The air is cool and honeysuckle-scented as you slip unnoticed from the feast. No sooner have you rounded the doorway than the roar of water deluges your senses. You close your eyes to greet the familiar sound, tilting your head toward the fall.
Alas, for all the water’s white-noise strife, it cannot overcome the sound of revelry from the hall behind you – though the music lilts and eddies on the breeze, you know the song by heart. The song of a great king. Of his great deeds. Of his eventual, inevitable failure.
Sequestered from curious eyes, you unsheath the sword at your side. The sword of songs and legends. Tarnished neither by age nor by the unimaginable evil it has faced. You run your fingers over the strong lines carved into the pommel, the steel ring bisecting royal red leather.
With a sigh you let the unsung truth settle: once more this sword will see battle. Once more it will face the foe that mighty heroes could not withstand. And this time it is you who will wield it.
When I think of epic tales of heroism, it’s not just the heat of the battlefield that gets my heart racing – it’s the aftermath. The crackling of a campfire and the lugubrious hum of a wooden whistle, scarred heroes trading tales over dark ale – and the methodical, meditative polishing of swords.
In the old tales, this is a moment of quiet, pragmatic reverence. An act of thanksgiving to the weapon that saved your life today. An act of preparation for the battle that awaits tomorrow. While wiping down your blade in front of the TV after class holds a little less romance, it’s still worth doing properly – to cement that bond with your sword, and to keep it in tip top condition for future bouts.
We’ve had a few enquiries from our clients regarding practical swordcare. As such, I wanted to take the time to share the method we use on our own fencing arsenal.
We favour a fine grit sanding sponge for removing any rust or tarnish. Be careful to use only up-and-down motions (hilt to tip and back again) so as not to disrupt the polished finish.
Do NOT sand any blackened metal, as this will damage the finish. Strikes to oil-blackened furniture may result in brighter steel showing through, but our method of blackening means these imperfections will tarnish to a naturally darker colour over time, blending in with the finish and creating an antiqued look.
Once you’re happy that the blade is rust-free, take a rag or microfibre cloth, and apply a thin layer of beeswax-based polish to all metal and leather surfaces. We favour Liberon Black Bison Wax Polish – but make sure to get the paste rather than the liquid version. Once you’ve lightly covered the sword, use a dry part of the cloth to remove the wax again and buff to a shine.
We recommend a “little and often” approach, taking 5 minutes after each class or event to remove any tarnish and apply some wax – this way, you can stay a step ahead of any serious rust issues.
To facilitate regular swordcare, we’ve made up some Balefire brand maintenance kits, including two small sanding sponges, a microfibre cloth, and a travel-sized compact of our own Black Bison Polish and natural beeswax blend. We find that the kits are handy to throw in the bottom of a sword bag for a class or event, as a reminder to show your blades a little TLC after a few bouts.
If you’d like a care kit of your own, we’ll be more than happy to send one to you for £5 plus postage. Just get in touch to order yours, or add one to an existing order. We also sell care kits on our stall at events, so keep an eye on our social media to find out where we’ll be next!
Divorced from its source, the moonlight hangs heavy, yet somehow insubstantial. It is as if the entire cathedral is composed of blue-tinged light and shadow: the cool gloom of the pews, the patterns burned in brilliant white onto the tomb-strewn floor.
You glance up at the immense rose window filtering the light, all tapering triskeles in an endless round. Then your gaze is drawn downward, to the cloaked figure you knew would be waiting at the altar rail. You wonder what he prays for – victory? Or forgiveness?
The figure turns, heavy cowl falling away from his face, and you see that his hands were folded not in prayer, but around the hilt of a slender, serpentine sword.
In the dappled moonlight, the flamberge blade looks like a tongue of silver flame, alarming and otherworldly. Entranced, you move closer, hand fluttering toward your own hilt.
So consumed are you by the rapier’s cold fire, you don’t notice the dagger until it’s too late.
“One. Five. Three. Four. Six. Two.”
The sergeant barks his orders down the line as blades whorl and return in unison.
Ten days, they said. Ten lessons to make a solider of you. You can’t say you feel much different to when you started, but tomorrow you’ll be off to fight all the same. Grimly, you wonder whether it matters much. You’ll die a soldier’s death either way.
Consumed by gloom, you barely notice the chanted numbers as they fade into rhythm. You look on as if abstracted, your body leading the way. Steel meets steel in synchronicity before snapping back to safety, speed increasing to match your master’s calls. You catch your opponent’s eye and see him grinning in disbelief as the commands come faster and faster.
Despite everything, sweat streaming down your face, you find yourself smiling back as you lean into another lunge.
In accordance with your vision, the warrior steps onto the shore – as cold and forbidding as the waters she emerges from. Black is her armour, and gleaming black her hair. Black is the hilt of the slender sword at her side, laced with bars and pierced with an eight-pointed star.
If this is chaos magic, it is not as you imagined it. Far from uncentered your every thought and fibre is in orbit, spiralling gyres drawn into an unerring epicentre: a single intent, incandescent with urgency.
You must make that sword your own – or perish in pursuit of it.
An unfamiliar cry spills from your pale lips as you launch yourself at the warrior. As if in slow motion you watch surprise bloom in her dark eyes, then harden into chilling resolve.
The door is no different in appearance to any of the other portals you’ve passed on your way through this labyrinth. Studded and suspended from sturdy iron hinges, it bears a brass latch and a star of four iron bars lacing a circular aperture. Beyond is only darkness.
Brushing the wood with your palm your mind is filled with a sudden susurrus of torment. A multitude of mutterings from every side, set to a symphony of rattling chains.
Much as every fibre wills you to step back from the door, you’re struck with an unsettling certainty that the artefact you seek lies amidst this madness. You can almost see it: a blade, sweet and slender, steel stark against the blackened star that beckons to your grasp.
A hand upon your wrist. A start and a stifled scream. Your guide shakes his cowled head.
“No,” he intones. “That way lies only madness.”