The Aegir Estoc

∴ A Stormy Sign∴

The small wooden dock groans under the weight of the crowd crammed closely upon it. It seems the entire village has come to witness the departure of the serpent-prowed ship that sits high in the water.

Broad-shouldered fighters in furs and leathers clap one another on the back in greeting and solidarity. Inky-robed mages lean casually against their staffs. Husbands and wives clamour around them, buckling breastplates and bidding them sail home safely before winter.

You wonder why it is that the raiders always set out to sea fully armed. They are unlikely to face any foes this close to the fjord, and even less likely to find new land within the next week. Perhaps it is a symbol of the battle they are due to fight with the sea itself – a fight for their lives against proud Aegir himself.

Fear and envy wrestle within you. Your mother forbade you join the raid this year – you are too young, she insisted. Besides, she would need your help with the harvest. You protested at the time, but now you come to look at the slender wooden boat and the churning, seething waves beyond the haven, a part of you is glad to stay on land.

The crowd parts suddenly, and you turn to see the Jarl himself striding toward the ship, his one-eyed soothsayer lingering in his wake. As the pair approach, you feel flutter of thrill in your stomach, not because of the Jarl’s own greatness, but because of the sword at his side:

Black-hilted, ring-pommeled, and lovingly carved with the Midgard Serpent itself, the thing is the subject of endless stories. Many times you have sat wide-eyed by the fire as the bard tells of the serpents it has slain, and the foes it has cast to Aegir’s storm-happy daughters.

As the Jarl draws level with you, the soothsayer places a hand on his shoulder, murmuring something into his ear. The Jarl stops, a look of confusion crossing his face, and turns to take you in. Your heart nearly stops as those solemn blue eyes sweep up and down your height.

“You are certain?” he asks.

“I have seen,” the old sage creaks in reply.

With a heavy sigh the Jarl unbuckles the belt that holds the legendary sword of his bloodline, and holds it out to you.

“Who am I to argue with auguries?” he grumbles.

Continue reading

The Sigismund Sword

 

∴ A Champion’s Tool∴

Another explosion sounds from beyond the blasted temple, blood-curdling cries in its wake. You spit a mouthful of grit and blood into the carpet of white ash you are crouched in, and grimace as you rise to your feet.

Your helmet remains wedged under your arm, but even without its heightened senses, you can sense that you’re not alone. An armoured figure steps from behind a crumbling pillar, and with relief you spot the Imperial sigil emblazoned on his shoulder. He carries a caliver slung over one shoulder, and something swathed in black cloth held flat in both outstretched hands.

There is something about the carefully-wrapped object that holds your attention, even as you look the figure up and down. It is as if it speaks to you. The edge of a whisper, lost at once against the clamour of battle. You furrow your brow, at once enthralled and repelled.

The intruder speaks in a low rumble, half muffled by his helmet. 

“He says you are chosen to wield this weapon,” he begins, shaking the thing loose from its bindings.

It is a sword, you can tell that much. But where you expect the harsh reflection of honed steel, there is only shadow. A deep, mottled darkness that absorbs what little light makes it into the ruinous space.

“He?” you ask, confounded. The whispering grows more distinct as you step toward the figure. You think you can make out words, but they are lost again before you can settle on what they are.

The stranger tilts the sword toward you, and suddenly the screaming and explosions cease, all sound imploding into silence. You feel as if you have been plunged into cold, dark water: the ecstasy of anguish, infinitely removed from the world around you, the sword consuming your consciousness.

It is bleakness and beauty, a broad and dominating blade that drinks in light, beneath a grinning silver skull, splashed with gold. The hilt is half-wrapped in golden wire, and crowned with a cruel black diamond pommel.

Here in this world between worlds, the whispers take form – and in tongues you did not know you knew, they tell of the sword’s many centuries, of its first forging at the Emperor’s command, and of a new command: your name, again and again, growing louder and rhythmic like a heartbeat.

With the Emperor’s will surging through your blood, you push forward with a roar, clasping your metal-gloved hand around the wire-wrapped hilt, and snatching it away from its bearer.

At once you feel something blacken inside you. That same velvet-deep void that the blade beckons now fills your mind, and you know with appalling and pitch-black certainty what must be done.

Continue reading

The Wyntuna Longsword

∴ A Murderous Chase ∴

The valley winds winter-stark and lovely below you: a maze of dry-stone walls, rough with lichen. Wind-bleached grasses lap at them like waves against harbour walls. The glowering slate sky is mirrored in the winding River Eden, a steely horseshoe meander amidst the green-grey grass.

Were you to pause, you could take the familiar view in from your precarious precipice path. But all you can do now is run. Breathless and red-faced, you run with your pulse outpacing your steps, hands full of bundled-up skirts to speed your way.

The bandit lopes after you with a stream of stumbling curses. It is clear he doesn’t know this land, and you use the fact to your advantage, leap-frogging styles and loping over hidden ditches. Still, his pace is longer, and you can feel him gaining ground.

Scrambling over a low stone wall, you note some slabs displaced – a crumbling concave in an otherwise uniform crest. A glint catches your eye between the loose stones. Something buried. Or something half dug-up.

Letting impulse guide you, you throw yourself down behind the wall, scrabbling between fallen stones with chapped, raw hands. Your fingers brush cold steel, and your heart thrills to think you’ve found a spade or a bill – something you might use as a weapon.

Desperately you claw at the stones still holding your treasure fast. Fingernails tear and knuckles split, worn through by the rough rocks, but you manage to get a hand around the strange metal bar and pull.

Suddenly the bandit is upon you, leering down from the other side of the wall. Your heart sinks as he reaches for the sword at his hip, yet you can’t give up now. With all your remaining strength, you heave.

With a sound like a giant’s sigh, the wall gives way, stones shifting over stones to land at your feet. You stand taken aback amidst the tumult with a longsword in your bloodied hands. To your surprise and confusion, you are holding it by the broad triangular blade, its dark green handle and gleaming orb of a pommel extended skywards.

The bandit is surprised too, reeling back in a moment of uncertainty. Unthinking, unable to wait, you raise the sword up by the blade with both hands, bringing the smooth-polished pommel down with a crack against the brigand’s skull.

He slumps over the wall, a look of sheer bewilderment frozen across his craggy features. Taking only a moment to reposition your hands around the sword’s emerald grip, you turn away and run. Continue reading

The Quadra Greatsword

∴ A Fourfold Choice ∴

Your head is heavy with sloth and thick with incense. You can barely muster a mumble as the initiates stir you from your vigil.

For four hours and twenty you have knelt before this door, without food or water, denying the call of sleep. At first your mind was consumed by what lay beyond the plain, wooden portico. As sleeplessness took its toll, you swore you heard footsteps behind it, then faraway voices.

But now as robed figures push the door back on its hinges with a hearty creak, your suppositions give way to steel. Whatever it is you’ve been waiting for – whatever final test awaits you – is immaterial. Ready or not, you will face it.

Upon the initiate’s signal you step into the room, momentarily blinded by sudden candlelight. As your eyes clear, they take in a round room with a domed, vaulted ceiling. The floor is of white marble, with a great black cross inlaid in it, dividing the room into four quadrants.

In the space nearest you lies a chest of fine ebony, bound with clasps of silver. The lid is propped ajar, and dancing candlelight reflects in the facets of gems inside. You let out a low whistle, the market boy in you knowing that the casket alone would fetch a lord’s ransom. Take but the merest trinket from it, and you could gain passage home.

In the next quadrant is a book. Your breath catches as you turn to take it in. Almost as thick as it is wide, its pages are curled and yellow between cracked leather covers. This is old knowledge. A silver chain is wrapped tightly around the tome, as if its secrets might otherwise leap from its pages. You yearn to turn those furling leaves – to discover the rites and runes that fill them.

The third contains a patterned cloth, and upon it a golden crown, finer than any church silver you’ve ever seen. You wonder what land its wearer might rule, then stifle a gasp as you realise what the crumpled cloth is: black and yellow, the reaching claws of a lion rampant. The banner of your homeland. You left a pauper – you could return a king.

It is with a heavy heart that you turn to face the fourth quarter. In it is a sword, enormous not only in length but in every dimension. The blade is thick and wide at its base, the quillons long and straight, spiking fiercely downward at the tips. These are matched by two smaller quillons crossing them in the centre. Yes, this is the only choice that will allow you leave this room a knight. Duty. Duty to the Order, forsaking all others.

As you sweep your eyes over your other would-be prizes, you are struck once more by the pattern in the tiles: a cross of dark bars, like the forbidding guard of the sword. And suddenly it hits you – in that fourfold guard lies potential. Potential for riches, knowledge, power. Duty is not a decision over those dreams, but a righteous path toward them.

With the shaking smile of the sleepless, you step into the light.

“I choose the sword,” you proclaim. Continue reading

The Crownless Longsword

 

∴ A Blade Renewed ∴

Always you dream in fragments. Glimmering white-blue splinters of steel against a field of dark cloth, a shattered pattern that your keen smith’s eye can tell was once a fuller. A blade, then. And a fine one, at that.

You wonder how it came to be so broken, shards fine enough to slip into a pocket. Surely the blow that rendered it so was not that of a mortal knight.

In your dream you peer closer at pieces as fine and as myriad as stained glass, and see fire reflected in them. Two flames writhe in the steel, one red and one white.

“Narsil,” you breathe, recalling the Quenya word for red and white flame. The sword of the Dúnedain. And as you speak, the fragments rise, moving before your eyes into a new form.

Ghostly threads of red and white knit the pieces together, the blade broad, straight and stately. A slender crossguard weaves itself into being, the ends flaring out into rounded segments. The handle is darkness and light, half of black leather and half of bright steel, and the pommel sits atop it like a crown, pierced with an upside-down tear.

You wake with a start in the soot-black forge. You need no wizard to interpret the dream. A new king is rising – and you have work to do.

Continue reading