Vol.2, Ch.5, P.8
The mere weight of it whelmed my wits.
I see now.
Boulder-like indeed, its weight.
This ashened shard of wolfsteel.
Yet its hilt was a harmony and a hurricane in my hands, seemingly sucking in every finger and fold of skin, that were I none the wiser, I might’ve fancied it my sworn weapon of many winters. Gripping tight, I lifted its lightless weight and stood poised in the centre guard, training its ebon blade straight at Ebbe and his men.
“Oy! Playin’ th’practised swashbuckler now, eh Commandant!” Karl shouted from afar as he crept closer. “Wot? Think t’wag yer wand with th’likes o’ us battle-brothers, ah!?”
The bayings of a boy.
Naught but a distraction, dim and distant from my mind as it melded with the blade. There did pain perish from every fathom and facet of my body. Indeed, as the moon was my witness, mine was a body beaten, broken, bruised, and blown up… but by simply instilling my conscience into the sword was all agony forgotten from my flesh: the clouds were parted, the cold stung no more, the mists thinned past all thought. In such clarity, centred in my sight, there spanned the spike of black, the blade deeper than dusk—the breathing abyss.
“Ohh?” Karl cocked his brows as he caught a glimpse of it. “Wot’s with that brightless brand, eh? Some stick o’ Nafílim-make? Well, makes me right sick, th’sight o’ it! Hah!”
Your sight’s what’s sick, Karl.
For I see much beauty in this blade.
Beauty—and a faint fury, mingling within the night-sea blackness of the sword…
…from which depths there seemed to lurk some living sight of its own, glaring unglintingly back at mine, as though to mete the mettle of its new master against an unknowable measure.
“Not comin’, Commandant? Eh? Ye scared? Second thoughts ‘ave ye pissin’ yer pants?” Karl crowed on as he and his comrades opened ranks before me. “Then we shows ye ‘ow a sword be real-swung! Eh, brothers!?”
“Yea! A fico fer ye, Commandant! Yer coffin calls!”
“High time we unman’d yer marbles, mud-pate! Ye gadded ‘bout fer long ‘nough! Now ye’ll taste th’might o’ Yoná-loved men!”
Straightway, Ebbe’s brothers fired forth, converging upon their ungraced mark.
So be it.
Here begins my battle.
Elites, left and right, reached close, but I broke ahead, setting my sights on the forward rank. The frontal assault: a favourite manoeuvre of mine. And with my physique, one most mete for the maiming of enemy morale—and arrogance.
Keeping level, I lunged forth by the singular force of my feet. In one breath, three passūs passed by.
Surprise flashed on the face of my first foe—upon which grew the thunder-shadow of my plunging blade.
No doubt his unhelmed head was safe inside a paling, applied by the marriage of silver and odyl. The very same paling that protects silvered Men from scalp to sole… and one that has halted my former swings without fail.
But no longer.
With sightless speed, the soot-steel scythed through the paling unopposed.
—a geyser of sound from the skull of my mark. The overhead hew halved his head, from which redly spewed the spring of instant death.
Thus crossed was the rubicon, flowing with the first blood of my betrayal. The sensation lingered still in my hands, but hesitation lingered no longer in my heart, for resolute must be he who takes sword in hand and sets forth into the fatal fray.
Down to the ground the halved-head husk crumbled, though I sooner bounded back a ways, corralling into my sight two soldiers flying to my flank. The right arrived first, faster by a pace. I pelted immediately unto his midst, my hands sending shadowed sharpness slanting down upon his person. There, the black blade bit first into a gap in his armour—
—before flashing through flesh, from right shoulder to left loin.
Here, too, the paling proved powerless. Here, too, the soot-steel sundered sinew and odyl alike.
“Y… yeuuu! Wretch!!” shrieked the leftward lacquey, closing in vindictively. His sword flapped forth, but slowness mildened its menace and blunted what edge it might’ve boasted. For as he started one step, I finished three: thrusting myself unto close quarters, I swept forth my sword in a hewing horizon.
Gnashing anew at the night: the dull din of meeting metals.
Parted from its paling, silver is soft, fit only for fineries. Though this instant might’ve served too severe an example.
For wolfsteel was set against it.
The unyielding, unwieldy metal—smithed into a sword, tempered tenebrous by dragonbreath, and wielded with winters-honed strength, speed, and skill—starkly revealed the silver armour’s naked worth, as reams of it were riven asunder by the blade of black.
Through the left rib, out the right: the man, cleanly twained, twisted to his death after blowing blood from his gaping lips.
“W… wot…!?” flinched the remnant foes in their fright.
Three dead. With them, my theory was thrice-confirmed: this sword of soot was a cinder of Gweil’ǫrr’s will. In his time, the wyrm of yesteryore well-judged magick a maugre, a perversion stark-parted from the precepts of life. And it was his flame that ashened this very sword…
…into a black blade that loathed magick no less, damning all odyl daring to touch its lightless length.
Hence how it hews palings with nary a pinch of pity. Though the underpinning principles escaped my ken, there was no mistake: Gweil’ǫrr’s afgodly grace was burnt into this blade.
Reasonable, then, that any fellow hitherto fain to wield it was met with misery. This was a sword ill-suffering all flesh—save for the one soul ungraced with the gift of odyl.
“Flagrāns Vallum!” cried a conjuring voice. From the silverstaff of a soldier-sorcerer came a flicker, and then flames were woven out of thin air. A whole wall of brilliant fire, moaning and now moving towards my midst.
But I did not budge: into the high guard I raised the black blade.
Trust was in me.
Trust for the coming truth: that magick can be a thing unmade.
Then, with a breath, I brandished down the dour sword.
A dull bellow beat my ears as the blade plunged with a weighty wind. Wolfsteel sliced through walls of flame, and in the blink of an eye, the brimming fires all fled like a fog before a sudden sun.
Ebbe’s men bent their brows in disbelief, whilst missing from one of their necks was a head, now wheeling high in the air: I had not tarried to watch the wall vanish as they did, but instead sprinted through the spectacle and into their ranks, brandishing again the unbrightened blade.
Blood fountained from the neck-stump as the rest of the fresh corpse crumbled to its knees. The silverstaff once fast in its hands rolled free along the ground.
“No… Ye be weak! Weak! We—ak!!” cried the closest brute as he raised high his silverblade.
That scorn of his, still steadfast in spite of his imperilled plight, was rather moving, in a way. And so did I move back by half a step.
“Ach… Ye rat!” With a curse, the man stumbled, missing his moment to strike. Left undecided for an instant, he was met by my immediate advance.
The guttural groan of my mark, and his last breath besides, for shooting straight through his throat now was the broad blade-head of the svǫrtaskan. Extracting it from the expiring flesh, I watched my foe founder to the dust as both blood and breath sputtered out of his gaping wound.
I pivoted—air whooshed right afore me.
A yelp from behind. A blade, missing its mark. An assailant, surprised. Though the surprise was solely his: just their sounds, the very darting of their eyes, plainly gave away all of these men’s movements.
There was at least some wherewithal in him, my ambusher, for his sword arm remembered to reel his blade back in for the follow-up. Only, fastness found him not, for in the midst of his motion, my sword was already soaring. Bracing my belly-sinews, I next sent the black sword plunging down.
A grumbling, grinding groan: the air jarred as jet steel cleaved through the brute’s bosom. Silver plates creased like crumpling paper. Bones shattered into shards. The beating heart therein was halved.
My foe faltered to the ground, blood bursting from his mouth and torso both.
“A… a lie! A lie ‘pon the eyes! A li—e!!” From beyond the blood spray, a shrill denial from yet another challenger. He sprinted in, sword in single-handed tow.
An often sight in this realm: men wielding with one hand what is meant for two. Certainly a sword so swung can cut a foe—given enough odyl. But such half-hearted, half-handed hewing becomes only the thespian swashbuckler. Pageantry wins the stage; practice wins the battlefield.
Thus a soldier set in swinging with one hand ill-strikes as true as another with two. Correct form is quick-forgotten by him. Accuracy is but an afterthought. He is bent on naught but the beauty of battle, and so marches all the more hastily to his unmarked grave.
Such a soldier breathed before me now. His was a sword seeming more a twig in a toddler’s hands.
And from that sword of his, there bloomed a bang of sparks: with but a swing of my own was the it repelled to no peril, for in the silverslash’s infantile arch was imbued neither subtlety nor strength—nor odyl for that matter, as all magicked strength therein sublimated instantly before the soot-steel.
From his lips, the low yip of despair. From his eyes, the reflection of my quickly encroaching form, blade borne in the low guard.
Strength flashed through my two arms.
With a whole-sinewed, whole-souled swing, up soared the soot-steeped sword.
And from my mark: a scream. “Eaahhrrg—!!”
The sable half-circle sliced into the grunt’s groin before bursting out of his brain-cage.
Armour, flesh, bone—all were sundered. The man: now but left and right halves of a hewn cadaver, falling to feed the worms. The sight of it elicited a collective gasp from my remnant foes.
Foes, who now numbered but two.
Foes, who next found my gaze fixed upon them.
Foes, who but stood with faces of fey pallour.
Their shoulders shuddered as my words met their ears.
“Ebbe. Karl. We settle this—now.”
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(Language: Latin; original name: “Flame Wall”) Fire-elemental battle magick. A spell in the form of a wall of thick flames. Its breadth can be shaped upon conjuration.
(Language: Latin; plural: passūs) A unit of measure used by the ancient Romans, taken from the length of a pace (2 steps). 1 metre is equal to 0.6757 of a passus. A passus, therefore, can be roughly equated to 1 and a half metres.