In the common understanding there are five swords that stand above all the others. They are items of great beauty and masterful construction. No one knows their origins though speculation abounds. Because there are so few manufactured weapons other than axes and spears, there are no experts to consult about why these weapons have the features they have, for what purposes they were fashioned, and the like. This does not, of course, stop people from speculating about their histories and purposes. They have been collected over many generations and most are found in the City.
This longsword’s blade has a hexagonal diamond cross-section and remarkable rigidity for its thinness. The blade’s thickness tapers slowly, but even at the hilt is not thick and so the weapon is also very light. Its blade appears brighter and clearer than polished silver and its edge has never been dulled. The cross-guard seems made of the same metal as the blade. On each side of the blade, from the blade to the small metal orb on the end, the guard itself seems to be a simple rectangle about one-half inch across and about three inches long. There are what appear to be trenches, carved “v” shapes, running along the center of each face of the guard. The black grip feels like leather but it, like the blade, never seems to mar or take damage. One presumes the metal behind the leather is the same as the rest of the blade but no one has removed (or perhaps has not been able to remove) the leather to check. At the base of the grip is a metal orb pommel that is slightly larger than the orbs on the ends of the guard.
The most common legend associated with Whistler is that a hunter traded an entire season of skins for it from a grizzled explorer who had lost his mind after one of his trips to the Starshower Barrens. According to this legend, the hunter became obsessed with using Whistler instead of his bow and was eventually overcome by a bear that he chose to engage from close range. The weapon remained in the foothills for years before it was discovered by another hunter who, despite her admiration for it, found it to be too noisy and so not as useful as her bow and knife. She named it Whistler after the sounds it made and offered it to a farming family on a trip through the fields one year in exchange for provisions and javelins. The oldest son of the farming family traded it several years later at Bridgetown where it remained as a conversation piece for years, hanging over the bar at a now-long-forgotten inn. At some point, it was used in an altercation and was so incredibly effective that the people of Bridgetown agreed to part with it. It was sold to traders who ended up trading it for a handsome profit in the City where it remains in the hands of guards to this day. Each year, at the conclusion of the hibernal starshower, a new guard is selected to wield the sword. While everyone knows that the sword’s name is Whistler, the guard wielding the sword takes on the honorary name Whistler during the appointment. There is a kinship among previous Whistlers who, as a rule, will always come to the aid of former Whistlers or the current Whistler (for whatever reason, including personal and family concerns). Because they are so well-known, it would be brazenly foolhardy for anyone to attempt to impersonate or claim to have been a Whistler.
This greatsword is truly massive; from pommel to tip it is over six feet long. The blade is about two inches wide at its widest, though it is surprisingly thin. The cross-section of the blade is a diamond shape. The entire sword weighs about seven and a half pounds, which surprises most who wield it—they assume it will be much heavier. The color of the blade is a dull but light gray and attempts to polish the blade have failed to bring a shine. The guard is large and curved and seems to be of weathered bronze. If axes were significantly longer, or if spears had much larger heads, this sword is big enough that a skilled user could wield it to parry blows from such weapons. But of course, no one manufactures such things. The grip appears to be the same weathered bronze as the guard, but it is currently wrapped in black leather straps. The pommel is a brown metal disc of unclear alloy.
Generations ago, when there were still operating mines far to the west of today’s westernmost mines, a miner emerged one day, a couple weeks before the estival starshower, with Brute. It’s never been clear what happened or how the sword turned up, but there it was. The miner boasted about the sword and claimed rights to it (using rarely-used but widely-accepted rules about discoveries of unusual items). His boasting, as is often the case with boasters, came to naught; the miner had no proficiency with the weapon. Even so, he was large enough and bold enough to carry it. Once, during an altercation in Coaltown, the miner lost Brute in a foolish bet. Since then, it traded owners several times over the years, sometimes being a novelty, sometimes being used to cause harm. Presently, it is wielded by the captain of the guard in the City. Usually, the captain carries Brute ceremonially, leaving the weapon in the barracks while on duty, though every once in a while a captain is large or bold enough to wield it on duty.
The most unusual of the Five Swords, this slightly-curved, single-edged weapon (a cutlass, for those in the know) is much shorter than most of the other swords, and has a very thick and broad blade that ends in a sharp point. There is a bit of a cup to the flat of the sword near the tip. The cross-section is mostly triangular with about a quarter-inch flat edge opposite the blade. The metal itself is gray but it shines nicely when polished. The guard is a small oval, barely extending beyond the blade, though there is a curved piece of metal that extends from the base of that guard to the pommel protecting the knuckles of the person holding the grip. The grip seems to be a metal wire coiled around a stem. Whatever the case, someone wearing gloves can hold the grip comfortably and there is no airspace between the loops of the coil around the grip.
However it got there, the blade was a favorite of a farmer who, many generations ago, was recognized as the most skilled person in the area for dressing and butchering animals. The knife that he used for this task was exceptionally large for a knife, but it never needed sharpening and required only a pass with a cleaning cloth to remove the blood and debris. The farmer used it for decades, and though it was obviously rather strange, no one questioned him about it. After he had become too old to continue in his craft, and as none of his children had the same skill in butchering as he did, people simply lost track of the blade. Many years later, the stories of the blade and the blade itself made an appearance in the crossing town north of the island. Eventually Butcher’s Blade ended up in the hands of fishermen on the island and it was valued for its ability to handle cleaning fish, turtles and other river creatures. Some speculate about how it got from there to the City, but it eventually did. Today, the Butcher’s Blade is mostly ceremonial and is worn on the belt of the guard who stands watch over the kitchens in the City’s barracks. One knows who is on guard by who is wearing Butcher’s Blade. The guards and others who are housed in the barracks associate the name of the sword with the fact that there is a butcher in the kitchens and know nothing of its history.
The least understood of the Five Swords, Skewer weighs only two pounds and has a very thin and not very sharp blade. It does, however, end at an extremely sharp point that has never, to anyone’s knowledge, been worn down. The blade, including the ornate hand guard and pommel, is 40 inches long. Everything about the sword appears elegant and refined as though it were designed for ceremony or display. The hand guard seems to be shiny brass and consists of curly coils about an eighth of an inch in diameter twisting around without any clear pattern, but obviously designed to protect the hand wielding the sword. The blade itself has a silver color and is rather reflective; it cleans easily.
As a piercing tool it is remarkably effective, able to penetrate through muscle and tissue nearly effortlessly and surprisingly deeply into bone or wood. It has been known to split fist-sized rocks with much less effort than is required to do the same with a miner’s pick. All of these things were discovered by a series of owners, the first several of whom were from the same family. According to legend, the original owner discovered it quite by accident. After he righted a flipped raft in the river, he had to find as much of the tossed cargo as he could and get it back onto the raft. He also needed to secure the raft while he worked at this task. He had a rope and was securing it to a rock in the bed of the river when his boot was pierced by what he thought was an incredibly sharp stone. Instead, the sword seems to have been unearthed and somehow was moved by the current so that the tip was exposed. Though he lost much of the cargo, he did end up with a perfectly useful tool for skewering river creatures as he could drive the blade right through most aquatic animals, and by rotating the tool upwards, the body would remain by the hand guard until he later pointed the tip to the ground at which point the body would slide off (usually into a container he’d prepared to hold it). Skewer then stayed in the family, passed on to offspring for several generations until it was sold at Bridgetown about twenty years ago when its owner at the time, aged and childless, knew that it was time for the tool to serve others. Unlike most of the others of the Five Swords, Skewer is currently in Bridgetown, being used as its name suggests, just as the previous family had used it, to efficiently move riparian and river food animals from one place to another at the town’s primary fish market.