But Scrollwork Improves the Aim

Carl eyed the scuffed blade and the splintered handle. "You don't need it."

"It'll come in handy. It helped me kill the troll I took it from."

"It's awful. Besides, in which pocket will you carry it?"

"Same one as the crossbow?"

"Yes, well, that's a specific tool for a specific job. And who carried it, most of the time, as I recall? That's too unwieldy. And ugly."

"Since when do looks matter?" Too late, Van Helsing realized his slip. He started to apologize but Carl's lips were pressed into a thin line. The friar stomped away, gesturing and mumbling.

Sweet Talk

A week after arguing about whether Van Helsing needed a battleaxe, Carl dragged him to the lab. "I hollowed the handle, weighted it properly, thinned the blade. But I still think it's too big. . . "

"It's beautiful." As were all of Carl's creations, Van Helsing knew. He didn't miss the tiny inscription, requiescat en pace, in a circle on the flat of the blade. "Like you."

Carl smiled, and wished they weren't in the lab, but his room. "Flattery will get you everywhere." He walked away and shouted over his shoulder. "But don't expect me to carry that."

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