The Axe has many names, and hundreds have been forgotten over that wise hafts long half-life;
"Hewer of the Word-Hive"
"Feeder on the Iron Flower"
"Axe of the Final Survivor"
"The Last Axe Standing"
"The Tomb of the Bear"
A heavy-headed Greataxe with a single blade.
Every part holds a story, for it is said that this was once the weapon of a God, and that every piece of it was won by force or cunning from one who did not wish to give it up.
(Though True Sophonts label this 'tap room talk' and say no evidence for any of it has come forth.)
The Haft is dense black wood, said to be the limb of an endlessly-reincarnating Karmic Dryad from the borders of a celestial realm, who still lives, and still seeks her lost limb.
The pommel claw, it is claimed, is that of a King of Bears, a lord of Skin-Shifters, first and greatest of the Bear-kind, and that this King still lives with one paw missing, and likewise, wants the axe.
(Though it’s pretty obvious that the pommel was constructed from similar materials, and at roughly the same time, as the rest of the Axe.)
The Amber gem set in the pommel is meant to be the stolen heart of an Eld-Queen of Margenalia, who, of course, also wants it back.
Even the wrapping on the haft has its own ridiculous story, that it is the skin of a mad emperor of psychic frogs from a distant island built on the back of a giant lizard, and that he resents its loss.
The Bit though, truly special, does seem to hold the imprint of a Deoth hand. Fine, shining steel formed into the head of a bear, its tongue lashing forth along the bite of the blade as if it seeks to lick upon the wounds it makes.
In the tap-room tales about the Axe, this part was stolen from a Deoth master-craftsman without fair payment. This Craft-Master then dedicated the remainder of their life to building a Worghast, or Golem, of great intelligence and power, which would repair and renew itself eternally, and who's only overriding directive was to ensure fair payment for the Axes head.
So much for the blather of the boozing-hall. All, or none of it could be true. Academic theory says that stories of the Axes stolen construction and the many potent beings who seek it out is a fairly recent popular addition to the tale, only a few hundred years old.
|by Ilya Salnikov https://twitter.com/rhunstoryteller|
The Story of Bjorn
There is a simpler, older tale. Of a man, call him 'Bjorn', or simply 'Bear'.
Bjorn was of the Aboriginal people of what would one day become Blackwater. This was long before the Grey Cities, before the Fall of Esh. Who knows, it may even have been before Esh itself. Time fades like parchment in these long-related legends and one eon passes into another without too much trouble.
Of his origins, they said Bjorn was found in the ruins of a village, amidst the ash of burnt homes, a baby, unscarred by fire, the last survivor of an unknown people.
Those who found Bjorn took pity on him and adopted him, and they were fortunate to do so, for he was the strongest of his people and he killed many monsters. A long-lived man, he became first the leader of his tribe, and then the leader of a great tribe-of-tribes. The People of Bjorn.
Bjorn wanted Sons. This he came to desire more than anything for he wished to pass on all that he knew. But though he had many daughters, he never had a son, and people said that this was a curse of a Monster, or Quileth or an Eld he had killed in the construction of his famous Axe with the amber gem.
Bjorn truly loved that Axe for had had had great difficulty in constructing it and had slain many with it.
It came about that Bjorn one day found a boy, a baby wrapped in leaves floating in the waters of a river which lead down from the mountain where lived his God, whos name was Fire. The eyes of this child were fire-bright, like the eyes of that God to whom Bjorn prayed when he made his war-work.
"It may be", said Bjorn, "that this child is intended for me and is the answer to my prayers. And in any case, I shall not abandon him here."
So Bjorn took the boy and called him Reed, for he had found him among reeds, and he raised Reed as his son, and though the child grew into a young man who was somewhat wild and dangerous, still Bjorn did what he could to temper the fires of youth with his wisdom.
Then it came about time for the end of days.
In some versions of the story a horde of Daemons or Quileth, invade the lands of the Tribes of Bjorn. In others the invasion is from the first civilised peoples and Bjorn fights against the first of the Grey Cities during the settlement of Blackwater. In others his war is against Yggsrathaal and Her Legions.
However it comes, there is war.
Bjorn was old then, and tired of killing, but Reed was mad for battle and Bjorn knew that the war could not be avoided and that there was no way he could keep Reed from it. So the old man sat on a stone and carefully sharpened his axe in the light of the sun and the sound of a stream.
"At least this and I may still serve to protect my Son", thought Bjorn, "for he is bound to his own doom."
Then a shadow passed across his sight and Bjorn looked up, for there were few in those days who would dare approach him without announcing themselves or begging his leave.
The figure before him was cloaked in rags and their face was shadowed. But Bjorn knew men well and he saw that this was someone strong and tall. He saw their red beard and sandals with obsidian soles so that their bare feet did not touch the green earth. He saw the shimmer of heat in the air above them and the steam rising from the stream where they had crossed. And he saw the fire-bright eyes in the shadow of the cloak and he knew who this was.
The stranger offered greetings, which Bjorn returned.
Then, unprompted, the stranger said;
"I go to the great war which comes and which will be the last of this Age."
"Is it so large a thing?" asked Bjorn, "that it requires your presence also?"
"I am only a wanderer," said the stranger, "and have no blade to make the war-work."
"That is unfortunate." Said Bjorn.
"I once had a Son," said the stranger, sadly, "who might have aided me in battle."
"This also is unfortunate," said Bjorn, "I have but one son myself and he is grown precious to me."
The stranger opened their mouth to speak but, seeing where this was going, for even in those days the tales of Gods were already old, Bjorn stood up quickly and said;
"Here," he offered the haft of his axe, "take this axe, which hews well enough, as compensation for your Son. It will aid you in battle more than a boy."
And seeing that the strangers hands were very hot he said;
"First I will wrap it in this frog-skin, which has a tale behind it."
But the stranger was already grinning with a mouth like the door of a burning hut and said;
"Thank you Bjorn! Not false are those words which speak of your greatness!"
And the stranger laughed and stalked away still laughing, with Bjorns famous Axe over his shoulder.
Then came the End of Days, when all that Bjorn knew and fought for was destroyed.
Many great battles there were, and each day died heroes whos’ stories would have choked all the books of Uud, but all are forgotten now. Bjorn led his people to war and held ever by the side of his Son, using whatever weapon came to hand. And it came about that the whole of the tribes of his tribe-of-tribes were laid down in the earth, and on the last day Reed himself died, and Bjorn was wounded unto death and fell finally in a field of corpses of enemies and friends with hot blood running from his many wounds over the body of his son which was cooling in his arms.
"So it is," said Bjorn, "and if I had with me my Axe, would things have gone so?"
But a shadow passed before his eyes and, with some effort, Bjorn raised his head and saw the stranger, still with Bjorns axe over his shoulder, though both man and axe were thick with blood, and the blood hissed and steamed, and the strangers eyes were fire-bright.
"It was a good Axe Bjorn," said the stranger, who yawned, "and hews well-enough, as you said. I thank you for it. But now I am tired and must sleep."
"Give me back my Son," said Bjorn.
"That I cannot do." Said the stranger. "But rest here for a while."
And he laid the Axe across Bjorns body, and so Bjorn slept.
It is known in Blackwater that the artefact, or Curia called the 'Bears Tongue' is associated with some of the most famous and savage heroes of Legend. And also with a handful of the most dangerous and murderous reavers of Civilisation.
Always it is held by a walker of the wilds, one who lives by their own law.
So it is that many young, dangerous and violent individuals have at one time or another, sought out the Bears-Tongue, hoping to become part of its Legend. Usually they find it in the bone-pile in the den of a great bear.
When they pick it up, they are invariably disappointed as, due to its reputation, they were expecting something a bit more magically 'smashy' and the axe has few destructive enchantments, though it is eternally sharp and almost imperishable.
Instead the shaft is noted for its wise advice, most useful to the stupid man, for the axe carries the tongue of an old man - call him Bear, one crafty in battle whos’ words are most of aid to those who rush in. Many wielders of the Tongue have been extremely stupid. But they did not remain so for long.
Bear sleeps within the axe - the amber in the pommel is his eye, it’s how he spots things;
"I'm in here upside down!"
The voice within the Axe aims to help its bearer become a Man, and a leader of a great tribe.
This is regardless of what gender they are, and regardless of whether becoming a tribal leader is either feasible or desired in current circumstances.
Still, those lessons can be pretty useful regardless.
The Axe knows a lot. To hold it is to carry the gift of knowledge. The voice within has all the knowledge of a great chief, a warrior, a hero and a survivor.
It has solid political skills and a keen awareness of human relations. Bear knows what men (he is much better with men than women), desire, which hearts are true or false, who is more ambitious than they seem and who is secretly weak.
Bear knows the ways of the wild, stalking and being stalked, to know where to go and where another is likely to be, and the choices men make in the wild, how to hide and to find what is hidden. Orienteering, pathfinding, climbing, hunting, building shelter, making fire, finding food, appeasing nature spirits, Lifian and Shadow Aeth, all of that Bear knows.
In battle Bear can read well a warrior, spot in their stance those weaknesses they would rather keep secret.
Bear is calm and knows how to see what is there to be seen. He has, and can teach, with time, the skills of observation, preservation and self-control. Wise strategy - when to be calm and how to be so, when to be still - frozen like ice, and when to push forward like the river in thaw.
Bear knows about most natural animals, and a great deal about common monster types - powers, tactics, behaviours, vulnerabilities, treasure and, crucially edibility.
Bear really likes cooking and eating monsters. The voice is a really excellent cook and will provide recipes, make grandiose promises and be incredibly happy if monsters are consistently cooked and consumed.
If monsters go uneaten, Bear will become silent and morose.
Bear can be thrown pretty accurately for quite a long way, but he does not like this;
"I don't fly back you know!"
And does not magically return to the hand. Instead you will have to go and get him.
A last curious quality of the Axe is that any enchantment or thaumaturgy which controls the mind or deludes the senses, if it is aimed at the wielder, instead affects the Axe itself. It is the personality in the object which resists the enchantment, and if it fails due to strong magic, it is that personality, and not that of the wielder, which is deluded.
which can still be bad as instead of freaking out you have an intelligent Axe in your hand which is freaking out.
Bear is better with less 'civilised' people, groups and situations, not that much help with logistics or mathematics, and is illiterate. Bear cannot read at all, though he knows many major spoken languages.
Bear does not understand women, and his ability to read the hearts of men, to tell and to know who is truly strong, who lies with words or actions and who is false, goes completely out the window when dealing with women, or more accurately, with anyone who can convincingly pass as a woman.
Bear claims to dislike and distrust 'magic' and says he can smell a Wizard a hundred paces upwind, though he does not consider the many rituals he knows to commune with spirits to be 'magic', and the smelling ability has never been tested.
Bear has enemies. For some the Axe is evil, a force for destruction, a weapon held over burning cities, a destroyer of order and safety wielded by criminals, reavers and raiders from the wastes, the Terror from the Gloom, fire bright in its steel bears face.
Bear also loves honey, and can space out a bit when his wielder eats some, but fears and hates Bees, considering them an ancestral foe. He claims to have an enemy, the Bee Blade, a shortsword with the soul or spirit of some Lifian or Quileth within it named the Queen of Bees.
Since neither this artefact, or soul have ever been sighted by literate minds, it’s entirely possible their existence is a very long-term, very dry joke on the part of the Axe.
ALSO (Whoredom mode activate) did you know that you can now buy my version of Gawain and the Green Knight, AND a Night a the Golden Duck from the same store?
|"The links lie upon the top of the right rail."|