of dead mens’ riches in his eyes, the pirate captain Robas led the first assault onto the orc trireme once his men had grappled it to a standstill. With his glittering new sword, he charged the first orc he saw. But the sword would not strike; it missed, even at close quarters. It was as if an anchor weighed it down, and it would not suffer itself to be lifted in anger against the artisans that had worked its original pieces.”

“The jeweler and the pirate flag were both right that day. The god had not forgotten, and every man aboard the loser’s ship, save one, was killed. But it was the pirates, demoralized at the fate of their captain, who suffered that fate. Some say that the survivor was Robas himself, put ashore with his shame and his sword. Others say that it was a lone crewman who converted to the Hamurabash in gratitude and was given his old master’s sword in recompense.”

“But what came to be known as the Anchor Blade traveled the coast of Naïx and Layyia for years afterwards, and it would never suffer itself to strike a blow against any orc, nor any who had converted to the Hamurabash. For the gold…the gold remembers.”

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!