Gideon's Mercy is a long slender dagger made of good quality steel, with a wrought copper handle in the form of a snake, twisting malevolently around the blade. There is no cross-guard, and given the material, the egde is surprisingly keen, almost obsidian-like in its sharpness. The snake has one emerald eye, the other long lost to history.
The copper work is almost child-like in its simplicity, but a closer examination will show that it was made by a skilled hand.
At the weld-point between copper and steel, blackened, crusted blood remains; a testament to this dagger's history. No amount of scrubbing or cleaning will remove the blood.
Even if left in the heat of a summer sun for hours, the metal is cold to the touch.
Gideon's Mercy will bring swift, painless death to those who suffer and wish for release. It will slide between ribs with ease, and find the beating heart to end a person's life with no more than a whisper. As soon as the tip pierces skin, a suffering man's pains will vanish, to be replaced by a calm clarity and relaxed acceptance of death.
Even a scratch will releive pain, and those who own Gideon's Mercy will often surreptitiously take another's suffering by using the tip of the dagger to cut a small scratch while the suffering sleep. Doing this will also grant a sound and restful sleep, free of nightmares and terrors.
Often, the small nick has healed invisible by first morning light.
Furthermore, Gideon's Mercy will be a great boon for all acts of selfless sacrifice. Those acts will likely succeed, often at the cost of owner's life. It has also been noted by those who suspect the dagger's magical nature that should an evil man repent, and sacrifice himself for another, he will be remembered for his sacrifice, rather than his evil. In addition, forgiveness from those he wronged will be easier, and their hurts lessened.
Having Gideon's Mercy on your belt while attempting to convince someone will make you seem noble and honourable, should those be your intentions. Should you have evil or hatred in your heart, it will be clear to those you speak to. Deceit while wearing Gideon's Mercy is almost impossible, as it makes the owner's intentions clear as day to all those who hear him.
Drawing Gideon's Mercy from a scabbard to help another will always succeed, but should the wielder have evil intent, he will most likely cut himself on the blade, dropping it. Should he manage to actually stab an innocent who does not wish for release, the wound will be almost painless, and will heal swiftly and without complication.
Using Gideon's Mercy for defending oneself will wound, and sap the will to fight from an attacker, but never kill. Using it to kill an animal for sustaining food will have the additional benefit of calming the animal at the sight of the dagger, and of making the meat less likely to spoil. Killing an animal for sport, or when food is plentiful, will have the inverse effect, with the animal being more agitated and the meat spoiling almost as soon as cut from the bone.
The dagger's origins are somewhat murky, but can be traced back to Sir Orlaf Gideon (known as 'The Red Duke').
In one of the many sorcerer purges that happened eight centuries ago, one remains in history as a particular example of why magic had to be controlled. A sorcerer, calling himself Magrehat, and who history would call 'Magrehat the Malicious' began a long campaign against the then king's dominion. His speciality was diseases. He particularly enjoyed a swift and wasteful corruption of his own devising that would rot the flesh, and leave the victim to endure days of agony, until, driven insane by the pain and the rot, they would die. Even the bones of his victims would blacken and wither away, as if devoured by invisible insects. To make matters worse, the black dust the bodies decomposed into would carry the disease across the land on the wind.
The king himself mobilised his dukes in pursuit of the sorcerer, and the Red Duke, as was required of him, set forth with his army to bring the terror to heel.
On a bitterly cold morning and after several days of travel, the forces of the Red Duke arrived upon the citadel of Craghelm. Here, instead of finding the second army with whom they should have joined to start their hunt for the warlock, the duke found a castle full of convulsing, rotting men, still alive, but bound for death under Magrehat's curse.
Most men would have turned back and fled as far away as their horses would carry them. But the Red Duke was not most men. He asked for volunteers. Men who were not afraid to die of the corruption. Ten men stepped forward. Ten men out of eleven thousand.
The duke sent his army back, to warn the king and escort the imperial mages back to Craghelm, where they would be able to contain the curse.
He, however, remained, and with his ten angels of mercy, began putting the garrisoned troops out of their misery.
Even as his own flesh began to blacken, the Red Duke kept going with his grisly task. Legend has it that his resolve was so strong that only when the flesh fell off his arms did he stop euthanising the soldiers.
Legend also tells that Sir Orlaf took weeks to die. He was a strong man, and writings of the time show that was always full of vitality, able to open his own castle gates single handedly, when even five of his soldiers struggled. That he resisted the corruption and suffered longer than most is more than likely.
His body, as well as the bodies of the lost army of Craghelm, were never found. When the imperial mages finally arrived, they recorded his armour and clothes alone in the highest room of the keep, full of soot-black dust and with a long, slender, snake-handled dagger next to where he died.
The Red Duke died for his bravery, but as the fates and the currents of magic would have it, his willingness to aid those who suffered and the selflessness of his sacrifice lived on in the dagger he held. For in acts of courage and sacrifice lay great magic.
The latest mention of Gideon's Mercy surfacing in history was when it was offered by a lowly clergyman to a corrupt king. The king, so enamoured by the malevolance of the snake, took to wearing the dagger everywhere. The records are unclear exactly how the king came to his demise so soon after this gift. Some say that when the queen saw him looking at their daughter and realised his intentions, she picked up a table knife and slit his throat there and then. Others that he was quartered in his own courtyard by his subjects. Of Gideon's Mercy, there is no trace.
Because of the dagger's powers, it has become common practise amongst the populace to cut a small scratch on the back of a suffering child's hand with a sharp knife. Of course, having never been inbued with magic, these acts have little effects, but Gideon's sacrifice will be remembered through this small act for generations to come.
The Magic of Gideon's Mercy means that the victim's sufferings are borne by the wielder. When using the dagger upon someone, the wielder will suffer every agonising inch, every twist, and every turns within their own chest. In addition, all of the victim's previous pains will be taken up by the unlucky soul who uses Gideon's Mercy. Only those of pure heart and absolute resolve will be able to ignore their own suffereing in order to bring mercy to another.