King Shinar did not immediately speak, prompting Ecel to turn towards him. The King’s eyes became sorrowful, and he turned and walked back down the stairs. Ecel followed, patiently waiting, and not wanting to beg him to speak. When they reached the bottom of the stairs, King Shinar turned towards him, his eyes more kind than they had ever been.
“Look back at the succession of swords.”
Ecel looked and waited. He began to shift his weight from foot to foot. His hands lifted slightly then fell back to his side. Then he broke the silence.
“What am I looking for?” He prided himself on being observant, and he was frustrated that he wasn’t seeing something that must be obvious. His eyes shifted up and down the order of swords. He looked for a pattern or a commonality, but he saw nothing.
“How prominent is the sword you were looking at?” King Shinar’s words snapped Ecel out of his obsessive search, and he located the new sword.
“From here it is only slightly different than the others.”
“That is how you must see.”
Ecel turned with his hands opened slightly. “I don’t understand.”
King Shinar simply restated, “This is how you must see.”
His mouth opened slightly as he began to form his next question, but King Shinar placed his right hand on Ecel’s shoulder and immediately they were on the staircase adjacent to the sword. Ecel looked and saw that they were indeed back on the staircase. He glanced back at King Shinar, his eyes widened, but then King Shinar lifted his right hand towards the sword. Ecel turned his attention to the worn sword.
“This sword represents your greatest joy and your greatest pain.” Ecel turned again to King Shinar. He could somehow see both of these conflicting emotions in his eyes. The brink of tears in his eyes caused them to shine incredibly bright. Ecel looked deeper and he could see images moving. He looked closer and he realized that the images were people. The images looked familiar to him and he leaned closer, but King Shinar placed his hand on him to stop him.
“Do not look too deeply. These images have forged the steel of this blade and they have scarred its edge. They are images of the realm of Dakaria and the realm of Glodoria. They represent much pain and suffering as well as much joy and comfort. This is the way in which you must pass, there is no other way.”
Ecel could feel the sweat forming in his palms. He slowly wiped his hands on his clothes, and he swallowed the lump rising in his throat. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end as a slight chill ran down his back. He turned away from King Shinar and focused on the sword. Now the impressions on the handle seemed even more pronounced, and the tarnished blade seemed darker.
“What must I do?”
King Shinar was silent, but Ecel could feel him. As he looked deeper at the blade, he could see King Shinar’s reflection. Ecel stepped closer to the sword and focused on King Shinar’s reflection. The King’s eyes began to glow and Ecel placed his hand on the wall for support. He leaned close enough to the sword to see the King’s face in focus, and the King spoke.
“You will have to choose.”
Ecel waited for the obvious, but it never came, so he responded. “Between?”
Ecel looked at the reflection and saw the King look down for a moment, then with a heavy sigh he fixed his gaze on Ecel.
“Between what is right and the one you love.”