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Blades of Dromen

by Carl Quaif

The following magical blades date from the far past, or perhaps just the mythic tradition, of the land now called Karameikos. It's up to you to decide how "real" these legendary weapons are/were/will be in your campaign.

The Blades of Dromen:

The legends and tales told by the Traladara of Karameikos are many and varied, reflecting the long history and rich imaginations of that race. Among the more popular tales - told by courtly Bards and fireside-bound grandfathers alike - are the Dromen Stories, a loose collection of prose and poetry which tell of a legendary (or perhaps mythical) being called Dromen Longbeard, an Heroic Smith/Warrior/Wizard of superhuman skill and ability. Interestingly, while Dromen is considered human by the Traladara, The Dwarves and Gnomes of Highforge each consider him to hail from their own race - or perhaps from some amalgam of the two. Dromen features frequently in legend, both in his own sagas and as a pivotal element in the stories of other heroes.

Of primary interest to adventurers, however, are the descriptions the tales give of the many magical blades manufactured by Dromen during his long lifetime. Some, or all, of the blades could still exist somewhere - if they ever did - or could serve as models for items created by modern-day adventurers; considering the enduring popularity of these legends, no doubt there are NPC heroes (and villains) who have already been inspired to reproduce a blade or two by now.

Never, Two-Handed Sword +2:

This sword is made entirely of burnished copper, from the keen blade to the wire-wrapped hilt. It is unusually free of any ornamentation, such as jewelled inlays or inscriptions. While a copper weapon would normally be too soft to survive combat with more sturdy blades, Never has been enchanted to give it the hardness of high-grade steel. A similar enchantment prevents the sword from tarnishing, allowing it to keep its ruddy hue. Never is designed for speed. Despite its obvious size, Never is considerably lighter and better-balanced than most two-handed swords; when using it in combat, the wielder does not automatically lose initiate. Additionally, the sword may cast Haste upon its bearer once per day, if desired. The copper blade has an unusual property which allows it to attract and absorb Magic Missiles hurled at its wielder (from any source), releasing them again from its tip the following round at any chosen target(s).

The sword has an alternate state; it can transform into a pair of plain copper thumb-rings, which adjust in size to fit any wearer, and back again, instantly - allowing an apparently-unarmed wearer to change from rings to sword to rings again in a single round, if desired. Both rings must be worn on the thumbs and touched together for the blade to be summoned; simply holding them will not do. If the sword's bearer is already wearing a magical ring of some sort on either hand, the blade cannot transform until it is removed.

Never is intelligent (Int 12, Ego 8), and communicates by telepathy; its personality is friendly, although slightly childlike, and has a tendency to over-enthusiasm. Although unaligned in terms of who can bear it, the sword prefers good-hearted souls, and will be more helpful to a kindly master than a cruel one. The sword can become very loyal to a master who treats it well. While in rings-form, the intelligence is dormant and cannot communicate.

According to legend, Never (and, later, its companion blades Seeker and Finder - see below) was forged many centuries ago by Dromen for the great Traldar hero, Alexei Stormeyes, to help him combat a powerful Black Dragon which had attacked his village. The legend states that the Dragon, Urengerallax, was warded by the following prophecy:-

"Thy Doom shall be a Sword which both Is, and Is Not; Thy Death borne by the Bladeless Man who bears it."

As a consequence, the Dragon had enspelled the mouth of his cave with a magical wall which repelled any bladed weapon; while living beings could enter freely, their weapons could not, which was invariably fatal. Never, in rings-form, bypassed this defence with ease, and in sword-form despatched the wyrm after a mighty battle.

The sword shows up in many legends over the centuries, before vanishing; its current location is unknown. If it still exists, Never is most likely to found in its rings-form - perhaps one of the rings might be found on its own, or adorning the hilt of Seeker or Finder (see below for details). Discovering its true nature, and tracking down the matching ring, could make a worthy quest for any hero.

Seeker and Finder, Throwing Knives +1:

These are a matched pair of knives, made of bright, shiny copper. They are perfectly balanced for throwing, and enchanted to make them both free from tarnish and hard as iron. Although plain in design, each one has a shallow groove circling its hilt, roughly half-way down.

Although useful weapons by themselves, Seeker and Finder are considerably more powerful when combined with Never. If the sword is converted to rings-form, the rings may be slipped over the knife-hilts, resting in the grooves. While so adorned, each dagger becomes a Throwing Knife +1 of Returning; when hurled at a target, the knives return unerringly to the thrower's hand either in the same round (if they miss the target) or the next (if they hit).

Seeker and Finder were made for Alexei Stormeyes after the death of the Dragon Urengerallax, to complement his intelligent sword; they feature in as many tales as Never itself, although not so prominently, and dropped out of sight at approximately the same time.

Frost, Shortsword +3:

This is a beautifully tooled weapon, made of an ice-blue metal (nowadays suspected to be steel, although this was supposedly long before the smelting of iron was discovered). The blade is always chillingly cold to the touch, save for the hilt, which is wrapped in insulated white dragonhide.

Frost is believed to contain a shard of Primal Ice in its centre, which provides it with its powers. Each blow from the shortsword deals an additional 1d4 damage from the cold, and causes the target - if warm-blooded - to miss initiative in the next round from the shock of its freezing touch. Cold-using creatures are, of course, immune to this effect, while heat-users take 1d6 damage instead. Once per day, on command, Frost will gird its wielder with Armour of Ice, a flexible, jointed sheath of ice which protects as if it were plate mail. While wearing it, the armoured person is immune to normal fire, and takes half damage from magical flame (Save vs. Spells for quarter-damage). The Armour of Ice lasts as long as desired, but the wearer takes 1d4 hp damage per Turn from the cold. Note: if struck by a Red Dragon's breath, the Armour of Ice protects the wearer from all damage, but melts away completely after one blast.

Frost features in only one set of stories, the so-called "Starkad Cycle". The hero Starkad the Broad originated in Soderfjord, the youngest of three sons, but was apparently drawn to Traldar lands by a series of dreams. He found his way to Dromen's door and, after completing several archetypal tasks, was presented with Frost. The rest of the saga concerns Starkad's adventures throughout Traldar territories, including several comic tales involving a tribe of Sprites who took delight in cursing him in inventive and humorous ways.

Starkad's last tale concerns his battle with a mighty demon in the Cruth mountains. Starkad slew the monster but, poisoned by its talons, knew he would soon die himself. Before he died, however, he hurled Frost into the mountain lake nearby, whereupon the sword's magic froze the lake solid forever. Adventurers and treasure-seekers periodically seek out the Frozen Tarn, as it is known, to retrieve the blade, but none have yet found it.

Lost Child, Longsword +4:

This is a truly beautiful sword, with a hilt of jewel-inlaid, wire-wrapped silver and a blade of rich yellow gold. Despite its ornamental appearance, the sword is far more resilient than even the finest steel weapons, thanks to powerful enchantments. In purely monetary terms, the sword is easily worth more than 100,000 gp; after adding in its many magical qualities, the cost of purchasing the weapon could bankrupt a small country.

Lost Child is said to be Dromen's personal weapon, and its presence is alluded to in most tales ("the wealth of kings riding at his side"), although its powers - whatever they are - are rarely mentioned more than once. The following abilities have been attributed to the sword at one time or another:-

- Extra Damage (as the Extraordinary sword-power). In "The Worm of Kalai" Lost Child was said to have cleaved the head from a large Green Dragon in one stroke.

- Dragonslaying. Another possible explanation for the above event.

- Djinni Summoning (as the Ring). In "By the Shores of Akesoli", Dromen summons a Djinn from one of the sapphires on Lost Child's hilt. Another tale states that Lost Child created "a mighty whirling wind", which could be another reference to this power.

- Regeneration (as the Ring). In "The Lonely Minstrel" Lost Child slowly heals a dying woman who grasps its hilt.

- Gating (as the spell, Gate). In "Dromen and the Fair Folk", Lost Child appears to cut a hole in the air, creating a portal to "fairyland" (possibly a reference to the land of Haven).

- Create Monsters (as the spell Create Normal Monsters). In the epic poem "The Battle of Thirteen Nights", Dromen uses Lost Child to cleave an ancient oak tree in two, lengthways; from its split trunk come "Hordes of manlings, dog-faced and crazed/Spitting and snarling beneath his gaze" - perhaps referring to kobolds, gnolls, or even lupins.

- Animate Undead (as the spell). Later in "The Battle of Thirteen Nights", Lost Child is buried up to the hilt in graveyard. "Shouting out its clarion call/Come, ye deadlings, hearken all". The bones and corpses animate and march to battle.

- Gaseous Form (as the potion). In both "The Merchant of Luln" and the later work "The Shire", Lost Child changes itself and its wielder into "a bright sparkling mist" for a short period.

The reason behind Lost Child's odd name is unmentioned in any of the tales, although Sages and Bards have proposed many theories over the years - some think that perhaps the spirit of Dromen's dead daughter resides within (although no suggestion has ever been made that the sword is sentient), or the blade was made for, or in memory of, that child; others point to the blade's tracking ability, believing it was made to find lost children. The truth - if indeed there is any truth behind this most nebulous of blades - has never been uncovered.

Dromen's blade is believed to be buried with him, in some lost or secret location. The Sage Dorvik of Krakatos believes the location of Dromen's grave can be deciphered from the text of "The Last Battle", a 13,000-stanza poem describing Dromen's death (and, incidentally, tying Dromen's story in with the legends of Halav, Petra and Zirchev) in battle with hordes of Beastmen, commonly considered to mark the end of the Golden Age of Traldar. As yet, however, neither Dorvik nor anyone else has located the grave.

[DMs are encouraged to choose the powers of Lost Child from the above list - or ignore it completely, and make the sword something completely different. It is definitely a Longsword +4, but all other powers are optional.]