Müsstler was one of the few, even in those days, who knew the secret of infusing the steel of a weapon with a living soul. They were called speaking swords, though their speech was audible only to those holding them at a telepathic level. Shortly after his retirement, Müsstler was kidnapped from his home by a local cell of daemon worshippers. They knew that he had made powerful speaking swords for crusaders and the church, and desired him to craft a weapon of supreme and malign evil–a latter-day version of the speaking scimitar Aldebaran which had corrupted men and built up empires until it was lost to the deep after a naval battle.

The swordsmith complied, fashioning a horrific weapon. Its serrated blade was a deep and sinister gold engraved with skeletons and mounted on a hilt shaped like a human bone. The Bone Blade was then ritually infused with a soul drawn from the beyond; at the height of the ceremony, Müstler himself was used as the necessary human sacrifice.

But the wily old man had foreseen his fate, and played a final trick on his captors. He infused the Bone Blade with a timid and kindly soul that was nevertheless boastful and supplicant. The weapon therefore appeared to go along with the will of its evil daemonic masters but would fail to follow through on its promises or use its powers on innocents or the good–its full potential was only unleashed when the cultists fell to fighting among themselves, for speaking swords used against their will are no more effective than a heavy blunt club but can cleave hillsides otherwise.

So it was that the Bone Blade passed from daemonic cult to daemonic cult across the world, sowing the seeds of destruction among them. Just as Müsstler wished, its dread legend grew so much that the cultists fought over possession of the weapon that would eventually be their own undoing.

As soon as the ‘help’ button was pressed, a holodisplay popped up, complete with an animated menu and digital voice. “Congratulations on your purchase of an Exotech Inc. US-7 Utility Sword. The Exotech Inc. US-7 Utility Sword is designed for brush-cutting, display, sword-dancing, ceremonies, and garden use. Use of the Exotech Inc. Utility US-7 Sword in contravention of the End User Agreement will result in voiding the limited warranty. By unsheathing the Exotech Inc. US-7 Utility Sword, you agree to be bound by the terms of the license contained within.”

“How can I agree to be bound by the license when I have to unsheathe the sword to read it?” said Percival.

“Query cannot be processed. Warning: use of the Exotech Inc. US-7 Utility Sword as a utensil or carving knife can result in heavy metal poisoning. Contact the nearest Poison Control Center if you serve or have been served food with an Exotech Inc. US-7 Utility Sword. Do not lick the blade.”

“I don’t care about any of that, goddammit! Just tell me how to use it!” Noises and shapes were growling closer, perhaps drawn by the whispered argument Percival was having with the sword’s basic AI.

“Do not attempt to use the Exotech Inc. US-7 Utility Sword as a weapon. Any attempt at offensive or defensive action will result in an automated call to our friendly network of service centers and a voided warranty.”

“What? Whoever heard of a sword not meant for combat?” Percival said, incredulous.

“Query cannot be processed. Due to its high heavy metal content, use of the Exotech Inc. US-7 Utility Sword is a violation of domestic and international standards regarding safe workplace environments and war crimes. Use of the Exotech Inc. US-7 Utility Sword in an improper manner may lead to charges being filed with the International Criminal Court.”

“Just…just give me a demo of the brush-cutting feature!” Percival cried. They were almost upon him as he argued with his only weapon.

“Brush not detected. Proceed?”

“Yes, yes! Proceed!”

“What you don’t understand, my friend, is that the veneer of civility is paper-thin. Easily torn, easily mended, easily discarded.”

Logain squirmed in his chair. “Enough with the ten-dollar words, flatfoot,” he said. “I got rights. I said I’m not tellin’ you nothin’, and you can’t keep me here ‘less I get a lawyer or you get a judge.”

“My, my, we have a constitutional scholar on our hands here, boys!” Detective Richat cried to his fellows, who responded with low chuckles. Richat removed his hat and overcoat; their brass accouterments clanked on the steel table as he laid them down.

“Yeah, not all us west side boys are complete rubes,” Logain said. “Let me go; you can be surprised later.”

One of the officers handed Richat a box from Dulley’s Floral Shoppe on State, which he cradled.

“It may be the thought that counts, but I don’t think you’re my type, detective,” Logain said, batting his lashes.

“I’m going to give you one last chance, my friend, before the veneer is discarded,” said Richat. “What did you do with Mr. Berkeley’s book?”

Logain, in response, slowly and deliberately raised his middle finger.

Richat whipped an M1913 cavalry saber out of the box and severed Logain’s outstretched finger in a single fluid stroke. A dirty rag served to muffle the prisoner’s screams.