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art by Void lon iXaarii


Alter S. Reiss is a working Archaeologist. This is his third story for Daily Science Fiction.

"You seem to have brought one heck of a sword here. Four and a half feet long, black steel blade. Can you tell me what you know about it?"
"Well, my grandfather was the treasurer for one of the dark lords, over in the Southlands. And, you know how it is. Sometimes he'd bring home little things that wouldn't be missed--caught up with him in the end. Liver eaten out by demons on a rock in hell, or something like that. We send him a card at the holidays, but I don't know if he reads it. Anyhow, this was one of the things that he brought back. We used to love it as kids--used it to cut pumpkins in half, and we'd chase each other around with it."
"Ever get cut with it?"
"No, not that I remember."
"That's good. You see, if you hold it up to your ear, like this, you can still hear the damned souls which have been drunk by the sword. It's a soulblade, and you don't get many of them still with their original fittings. That ruby in the hilt is absolutely genuine, as are the demonic talons in the guard. There are some nicks, but that's to be expected with a weapon that's seen the sort of use this one has. At auction, I wouldn't expect it to go for any less than 135,000 gp."
See also:
Provenance Issues.
Extraction and Valuation of Captured Souls.
"Can you tell me a little bit about this ring?"
"I almost didn't bring this one in, because it's so plain--just a gold band. But it was my cousin's, and it was always very precious to him, so I figured I'd take it in and see if you could tell me anything about it."
"Well, it does look plain, but your cousin seems to have had an eye. If you hold it up to a fire, like this, there's a maker's mark that becomes visible. Isn't that lovely? We have a limited amount of time for research here, but if you have an expert look into it, you should be able to find out where it was forged, and by whom, and that'll bring up the value. Since it's a family piece, I'd give you an insurance estimate of 2,000 gp, but that could go up considerably depending on that research. Also, in terms of display, this is a really sturdy piece; so long as you keep it from being directly exposed to magma, it should be with you for a very long time."
See Also:
Finding Researchers you Can Trust.
Collections as Legacies.
"The great thing about carpets like these is that they really tell you a story, even though the design is purely geometric. The knot work and the colors used here tell me right away that it was produced about five hundred years ago, in the sea islands. Now, I know that air traffic control doesn't like people to keep flying older models like this, but tell me honestly, have you been taking it up recently?"
"They are great fun to fly, I know, I know. But you really should keep it on the ground. You see, here, if I fold the carpet like this, you can see the base of the knots, right? And you can see how vibrant that blue is, when compared to what it looks like now? Some of that is fading, but it's mostly because of air pollution. When these carpets get going, they'll pick up particulates from the air they're going through, and there's a lot of stuff in the air these days."
"You know, now that you mention it, I do remember it being a lot brighter, back in my sire's crypt."
"Also would have been out of direct sunlight there, wouldn't it? A competent restorer might not be able to get back some of that brightness. At a minimum, they'll be able to stop some of the damage that's going on, with the chemicals that the carpet's already picked up. It'll cost several hundred gold, but I'd expect that turn what's now a 700 gp carpet into something that might bring 2500 gp at auction."
See Also:
Finding and Choosing a Restorer.
Flying Regulations and Antiques.
"It looks like you've brought in quite a sounding horn here. Can you tell me a little about it?"
"Well, this is the final trump, that will be sounded at the end of days. You can see the divine seal over here, and the mark of the angelic hand over on this side."
"And how did you happen to come by this?"
"It came up on an online auction a few months back, and I was lucky enough to be the highest bidder."
"If you don't mind me asking, how much did you pay for it?"
"The final bid was 2300 gp, and I probably would've paid twice that."
"I can see that. Unfortunately, I have some bad news for you. While this is an unusually large specimen, made from a behemoth horn, I'm afraid that it's not what it purports to be. You see, if this was the actual final trump, the prophecy describes it as being ringed about with cherubim, and if you look at the boss on the rim of the horns, those are--"
"Yes, exactly, thrones. In addition, something as holy as the final trump would react negatively in the presence of evil, and this item showed no reaction to any of our appraiser's collection of dark philters, or to the Codex Bound in Human Skin. Unfortunately, some of the Dwarven forges in the furthest north have been turning out replicas like this in large numbers, and they'll often pass for what they're not. Still, I think that 2300 gp is a fair price for a replica of this quality, and it's certainly an impressive item."
"Thank you... thanks for letting me know what I actually have, anyway."
"You're welcome. Now, if this was the real thing, I wouldn't want to do this, but you don't mind if I give it a little toot?"
"Not at all; go ahead."
"Thanks, I'll just--"
See also:
The End
This story was first published on Monday, May 26th, 2014

Author Comments

Part of why I'm interested in archaeology is because I'm fascinated by the way objects have so much to say. Another result of that fascination is that when I'm sick, I tend to watch way too many antique shows, and read D&D books. As I spent most of 2013 incapacitated by mononucleosis, this story happened.

- Alter S. Reiss
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