Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Sword
John Riminton

He really was an odious piece of work. No point in naming him but, to avoid confusion we'll call him B-.
He was in his early 50's, having acquired real wealth by any dubious means that his talented but dishonest mind could devise. He had married a beautiful young woman whom he fawned over in public and mistreated in private. In his earlier days he had bought a Georgian-style house in Kent, tastefully contract-furnished by Harrods. More recently he had added a smaller property in Spain. A sense of insecurity had created a craving for status and respect that always seemed to elude him despite lavish entertaining. Perhaps a unique collection would help.
Even by his standards a collection of art would be too expensive – what about weapons? The house has a splendid hall that would provide an excellent display area. So it started: assagais, cross-bows, some armour but it needed a rare central item.
During one of his visits to Spain he had walked past a rather scruffy second-hand shop with an acquaintance who had pointed out a tarnished and neglected old sword. Having some knowledge of antiques, the acquaintance commented that it looked rather like an old Conquistador's sword and might be quite valuable. B- went in and bargained down a very cheap purchase. Taking it home he polished it up. It was clearly a sword of aristocratic provenance - what looked like a topaz in the pommel, a beautifully engraved bronze cross-guard and etched blade, it was just what he was looking for.
He had no means of knowing that it had once belonged to a young Spaniard in the early 1500s whom we shall call Miguel – a young man very similar to B- in character. The third son of a family belonging to the minor nobility, Miguel had also craved status and personal wealth. He had accordingly joined the Conquistadors, serving under Pedro de Alvardo, one of the cruellest and most rapacious of Cortes' lieutenants, the man largely responsible for the massacre of Tenochtitlan. What no one knew was that Miguel had willingly participated in that brutality, personally toying with the children of one noble Aztec family before the eyes of the parents before murdering them all and looting the house. Not even Miguel had known that the Aztec had placed a profound curse on the owner of the blade tormenting his children.
Miguel eventually found his way back to Spain rich with gold and gems. There, after a few weeks of glory he was falsely accused by two fellow conquistadors of with-holding treasure that should have been passed on to the King. He was imprisoned, tortured and executed, his family disgraced.
There was no record of the sword until it ended up in B-'s possession. Proudly mounted as centre-piece on his wall, it as accorded the praise that it deserved and that he longed for.
However, it was about that time that things started to go wrong for him. First it was a very full audit by the IRD that disclosed a Ponzi scheme operating in one of his companies. That led to a search of his computers and the discovery of hundreds of paedophile images. One thing led to another until B- realised that all hopes of status and respect had gone forever as the police cars drew up to his door.

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