Sword of the River
The Sword of the River, also called The Sword of the Realm, was the legendary weapon wielded by Augustus Might during Eden’s First Age. Set into a block of stone at the end of that era, it was foretold by Merlin that only “the true king” would be able to pull it free. And that, of course, is exactly what happened during The Second Age when Arthur Pendragon came to the City of Hearts to prove his mettle and his worthiness to rule.
The sword, like many things in Eden, is a study in anachronism. Though it strongly resembles a first-century Roman spatha, its handle is closer in design to the cruciform hilt of European longswords from ten centuries later.
The blade ended in long point and incorporated two forged fullers, making it strong, lightweight, and deadly in the hands of anyone with a decent thrust.
The metal, which has been studied by both halfling and dwarven scientists during times of peace, is a steel-like substance the like of which has never been observed elsewhere in the universe. It does contain high concentrations of water from the River Without End, suggesting it was quenched with that mystical liquid during the forging process.
Beyond being really useful for slicing and stabbing and whatnot, the blade is able to call upon the magical domains of the goddess Mira: order and water. But though the potential is almost limitless, the imaginations of most who have wielded it have kept them from doing much more than keeping fear out of their armies’ hearts and making sure the peoples of their kingdoms never die of thirst.
Zaragon and Augustus
Legend tells us that the sword was presented by the goddess Mira to the tyrant Zaragon during The First Age. Mira, who had just brought reality outside of Eden to its end with a Calamity, was annoyed that her sister Phina had created a purgatorial paradise for the survivors of Mira’s temper tantrum to call home. And so, seeking to spoil her sister’s well-laid plans, Mira created a sword which was imbued with her power to create order. Then, emerging from Sea of Tears, she presented the weapon to the first person she encountered—Zaragon—deciding to take a page out of her chaotic sister’s playbook for once.
Little did she know the havoc that Zaragon would unleash upon what was left of the universe she and her sister had created. The despot used the sword to bend the wills of the shapeshifting kíndalla and nahnlaríx to his will, drafting them into his Monster Hordes. He attacked the goddess Phina herself, splitting her into three lesser gods. And finally, he set about on a quest to overtake The Realm.
After a time, Zaragon lost the sword to someone who had no idea what it was capable of and the weapon was locked away in a vault on an island in lawless Neverland. It was there that it was found by the hero Augustus Might, who, recognizing the relic for what it was, took it from that place and set off to defeat Zaragon.
After Augustus rid the world of that tyrant, he came upon the three parts of the goddess Phina and learned that only by sacrificing himself could he make the goddess whole again and free the so-called “monster hordes” from Zaragon’s spell. And so, sacrifice himself is just what he did—truly earning the moniker Hero of the Realm in the process.
(Why did Augustus have to sacrifice himself? Who knows? You’d have to ask the twelve- to thirteen-year-old version of the author who wrote that part in the early 1990s, and he’s not picking up the phone.)
Arthur and Everything After
Near the end of The First Age, Phina, realizing that the Seven Voices were about to sing the next iteration of reality into existence and that the sword was too powerful to be let out into the wider universe, plunged the weapon into a block of halfling-crafted stone. The halflings had just agreed to become custodians of Eden, and anything halfling-made would stay here with them. And so, that was that—or, well, it should have been.
The halflings, who had suffered greatly at the hands of Zaragon’s armies, feared the weapon and what it could do. And so, even though they could have removed the sword at any time—since they’d crafted its stone prison, after all—they never made any attempts to take it from its monument in the City of Hearts.
The problem came during The Second Age, when a young prince from Promiseland—who unknowingly had a measure of halfling blood in his veins—went adventuring. Seeking to prove himself capable of greateness without any help from his father the king, Arthur Pendragon came to the City of Hearts to try pulling the famous sword from the stone.
Did he think it would work? We cannot be sure. What we can be sure of is that it did work. He pulled the sword from the stone and brought it home with him to Promiseland to rule. And that is where many of the legends we’ve heard of old King Arthur here in The Real World were born.
After Arthur’s death, the sword was returned to the stone—supposedly with a new spell set upon it, one that would only let a person who shared his blood pull it free in the future—and there it remained until the coronation ceremony of Frieda Jacobs, as the first queen of The United Kingdom of Wonderland. By this point, Frieda’s descent from Arthur’s sister Morgana was well documented and everyone knew what would happen when she tried to pull the sword free. And yet, it was still a highlight of the festivities for most.
Thankfully for all in the land of Eden, Frieda and her descendants have never wielded the blade for evil as Zaragon did. They may have lopped a few heads off, as Queens of Hearts are wont to do, but all of those people deserved it. And they have never failed to put the sword back into the stone at the end of an Interregnum, have never sought to bring it back into the wider universe with them. Once the Seven Voices are singing and reality is about to begin anew, the sword is always tucked safely away—only to be used in this purgatorial paradise, and only by those with the blood of a man who was wise enough to use it well.