It was well-known that many magic swords contained the souls of living things. Usually harvested by hunters. Most monster slayers carried one of these blades when they went to kill unholy creatures and thought nothing of it. What did it matter if a stag died to keep a troll from destroying a town? And they were much cheaper than the blades crafted by the wizardsmiths, who forged their blades directly from magical essence.
Baltar's last sword broke as he sank the blade past the ribs of a hydra. As a professional, he always made sure he had a backlog of contracts.
"I'm supposed to be in Ryzia this week," he was saying.
The smith looked at him and shrugged. "Doesn't affect me, pal."
"Are there no magic swords in this damned town?"
The smith paused his hammering for a moment and stared at him. "You're that desperate?"
"I need it for my work. I have a demon to slay."
He leaned in closer. "I have one. Traveller sold it to me for practically nothing. I chucked it in the scrap pile, assuming it was one of those cheap rat-soul swords that aren't worth the iron they're forged with. But you're welcome to have it."
The man brought it out and Baltar quickly saw it contained more than a rat's soul. To his trained eye, the blade practically vibrated with the power of the magic inside. It was a good sword, the likes of which he hadn't seen in a long time. Whoever sold it clearly didn't know its true value.
He hid its true value from the smith as well, buying it for a couple of coppers.
The cave wasn't hard to find. A black hole in the cliffs above Ryzia, snow blowing around the entrance. He pushed on and entered, his thick woollen cloak flying in the wind.
He followed the winding catacombs with a well-practised precision, building a map in his mind so he could find his way out. Shrill, echoing laughter reached his ears now and again, always coming from deeper down. A shiver ran down his spine. No wonder they'd stopped digging here.
He soon found himself in the shaft the miners had abandoned mid-dig. The laughter was so loud it drowned out all other thoughts. He felt an icy sensation between his shoulder blades and turned to see the demon standing there, its limbs freakishly thin and long and wrapped in frost. It was blocking the way out.
He drew his sword, but the demon only laughed more, its face splitting in a terrifying grin. The sword turned impossibly heavy and fell from his grasp. The demon held out its hand and the sword flew to it.
He recognised that thrumming energy now. How could he have missed it?
It held the soul of a demon.