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Legend of the Cursed Blade

"You want a short way to success, boy?" The veteran took a sip of ale and glared down at me, "The only thing you'll earn with a Vilbryte is a fresher grave."
    The story telling of how the Cursed Blade - originally known as Vilbryte - was forged and how King Frederick of the Vards was killed by the very weapon he commissioned.   After it killed its former master, Vilbryte was never recovered. It has been 934 years since the original legend was penned and it has been lost forever, destined to fade into legend...

Summary

A tyrannical ruler, King Frederick of the Vards, wanted to become the most feared warrior of all the land. He commanded the dwarves to forge him a blade that would never miss a stroke, never rust and could cut through anything with ease. Since the dwarven guild masters had enough of his unreasonable demands throughout the years, they give it three curses:  
  1. It would kill someone whenever it was drawn,
  2. It would commit three atrocities before it could be broken or damaged, and
  3. Would ultimately kill King Frederick
  Satisfied with this ultimate blade, he called it Vilbryte and scoured the land for a challenge to equal the sword's workmanship.   The King organised such an occasion, gathering his closest nobles and eldest son for a hunting party in the royal wood. When a boar survived an arrow wound and escaped, Frederick saw his opportunity and drew his weapon. Cutting through the forest was trivial and he cornered the beast. Unfortunately, his only son had followed him and Frederick couldn't stop it from cutting the young man in two.   Devastated, the king grew more discontented and eager to secure his right to rule. His conquests both at home and abroad were filled with blood. One night, rogues broke into the castle in an attempt to assassinate the undefeated King. Hearing the glass break, Frederick drew Vilbryte, only to find the brigands long vanished into the night and his wife slain by his own hand.   King Frederick channelled his grief into finding these culprits, sword drawn all the while. By the time he'd sheathed Vilbryte, certain they were never to be found, all his courtiers were dead as were half of his capital's subjects. With the people calling for his execution, he fled back to the dwarves who'd forged the blade, eager to be rid of it.   He asked them to smelt it down again, but they showed him the blade would remain unaffected by the forge's heat. King Frederick drew the sword, intending to kill its creators, but instead put it through his own heart and died. What has happened to the blade since is unknown, but the story usually ends with the dwarves taking Vilbryte and storing it amidst their Forbidden Treasures, never intended for the hands of mortals.

Historical Basis

There was a King Frederick of the Vards living at the time, but it isn't certain whether or not he had possession of a sword named Vilbryte. With his fighting prowess, however, historians have noted that "any blade could be considered the Cursed Blade in his capable hands."   Historical records have also documented that his reign as king was unlucky if not despotic. Ruled by his mistakes and disasters rather than able to ride the waves to victory, he ultimately succumbed to his despair and abdicated through self-execution. This method was popular only in the royal family, where their honour and reputation had to be reserved by admitting when their efforts were for nought.   Many have claimed they have found the sword Vilbryte, mainly for increasing a weapon's value on the market, but they've all found to be illegitimate. Most claimants were forged in the time the first iteration of the legend was written - the 4th century - rather than when most speculate the story was set. The sword that King Frederick was buried with is commonly accepted to be Vilbryte. However, invaders have since looted the crypt and taken the weapon from its resting place.

Spread

The story is commonplace even amongst taverns in small hamlets, though it has many variations on the tale. Even with its distortion over the years, the main message has remained the same and more relevant than ever upon the fall of Camelot and its knights. It's a cautionary favourite, whispered in the ears of aspiring squires and fools.

Variations & Mutation

Excalibur as "The Cursed Blade"

  The blade Vilbryte has often been replaced with Excalibur, as an origin story of the sword that Arthur Pendragon would come to wield. The erasure of Vilbryte only began with the end of the Battle of Camlann and the start of Camelot's decline. This version of the tale was used to justify the terrible events that led to the conflict and many deaths on both sides. In these circles, the Fall of Camelot is counted as the second of the blade's three atrocities, with Sir Bedivere throwing it into Lake Renegan, unable to destroy it.    

An Artefact Older Than Time

  Some believe that Vilbryte's power can't be created by the dwarves and instead is the claymore wielded by the dreaded Rider of War - Feudark. Though mentioning his name is said to summon him to the mortal world, mentioning his weapon doesn't. Therefore, people who believe this version of the tale refer to the Horseman as Vilbryte.   In this version, the tyrannical king wants to subdue the rebellions of his people once and for all, even if he has to bring war onto his own country. So, he summons Feudark and asks for his claymore. To gain the blade, he has to carry out three quests, each more harrowing than the last, all of which result in him killing one of his closest friends and confidants. Once his tasks are completed, Feudark gives him the claymore as promised, which the tyrant kills himself with in despair.

Cultural Reception

In most cultures, "Vilbryte" is a colloquial term used to describe a get-rich-quick scheme or a deal that's too good to be true. (see the quote above.)  

Vandrere Perception

To the Vandrere in the Northern Beastwilds, The "Cursed Blade" of the legend will always be known as Vilbryte. It serves as a lesson to those who would risk the lives of others for their own glory, despite the dangers. To compare it to a long-dead kingdom that encourages such fanciful thinking undermines this message.   In their culture, the legend is a self-isolated incident, where the three atrocities were against his son, his wife and ultimately, his people. These are still the values they live by today.  

Camelan Peception

  In the Council of Camelan, the political successor to Camelot, the legend is more hotly contested. Around two-thirds of the population see Excalibur and Vilbryte as inter-changeable, with the remaining third remaining loyal to the original story.

In Literature

Literature featuring cursed swords have followed the basic outline set by the legend of Vilbryte. Most involve swords that kill their masters or those close to them, choosing to inflict just as much agony as the wielders do on their enemies. Some tales end in victory, but most result in tragic ends for their protagonists.   One version follows the woes of Sir Balin who stole Excalibur to claim the Throne of Camelot with his brother. In the end, Sir Balin murders his brother, unable to control the sword's will to return to its master. Though this isn't counted as one of the blade's atrocities, those who believe Excalibur to be Vilbryte consider it a critical moment in the weapon's history.

In Art

The Legend of The Cursed Blade is known more widely as a ballad, hence why the tale is so popular. It's known as Frederic or The Tragedy of Frederic in most Camelan areas, and by Vilbryte amongst the Vandrere.
Date of First Recording
317
Date of Setting
215
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