The knife practically glittered in the light. The thing was gorgeous. And ancient. “Where did you find this?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t worry about that. What really matters is that it’s in your hand now.”

“That’s a good point,” Daniel said, turning the blade over. “Why is it my hand that it’s in?”

Avery looked confused.

“You know I’ve got no money, but you could easily make a killing selling this.” He ran his thumb over the ornate carving in the handle, feeling the intricate detail. “Or earn yourself a favor from someone worth having in your debt.”

Avery’s confused expression melted into a look of the purest surprise. “Try to sell it before offering it to you?” He clutched his nonexistent pearls. “I would never dream of such a thing. Not with our long history, of course.”

“Yeah, quite a history. I think I remember the last chapter ending with me locked in a Terasi jail cell based on your report to the city guard,” he said as he looked up from the knife for the first time.

“Ah, an unfortunate business that was. All the more reason to want to make it up to you.” Avery’s smile slowly bled from one side of his face to the other.

This was obviously a trap.

“Well, then. All is forgiven,” he said, clapping Avery on the shoulder. It almost knocked the man down.

“Yes, wonderful, anything at all for my friends.” The smile evaporated and he started making his way to the door. “Lovely to catch up let’s do it again sometime.”

“Do you know how to use it?”

He turned back towards Daniel looking exasperated. “It’s a knife. I believe that would be perfectly within your realm of expertise.”

“This isn’t just a knife. It’s something much more than that.”

“Yes, it is a very expensive knife. It was as always a true pleasure to see you again.” He quickly grabbed the doorknob.

“Then again, all they told you was to give it to me, didn’t they?”

He didn’t turn the knob.

“See, this thing actually has a counterpart. Another one, just like it. And they can be used to find each other, anywhere in the world, if you’re, let’s call it attuned to the right frequency. But it does something else, too. Something I think no one else knows about.”

Avery was still standing in front of the door. “I had no choice. You know I didn’t.”

“Yeah, they usually don’t make the most equitable deals. How about you step away from that door.”

Avery turned and walked very slowly and deliberately back into the room. His normally pallid face had turned particularly ashen. His oily smile was gone, replaced with a dour look that didn’t do much to hide the fear that his wide eyes betrayed.

“And I assume that’s exactly why they want it to find its way into my hand.”

“They have something of mine. Something…” Avery paused to search for the right word. “Something irreplaceable. I had no other options, you must understand that.”

“It’s fine buddy,” Daniel said as he firmly grabbed Avery’s shoulder with his left hand and raised the knife in his right. “It’s going to be fine.” He smiled.

“Please. Daniel.”

In a very quick motion, he sliced the knife through the air. Avery’s jaw dropped and hung open for at least a full thirty seconds.

“Oh come on, it’s not that bad,” he said as he motioned towards a small cut on Avery’s cheek.

Avery felt it with his fingers. It was tiny, and a single drop of blood leaked out.

“It’s actually a lot of fun knowing something that you don’t.” Daniel wiped the droplet with his finger. “Probably the first time that’s ever happened.”

He smeared the blood onto the intricately carved skulls in the knife handle, and it reacted immediately. It soaked in the blood thirstily and the whole knife, even the steel of the blade faded to a deep, dark red. Daniel placed it on the table, and it began vibrating and shaking violently. Finally, a piercing screech emanated from it, and the very room around them was hidden behind a thick curtain of ethereal smoke the same shade of red.

But they weren’t alone anymore.

Seven tattered black cloaks were floating across the room from them. Skeletal hands protruded from the arms of the cloaks, some of them clad with various parts of rusted gauntlets, but each pair holding a sword.

Daniel carefully drew his own. “Avery, get behind me.”

•   •   •

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