Posts Tagged ‘The Swordsman’s Alphabet’

D is for Delay

Not really. However, D will be delayed slightly as I finish a freelance job. I’ll also soon be debuting a new regular feature which I think Dungeons & Dragons players will particularly enjoy.

In the meantime, what do you think of The Swordsman’s Alphabet thus far? Any particular letters you’d like to see? I’ve got a full list already, but I’m open to suggestions.

The Swordsman’s Alphabet: City

C is for City. Font by Ragnarok Press.

C is for City

C is for City. Cities are the great gathering places of humanity, and by definition the most civilized places a swordsman will visit. They are filled with exotic smells (but more often awful ones) and exotic people (who are good both to rob and have sex with).

Consider the tropic jungles of the south. The bone-biting cold of the north. The long, grassy steppe with its horsemen and howling idols. Can any one of these compare to the city? No matter where a swordsman makes his fortune, the city is where he comes to lose it.

The city, after all, has everything to offer: commerce, crafts, courtesans — even cups of wine. The alphabet outdoes itself extolling the virtues of the city. And, indeed, its drawbacks: crowds, corruption, and cutthroats. How marvellous is our assortment of letters!

We are informed that one of Mr. Campbell’s disciples has suggested that cities are “wretched hive[s] of scum and villainy.” This is precisely why a swordsman should seek them out, as they present ample opportunities to be among one’s own kind.

In the city, even thieves have to watch their purses. There may be honor among thieves, but there are also union dues. As most swordsmen are, at one time or another, thieves, it is recommended that the sword pays at least the minimum necessary dues to the city’s Thieves’ Guild. The union is otherwise likely to harass the delinquent with thugs, assassins, and other such people one would rather be playing cards with.

Cities are woven from mazy streets and suffused with smogs of dubious origin. In these, the swordsman will find merchants, harlots, and beggars, will wander both temple and bazaar. One will also find the past, for as every brick is placed upon another, so every street and house has been built upon what came before.

The layers of the city are without number, and the passages between those hidden everywhere. In the city, a forgotten stair is as likely to reveal the resting place of an ancient king as of an aged beggar. The passages descend, endless, into memory and time and rats.

The greatest cities (much as, sometimes, the greatest lovers) are those past their prime. Once, the city was the center of a vast empire. Wealth was earned, harvested, sacked… now, as with a swordsman’s haul, it is merely spent. The city has become aged, but not enfeebled, decadent, but not yet decayed.

As the rain ends and runs muddily down black-slate roofs and into gutters, and the sun settles duskily over a skyline of shattered temples, the astute swordsman will see a truth. He will observe both the beauty of ever-crumbling time, and the way of all things. To be born, to be great, and then simply to be.

And one day, perhaps, to be great again. That, after all, is the life of the swordsman, and the city is the only place the wandering sword can call home.

The Swordsman’s Alphabet: Barbarian

B is for Barbarian. Font by Ragnarok Press.

B is for Barbarian

B is for Barbarian. Outsider, marauder, berserker. A barbarian in the general sense is anyone outside one’s own particular sphere of civilization. A barbarian in the specific sense is the best sort of person to have on your side in a fight.

Barbarians universally come from inhospitable and un-luxurious environments, such as frozen wastes or festering jungles. Civilized folk often assume that barbarians have strong ties to their tribes or tribal gods, but the swordsman will find that sort of barbarian is the reason all of the barbarians of his acquaintance came to the city.

The gods of barbarians are a grim lot, sending ice, thunder, doom and so on upon their nominal worshipers. It’s no surprise that barbarians swear by them only when desperate or severely put off. Barbarians have on occasion been known to enthusiastically embrace civilized gods, though they are as a rule much keener on embracing civilized priestesses.

Empires often outsource their military operations to particularly clever barbarians, their own citizens being much too busy being decadent and taxed (or is that taxed by decadence?) to patrol the frontiers. Such arrangements usually lead to underpaid barbarians marching on the capital demanding back wages and often bloody crowns. These crowns then cap the heads of barbarian leaders, whose armies rejoice, and whose generals become aristocrats of a sort. Within, at most, a century, they are ready to begin the cycle of outsourcing again.

All swordsmen are advised to know or be a barbarian.

The Swordsman’s Alphabet: Adept

A is for Adept. Font by Ragnarok Press.

A is for Adept

A is for Adept. Adepts are devotees of the dark arts, casters of curses, and searchers after the better-left-unknown. They acknowledge all gods but worship none, instead resenting all beings of greater knowledge and potency than themselves.

Where one finds an adept, one will often find her master or apprentice, as well. Frequently, these relationships end in treachery. The wise swordsman will draw from this the knowledge that equal levels of power and ambition should be sought in a relationship, lest one party slay the other in jealousy.

Adepts are frequently and frustratingly the source of quests, having put a curse on you or placed you under a geas to retrieve some obscure reagent. They are dangerous foes, for while they often let their bodies go to waste in the process of grotesquely overdeveloping their minds, they are served by strange familiars and have their capacities augmented by unnatural forces.

The Swordsman’s Alphabet

A is for Adept. Font by Ragnarok Press.

Here begins the Swordsman's Alphabet.

As avid readers and sometime writers on the lives of itinerant swordsmen, it has come to our attention that such bravos are forever rushing headlong into danger, equipped with little more than a stolen blade and a quickly growing sense of unease.

We do not criticize this behavior; indeed, we applaud it. While it is generally the case that maidens can rescue themselves, gems are comfortable in their settings, and the world spins on from day to day regardless, it is necessary that some will sport with Death1, laugh strangely at misfortune and cosmic horror, and, above all, risk life and limb not merely for one true love, but for a hundred in succession.

Nonetheless, it seems that our swordsmen could do with advising. Wizardly mentors are often stingy with their wisdom and powers, and, we suspect, may not have as much of either as they let on.2 Thus, there is a need for simple, easy-to-recall advice on the fundamentals of heroic adventure.

In the future, we imagine this advice may be recorded on scrolls or in codices, stumbled upon while robbing the libraries of the temptingly rich, or even found carved on the tomb-walls of barbarian kings. For now, however, we present it in a merchant-tongue of our own world, and shall record it as an ongoing series of posts to this blog, under a convenient tag.

With no further preamble, let us begin with the letter A, for Adept.

  1. And cheat him, too. That’s what sports are for.
  2. We are informed that a Mr. Campbell disagrees, saying that these wizards are “the benign, protecting power of destiny.”  As a rule, we do not accept the words of such sorcerous apologists.