Book One, Chapter 2: The Billhook Sword

1

 Baldo was in a village he had never heard of before.
 It was of considerable size.
 In a stroke of good fortune, he found there a shop with many kinds of wares.

 He needed a weapon first and foremost.
 Even if he couldn’t find a sword—any kind of weapon would do.
 Stores that dealt in weapons were not often come by in the frontier, even in larger towns.
 Even a sword of bronze for sale would be a rare sight.

 Knights used blades made from steel.
 Steel was a very precious commodity, thus an expensive one as well.
 On nearly all occasions were such swords exclusively made to order.
 Otherwise, they were given by lords or mentor knights.

 Baldo did not expect the general store in this village to contain metal weapons of any variety.
 At most, they might have some knives.
 And he suspected even those would immediately bend or shatter after a single encounter with a wild beast.
 He did not even require a bladed weapon.
 A club of some sort would suffice—he simply needed a weapon of any kind at this moment.

 In the shop was a single sword hanging on the wall.

 Nay, he wasn’t quite sure if he could consider it a sword at all.
 The hilt was of splendid make.
 Although the thing looked terribly ancient, Baldo would not think twice if told there was an illustrious history behind it.

 The blade was an entirely different story, however.
 Baldo was unsure if he could presume it to be a blade at all.
 The tip was not sharp, and in fact there was hardly a tip in the first place.
 The entire thing struck Baldo as a flat, rectangular slab of metal.
 It grew slightly wider the further it was from the handle.
 This was a tool that would render all thrusts fruitless.

 It was a single-edged blade.
 The swords used by knights were generally all double-edged.
 And they all without exception had a sharp, pointed tip.

 Baldo did not mind a single edge, but he was unsure if it could even be considered a blade at all.
 He pressed a finger against its edge, but it showed no signs of breaking the skin.
 The entire thing was a murky gray—how could anyone consider it a weapon?

 For what on earth is this blade even made of, thought Baldo.
 On both sides of the metal were snaking, winding lines like scars.
 He hadn’t the faintest idea of how such a thing could be made.
 He assumed it was iron, however.

 Baldo stared intently at the sword-like item for some time, thus the shopkeeper said to him,

 “This is a fine piece, esteemed warrior.”

 It astounds me to hear you call it a ‘fine piece.’
 I’m not even sure it’s a sword.
 A billhook?

 asked Baldo.

 “Erm, it’s called a billhook sword.
 Well, I’m not sure if it’s best to think of it as a billhook-like sword or a sword-like billhook.”

 Even if you use it as a billhook, surely it’s hard to use with these welt-like things on the sides.
 Why don’t you sand them off?
 In fact, if you are going to sell it, I would expect you to at least sharpen the edge beforehand,

 Baldo continued.

 “Erm, well to tell you the truth I’ve tried sharpening it.
 But I haven’t been able to,”

 was the shoddy excuse the man gave.
 Baldo picked up the sword.
 It had considerable heft.
 Although it clearly wasn’t steel, the material seemed to be unexpectedly sturdy.
 It was about as long as Baldo’s previous sword.
 In other words, it was a bit small for proper combat, but it would do just fine for personal protection.

 He tried brandishing the weapon.
 It felt good and responsive in his hand, something one might not expect from the length.

 Swords themselves were supposed to be heavy, for in the end were they slabs of metal.
 Without weight could there be no destructive power.
 The entire body would possess this weight, and thus there was no need to add weight to the tip as well.
 For the wielder to swing the sword with precision, having the tip be lighter and the base near the hilt be the heaviest struck an ideal balance.
 Aside from weapons like rapiers, nearly all swords followed such principles.
 So too did it help make the blade more resistant to fracture.

 The end of this sword, however, was heavier than the base.
 It was short though, and thus not impossible to swing.

 In fact, Baldo found that it was not only possible, but after swinging the weapon several times was it rather comfortable as well.
 He was originally looking for anything, even a club.
 A slab of iron was more than acceptable.
 The hilt was of wonderful craftsmanship as well.

 Baldo struck the body of the weapon with his fist, and it seemed to hold up well to the impact.
 Though he would not be surprised if it broke immediately upon striking a beast in the wild.

 He inquired as to the price, and it was cheaper than he expected.
 It appeared the shopkeeper himself wanted to be rid of the item.
 The coins he had received from the Earl of Lints was burning a hole in his pocket.
 He paid the amount without any negotiation.

 Baldo saw if the sword would fit into his scabbard, the one crafted from Staboro’s rear hide.
 And fit it did.
 The scabbard was a little large for the sword, but that was preferable to being too small.
 When he hung it at his waist did he truly feel the heftiness of the weapon.

 Yes, it just doesn’t feel right without a weapon at my side.
 Though a poor excuse for a billhook it may be, it is still far better than nothing.

 Baldo was put in a marvelous mood.
 It set his heart at ease to have such destructive power contained in the metal slab at his waist.
 He asked the shopkeeper where he might be able to stay the night, and the man responded that the mayor would likely be of service.
 He asked if there were horses for sale in the village, to which the shopkeeper answered there were not.

 He had managed to shrink the number of items he carried considerably, but it was still too much considering the length of the journey he would have to carry them on.
 I must acquire a horse, thought Baldo.
 After buying some salt and asking where the mayor lived, he left the shop.

 He went to the mayor’s house, asked him where he might be able to find lodging, and was told he could stay there if he so liked.
 He pulled water from a nearby well and washed his body.
 His supper consisted only of stewed vegetables, but they were seasoned well and proved a delicious meal.
 He was also treated liberally to wine—apparently the local specialty of this village—and it was incredibly smooth and easy to drink.
 Though he was to sleep on a simple bed of straw with but a sheet of cloth to hold it together, it was a bed nevertheless and a luxury Baldo could not experience much these days.
 He fell into a deep, dreamless slumber.

2

 “Esteemed warrior!
 Oh esteemed warrior!
 I sincerely apologize for disturbing your rest!
 Please wake up!
 Esteemed warrior!
 Esteemed warrior!”

 The mayor was pounding on the door with clear panic in his voice, thus Baldo told the man to come in.

 “Oh!
 You are awake!
 S-Several beasts have barged into the village.
 The men have been trying to drive them away, but the beasts are terribly strong it appears, and many of our kinsmen have been gravely injured.
 I realize I am in no position to request your assistance, but oh please, I beg you for your help!”

 For them to cling onto hope that an elderly man such as this might help them, they were surely in quite the predicament.
 Having heard the ruckus grow ever nearer, Baldo had already donned his equipment.
 It was only his newly-acquired weapon that gave him pause.
 Baldo asked the mayor had he any swords, spears, or other weapons of that sort.
 The man replied nay, aside for crude clubs.

 Apart from this would-be sword that he purchased today, Baldo had naught but a shortbow.
 It was meant for small birds, so surely it would not have any affect on large beasts.
 The merchant and his guard had already set off for a neighboring village, so Baldo feared there would be no one left in this village who could hold their own in a fight.
 Yes, only Baldo could act now, armed with this would-be blade.

 Baldo hastened to meet the scene of the violence and there witnessed the rampage of three dwarva.1
 The were rather small and certainly quite young.
 Running around on all fours were they smaller than waist-height.
 Even if they stood on their hind legs, they would likely not be as tall as the average man.

 These beasts were not ones known to run rampant among human settlements, yet now they were rampaging in a blind frenzy.
 Many of the villagers were trying to hold the beasts at bay, armed with blunt sticks and farming tools.
 So too was there a man wielding a torch, illuminating the area for the rest.
 Several people were pushing carts toward the dwarva in an attempt to repel them.
 Yet these beasts were of uncanny strength.
 In a mere instant did a single maul from the dwarva render one of the carts into splinters and debris.
 Baldo drew his would-be sword from its scabbard and stood before one of the creatures.

 “E-Esteemed warrior!”

 “H-Has Sir Knight come to our aid?”

 “S-Salvation is upon us!”

 “Sir Knight!
 Oh, I beg you!
 Sir Knight!”

 It appeared on this particular night, Sulla2 was hiding herself behind the mountains, leaving her sister Sarlier3 to stand alone in the night sky and shed her light upon the town.
 A thin layer of clouds were draped over the sky, and the moonlight was ever so pale and faint; men and women both appeared merely as featureless blurs.
 Yes, to their eyes, even a decrepit old knight without even a proper weapon to his name appeared a valiant warrior.

 One of the dwarva pounced at Baldo after perhaps feeling his glare upon its fur.
 Baldo kept his eyes trained carefully on the beast’s movements and avoided the oncoming paw, bringing his would-be sword simultaneously down atop its neck.
 Yet Baldo took great care to reduce the force with which he did so.
 If he exerted his muscles to their utmost, the would-be sword would surely snap in two.
 Dwarva hide was awfully thick, after all.
 To lose his weapon now would be to spell his end.

 The villagers erupted with cheers and shouts.

 The would-be sword seemed to withstand the impact, showing no signs of damage.
 The dwarva in turn, however, seemed similarly unscratched.
 It let loose a howl of rage.

 The villagers erupted with screams and cries.

 The dwarva barreled toward Baldo with heavy thuds and bared fangs.
 Baldo leapt to the side and fiercely struck back with his would-be sword.
 Exerting just a bit more strength than before.
 Yet the dwarva still refused to relent.

 How peculiar, mused Baldo.
 The dwarva was by nature a very timid creature.
 Upon receiving even the slightest wound would they usually flee in terror.
 More peculiar was the very fact they were wreaking havoc in a place as populous as this.

 The dwarva once more made to close the distance and this time struck out with its right paw.
 Although its approach was slow and lumbering, it moved its body with frightening speed.
 Not to mention anyone would find it a challenge to keep track of its movements on a dimly-lit night such as this.
 So too did Baldo evade this attack, letting loose a third blow at the right foreleg, where the limb met the body.

 The villagers again erupted with cheers and shouts.
 The dwarva silenced them, however, with a furious growl.
 The beast seemed to be growing more irritated by the moment, but Baldo was in no better mood.

 What fool treats their weapon with such consideration during life and death combat!
 I’ve enough of it!
 Shatter into pieces for all I care.
 I’ll put everything I have into this next strike!

 The dwarva stood up on its hind legs before Baldo and with its limbs extended cut a terrifying figure.
 Just as it was about to come down at Baldo with tremendous force did he jump forward into the beast’s embrace and slash at its throat.

 The would-be sword did not shatter.
 It never came close.
 It gouged deeply into the dwarva’s windpipe and traveled halfway through its entire neck.
 Baldo quickly withdrew the weapon and jumped back.

 The creature was still.
 Its forelegs still hanging in the air.
 It slowly began to totter forward.
 Until with a thud did it slump to the earth.

 The villagers for a moment were rendered speechless.
 In the next, they erupted with cheers and shouts.

3

 Baldo stared at the would-be sword.
 Nothing was amiss.
 It never did break.

 He was at a loss for words.
 It was as if the weapon was made to be swung with such force behind it.
 There was an unthinkable amount of striking power for a weapon so short as the center of gravity resided at the tip.
 It was nearly too good to be true, that it could fell a ferocious dwarva in a single blow.

 Alas, now was not the time for such thoughts.
 Two beasts yet remained.
 He made his way quickly to where the next one was causing a disturbance.

 The second dwarva had a broken arrow protruding from its left eye.
 It appeared there was a hunter accomplished with the bow among this village’s ranks.
 Given there were none present with a bow in hand, it was reasonable to assume they were injured and retreated from the fighting.

 From the very start, Baldo employed aggressive strategy.
 He rushed toward the dwarva from the front, dodging the incoming paws, circled around the beast through its blind spot, and struck with his would-be sword square into the center of its back.
 Quickly Baldo jumped back to put space between him and the beast, bracing his body for retaliation.

 Yet the dwarva fell over as it tried to turn around.
 That single strike to the back appeared to have delivered a devastating blow to the spine of the beast in an incredible twist of events.
 Baldo for a brief moment considered leaving this beast in its injured state to deal with the final one, but an injured beast too was dangerous.
 It would be best to fell it now.

 Baldo cautiously approached the dwarva as it flailed madly, its back on the ground, and he sliced toward its exposed belly with his would-be sword.
 This weapon of his was astonishingly easy to wield.
 Despite the odd distribution of weight, it traveled precisely where he willed it.
 Baldo had started to grow quite fond of this would-be sword.

 The dwarva, however, continued to struggle.
 Not only that, it twisted its neck forward and attempted to ensnare Baldo in its jaws.
 With this change, the trajectory of his strike was now set to travel between the beast’s eyes, into the crown of its skull.

Blast!

 cursed Baldo in his head.
 The area around the face and forehead was protected by the thickest bones in their body.
 A direct collision with a dwarva’s skull would completely shatter the likes of a bronze sword.
 Even a weapon made of steel might fare no better.

 What Baldo felt at the moment of contact, however, was not that of the breaking of metal, but in fact the sensation of crushed bone and churned brain matter.
 As he pulled the would-be sword back did the dwarva collapse on the spot with a heavy thud.
 Fresh pain exploded throughout Baldo’s right shoulder.
 The crowd started to cheer with glee.

 “Sir Knight, behind you!”

 came a lone voice from the midst of the shouts.
 It should go without saying that Baldo had been aware of the threat as well.
 The last of the three dwarva had approached from behind and launched an attack.

 Baldo spun around on the spot and simultaneously struck at the dwarva’s oncoming paw.
 There wasn’t a trace of concern for the would-be sword’s durability in Baldo at this point.
 The beast’s foreleg was blown away.
 It showed no consideration for its wounds, however, and quickly turned to attack once more.
 Baldo jumped out of the way and sliced the scruff of the beast’s neck.
 The dwarva made to turn around yet again when its neck suddenly twisted to a fatal degree.
 Blood spouted from the wound, and the beast fell lifelessly to the ground.

 A final eruption of cheers ensued, the loudest and longest of the night.
 Some of the villagers in their zeal even ran toward Baldo, yet he instead glared fiercely at the neighboring forest.

4

 He walked toward the forest.
 The fence at its edge had been torn to pieces.
 This was surely where the three creatures had entered.

 That was not the last of them.
 Something yet remains.

 Baldo stared carefully ahead.
 The villagers too noticed his disposition and quieted down, raising their guard once more.

 A figure emerged from the trees.
 Slowly, lumbering.
 It was a dwarva.
 One far larger than the previous three.

 The villagers did not seem all too perturbed.
 For they thought as long as Baldo was here, all would be well.
 Yet the color soon drained from Baldo’s face at the sight of the creature.

 It’s a kaejel!4

 How could there be one in a place such as this!
 These creatures inhabited the land beyond Jhan Dessa Roh.
 This village was far from the gap in the wall, near the Great Orva in fact.
 That said, there have been stories of kaejel appearing even west of the Orva.
 This was the frontier after all.
 The fact remained there truly was a kaejel before Baldo at this moment.

 Baldo now keenly understood why the dwarva from before were so abnormally aggressive.
 They were under the influence of this kaejel.
 Yet merely understanding this fact would do nothing to deliver him to safety.

 With a kaejel as an opponent—not to mention a turned dwarva at that—even blades of steel could not be counted on to create a wound.
 Why, even with an elgwordra5 in hand would it still a herculean task to fell this creature.
 Among the many kaejel, a turned dwarva possessed a monstrously tough hide.
 Even the blade of an elgwordra would face fierce resistance when trying to pierce the skin.
 Additionally was this beast tenacious to a nauseating degree.
 For such a fight, Baldo would have organized several shield-bearers, spearmen, and archers with poisoned arrow tips on the best of days.
 They weren’t particularly fast, however, so it may have been possible to contend with one given one has a mount and sufficient space to maneuver.

 It comes!
 It comes!
 The turned dwarva started to approach.
 Without daring to look away from the creature, Baldo yelled at the villagers,

 This is a kaejel!
 Escape quickly while I distract it!

 Yet the villagers did not move.
 They knew what a kaejel was, of course, for this was the frontier.
 Yet the men and women of this town had likely never experienced the onslaught of one for themselves.
 They knew not the visceral terror the word “kaejel” carried.
 Baldo’s swift disposal of the previous three dwarva now came back to spell their doom.
 The villagers were drunk on victory, reveling as if watching a show—how could they be willing to miss the moment that Baldo would slay the beast?

 Baldo was not planning on fighting this monster head on.
 Merely attempting to buy some time without any metal armor was already a perilous task.
 Yet the villagers behind him did not move.

 It comes!
 It comes!
 The kaejel was now only moments from Baldo.
 And then the creature stopped.
 With its blood red eyes did it stare at him.

 It was preparing to charge forward!
 If Baldo jumped out of the way, the villagers behind him would surely be slaughtered.
 Baldo resigned himself to death in this moment.
 To die as such in battle—what more could he hope for?
 In return would he gift this kaejel with a parting gift.

 His right shoulder ached uncontrollably, and his hip cried out with pain.
 He truly could not swing his weapon much more.
 Thus would he channel all of his remaining strength into this final strike.

 His target was the belly.
 Though it too was unimaginably tough, it was still far softer than the hide on its back.
 With any luck, he would be able to pierce the belly deeply enough to reach its intestines, eventually weakening the monster once the wound festered.
 By trading his life was it possible for him to achieve such a wound.
 It also depended on this would-be sword at his side, for it to endure this single blow.
 Baldo gently stroked the scabbard hanging at his waist with his left hand.
 It was as if the familiar clatter of hooves echoed through his mind.

 Oh, Staboros.
 Has the moment finally arrived for me?
 Have you come to take me away?

 The kaejel stood up.
 Baldo tightened his grip on the would-be sword.

 If so, dear Staboros.
 Then lend me your strength.
 For one final strike.

 This prayer alight in his heart, Baldo took a stance in which he rested his sword upon his shoulder, and leapt forward.
 As the poor condition of his right shoulder forbade him from swinging the weapon in a large arc, this was the stance that would afford him the greatest amount of force.
 The kaejel raised both its paws.
 Its eyes shined with a ferocious light.
 With all of the strength his weathered old body could muster, Baldo brought the blade down.

 It was at that moment.

 At that moment, this strangely-shaped blade, the one that the general store owner called a billhook sword emitted a phosphorescent turquoise glow.
 This luster enveloped the entire length of the blade and tore through the darkness of the night.
 That single strike, which Baldo only prayed would be able to at least break the skin, gouged a clean line through the kaejel’s throat down to the start of the hip.

 The beast stopped immediately in its tracks, paws still raised, and then it swayed as it took a step forward.
 As it did, a mass of guts and viscera spilled from the open wound like a violent flood.
 With every twitch of the kaejel’s frame flowed bodily fluids and innards.
 The crazed light faded from the eyes of the creature, and with a final spray of blood did it slump forward.
 The red liquid flowed with unceasing vigor into the cracks of the earth.
 Baldo’s boots and clothes were all dyed the same color.

 The villagers cheered as though they had all gone mad.

5

 The villagers remained in that state of crazed euphoria for some time after.
 Though some were wounded, Baldo was relieved to hear no one died.
 He asked the men and women if they noticed the turquoise glow.
 Each and every one replied that they did not know what he was talking about.
 Baldo thought the matter incomprehensible, for how could so many people not see such a light on a dark night like this.
 What on earth was going on?

 Yet Baldo had not the luxury to consider these matters for very long.
 He was assaulted by a wave of fatigue.
 After much effort did he manage to make his way back to the bed and drifted quickly to sleep.
 He fell into a deep, dreamless slumber.

 He awoke the next morning after the sun had already risen.
 He had asked the villagers to wash his clothing the night before.
 It was all there and clean.

 Placed on a wooden box next to his bed was his scabbard and would-be sword.
 Baldo stood up and took that crude slab of iron into his hand once more.
 The villagers had washed the blood from it, dried it, and wiped it clean for him it appeared.

 This is an elgwordra, it appears.
 And not a normal one at that.

 Baldo had plenty of experience using the elgwordra in House Telsia’s possession.
 So too had he seen the cursed blade that another lord carried several times.
 It was a splendid artifact, Baldo had thought.
 There surely must not be another weapon its equal in the world of men.

 Then Baldo chanced upon this particular would-be sword.
 What pure destructive force and cutting power it displayed the previous night!
 Not to mention that curious glow.

 The heroes of yore were locked in war with giants and gyelganos.6
 That conflict gave birth to various weapons and skills of legend.
 Among those were the elgwordra.
 According to the legends, the heroes had formed bonds with the yent nahda,7 rode them into battle, received the blessings of Megyelion,8 and brandishing magical weapons struck down all manner of the bizzare.
 These were simply legends, of course, not to be taken as historical truth.

 Though modern day elgwordra derived their name from these myths, it was not as if they possessed any sort of miraculous power.
 Rather, Baldo had heard them described as the natural conclusion of worldly research and study.
 It was said that even had these ancient blades existed in the first place, modern techniques would have already surpassed them.

 Yet this item before Baldo now.
 This curiously-shaped sword.
 Could this be one of those ancient elgwordra?
 Could this be a weapon of those heroes of yore, a blade that tore even giants and gyelganos asunder?
 He had no other way to explain it.

 Baldo laughed to himself.
 Laugh was all he could do.

 In the past Baldo desperately dreamed to have an elgwordra of his own.
 He could only imagine the number of lives he would be able to save with one.
 Upon hearing word that a merchant from the capital brought an elgwordra to Lints for sale, Baldo immediately did everything he could to acquire it, even if it meant parting with every coin to his name.
 Yet, in the end it was a mere fake.

 And here he now stood.
 Body old and withered, strength slowly dissipating.
 Retired, away from the gap in Jhan Dessa Roh, and on a whim-filled journey to meet the end of his life.
 And yet that which fell into his hands was a genuine elgwordra whose name has surely been lost to time.

 You would have this old man do something more with his life now?
 What can one do but laugh at the ironies of fate?

← Back Main Page Next →

  1. river bears
  2. elder-sister moon
  3. younger-sister moon
  4. cursed beast
  5. cursed sword
  6. apparitions
  7. flying dragons
  8. Sacred Dragon
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