The Wapentake Longsword

∴ A Steely assent∴

The air in the chamber is as thick with tension as it is with peaty smoke. The room is too cramped for your liking, with kinsmen of both barons keen to hear the outcome of the meeting first hand. Glancing around, you cannot help but notice that everyone in this chamber is armed, their weapons glinting ominously in the dim light. You swallow uncomfortably.

In the centre of the room two barons stand before the lawman, their swords drawn and ready, each attempting to appear more aloof and imposing than the other. It would be a comical sight were it not for how much was at stake.

The lawman says nothing, holding his silence like a weapon. His eyes are closed and his head bowed, deep in thought or prayer. Before him he holds his actual weapon: a broadly-tapering longsword with a downturned black guard, its tip pointing downward like a stately crucifix – a reminder of the authority granted to its wielder by the ultimate judge.

At last the lawman lifts his head and lays out the terms of the agreement in calm, even tones. A tangible silence envelops the room as kinsmen strain to hear, their collective anticipation gathering like a storm. You focus on the firelight reflecting dully from the black satin facets of the lawman’s pommel, trying to turn your thoughts from what might happen if the barons don’t like what they hear.

The tension is shattered by the decisive swish of steel against leather as one of the barons draws his sword, followed swiftly by the other. Will it be blood or brotherhood, you wonder, your heart pounding. A sigh of relief surges in your chest and washes around the chamber as each baron in turn clashes his blade against the lawman’s longsword. A resolution has been reached.

As sword after sword is drawn around you, tension gives way to a new energy. The steely clatter of blades echoes around the chamber as both clans raise their weapons high into the air, clashing them together in a raucous din of assent.

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The Hexen Zweihander

∴ A Sorcerer’s Staff∴

Ask anyone around here and they’ll tell you: the battle mages are gone.

Or else, the battle mages were never here. They are only a fable, an allegory for the values that Septemora was built upon.

As their acolyte, you know better. You have stood in their temple, circled by seven stone statues. You have lit a candle at the feet of each, and marked their brows with myrrh.

You have descended alone into the crypt, where seven stone sarcophagi lay side-by-side, names carved in oldspeak runes onto their lids beneath seven mighty swords.

You have glanced over your shoulder to make sure the verger isn’t behind you, and lifted one of the swords in two shaking hands, startled at the wieldiness belied by its length.

You have run trembling fingers over the intricate ropework of its guard, knowing that within these twists of steel is woven the power to end an era, to build a nation, to change eternity.

And you have felt a surge of something white-hot and waiting, a steely power not laid to rest, but biding its time.

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The Emerite Montante

∴ A Pointed Insight ∴

Candlelight laps at the painted stucco walls – in the whorls of the plaster you can imagine landscapes and faces as you perch on the hard pallet bed. The light is a comfort, as is the illusion. Beyond your little leaded window all is dark and unreadable, save for the twinkling nightlights of a few other late-to-bed acolytes. It is a moonless night. Not a time to brave the streets, but an opportunity for introspect.

With this in mind, you turn your gaze to the dog-eared deck in your hands. You have been shuffling the yellowed cards absently for what seems like an age, keen to discover but unwilling to commit. You remember your grandmother asking you to shuffle, when her hands were too rheumed to do so herself. You would sit for hours watching her craggy-faced friends at their parlour games, laughing and tutting over hot herbal wine.

Now another game is afoot. With a deep breath, like one about to slip beneath cold water, you cut the deck and turn the first card. A sigh of relief, for it is an old friend. The Hermit. He faces the West, old but unbowed, snow-capped mountains at his feet. In his right hand he holds a lantern. A guiding light, but a limited one. Not all will be revealed at once. And in his left hand he holds a staff.

No, not a staff. The realization hits you like a harsh wind. In the deck you were taught from, it was always a staff. But in these cards, your Grandmother’s cards, the detail is different. Instead of a twisted stick, the old man holds a sword. Tall and austere as the figure himself, it reaches past his shoulder, a figure-eight of blackened side rings at its cross, and another above its stern, angular lugs.Your trace the lines of the black grip, and pause at the place where they meet white steel.

The staff would have been a symbol of balance, and authority. But this is something different altogether. In an instant, you know what you must do. You gather the cards from the bed and, paying no heed to the moonless dark, draw your traveling cloak from its hook.

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The Trooper Montante

∴ A Strange Requisition ∴

The old ammo box you’ve chosen as a bench is cold through the tattered canvas of your fatigues, but what’s a little discomfort in the field? A whistled tune pushes through pursed lips as you busy yourself cleaning your weapon – one of your father’s old songs, you think.

The incongruously merry ditty is underscored by the distant bass rumble of a tank – an endangered beast. Bertha, the boys call her. One of the last few workhorse vehicles that hasn’t given out. It’s only a matter of time, of course, but until then every jerry can has to count.

With a sigh you turn the weapon over in stained and calloused hands. You miss the routine of cleaning your old rifle, those working parts you knew by heart – but with bullets going the way they were, the ground troops had to get ahead of the curve.

The regulation tan leather and steel wire of the grip are new, but the rest is old. Very old. You recall the tread of your boots in the empty marble halls of the city museum, and how you unsentimentally stripped the shattered glass cabinets of anything that might make use.

For a brief moment you wonder who the last person was to use this hefty piece of steel – how they felt on the eve of battle, and what foe they wielded it against. You pull your mind back from the larger, looming question – has anything really changed in the thousand years since?

A horn sounds on the far side of the camp, weird and wavering. With a wince you don your dented M1, and pull yourself to your feet. Hefting the greatsword over your shoulder with a grunt of satisfaction, you start the slow march to your fate.

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The Temperantia Greatsword

∴ A Tempering Blow ∴

A slow exhalation forces its way through clenched teeth as you fight to clear your head. To push back the hot wind of anger, knowing how it turns cyclonic. You recall the words of your teacher: temperance, boy. Temperance and discernment. That’s what wins a fight – not a blaze of righteous glory, nor a clumsy, tell-tale rage. Only moderation.

Your senses reel and you clutch the spiral-bound grip of your sword for balance. You are almost dwarfed by her, yet she moves with measured certainty. You open your eyes to recall those familiar features: deep blue leather, fullered steel, the resplendent sun on the cap of the pommel. These are the things you can trust. The straight, sharp line between right and wrong.

As your breathing slows and the heat fades from your cheeks, you take in your opponent with renewed passivity. You’ve seen his kind before, you realise. All baiting, leering show. You will not rise to it this time. Instead, you step coolly into measure with an ascending cut from the right. He is not expecting it – nor the next one – nor the thrust that finishes him.

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