Far northwest of the hustle and bustle of the world of selfish men, politics and Gods lies The Olde Forest. Untouched, nay… undiscovered, by human hands for countless thousands of millennia, it spans a hundred continents; swallowing mountains, lakes, deserts and even artic bits. An untouched utopia for a million different plant types, a billion species of animals, and a trillion types of insect. It’s massive. Some say it is the last untamed place on the planet, but sadly as with all things, all things must come to an end…
In a meadow near the outskirts of the wood, butterflies play over gently billowing plants while birds cheep in the branches of green-leafed trees. A herd of deer-like creatures gamble and fish jump playfully out of the crystal clear pond. A young deerling raises its head from the water and spots a new creature coming out of the trees to the southeast. It is like a deer, but on its hind legs, and instead of lovely brown fur it’s got slightly olive skin and a short dark beard. Its shirt is open and you can see a hairy chest with a gold medallion nestled in there. “Great! A new species of animal to play with!” it thinks in its rudimentary deer-language, and gambles over to the other side of the meadow where the three men are. “Be careful son!” his mother bleats, “we’ve never seen that species before! They might be trouble!“, but the young deer is out of earshot. It sees the foremost man bring a toy up and pull a string back “oh great a new toy!” it thinks. It is it’s last thought. It’s brains are splattered all over the lovely green of the plant as a rusty iron arrow flies through its skull, bursting it into a million pieces, spilling it’s contents, its arteries pumping gallon after gallon of deep red crimson. It goes all over the butterflies, who get bogged down in the think red viscous liquid and they fall struggling to the ground, their wings snapping under the weight, suffocating and entombed forever in the thick, rapidly drying blood. The deer mother cries out a heart-breaking bellow and the other deerling run back to her, but it is too late. This new creature with its infernal technology doesn’t need to run to catch it. Arrows fly. The mother gets punctured deep in both her eyes, exploding viscera all over her children. It vomits blood and brain matter all over the youngest, nary a week old, who chokes on its mothers burning stomach juices. The mother collapses on top of it, crushing the last of the life out of the youngling. The last thing she sees is deep into the eyes of her baby as it looks up, betrayed and uncomprehending as they both painfully die. The other two kids turn and flee, but both get arrows up their backsides, digging deep into their guts, piercing and ripping through organs. They escape, only to die in horrible agony days later as the acids from their digestive systems plus shit slowly eat away at their vital organs.
The meadow is silent again. The three men walk to the scene of devastation, laughing. “We’ll eat well tonight boys!” cries the leader, “Then we’ll get to work chopping down these trees, filling the river with earth to build buildings, and hunting more animals, all for short-term profit”. The explorers laugh and pat each other on the back. But as they look back to where the dead mother lays (still gushing blood into her childs open, dead mouth), there stands a man. He is old, ancient, and wearing only a fur loincloth. He has a long whispy beard and one of those haircuts where he’s bald on top but it’s long at the sides. He is dead sinewy and has a tight little six-pack. You’d think the three poachers would laugh, and cock their bows at this new stranger. But no, they know this man, called “Al Daiblo di Nature” in their tongue, the Nature Devil. They thought the man a myth, but they can see he is real. For he carries the mythical Lord Natures Ward.
Al Daiblo wasn’t always called that of course. He was born Thon, only son to a wealthy merchant, Lord Falsindon Rikmyth, a wealthy slave owner. When his young wife died in suddenly and tragically, the evil pompous fat lord abandoned his only son at the forests edge as a 4 month old, determined that he would live forever and never give up his land and title to his son. For days the poor infant lay bewildered in his swaddling nest, until one night a vision appeared in the sky. An old man, all serious but a bit camp. Lord Nature himself. “Awake thine child, become mine champion. Save mine Forest. Make thee a sword”. The baby didn’t understand a word of course, he was four months old. But somehow… he knew.
Al Daiblo spent his whole life creating this blade, and in a way it tells the story of his life- each component a new chapter:
The Crossguard (right): This was the head of the first creature he killed. The the last of it’s kind Gull of Mantiiis, a majestic creature that once ruled the air. The young boy stalked the bird for three days, finally tiring it out. It fell to the ground exhausted. He rung its neck until the head snapped off. With no servants to cook for him, he just left the rest of the corpse there to rot. “I have a lot to learn!” he thought to himself.
The Crossguard (left): The second part of the blade was attained when the lad was seven. Now a seasoned scavenger, young Thon had been living off the fruits and berries of the forest floor. However he realised he was a little deficient in iron, and remembered a travelling physician telling him in his grand hall that meat was a great source of the mysterious nutrient. The majestic highstag was the king of the high lands of the forest, and often he heard its ecstatic bellowing through the night as it took yet another mate. He would look up to a see the majestic beast whinnying in sillouhette against the background of one of Shagina’s moons as its partner was on all fours getting drilled. He finally bested the beast by tying down a sexy young female highstag (which he lured by rubbing stag hormone all over himself). As the beast approached in a state of arousal, he leapt from overhead and yanked off it’s antlers. The once proud beast, shorn of it’s weapons, was soon set upon by jealous woodland creatures and it died a bloody death. Poor Thon wasn’t able to get a bite of meat as all the wolves etc got their first.
The Blade: There was but one unicorn left in the world at this point. Thon was fourteen when he slayed it. This meeting was actually an accident- Thon was a teenager, suffering all the homonal angst teenagers face. He succumbed to self-relief on an almost hourly basis. Right after one bout, he looked up in post-defilement shame and saw that the unicorn had trotted aimlessly into the clearing. In a fit of embarrasment and shame he threw a rock at the proud beast and hit it squarely in the skull. Killing it instantly. He immeadiately felt a pang of regret as sense restored itself, but he took the Horn anyway.
The Handle: also from the unicorn.
And so with that, Lord Nature’s champion was born. A lifetime dedicated to saving the forest awaited him. And he had his work cut out! By kiling the three legendary creatures of the forest, he set off a chain reaction which abosultely fucked the ecosystem. He spent most of his life trying to irrigate dried up river beds and planting seedlings. In fact he never really used the sword and just left it in his treetop lair most of the time as it got in the way.
And whatever happened to Thon’s father you ask? Well, he still lives. In fact, the whole of the forest is within the grounds of his castle! (Told you he was rich!). He often looks out from his balcony at breakfast and spots his son, playing with his sword, swinging in the trees and mucking about with his pet animals. He has mellowed in his later years and is known to sigh wistfully and consider calling Thon in for his tea. But then he looks around at his massive house, big banquet always set out, and all his sexy servants, and sighs again. “maybe tomorrow” he sighs.
Maybe tomorrow, father.
(A little post script on the nature of Lord Nature. The more astute reader will probably notice that He’s basically exactly the same as our own Mother Earth except male. I accept that a major problem within contemporary fantasy is a lack of well written “strong female characters”. A proper dicussion on the matter is long overdue. Personally, I think it we writers stuggle with them because there are none really in real life that we can look to for inspiration. I’m not saying they don’t exist. I just literally cant think of any.)
I cannot deny that swords are intrinsically very basic instruments. They’re sharp, you swing them at things and they cut. Sometimes you stab them into things but the result is the same. There’s no depth there (barring the depth of the wound ;-)), no buried ulterior motives (barring the buried blade in flesh ;-)). It does one thing and one thing only, a simple automaton. The human equivalent would be a secretary or a nurse.
But what if a sword was to be infused with something else…something unworldly… something that makes it able to do something else. Imagine if that secretary got an HNC in cake decorating or something. Of course she’d never make a career out of it, but it would give her something to talk about on the phone to her sister while she filed her nails with her feet up on the desk instead of making tea for her boss.
Now I’m not suggesting for one second that I’m the first person in the world to imagine a so-called “magic-sword”, but I feel safe saying that I’m the first person to draw a sword inspired by surrealists such as Dali, and other surrealists. I spent a good twenty minutes looking online at pictures of clocks all melted, mad long giraffes, stuff that looks a bit like things but might not be, and am pretty confident I have channelled the essence of that movement into this blade. The Surreal Blade.
Like all great surrealists, I have designed this piece to be more than a sum of its parts. You have to look at all the parts together to see what the sum of it truly is. Observe that the crossguard and the handle jut out in two different angles! Imagine the look of terror in an enemy’s eyes as he slices down the blade, expecting to skilfully dodge the ‘guard and slice into the un-gauntleted fingers (the wielder’s probably wearing oven mitts or something random like that). But! Clang! Counter and stab! The assailant goes down; his last sight the off-kilter coffin-shaped crossguard, implanting surreal, subconscious images of death in his head, which subtly helps him die.
Ah yes, the coffin design. An interesting choice you might think. But not so, for you see, the original owner of this blade was locally known to be what was known locally as a Bloodpire! Count Suckgard was a mysterious man; oft misunderstood by the villagers who lived in the town at the base of the path up to his castle, high in the hills to the East. Rumours spread that he would sneak down into the town when the moon was full (differing reports also suggest he did it when the moon was crescent, or half, or eclipsed or when it was cloudy) and stalk the lanes, hunting for an open window. Many’s a tale around the town of Fabhaven of wives, back from a long day’s labour, rubbing their sore backs walking into the bedroom to find mysterious count sucking from the groins of their moaning, be-witched spouses, draining them of their life-force. After chasing the count off with their brooms made of twigs and a branch, the men would have to be shaken awake, dazed, unable to remember that the strange man from the house at the top of the hill was in their bed. They also seemed to have lost all track of time, often asking why the wives were home so early.
Alas, poor Suckgard was tragically killed when the wives of the village finally forced their men to break down his gates and set his mansion ablaze. As the flames grew higher and high pitched squeals were heard from within, a lot of the men shifted uncomfortably and whistled while their wives looked on, tapping their rolling pins and huffing.
The sword was lost for generations, until a fearless warrior found it in a cave, thought to be hiding place for men exiled from their villages for unknown reasons (the men were always a little cagey when asked). The blade was hidden amongst a pile of old glittery shirts, garish jewellery and bright cushions. This adventurer’s cohorts mocked him for taking such a useless blade, but after doing the crossguard thing they changed their tune.
In his first skirmish afterwards, the warrior (Chungkka Youngka was his name –more on him in later posts 😉 he slashed a bandits throat- but instead of dying, the miscreant turned into a fence-post. Thus the magic of the blade was revealed. Every time it killed someone, the poor cadaver turned into something totally random!
For you see, the tragic part of this tale is that Count Suckgard was actually really into culture and the arts. A priceless collection of surrealist art was lost when the ignorant villagers burnt down his home. His trusty manservant, a muscular young brute of a blacksmith named Sin-Hen spent years crafting this blade for his master and imbibing within it surrealist magic, as a thank you for taking him under his wing; away from a child brothel in a decadent city far to the south which Suckgard had visited on a number of occasions before old age caught up with him.
I firmly don’t believe in all tales having a moral, sometimes life is just life, and things happen for no reason. However, if I was to seek some sort of meaning from this tale of a lonely old man and his hidden love for art, it is this: Sometimes people are more than they look on the outside. Here was an educated, lonely man, with a love for art and all the beautiful things in life, tragically shunned and then killed by his neighbours. Was it jealousy of his house and wealth? Or simply for being a randy old poof? Whatever the truth died in that fire so long ago.
Two swords for you this week. Which is fitting as both swords need two people to wield them!
There was once a proverb about the difference between heaven and hell. Where they both used chopsticks that were 200 metres long or something, and in heaven they fed each other and in hell they used their hands or some shit like that. I don’t remember, it didn’t make much sense anyway as chopsticks are Chinese and heaven is a product of the Christian faith and as we all know Christianity didn’t reach china until 675AD at the VERY earliest. But basically my point is that sometimes, having a friend by your side is better than being on your own.
“Me no need no friend” grunts a buff barbarian from the hills to the North, in his goatskin thong and massive broadsword. But, quick as a flash, and arrow pierces his neck and he goes down. That’s got nothing to do with friendship as it was just one guy with a bow but you see my point. Having a friend is ace.
The first one (to the right) is rustic in style, made with a double-goat-horn-crossguard. The doublegoat was initially born as a freakish mutation high up in the hills to the north. A passing “curator of curiosites”, S’ungfrall Rocnkkkg (more of him in future posts), spied this magnificent freak and after much too-ing and fro-ing with his manservants, managed to capture the beast. (the tooing and froing was between Rocnkkg and his servants, as opposed to the goat. The goat was actually quite a docile beast but his servants, much to Rocnkkgs regular chagrin, were anything but! We’ve all been there S’unggyt!). He then was able to breed the hellish freak with each other (it was two goats joined at the horn, I didn’t make that clear earlier) (oh and let’s not get into the ethics of interbreeding between siblings – If it’s ok for some oh-so-cool twins on some popular TV show it’s ok for a couple of freakish goats, besides, who else are gonna fuck two ugly goats?) and the breed survived, escaped and now roam the hills to the north as a free-herd. As you can see, the blade(s!) are (intentionally) a little warped, meaning that whoever made this/these sword(s) is not quite as adept as the other one. You can see some blood on the horns, as a clever little mirroring of my earlier Barbarians blade, but in fact this blood is from two wielders who couldn’t cooperate well, again enforcing the running theme of cooperation. Clever eh!
The other blade is even more intricate, with not two but THREE blades. It also has spikes in the middle, and as a result of the heft of such a blade you can see the crossguard bending a bit, which is sad (but also intentional). I admit, reader, that I may have got carried away with this one. A lot of people might tell me that the world of Shagina is quite cinematic, and a movie could easily be filmed based on the exploits of one or some of my many characters already revealed. I modestly admit now that I’m already picturing the climactic scene of one such movie. Here, two adventurers who have been on each other’s nerves the whole film, must put their differences to one side in order to take on a cycloptic giant demon. The beast can only be felled with this blade which must have two people holding it. They finally realise this and put their differences aside. Ducking under the demons huge club-swings, they roll, both holding hands with the blade and do loads of ace sword moves until the beast is dead. Whilst fighting her (it’s a she) loads of smaller cyclopi come out of slimy holes in the cavern and they have to deal with them too, either by kicking them (I picture one of the adventurers to be a feisty female with long flowing red hair, and she does high kicks in knee length boots and tight leather trousers, the other ones a swarthy bloke with his top off at this point. She might have her top off too actually, it depends on the films rating) or stabbing them with these mini-spikes. Eventually however they defeat the hellish female and her hell-spwaned brood and they can save the town or collect the gold or whatever. At this point, the crossguard finally gives up the ghost and snaps. Yet as the bond of the blade is broken, the bond of friendship is finally bonded between these two would-be adventurers. At this point in many films they’d start a romance, but here’s the modern twist, they’re both gay! You see the bird getting off with a buxom wench with massive tits in an earlier scene but you just have to take the guys word for it.
So there you go, I think we’ve all learned a lesson today about friendship. Newton once said something about standing on a Giants shoulderblades, and here, once the giant is dead, a friendship is made whilst standing on its shoulders. (Also the giant has one eye and dies- another metaphor like the barbarian from earlier)
In the dense and murky, muddy swamps of Slurridjj, there lives a race of near-humans, the humish. They have been untouched by the technologies of their sister-race (man). Not for them is stainless steel, clothes, toys, getting pissed. To their decadent technology-dependant neighbours, they look to live a miserable life. Sweating, walking about in swamp water, living off the bitter-tasting bitterfern and stringy swamplizards and whatever tiny mudfish they can pull out of the water, they are indeed pretty bloody miserable. A lot of them suffer from severe depression, and with the lack of any qualified psychologists (or any medical professionals for that matter) there are sadly a lot of suicides.
To describe them would be to describe a slightly shorter, wiry-version of man (except green skinned). They have webbed feet and long fingers, partially webbed themselves which handily can act as rudimentary fishing nets. Now I know what you’re thinking right now- that the woman are squat, fat, snub-nosed hairy and fat. Well in fact you are dead wrong. They are amazing. They’re tall, long legged, and their webbing is much less prominent than that of the males. Massive of breast, but pert even in the absence of bra, they have for aeons been the desired trophy of the world of men. Much is risked to ensnare them, but when they do they can fetch a small fortune in the slave-markets of nearby Kearressh’h. When I first made up this tale, it brought a tear to my eye as I thought of these poor beautiful women being sold into slavery for some fat sweaty slave owner to paw and grunt over. But then I worked out it was ok because actually due to self-esteem issues based on their appearance, the male humish suffer from a remarkably low sex-drive and erectile dysfunction. As a result, the females are bang up for it. Of course, this leads to intense jealousy, as the under-performing men see these handsome adventurers invade their land and make off (and out ;-p) with their women. Something needed to be done. But what? Without steel or inventions, how could they stand up to these modern invaders? Luckily the answer presented it in the very swamps they worship/loathe.
The Plant-sword is a peculiar sword, in that it’s not really a sword at all. It is a plant. Coincidentally however it is almost the exact dimensions of a human sword. It has a long “blade”, two crossguard/leaves, and a grip-sized trunk. The trunk (handle) is a lightweight but sturdy wood. It narrows in the middle, making it a dawdle for the long-fingered humish males to wrap their hand around. You can see a little hole in the trunk: this is the nesting place of a sword-faeiery. Each Plantsword has one of these, and they cannot be uprooted until the faeiery has been removed. Intrinsically linked, both plant and faeiery thrive off each other, with the faeiery brining droplets of valuable clean water for the plant, and the plant giving off nectar which the faeiery sucks up. They squeak when they are popped.
The leaves are a lot tougher than normal leaves, easily capable of fending off blows from incoming steel swords (or magic sometimes), but alas they are not steel, and will eventually be chipped away to nothing. In winter they shed them, which makes this the ideal time for Man to invade.
The blade itself is where the real majestic beauty of this sword lives. I can almost hear the cynics snort into their frappuccino’s “look at it, it’s not even sharp!”. Well, idiots, it doesn’t NEED to be sharp. The blade itself is the plants anther! And it does something better than cut, it gives off a highly toxic poison. Wherever it touches living tissue, the poison pollens spray out and dig deep into the flesh, causing it so swell to 9 times its usual size, then burst, pouring foul smelling ooze out of all the pores. The ooze attracts faeiery-lings, which feed off the ooze, thus completing the circle. Nature at it’s very best. If the humans arrive armoured, then their luck is still out, as it can burn through armour which then implodes inwards causing severe internal injuries.
In a way it’s the biggest question of all isn’t it? Nature vs technology. Man V Fishman. shaggers vs sexually-repressed, depressive lesser men. Should we as Men question whether all these… things, these toys, gadgets, houses an just junk we gather around us, make us happy? Would we be genuinely upset if they all disappeared and we had to live in a swamp? Well, on this evidence, fuck no. Fuck that.
First off I’d like to apologise for my lack of publishing towards the end of last year. I had a few issues to sort out close to home. i don’t really want to go into them too much on such a public forum, but I’ll just say that I’ve managed to find a new supplier of paper (thanks Theo P – Rymans is the business!) plus pencils (again, Rymans) and am back better than ever. I’ll be updating this more often. But here’s a little taster to get your appetites whetted.
This sword doesn’t have a story, and in that way it is a story in and of itself. It is the Unnamed Solider of the sword world. Just another tool, a weapon to be used and discarded when the powers that be (the Gods? Leaders? who know who really pulls the strings of war- usually leaders though) deem it no longer useful. This sword was found half buried (both in the ground and in a person [so fully buried]) at the site of the battlefield of Arkerg Sk’arrrkarrag. A vicious brutal battle between two houses- House Velian; a valiant noble house of the lowlands, and House Bratulis, a brutal, war loving clan from the west. They met in the foothills of the mountains to the North, and over a million deaths were made. The houses have made up now, both realising the folly of their ways (it was long and complicated, but basically, Daiv Bratulis thought Jhonni Velian had stolen his favourite cloak, things escalated. <sighs> such is war friends) and teamed up to make a monument on the site. This sword, the Unnamed Sword, was hung in the middle of the monument by magic.
As you can see, it has been very carefully shaded to show that there is a light source to the left. A complicated technique achieved by drawing more lines on one side than other. I think a well known artist once said that drawing is nothing but darkness and light, which is something I definitely agree with. But it is also symbolic in this instance as it signifies that battle between darkness and light, so prevalent in many fantasy worlds. Ironically, not in mine however. In the realm of Shagina, there is no black and white “Good” versus “Evil”. there are loads of shade of grey (like the sword- heh!), and one’s persons opinion might be different from someone else s. Something for the more mature readers to get their heads around, and maybe get them thinking about wars closer to home.. (afghanistan)