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Holy Swords of the Known World

by Kit Navarro

Nothing so magnificently embodies the power of the Immortals as a paladin, crusader, or other holy warrior. And nothing so clearly impresses the will of a paladin as his holy sword. But as many Immortals there exists in the Halls of Pandius, so are there many mortal followers in the Known World, with different faiths, different religions, and different ways of enacting their beliefs.

Many a paladin aspire to one day wield a holy avenger, a rare and sacred weapon whose divine powers can only be awakened by a paladin. Very few will see this dream fulfilled, and for even fewer will the dream be more than they could have imagined. For some Immortals of Mystara have chosen to bless certain holy swords specifically for the use of their worshippers and for the furthering of their divine cause.

Written here are examples of such sacred weapons (six swords and two scabbards) that may be found in the Known World.

Sun Sword of Glory

Even to ordinary mortals, this weapon appears formidable and venerable. At first, it seems to be a sun blade, in itself a rare and awesome weapon. Its pommel is gilt with gold leaf and emblazoned with a radiant sun of an ancient Thyatian style, but the blade and the handle show no sign of aging, wear, or tarnish. In the hands of a follower of the Immortal Solarios (Ixion the Sun-Prince), the weapon reveals its true powers. First, its bonus is increased to +3. Second, it grants the following spells to be cast: magic circle against chaos and evil (3x/day), sunbeam (2x/day), sunburst (1x/day) and splendour (as the first power of a rod of splendour, 1x/day).

The first known sun sword of glory belonged to an ancient Thyatian named Justinian Helioprobus in the first century BC. He was a paladin of Solarios and he swore the service of his sun blade to King Lucinius I of Thyatis in liberating his country from the Alphatian oppressors. Through many deeds of heroism and good, his sword became blessed by his patron Immortal to become a sun sword of glory. What become of Justinian and his sword after King Lucinius was killed in unsure.

Holy Persuader

This sword always appears as a handsome blade, made of the finest steel, perpetually shiny and sharp, and seemingly enchanted to be impervious to even the smallest scratch. Indeed, such a blade will readily reveal its magic of being a merciful short sword +1.

But the holy persuader is a weapon sacred to the Immoral Valerias, Patroness of Passion and Romance and the Girder-On of Weapons. In the hands of one devoted to Valerias, the holy persuader transforms into an even more magnificent weapon. In appearance, it begins to glow a crimson radiance, equivalent to the 0-level light spell. (Some also claim that when the sword is swung it exudes a heady fragrance of roses.) The sword gains a +2 bonus, and any opponent defeated by the holy persuader (reduced to 0 hit points) must make a DC 20 Will save or else be charmed by the wielder.

The most celebrated holy persuader in the Known World is perhaps the one wielded by Margala the Magnificent, the famed Alphatian heroine and a passionately devoted paladin of Valerias. The most famous of her battles was during the Thyatian-Alphatian Wars in the first century BC, defending Alphatian innocents and their territories on the Isle of Dawn. Many historical accounts narrate that Margala lead the Alphatian troops against the Thyatian invaders, and as she subdued one Thyatian warrior after another with her holy persuader, her opponents were magically converted to fight on her side. Eventually, the tide of battle turned, the Thyatians became outnumbered, and Margala found herself face to face with the Thyatian commander Justinian Helioprobus. In the final duel, the two paladins found themselves equally matched and agreed to a truce.

Though the holy persuader figures in many legends, epic poems and romantic dramas, very few have been known to actually exist historically. In recent years however, particularly during the Wrath of the Immortals War, there have been numerous accounts of paladins and defenders of Valerias wielding such wondrous holy weapons.

Girding Embrace

Legends say a master Thothian weapon-smith, Nefermehu of Ekto, witnessed Margala the Magnificent battle against the Thyatians on the Isle of Dawn. The burly old smith was greatly awed by the power and magnificence of the holy persuader (as well as the paladin who wielded it!) and was equally dismayed at Margala's lacklustre sword sheath. Out of passionate adoration, Nefermehu was inspired to forge a special scabbard more befitting of Margala's sword, which he offered to the Alphatian clerics of Valerias to bless and deliver to his muse.

The girding embrace is so named after the Girder-On of Weapons, an epithet of the Immortal Valerias. The scabbard is designed for a short sword and is made of fine gilded steel. Upon its length are carved the long stems of roses with sharp thorns, entwining the body of a beautiful woman. The opening of the scabbard depicts the woman's arms in a tight embrace, and the roses are filigreed with a red metal alloy.

The scabbard blesses the weapon that it stores, granting it a +1 bonus for the first 1d4 rounds it is drawn. The girding embrace also has a special girding ability: the scabbard and the sword it holds can instantly teleport to its owner's side in the time of need, as long as they are on the same plane of existence. It is also rumoured that in the hands of a paladin of Valerias, the girding embrace can transform into a second weapon, a +2 short sword of defending, and that the paladin can instinctively wield this sacred weapon without needing any two-handed skill.

Historians remain unsure whether Margala actually used or even received the girding embrace.(Indeed some stories say the Alphatian clerics threw out the Thothian heathen and his token of affection, while some say Margala herself personally rejected his scabbard.) But the girding embrace has been heard of in the accounts of wars, romantic duels, and other affairs of passion.

During the Alexander Day Massacre of AC 1017 in Glantri City, it was officially reported that the pilgrims and devotees of the Immortal Valerias were about to be arrested by the Glantrian Constabulary, one unarmed man suddenly brandished a sword from a scabbard that magically appeared in his hands, and in the next instant, the selfsame scabbard transformed into a second sword, with which he proceeded to attack the constables. The documents stated that particular follower of Valerias died in the massacre, but what became of the girding embrace was not recorded

Thieving Grasp

The story of Nefermehu does not end with the girding embrace. In an Alphatian apocrypha, Nefermehu became dejected and heartbroken about Margala, until mysterious stranger appeared at his doorstep. She was an Alphatian of common lineage but of uncommon beauty, and introduced herself to be the squire of Margala. The woman claimed that the clerics of Valerias had intercepted his gift, and that Margala wanted another scabbard borne out of Nefermehu's labour and love. The blacksmith became obsessed with his craft and his muse, who he was constantly reminded of by the enigmatic visitor, who in turn seemed to appear more and more like Margala everyday. With the completion of the masterpiece, Nefermehu gave in to temptation and consummated his passions with the squire. And one day, the strange woman simply disappeared along with the scabbard. Nefermehu was left remorseful, obsessed and on the brink of insanity. He never worked again and was left to the care of his poor wife...

The mysterious woman is believed to be a priestess of the Immortal Talitha ("She Who Steals Artifacts and The Most Crucial of Treasures to Sabotage the Grandest of Schemes and Brings Ruin the Greatest of Beings" is one of her Alphatian titles.) and the scabbard (if it truly exists) is believed to be cursed with the most treacherous form of magic. Referred to in legend as a thieving grasp, it has the same physical appearance as a girding embrace, and similarly grants the sword it sheaths a magical bonus for the first 1d4 rounds it is drawn; normally, the bonus is +1, but against lawful or good enemies, the bonus is increased to +2. The thieving grasp also has a similar girding ability as its twin.

However, at the most critical points of a venture, the true treachery of the thieving grasp will reveal itself. The scabbard and the sword it holds will disappear from its wielder's side, and appear in the hands of the opponent or the nearest evil or chaotic non-allied thief. Moreover, a cleric or follower of the Immortal Talitha will instinctively be able to sense the thieving grasp from within 100 yards away, and will be able to summon it to her own person at will. The dark magic of scabbard allows the devotee of Talitha to handle the sword safely without any ill effects while the sword is sheathed and up to 1d4+1 rounds after unsheathing it.

Sword of Fealty

A sword of fealty is a fine weapon for any noble and honourable warrior. It is an axiomatic long sword +2, forged of grey tempered steel that shines with a lustre of two hues, one silvery-white, one raven-black. In the hands of a paladin or crusader of the Immortal Tarastia, Patroness of Justice and Revenge, the sword of fealty has its bonus enhanced to +3, and radiates a constant zone of truth and calm emotions. The wielder can cast a greater command thrice a day, atonement once a day, and can confer a quest in the service of Tarastia twice a day, for as long as no more than two such sacred oaths are in effect at a time.

It is believed that the first sword of fealty was crafted by the Thyatian Empress Valentia in the first century AC. In her lifelong mission to institute judicial reforms and enforce imperial laws, Valentia the Justiciar awarded her most righteous and loyal senators, soldiers, priests, and defenders of the empire each with a sword of fealty. At least twenty such holy swords were said to have been forged, and at least five of them are in the possession of the Churches of Tarastia throughout Thyatis. Emperor Gabrionus V was said to have owned a sword of fealty as an imperial heirloom (in spite of the fact that the have been no clerics or paladins of Tarastia on the imperial throne for several generations), but this sword was lost when the Alphatians looted the imperial palace and slew the emperor.

Holly Avenger

This sword first appears to be nothing more than a carved wooden practice sword, and rather crude on at that. The wood is knotted and threatens to crack upon strong impact. The blade is short for a long sword, too long for a short sword, and not entirely straight and flat. Only the pommel seems to have been crafted with care, showcasing vines of ivy and clusters of holly berries, twisted around a pinecone. Wielding the sword is quite awkward, imposing a non-magical penalty of -1 to both attacks and damage. Despite this, the true nature of such swords is a famous secret amongst the forest races.

When a follower of the Immortal Ordana first lays hand upon a holly avenger, the sword undergoes an amazing transformation. The blade is transmuted into ironwood-sturdy, straight, and sharp as steel-and effectively becomes a +3 short sword, with an extra 2d6 points of damage against evil and undead creatures. It can be wielded by a cleric, druid, or ranger with equal ease and no weapon penalties, so long as they are devoted to the Forest Mother.

With a touch of the blade, the wielder can transmute metal to wood at will and can reverse the transformation with a second touch, but it cannot transmute wood to metal. The berries on the pommel can be plucked off to produce the following magical effects: goodberry (3x/day), plant growth (2x/day), and fire seeds (1x/day, but with no fire damage to any plant life). Similarly, the thorny vines can also be untwined to cast spike growth (2x/day) or wall of thorns (1x/day).

The legendary centaur sage and prophetess Olyrrhoe tells of at least three holly avengers on the Known World. One is in the hands of the elven druids on Minrothad, who still follow the ancient dainrouw ("the forest way.") of Ordana. A second is in the hands of a Thyatian Forester, who has been on a lifelong quest for a cleric of Ordana to bless him, and thus awaken the powers of the sword. A third holly avenger was jealously being guarded by elven clerics of Terra until the fall of Alfheim, whereupon the sacred groves were destroyed and all its treasures lost. And if the dryads, fauns, and other woodland denizens are to be believed, there are many other holly avengers to be found in a druidic kingdom called Robrenn in the Savage Coast.

Tyche's Unluck

Many daring tales of derring-do tell of a kind of magical sword that at first seems cursed, but reveal many wondrous powers if wielded by a worshipper of Tyche or the rakish Immortals like Asterius and Korotiku the Trickster. Many rogues who have heard this tale have thus purposely sought out cursed swords on the rare chance that it would turn out to be an unluck blade, a sword of mixed fortunes, rapier of randomness, or as it is most popularly called, Tyche's unluck.

Whatever its fanciful name is, this cutlass (scimitar) initially has a -1 penalty and radiates an aura of misfortune. This magical effect will spell catastrophe to many a swashbuckler or thief who makes any audacious attempts, such as throwing odd objects, swinging on ropes, jumping over furniture, or scaling great heights.

However, when the sword is wielded by one favoured by the Immortal Tyche or one of her wily cohorts, all these penalties are negated and the weapon becomes a +2 cutlass of dancing and throwing. It also grants a +1 luck bonus on all saving throws.

The infamous Darokinian pirate Jack Bluebeard (whose magical son, John Bluebeard, joined the ranks of Glantrian nobility, thanks to the family fortune of plunder) had once acquired such a weapon and found his many undertakings duly botched. On one particularly blighted venture, Captain Jack was captured by a crew of hin pirates. The halfling captain, who just so happened to be a devout petitioner of the Immortal Sinbad, took his sword and thus unleashed its wondrous powers. And as Tyche's unluck switched hands, so did Tyche's wheel seem to turn for the cursed human pirate. The astonished halflings let their captive go, and Jack Bluebeard sailed free to pursue his fate and infamy.

Beast-heart Tamer

Most sacred swords are meant to be wielded by a paladin, but the beast-heart tamer is intended for a ranger or forester instead. At first glance, this weapon appears to be an ordinary hunting blade. Closer examination will reveal that it is actually made of cold forged iron, and magical divination will reveal a +1 bonus.

Engravings on the blade in old Traldar script will reveal a sacred connection between the weapon and the Immortal Zirchev. When deciphered, the writings allude to a Traladaran myth of the great hero Kassiphon, a skilled hunter who became a protector of animals and wildlife, especially against human aggression. According the legend, the Immortal Huntsman gave Kassiphon a blade that could "tame the beasts in the hearts of men."

Thus a follower of Zirchev who wields this cold iron long sword +1 will find that it can detect evil against animals at will, and it can cast baleful polymorph (3x/day) against such evildoers. Also, an opponent defeated with a beast-heart tamer will be polymorphed into an animal befitting his personality or his misdeeds against wildlife. This lasts until a service to Zirchev and his creatures is performed by the evildoer and atonement can be cast from the sword.

Because of its significance to the Immortal Zirchev, the Church of Traladara in Karameikos meticulously investigates any and all reports of finding a beast-heart tamer sword. The clergy has never officially revealed how many beast-heart tamer they have confirmed to be real, but it is widely known that at least two of them are now in their possession. One is in the hands of an adventuring Northman ranger who has joined the cult of Vuller in Vestland. Another lies in a forbidden reliquary of the Saimpts Mātin and Malinois Cathedral in Rochefort, in the lupin nation of Renardy.