There are weapons inscribed with runes, then there are the 'Runic Blades'. They're something else entirely.
A Runic Blade is not a single weapon but a specific type of weapon. They are weapons with remarkable properties and an unusual history. Their owners, called Bearers, have appeared throughout history at many events that defined an age, or at historical events for a particular region. Some historians even argue that some of those Runic Blades may have even been the same artifact.
A Runic Blade may seem an outdated weapon these days, with rune-tech and re-discovered science being in favor. After all, anyone with just a little training can use a sword, Magelock pistol, a restored Light pistol, or a Lightbow.
But a Runic Blade? No.
Living magic courses through it. Surrounds it. Something like that requires more. To use a Runic Blade requires a dedication. Willpower. A commitment to something greater than your own ambitions.
The first mention of a Runic Blade comes from the Tarwanik Papers, the oldest and most controversial documents written in the early 1st Age of Illuria. Among the fantastical myths, these documents recount how the master smith Dyrnwyn Amberskull was the first to forge a Runic Blade. It was an attempt to 'mend what was broken'. Nothing in the Tarwanik Papers mentions if the attempt was successful outside of creating the enchanted weapon.
He was trying to mend, or at least save, the hope and memories ... maybe even the spirit ... of someone precious before she vanished forever.
It was in the 2nd Age that the Runic Blade became the iconic weapon for a Highland Cavalier knight. A distinctive item, with its line of glowing runes tracing the weapon's length, it quickly became tied to the image of the Highland Cavalier Order and their values of truth, upholding justice, and protection.
Later, the Plague Knight Order fashioned a duplicate of the weapon. These 'Havoc Blades' were similar, only that the blade’s metal was a dark purple with blood red runes. These were nearly as strong as a Runic Blade but lacked certain of the Runic Blade abilities, such as being able to alter its shape when it was first bonded to a Bearer.
They were a cheap copy, drenched in corruption.
A Delicate Balance of Composition
Metal smiths use an alloy of osmerite and adamantine iron to make Runic Blades. Thumb-sized, brass-colored runes run along the center of the weapon's length. Once active, the runes glow with an inner light reflective of the weapon's chosen bearer. This glow is emerald green, turquoise blue, amethyst purple, and in rare cases, a ghostly silver-white.
The hilt, or handle if the bearer chooses the form of an axe or hammer, is always a sealed brasswood. Most bearers wrap this with a tough, treated leather.
Dyrnwyn Amberskull describes the forging process in the Tarwanik Papers, going into some length on the materials and the process. The master smith cautions the process is dangerous because of the sudden geyser of magic that wells up through the anvil during the metal folding. Over the centuries, only one in twenty weapon smiths have successfully forged a Runic Blade. The others perished in magical explosions during the attempt.
One key, according to Dyrnwyn, is to follow the flow of patterns while folding the alloy. These patterns constantly shift, flowing like water along the length of the metal. A smith, Dyrnwyn continues, should fold along the pattern's direction. The ultimate component, the master smith adds, is to listen to the voice from the metal and answer its whispered questions honestly. Even the slightest false answer will destroy the attempt, perhaps even the weapon smith.
Today, weapon or metal smith refuse to attempt the process as its considered dangerous since the details around the cooling process have been lost to history. Metal smiths have worked out that the metal is not only quenched in water. It is a mixture of some kind whose formula has yet to be rediscovered. Yet, the rare Runic Blades continue to appear even today.
Spirit of the Blade
Thunder rattled the air hard enough to feel it. I glanced up at the sky. Dusky, gray clouds, heavy with the promise of rain, were rolling in fast. I could see the clouds churn against each other while they moved. It was a typical summer storm for northern Marinkovia. Fast moving and loud.
I adjusted my long coat and tugged at the wide brim of my hat. The rain didn’t bother me, but the electric feeling in the air put an odd twitch in my joints. The millennia had ways of catching up with you. I sighed, cutting a glance over at the nebulous essence hovering next to me.
“Here? Are you sure?”
“Yes,“ she whispered. “Here. I feel his presence inside the building.”
The building was tall, or at least had a tall center. Smaller buildings, not as tall, surrounded it. Primehold. The main guild hall and headquarters of the Skyfarer Foundation. Rain patted the ground around me while streetlamp lightstones flickered to life against the dark storm clouds. I shook my head, smiling.
“Oh, wouldn’t it be the best fun to see expressions when they realized who I was once I stroll through their front door? But we don’t have time for that and I’m too old for the nonsense the Skyfarer’s get up to. Your Chosen won’t be in there forever. The Starlight’s Ace is nearby and stays open late. They are one of the better pubs in this part of Shildamere.”
“I can wait. But not in the public house. There are too many eyes and ears.”
I knew she would say that. Determination radiated around her in warm waves. She was serious about this. But that was always the case. Who could blame her? This was a serious affair. As close to life and death as it could be for her.
Tugging at my hat again, I crossed the avenue to the far side. A long bench sat alone under a weather shelter next to a streetlight. It was on the way to the Starlight’s Ace, so it would do. It turns out; I didn’t have to wait long.
A young elven man emerged out a side door of Primehold. He walked quickly, darting from shelter to shelter along the avenue to avoid the rain. I started to rise but stopped, caught by surprise, when the young man suddenly changed course to cross to the far side of the avenue.
On the other side, I watched while he stepped around a thin and wiry man in a blue jacket. This man had only just narrowly avoided colliding with a busy merchant house woman in a rust-brown long coat a few seconds before. The woman was oblivious to the world and to that the thin man had stolen her wallet.
I watched while the Skyfarer slipped a worn, red leather wallet from the man’s outer pocket and deposit it into the woman’s coat pocket. Neither one noticed. His work done, the Skyfarer glanced behind him with a faint smile as the man and woman went their separate ways. After watching them leave, he crossed the avenue in my direction. Once he walked under a streetlight, I got my first solid look at him.
“Ah. I should have guessed. He carries himself like NicKenna did, or even Reanast. But stealing from the theif to return that woman’s wallet? That’s Speed’s sense of irony.”
My ethereal companion was almost vibrating.
“That is him.”
I chuckled. “Naturally.”
Rising from the bench, I brushed at my long coat before tucking the long package next to me under my arm. I felt my companion follow close while I approached the young Skyfarer.
The Bearer doesn't choose the Blade... the Blade choses it's Bearer...
- Blade of Power
- Power Blade
1 - 1.2 kg ( 2.2 - 2.6 lbs )
Varies, depends on the person it bonded with
Raw materials & Components
Osmerite and adamantine iron for the metal. Fresh cut and worked brasswood for the hilt.
An anvil, a hammer, a forge, and a pair of tongs enchanted to withstand the elemental planar fire.
Dyrnwyn Amberskull's process describes folding the metal exactly 18 times. In his words...
... fold the metal 16 times, then twice more for respect...
Weapon and metalsmiths of today understand the quality of the metal produced after folding 16 times. But the twice more, does not produce any greater strength for the material. Strangely enough, it doesn't make it more brittle. The material behaves as if nothing happened. It is for this reason, many metal smiths believe there is more to this than just forging magical reactive metal.
A prevailing theory is that Amberskull's process causes the sword to become a direct channel to magic itself. The last two folds are thought to fold in raw magic while removing the impurities from that magic. If this is at all true, it would mean each Runic Blade exists at the very thin balance between magic and the physical.
More Than Just a Blade
Legends recount how the Runic Blades have often found their way into the hands of those who suffered from being Timelost. The condition holds a place in myth, but the abilities of a Runic Blade have proven themselves more real than fiction.
Across the different Ages of Illuria, those same legends tell how Runic Blades have granted abilities to their chosen Bearers. Those powers, according to legend, changed with each historical age. In some stories, the Bearer could summon armor for their mounts. Other stories recount how especially skilled Bearers could draw down lightning from the heavens, then channel it through their Runic Blade at a target.
The Blade reflects what the Bearer already has inside them. If they suffer from being Timelost? Well, then things become very interesting...
But there are a common set of granted abilities that appear throughout history.
Oh, when a Bearer wills the Blade away, it slides back into the anvil that birthed it. It fits like a key into a lock and only comes out when the Bearer wills the Blade back to them.
No matter the legend or myth, two items about the Runic Blades always hold true. First is that if the Bearer accepts being chosen by the Blade, it will transform its shape into one best suited for the Bearer. This is often a sword, but on rare occasions it's been an axe or a hammer. Second, the runes will glow and burn with a colored flame if the Bearer is in immediate danger.
The legends are delightful reading material. They don’t explain that every Bearer has to learn to use these abilities; they don’t just appear all at once. That training takes a lot of time. But, the Spirit of the Blade makes for a good teacher... if the Bearer pays attention...