I crawled out of the tunnel into the bright light of the eternal Ecosian day. Malagor followed me. Between the two of us we carried the artifacts found in the inner chamber, with the exception of the rusty cans. I had a feeling they contained foodstuffs that were far from fresh. Besides, we didn’t have a can opener. We set everything down, and Malagor skinned his small game animal, spitted it, and put it over our campfire. I tossed a few more twigs on the fire and then sat down to examine the fascinating swords that I had found.
I hefted the long sword in my hand, and was surprised to find that though it had obviously been crafted as a two-handed sword, it was too light for that method of swordsmanship. I then recalled that here on Ecos my strength was increased, roughly doubling what it had been on Earth. If I had not had this additional strength, the sword would have been quite heavy and well balanced as a two-handed weapon. The blade was bright silver in color but strangely, neither the blade, nor the many small runes and designs carved along its length, reflected the sun. The hilt was carved of a material that looked like wood, but was much harder and did not show the great age that it must have been. It too, was carved with fantastic designs, and, set all along it, were fourteen beautiful gems. I guessed that they were quite valuable, though I suppose that the value of gems, like so many other things, really depends upon one’s culture. I was never much for mineralogy, so I don’t know if they were emeralds or sapphires or what, but they certainly were lovely. The short sword was almost identical to the long sword, with the exception of its length, and the fact that it had been designed to be used single-handedly.
I looked up from my examination of the sword to see my dog-faced friend. He had finished getting dinner cooking, and now was devoting himself to an examination of the rifles. He drew one to his shoulder and looked down the barrel. I was somewhat surprised, because I had assumed that Malagor was from a low technology society. It had never occurred to me that he might be acquainted with firearms, or in this case an even more advanced weapon.
“Do you know this particular weapon?” I asked.
“It is an Amatharian gun. They call it a light rifle,” he said. “I have used weapons similar to this, but never one this fine or this powerful.”
“Tell me something of these Amatharians,” I said.
“The Amatharians are a most interesting race. They look much like you, and yet they are different. They are a race of honor. If you insult an Amatharian you must be ready to kill him or to die. They travel over a wide area, but live only in their great city of Amathar. It is said to be the greatest city anywhere. They are trained in war, but do not love war the way some other races do.” He stopped for a moment as if trying to remember.
“An Amatharian warrior’s soul is in his sword. If the sword sees the warrior turn from an enemy, the soul will be disgusted and will never be with the warrior again. If the warrior dies bravely, the soul leaves the sword to live in the sun, shining brightly forever. If a warrior gives his sword away, he gives away his soul.”
He stopped and looked at me.
“These Amatharians are funny people,” he said.
“Have you actually known any Amatharians?”
“When I was a little pup, a group of Amatharians came to our village. There were only six of them. The leader of the group was an old trader. He wanted the pottery and leather crafts that our bitches made. He traded us tools and interesting foods. The others were his assistants, all that is except the Remiant.”
Malagor went to some length to explain to me what I suppose would be sort of a combined military rank and social status of the Amatharians. Most young Amatharians, he explained, were militarily trained. Even those that pursued other occupations within their society were also soldiers. After leaving military duty, the former soldiers became explorers, scientists, or merchants. A beginning soldier was a warrior or remiantad. After glorifying himself in battle he became a swordsman or remiantar. When a swordsman became somehow complete, a true living weapon, he became a Remiant, something like a knight. To be a Remiant, was the ultimate goal of all Amatharians. Though there were ranks beyond Remiant, a Remiantad or captain and a Horemiant or general, these were only ranks for use in large-scale warfare. In the context of social status, all remiants were equal. Yes, a Remiant was a knight. Malagor went on.
“The knight was tall, even for an Amatharian. He stood, back straight and head held high. On his tabard was the crest of his house. His swords were strapped to his sides. They were not as magnificent as the ones you have found, but it seemed to me that the long one shined with the light of the soul within.
“The merchant and his apprentices went into the house of our alpha male to discuss the terms of trade. The knight took his position outside the doorway. There were several of us, all small pups. We stood there watching him. He smiled at us. That is all that I remember.”
“Was that a long time ago?” I asked.
“A very, very long time ago.” He looked at me with his head cocked to one side. “It is a boring story.”
“No, it is not boring,” I countered, “but I wonder why the Amatharian left these swords here, and what happened to his soul?”
“It is possible that these swords have not seen use. They certainly appear to be in fine condition,” said Malagor.
“You know a great deal about Amatharians and their swords considering you met one only when you were a small child. You must have studied them.”
He just shrugged.