by Ishafel

A sword is a sword is a sword. Unlike people objects are always true to their natures. Godric Gryffindor's sword was what it was meant to be and nothing more. That, in the end, was quite enough.

It was forged for the first time in the Persia of the caliphs, three centuries before Gryffindor was born. It was made without magic by a master swordsmith, a man so gifted that in all the great desert, in all the world of the followers of the Prophet, he had no match. It was crafted of the finest steel, the hilt chased with pure gold and set with a single ruby the size of a man's fist and worth ten kings' ransoms. It was made for Abdullah, first among the generals of the caliphate, and he bore it north into Armenia and there he was betrayed and the sword was lost.

Scavengers pried it from the dead man's hand and chipped the great jewel free and snapped the hilt clear of the blade and left it beside its master. A shepherd's son with a flair for swordsmanship found it, clean of rust as if it were new, and a blacksmith with more talent for horseshoes than swords attached a clumsy hilt that ruined the perfect balance. And still the sword was a beautiful thing and by far the best weapon in primitive Europe.

The shepherd's son took the sword and rode west into battle, changing armies as fortunes changed until he came at last to Spain and to the sea. There at last his luck ran dry and he sold the sword to a Jewish merchant in need of protection and turned east again. The merchant wore the sword as carelessly as if it were a toy and died for his carelessness. When he was buried his brother flung it into a rubbish heap on the outskirts of Toledo and it was sold with a pile of scrap to an ironmonger and melted down and remade into a dagger and bit for a warhorse.

But a sword is a sword is a sword, and even swords beaten into plowshares remember the taste of blood. As it happened the hand that guided the bit, and the belt to which the dagger was girded, both belonged to a Frankish knight who took them to his own country. When the sons of the wizard Charlemagne went to war weapons were in short supply in the city of Verdun and so swords were forged out of anything and everything and the blade was borne once more into war. Even without the threat of civil war there was little peace in Europe then, and eventually the sword--now a clumsy, badly made thing, by Arab standards--fell into barbarian hands and was carried across the Channel to England.

There it was once again lost in battle. This time a young Saxon lord took it up and carried it home, hanging it on his wall like so much plunder. Then it remained for a generation, deprived of its true destiny though not its true form. It lost its edge, spent its time dreaming of glory, but it was a sword still, and true to itself. When the Saxon's son, Ethelred Wessel, needed a gift for his liege lord, he determined that a sword would be the perfect tribute. Because he was only a minor, not particularly noble, lord he was forced to melt down a number of weapons from his armory to forge it.

Thus was the sword reforged a third time. This time though the artisan who made it was only a journeyman it was made well and carefully; this time it was meant to be a wizard's blade and dozens of spells were cast upon the molten metal, upon the half-formed sword, upon the small, carved emerald that ornamented the hilt. There were spells to make it keep its edge, to ensure that it could not be turned on its bearer, to guarantee that it was never drawn unless there was blood to spill. All the spells in the world could not have made it anything but what it was: even magic could not make it more or less than a sword.

Wessel took the sword with him to court. He carried it at his hip so as not to dishonor it; he rode beneath his great banner with its blue and silver weasel and behind him rode a dozen of his kinsman with hair as bright as his own. He knelt at the feet of his lord to present it, and was glad when its weight was gone. There had never been a sword like it forged, and never would be again.

Arcturus Slytherin bore the sword all his life, and it became his trademark and his luck; he swore that he would never sheath it until he had conquered all of Britain and when he died he left both the scabbarded blade and the unified kingdom to his son Salazar. Salazar Slytherin was a scholar and not a swordsman, and he found his father's legacy daunting, but he carried the sword into a dozen battles and rode safely clear a dozen times.

Only in the war of the heart was Salazar Slytherin defeated, and no sword could have helped him there. He fell early and hopelessly in love with a brilliant young Viking nobleman, and gave to him the sword as a mark of his loyalty. A sword is a sword is a sword; it cannot change fate any more than it can cut admantine. But when Salazar Slytherin lost his heart to Godric Gryffindor he lost more than the sword. The weapon that came down through the years to Harry Potter was a good one, though some fool had carved the name Gryffindor into the steel, and set a gold-chased hilt onto the blade, with an inlaid ruby big as a man's fist and worth a wizard's ransom.


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