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 Coburg Sabre

∴ A Close Escape∴

Red-dyed flags flicker at the periphery of your vision, great strings of the things, swagged between tent poles and pillars. You close your eyes and the flickering crimson remains. A deep breath and you open them again, to no avail. Gazing past the gaudy grandeur of the tournament grounds, you see only the hunched, hard-edged figure of the Duke as he straps on his armour.

Your teeth clenched, you mirror his movements, adjusting your armour and taking up your sword. The sunlight glances from its curved blade, dazzling you for a moment as you clutch the blood red leather of its grip in your gauntleted hand, your thumb pressed readily against the ring.

You feel his steely gaze locked on you as you step onto the platform, and it is the stare of a predator. The crowd’s cheers surge like a crashing wave, their anticipation like a metallic tang on your tongue. You step into measure, and give a curt bow, your eyes never breaking contact with his.

His response is only to pour forward across the wooden platform, moving like an incoming storm instead of a man. You swallow your fear: your every move must be calculated. The rising excitement of the onlookers is a distant echo as you focus in on your opponent.

Minutes pass. You feel a trickle of sweat spilling over your brow as you struggle to gain the upper hand. You can see the dogged determination in the Duke’s eyes, and can only hope that he sees the same in yours.

Tired and reckless you cast your sword forward in a sweeping cut, landing a swift strike that sends the Duke’s sword clattering to the ground. The crowd erupts into cheers, caring not who wins so long as the fable of the duel reaches its end.

Yet with a start you realise this is not the end. The Duke spares not even a moment’s glance for the sword cast on the floor, drawing instead the dagger from his belt and surging toward you.

Time slows.

You are dimly aware of gasps from the crowd, of an urgent trumpet announcing the duel’s end.

You close your eyes. The blood red flags still flicker there.

You open them.

You strike.

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The Amfracta Rapier and Dagger

∴ A Serpent’s Coils∴

The roar of the onlookers is a hot rush in your ears as you step out to meet your challenger. As you stride across the salle, one hand waving absently to the audience, you’re already sizing up the competition. 

The serpent, they call him. To be honest, you can’t see why. His slight stature, narrow eyes and nervous disposition put you more in mind of a rodent than a snake. 
But his sword – now that is a thing of beauty. A curling black guard, like his namesake’s sinuous coils, sweeping up into an elegant knuckleguard topped with a dragon’s head. 

Another look tells you that there’s more to this totem animal: clamped between the serpent’s jaws is a carved black heart. In every sword is a story, and this one is clear enough: beware the allure of the beast, for this one is a killer.

The horn sounds and you settle into guard, watching for your opponent’s tells. Almost immediately he circle-steps around you, smoothly, confidently. You follow him round, angling your blade to protect your right shoulder, only for him to take another sweeping step. 
You’ve seen this before: the serpent is back-footing you, forcing you to move in response to him, to fight on his terms. Knowing this, you relax and plan your lunge, waiting patiently for the gap in the arc of his next side-winding stride.

As you shift your grip on your sword, ready to strike, you realise that something is amiss. Your attacker is not where he ought to be. With a split-second sinking feeling, you understand: the serpent has not only been stepping around you, but with each stride fractionally nearer. Now, perfectly in measure, he catches your blade with his dagger and steps in to take the point.

You’ve been caught in the serpent’s coils.

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The Thalia Dagger

∴ A Perfect Pairing∴

A gold tooth gleams in the cruel crack of the bravo’s grin. He circles you lazily, no doubt hoping to coax an impulsive reaction from you.

He will be disappointed. You did not train for ten years to fall for his show and swagger. Your lunge, when you land it, will be elegant, ethereal, slipping his blade before he even realises you’ve moved. But you are no cold-blooded killer. You will let this one live to regret challenging you – and, of course, to spread the word of your talent to those more worthy of your time.

You line up your strike and release it, like an arrow from its nock, your blade spiraling lithely toward him. A moment of panic twists his smile into a snarl, but he surprises you, bringing the hilt of his weapon straight up to beat the thrust aside with his full force. He rounds on you, the gold-toothed grin returning.

And then his face changes: a look of puzzlement, and then horror, as a figure barrels in from behind you with the short, sharp flash of a dagger blade. You groan inwardly as the bravo does outwardly, the tip of your sister’s dagger suddenly pressed against his throat.

Assessing the situation in a second, you take advantage of the adversary’s shock, bringing your blade to bring against his and stepping in, knocking the sword from his hand with a flick of your own and bringing your knee up and into his groin. Not the elegant solution you had planned, but effective nonetheless.

As the challenger writhes in the dust behind you, you grab your little sister by the collar of her jerkin, wrenching her away from the scene. “I thought I told you to stay inside the inn,” you growl, holding out your hand for the dagger. She relinquishes it begrudgingly, and you study it for a moment, the same silver leaves dancing on its sail as on the guard of your sword. “And I thought I told you to stay out of my things.”

Thalia merely grins, shrugging away from your grasp and striding toward the tavern door with far more confidence than she’s due at her age.

“I reckon we make a pretty good team,” she says.

You shake your head as you watch her go, the dagger still glimmering in your hand. Thalia always gets in the way. And, one way or another, she always gets her way.

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