|“||I am Cortana, of the same steel and temper as Joyeuse and Durendal.||”|
–Inscription on the blade
Cortana is a shortsword that has been passed down through many generations of the Carstairs family, having been in the family for many centuries.
Cortana is a shortsword with a simple and bare blade, save for the inscription that runs down the metal of the blade and describes its legendary forging, "of the same steel and temper as Joyeuse and Durendal". The blade has one sharp edge and one dull one—because of that, it has been called a sword of mercy. It also, apparently, has a feather from the wing of the archangel Michael in its hilt.
While it was in Elias's possession, the sword was in a scabbard covered in intricate designs of leaves and runes—the same design that also covered the sword's hilt. This was later replaced by a steel one decorated with gilt and etched patterns of birds, leaves, vines and runes. It was a gift from Elias to his daughter, Cordelia on her wedding day and was crafted by some renowned faeries in France.
Cortana was forged by the first Shadowhunter weapons maker, Wayland the Smith, tempered with the same steel as Joyeuse, Charlemagne's sword, and Durendal, Roland's sword. It was once the sword of Ogier the Dane. According to the faerie Gwyn the Hunter, it is considered one of the Great Swords.
Jonah Carstairs inherited the family sword in the 1800s. Before his death, he instructed his brother, Elias, to give Cortana to his son, Jem, when he turns 18. However, upon finding out that Jem had become a Silent Brother and can no longer accept gifts, Elias decided to give the sword to Will, Jem's parabatai. Offended by how Elias seemed to be referring to Jem as if he were dead, Will refused the gift. After he stormed off, Tessa Gray suggested to Elias that if he one day decided to have his own children, he could give the sword to them. When he eventually did have his own children, he passed the sword down onto them.
In 1900, in their home, both his children Alastair and Cordelia declared they wanted the sword for different reasons: Alastair because he would always be a Carstairs and it belonged in the family while Cordelia would marry and her children would not be named Carstairs; Cordelia because she wanted to be a hero and thought Cortana would make her a merciful one. Elias seemingly agreed with Alastair however, to Alastair and Cordelia's surprise, the sword flung itself free from Alastair's hands and flew straight into hers—choosing Cordelia as its bearer.
In December 1903, Lilith placed a curse on the blade so that it would burn Cordelia every time she touched. Cordelia initially believed this meant she was no longer worthy of the blade and offered it to her brother, who declined and told her to take it to the Silent Brother's to be inspected and fixed. Instead, she took it to where she had been told Wayland the Smith's forge still existed. There she met Lilith disguised as Wayland who lifted the spell she placed on the blade and forced Cordelia to swear an oath of fealty to her; becoming her paladin.
As her paladin, Cordelia became more entuned with Cortana's soul and more powerful. When she learned the truth of who her loyalty was to, Cordelia decided that she was not only unworthy of the blade, but could not raise one in battle as it would only power Lilith further. She went to her brother again, seeking assistance and safekeeping of the blade.
One of the eventual wielders of the sword, John Carstairs, believed that the inscription was meant to remind them that Shadowhunters are the Angel's weapons, and that trials make them stronger. After his death in 2007, the sword was passed down to his only child and the only remaining heir to the sword, Emma Carstairs.
The sword has been said to have the power to cut through anything. In 2012, the sword, wielded by Emma, was able to kill one of the Seven Riders of the Unseelie King, a feat that had never been done before. Cortana also managed to shatter a Mortal Instrument, specifically the Mortal Sword—though this was mainly due to the parabatai curse.
The sword was then confiscated by the Clave for investigation. It was later taken by Inquisitor Dearborn and given to his daughter Zara Dearborn, who cared more about flaunting it than the blade itself. When Zara tried to attack Emma with the blade, Cortana defied her and would not allow her to land the strikes against Emma. At the Cohort's parley, Cortana chose Emma as its bearer and flew from Zara's grip to Emma's outstretched hand.
- Jonah Carstairs
- Elias Carstairs
- Cordelia Carstairs
- John Carstairs
- Zara Dearborn (briefly)
- Emma Carstairs (current)
Cortana, along with Curtana and Courtain, is a Latinized form of the Anglo-French curtein, from Latin curtus, which means 'shortened', used for a ceremonial type of sword. It can also simply mean 'shortsword'.
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- Cortana is based on the legendary sword Curtana, attributed to Ogier the Dane and the legendary knight Tristan. The real sword, Curtana, also known as the "Sword of Mercy", is a ceremonial sword used at the coronation of British kings and queens and is one of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.
- Cortana, to some extent, chooses its owner, which was why Cordelia was the one to inherit the blade, much to her older brother's dismay.
- Seemingly, according to Lilith, three mortal strikes from Cortana can kill a Prince of Hell.