The blade stood, sunk into the palatial floor, casting a shimmering rainbow as the morning sun bled through the tall windows, warping and reflecting through its glass facets. It would remain here today, and tomorrow, perhaps forever, as it had for four hundred years — a lasting reminder of the evil men can do, and a symbol of their failure.
Dara lifted the cordon, and began to sweep gently around it, as she had every morning. The gentle strokes of her broom reverberated through the vast hall, empty apart from her. It wouldn’t be long before the challengers came. Come to pull the sword and prove their worth as the most just and righteous to walk these lands.
They never succeeded.
Sometimes, she’d take a perverse enjoyment in watching the arrogant ones be proven wrong. Sometimes, they just left somber and dejected. Others would fly into fits of rage, not seeing the irony. It was harder to watch the kind ones be let down. The children were the worst of all — always hoping, never successful. It was a cruel trick that the gods had played, she thought. The Sword did more harm than good.
The poor came often, she had realized. Many were fixated. This city had let them down, treated them like dirt, and still they tried to prove themselves to it. If they could just draw the blade, then they’d be able to make something of themselves. Finally get out from whatever they were under. Meriden was the City of Dreams, a shining beacon of the Empire, a symbol of all that is good in the world. Of progress, wonder, hard work and perseverance. That’s what the tourists thought. Once you were here long enough, once you saw the desperation in the eyes of those that pin all their hopes on a sword, of all things, it lost some of its charm.
The rich came less often. Most only came once. They walked in, full of pomp and self-assurance, expecting just to be able to take it, as they did most things. The truth of the matter was always hard. It made them uncomfortable, she thought, having to fail at something. Having to be introspective. They couldn’t bear to come back.
“Mornin’, Dara,” came a voice from behind her. She turned to face its source.
“Morning,” she said with a nod.
“I’ve got a good feeling today. Can I try?”
“On you go.” She paused for a moment, then smiled.
“Today’ll be the day.”