Terminus Est

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Terminus Est is a sword in the science fiction series The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe. It is wielded by Severian, a torturer and the narrator of the series.

Terminus Est and Severian

In the Shadow of the Torturer, after Severian is expelled from his guild and the city of Nessus for showing mercy to one of his charges, he is sent north to serve as a carnifex in a different city. A carnifex is an executioner, and may also perform excruciations (torture). Officially, Severian remains a journeyman torturer, to conceal the disgrace he has brought upon the guild. Before Severian leaves, Master Palaemon gives him Terminus Est. A sharp, intimidating sword, it serves as a symbol of his authority and as a deadly weapon. Despite its utility, the sword is apparently extremely ostentatious, as "art had been lavished upon her," according to the narrator.

Terminus Est is described as being "Light to raise, weighty to descend," by Master Palaemon. This is due to a channel in the spine of the blade, containing liquid hydrargyrum, another name for mercury. (Wolfe makes use of obscure Latin and Greek terms in many of his works.) Given the fact the novel's text is described as having been translated from "a language that has not yet achieved existence", the substance referred to may not in fact be mercury, although its properties would seem to suggest that it is. The channel would have been extremely difficult to fabricate: the usual techniques of forging...
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