Marshall entered the designated back room where he found a number of new recruits in various states of undress. Cautious to keep his Oathtaker’s blade hidden, he quickly changed clothes. Once done, he transferred his leather pouch of magic crystals to a pocket of his new uniform. When through, he returned to the soldier in charge.
The man glanced at him, nodded his approval, and then reached for his hand. Before Marshall knew what had happened, the soldier had pricked his finger with the tip of his knife.
He pulled his hand back.
“Put a drop here,” the man ordered, gesturing at the channel he held.
Marshall stared at him, a question in his eye.
“It is the means by which we identify a channel’s owner.”
“What is it?” Marshall asked, feigning ignorance.
The soldier held up the weapon. “This is the most important of all your gear. It’s never to leave you.”
“What does it do?”
“It’s for use only in the most dire of circumstances. Your blood will link you to it. If it’s ever used against anyone but yourself, the link will identify you as its owner.” He straightened his shoulders and looked Marshall in the eye. “In which case . . . you will die. And you can trust me when I say it would not a pleasant way to go.”
“I put a drop of blood there?”
Marshall did as bidden. The channel seemed to soak his blood into its shaft.
The guard handed the weapon over, the pointed end turned down. “That holder on your belt there is for carrying it safely,” he said.
“And what— When—” Marshall hesitated, unsure how to phrase his question.
“When are you to use it? If taken captive. Use it to claim your life before you can bring harm to Zarek or to Chiran. It’ll grant you a quick and painless death.”
“And if something happens to it?”
“It had best not. Don’t ever be caught without it, under penalty of death.”
“You said it was linked to me. How does that work?”
The man sighed. “The one who uses a channel against another, cannot remove it from his victim. Only another may do so. In such a case, the hunt would be on to find the weapon’s owner.”
“I see.” Marshall placed the channel into its holder. “How is the owner identified?”
The soldier chuckled. “You don’t want to know.”
“I assume then, that once found, you would use the weapon against its owner?”
“That’s right. And as I said, in that case, the channel’s magic will not bring a quick and painless death. Rather, it will make for a long and excruciatingly painful one.”
Marshall nodded, then set out to catch the last coach out to Mortal Cark’s outpost.
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