this foe-bitten blade

Setting: Mens’ deeds are quickly forgotten by men. But some deeds are so wicked, craven, or false that the world itself remembers them. Tools of war, in particular, see much sin, and often remember it all too well. Roll d10.

1: Friendbiter: This workmanlike composite bow is short, to be used from horseback, with a strong recurve. Its first owner was Visya, a lieutenant of the Black Rain Company, who loyally supported his captain through years of campaign. But success undid them both: as the mercenaries fulfilled contract after contract, the captain survived. Visya had no space to advance and his envy grew. As the captain led a last sortie one dusk with his lieutenants, Visya loosed a final arrow into his back. But Visya was not the captain his predecessor was, and the Company fell apart soon after.

When an arrow is loosed, there is a chance that it will turn from its intended target and seek out an ally or friend of the archer.

2: Deserter: This ash-hafted halberd gleams as though fresh from the smithy. It was first used in battle by Woyek, the newest Lance-Serjeant of the Margrabian Foot Guard. While the margrabia’s family was touring the marches, Woyek was detailed to guard the margrabina’s bedchambers in a fortified inn. In the dim hours of the morning, he heard the sounds of battle, and saw his detail slain by reavers in the stables below. Woyek, rather than defend the door, stripped his livery and dropped his halberd, disappearing into the night.

Whenever the halberdier finds himself fighting alone, either in single combat or outnumbered, the spear-axe disappears from his hand and appears in that of his foe’s.

3: A Crooked Heart: This shoddy machete is fireblacked iron with a cord-wrapped hilt, hastily hammered out in some dusty village forge. For years it was an agricultural tool, used to cut cane in the days before the troubles. But the demagogues came, stirring discontent between the tribes. As the villages purged themselves with massacre and countermassacre, many fled into the bush, and the rivers ran red.

The machete continues to work well as a farm implement. However, if it is taken up in anger, it will compel the wielder to attack any unarmed persons in sight; conversely, the wielder will flee from any armed opposition.

4: The Old Man: This is a flange-headed mace of ancient design, pitted with corrosion but sturdy still. It has seen hundreds of years and thousands of fights, without having been lost or destroyed. It continues from hand to hand and encampment to encampment, plucked up from the deceased and carried to the next war.

Whenever the bearer takes the mace into combat, the wielder sees not the current opponent, but another, similar opponent the mace has been used against in one of the innumerable combats it has fought over the centuries. The effect is quite disorienting; instead of seeing this newest skirmish as it is, the holder sees another fought long ago, against a different enemy, a different culture, in a different place. The combat itself, however, fights out just as it should, so long as the disorientation is overcome.

Should the bearer survive a combat, the next several hours are spent in a fugue state, cycling through identities and hallucinations of being one of the multitude of those who have borne the mace and killed and been killed since its forging. Upon reviving, the bearer regains his identity but spends the next day in a profound depression, lost in an extended meditation on the futility of war.

5: Braggart: This is a long-hafted beardaxe with riveted langets. The raider Teocrin figured out a way to use the dueling code to amass the smallest of fortunes: tradition requires a wronged man to challenge his offender to a duel; the victor receives the property of the vanquished. Teocrin, always an asshole, realized that taking frequent offense could be quite remunerative. Not to mention safer than his previous lifestyle.

The beardaxe prefers single combat, preferably in duels. Whenever it is wielded in melee, every time the axeman strikes true, an ally will miss, often catastrophically.

6: Grasper: This is a bronze xiphos with a lovely warm color and a deep belly on each side. Harashin was the effeminate eldest son of a minor landholder in the time of the warring cities. His father, favoring his stronger second son, purchased Harashin a commission and sent him off to the war. Harashin knew why, and resented it, but was resented more by his erstwhile command. After setbacks in battle and a series of commanders falling in unfortunate accidents, Harashin took to sleeping with his sword. Soon, he could never be seen without it in hand; dark mutterings about the enemies everywhere occupied his lips. Harashin fell on that campaign, of tuberculosis rather than combat, but even in the finality of his illness the sword never left his hand.

Whenever someone grasps the hilt of the xiphos, the bronze of it melds inseparably into the flesh, permanently grafting the weapon to the holder. It will not separate short of amputation or death.

7: Belltoll: This is a slim, double-edged stiletto forged with a twisted steel hilt and forward-facing quillons. Hethor Sawyerssen split from the Fellowship of Acquirers not because of his lack of second-story skills–quite the opposite, rather–but because he showed much more interest in hurting than acquiring. By the time the Fellowship realized that he was freelancing as a recreational assassin, his compulsion had advanced so far that he had begun sending mocking notes to his victims’ relatives. He was found face-down in a gutter one morning, his favorite blade pilfered.

Whenever the stiletto is used to take someone’s life, the deceased’s family, friends, whoever was closest to him or her, immediately knows. They see the circumstances leading to the killing in vivid detail.

8: Obeisance: This is a simple black iron rod, with rust at the exposed ends and a use-shined knurled handgrip. In the slave warrens of Grofmere everything and everyone was owned by someone else. Save this rod. Forever used and returned to the peg from which it hung in the center of the feeding hall, any who owned another could take it up to punish the other for transgressions real or contrived.

Whenever the holder of the rod is back-talked, disagreed with, or in any way disrespected, he must use the rod to beat the disrespector.

9: The Arbiter: This is a horseman’s hammer, lively in the hand, with a cylindrical slug of a head but lacking a backspike. Khalem was the most merciful of judges, sought by the tribes as a clever and impartial settler of disputes. But a life spent listening to those who had wronged each other hardened his heart, and age stole his cleverness. An iron exactitude entered him, and the unsympathetic ink of law coursed his veins; finally, claimants before him rarely departed without punishment, and Khalem was sought out no more.

Any who take up the warhammer soon find that all blows inflicted are equally meted upon the wielder.

10: Ruth: This is a slim, dusky sabre with a pronounced upward sweep and basket hilt of swirled steel lacework. Falanca the Guardian spent a lifetime as an itinerant partisan of the downtrodden, bouncing in and out of monastic orders, none active enough or ascetic enough to satisfy her martyrs’ impulse. She saw herself in aid and succor first, a warrior last; she found her destiny interceding for a rich caravan’s humblest indentured cook.

Ruth keeps tally. For every person slain by the blade, another’s life must be saved. If the tally be off–even if the sabre were newly acquired–Ruth will become so dull as to uselessness, little more than a hilted steel rod.

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