The Touch of Death is another ingenious R'unorian weapon intended for assassins. It consists of an elbow-length glove with a cleverly concealed blade hidden inside. Upon the wearer moving their hand to rest palm outward from the rest of the arm, the blade is released from its concealment by means of a mechanism and is ready for killing.
Description. The Touch of Death is a sort of concealed
weapon. The blade and mechanism of the
weapon are housed inside of an elbow
length glove. The material of this glove varies, though the simplest are made of
leather, while more expensive gloves may be made out of silk. The crux of the
mechanism sits inside the glove, mounted between a pair of metal plates, usually
beaten copper. One of the fingers of the glove is fitted with a ring, called the
trigring, and wire which trigger the release of the blade. Tension on this wire,
caused by moving the hand so that the palm is facing towards the target,
releases the blade from its sheath inside the glove. After release, the entire
mechanism needs to be reloaded, and so the glove is laced up on the underside in
order for the user to gain access to its inner workings.
The mechanism which releases the blade superficially resembles that of a crossbow in that pulling the trigring causes the release of the tension on the string, which propels the blade forward, again much like a quarrel. Though instead of shooting out, like a quarrel, the tang of the blade encounters the smaller "mouth" of the mechanism, and stops. The string is attached to the mechanism next to the mouth, and needs to be pulled back into place after use, making it impossible for the Touch of Death to be used in rapid succession.
The blade of the Touch of Death is thin, narrow and quite flimsy all together. This makes ill suited for blocking of any sort, not that many assassins expect to encounter a situation where they might have to block. The length of the blade varies from owner to owner, since it should ideally be tailored to fit the arm of the wielder. Overall, the blade is the width of a finger, not more than three nailsbredths in width, making it more like an overlarge needle, similar to a salen pin or a judgement quill.
The tang of the blade is made up of a simple metal pin, attached to a flat piece of cork called the "stopper" which is what the mechanism launches. The pin is inserted into the stopper. When launched, the stopper prevents the blade from flying out when it encounters the sides of the "mouth" of the mechanism. Upon use, the Touch of Death needs to be opened in order to be reset for use and so the blade must be removed. This process is quite time consuming, and requires opening the glove to gain access to the mechanism within. Most gloves include a compartment to place the blade in as part of the mechanism, in order to aid concealment of the nature of the glove.
However, some gloves are not tailored, and these blades tend to be roughly a palmspan in length. The mechanisms and blades on these gloves can often be of inferior quality, causing them to jam inside the sheath. This is either caused by the stopper breaking or being too large or by gluing the blade to the stopper.
The design of each individual glove varies from owner to owner. Nobility using the glove often have elaborate embroidered designs, and opt to disguise the trigring as an ornate piece of jewelry on the outside of the glove with other stones. More workmanlike gloves have this ring sewn into the glove itself and occasionally include other forms of defense. Gloves with bracers included in the wrist are not at all uncommon, and some opt to sew plates of lead into the back of the glove, much like a cestus. One Touch of Death included a phial of poison, in a hidden pocket sewn into the lining of the glove. Some of these gloves are incredibly cleverly designed, and they mimic the appearance of flesh, though the deception is obvious on close inspection or if touched.
Usage. The Touch of Death is a R'unorian
weapon, and a R'unorian
weapon it remains. The sort of keen
engineering required to build it is known only in R'unor. Gnomish
work has reproduced the mechanisms when they have had an example to work from,
but the concept has never caught on outside of the R'unorian Isles. Nybelmarians prefer the
miraje blade, while Sarvonians have the silverphial. Possession of such a
weapon however, as with others of its type, is punished by removing the last
finger on the left hand. Subsequent crimes include harsher sentences and the
removal of another finger.
Fighting Style. The Touch of Death sums up its intended use in the name. The best way to use the weapon involves covering the tip of the blade with poison. Approaches as to how to deliver the blade vary, however it can be slipped between ribs or the individual bones of the spine as easily as plates of armor. One report of an assassination mentioned that the suspected killer was seen to have patted the man on the shoulder, and he keeled over dead a few minutes later. A popular R'unorian says "Who lets the cold touch them will themselves find cold." It is only the tip of the blade that typically carries poison. It would be wasted, since releasing the blade causes it to rub against the sheath, removing some of the poison.
Origin/History. R'unorian people have always been prone to xenophobia, even among others of their own isles. While others might interpret it as rudeness, R'unorians call their habits caution, and are generally not a trusting people as can be seen by their customs. The Touch of Death is thought to have been invented sometime during what Sarvonians refer to as the "Age of Sorcery" by person or persons unknown. The initial design of this knife however, worked on the application downward force to the blade, and it could not be easily replaced in its sheath. Since then, some R'unorians make a point of not allowing anyone wearing gloves to touch them and it considered unwise and insulting, tantamount to drawing a weapon, to not remove one's gloves indoors.
The use of poison in this weapon, in addition to the movement which it requires, has lead to a popular superstition that certain people can strike an opponent in such a way as to kill them without leaving mark, this is, of course, utter nonsense but has lead to the confusion between of name "touch of death" to refer to such a mythical strike.