You run you hand over long black case and sigh. It was only a dalliance.
In another time and place you might have gone through the proper channels, acted with propriety, married the girl and made a brother of Lord Sackville. But instead you saw her secretly, raised his ire and made him a deadly enemy.
You feel sick to the stomach. You’ve seen Sackville fight, and where he lacks finesse he compensates with sheer tenacity. You never imagined it would be you on the other end of your friend’s fierce and flashing blade.
Swinging the case open you’re greeted with graceful black curves and copper carvings, the wire-wrapped grip spiralling like the horn of Scotland’s unicorn. You nod curtly. You will not enjoy this duel – you may not even survive it – but propriety be damned, you’ll look dashing as you go down!
“They can’t live with each other, and they can’t live without each other”, your mother always said, laughing over her lace-edged fan. If only she could see you now, you think bitterly.
Brothers, and twins at that, you’ve always shared your passions. You recall those early years of swordplay in the cobbled yard, star-pierced swords glinting alike in the evening light, laughter giving way to shouts of frustration as every feint was foiled.
But there are certain passions that will not be shared, and when you returned home to rumours of your brother and your betrothed, there was only one honourable path to take.
Before you strap your black-hilted rapier to your side, you brush your lips against the lucky star on its pommel. You know beyond doubt that on the other side of the city, your brother does the same.
When a customer requested a matched pair of rapier blades, designed for both single-handed and double-handed use, we couldn’t resist the chance to experiment.
While the blades and tangs needed to be elongated for two-handed use, the client also required that we keep the weight as low as possible for comfortable single-handed use.
Chris hollow-ground each blade from 8mm stock and added deep, pierced fullers.
The result? Two 48″ rapier blades weighing 600g each.
Step, two three. Step, two three. Step, two three. Halt. You sweep the wooden shaft under your arm, taking a half-step forward and dipping your head in respect to the mounted captain.
Your downcast eyes cannot help but catch the morning light gleaming from the partisan’s blade. You resist the urge to twist the polearm in your hand, letting light play from its swooping curves. It is a thing of beauty – your partner in this half-drill-half-dance. Yet it is also a tool of war – and as much pride as you once found in pageantry, you came here to fight, not to dance.
“Very good,” the captain calls, breaking your long-practiced rote. “At last you have perfected your reverences. At last I see soldiers, ready to learn. Ready to obey. Today your real lessons begin.”
You half-step-half-stumble through the sturdy storeroom door and pull it closed behind you. Sinking to the floor, you feel your way over flags, wary of any sound that might give you away.
Your fingers brush besom bristles and the base of a barrel. Cursing yourself for a craven, you consider clambering into the cask. Without a weapon you have no hope of defending yourself, but perhaps you can pass unnoticed.
And then the unmistakable chill of steel on sweating palms – fingers follow a broadly-tapered blade to the schilt of a feder. You hesitate – could this keep the intruders at bay? Grasping the string-wrapped hilt, you raise the weapon into guard.
A training sword it may be, but something about it cries out for the fight.
You place the sword before the altar of Walpurga, wincing at the clatter of steel on stone. The Saint’s painted eyes look on serenely, with no hint of her namesake’s challenging smile.
For months you pored over the texts by half-light, characters becoming companions as you sliced the still air of your cell. You found skill in the Lady’s lessons, yes, but Truth as well. Perception. Judgment. Balance. Truths you will need to carry close on a journey such as this.
Smiling you retrieve your sword, fingers finding their familiar place between curved quillons and twisted pommel. You make the sign of the cross and then, on impulse, bring the broad blade to your shoulder, point up, in an unmistakable Walpurgis Ward.
As you turn to leave, you think you see the Saint’s eyes sparkle.
The cobbles are harsh and unfamiliar beneath your travel-worn feet as you pace the empty square. The spectre of last night’s wine sits heavy in your stomach.
You brush your hand over the pommel of your sword. Its slight yet certain presence heartens you.
You shouldn’t be awake this early. Only six hours ago you were sitting down to a hot meal and a glass of harsh tavern wine to toast your travels. The beginning of what you thought would be a quiet few days in Tuscany. But then some lousy local had to go and slight you…
Your head is pounding. Your hands are sweaty. You are in no state to fight the duel your hot temper demanded. But honour is honour.
You hear footsteps behind you. Swallowing hard, you reach for your faithful sword.
You peel back the age-stained linen lining the cracked wooden chest, and there it is. Your grandfather’s sword. As strong and as strange as the man ever was.
Awe-struck, you run your fingers over the ridged leather grip, momentarily transported to childhood as the wine-drenched old war stories come flooding back.
Your grandfather said he was a a great war hero. He said this sword had won him battles. He said he’d been rewarded by kings and princes alike. If you thought it strange that most of these rewards were dented helmets, snipped rings and gold teeth, you didn’t like to say so.
You practice a cut to the air, the wide blade flashing brief and brilliant in a singular shaft of stale light. Oh yes, this sword may have its secrets – but it’s in your hands now.
“Fire is our friend in the wilderness”
∴ Tolkien ∴
As January draws to a close, 2018 has already marked itself out as a year of intrigue and industry,
It’s hard to believe that a month ago, Balefire Blades was little more than a name. But what does a name signify?
While we stoke up the forge in readiness for your orders, I’m delving into the evolution of the balefire across the centuries.