At first glance, the sword is coarse and battle-worn. It has the complexion of a ship’s anchor, gnarled and russet, with spatters of tarnish from ancient blood. A few patches of whorled gray suggest an origin in Damascus, but cruel entropy has claimed the rest of its surface. Its edges are battered and worn from ages of shattering helmets and bones alike.

Even so, a zipper (apparently added in the latter half of its many-century lifespan) begins near its hilt, and spans the length of the flat of the blade. After a few short tugs on its pull tab, the grotesque steel comes loose and opens like a curtain. Beneath its folds rests a layer of soft material that swells and reddens slightly upon exposure to the open air, as though it is ashamed of its own sudden nudity.

The revealed understeel is warm and tender to the touch, like an open wound. It is also malleable; when pressed with bare hands, the fingerprints left behind do not disappear. There are many such bruises along its length, markings left behind by generations of curious warriors who opened the blade during their own lifetimes. It is so soft in some parts that it feels as though it might split open and bleed, were one to slide little more than a fingernail across.

The purpose of this layering is unclear, but it leads to questions about what role the understeel plays in the weapon’s use. From one perspective, this inner blade is innocent, for it alone is unable to kill; the outer steel slays its prey while the other remains trapped inside. From another angle, what lies beneath is the true killer, a frail thing which hides its guilt behind the equipment that it wears to war.