Friday, May 25, 2012

Axe with the Edge of the Sun

Here's another entry from my archives.  I developed this legend and artifact for the campaign False in Some Sense.  (As such, the stats are for new World of Darkness, specifically from the book Reliquary, and the axe's backstory references Mage: the Awakening.)  Humorously, the legend appeared — that was how the PCs determined the Snake-Bear had a weakness against gold — but the axe never did (the PCs improvised some gold weapons instead).  Presumably, it's still buried in a funeral mound somewhere in the wilds of Indiana...

Obviously, with a minimum of work, the axe and its legend could appear in any setting.

Astute observers might note mention of Red Horn's Fury "protecting" these lands.  It is possible that this is just a metaphor, or that his unquiet corpse stalks the land, or that his restless ghost guards the funeral mound.

Or that a combination of factors are true.

Axe with the Edge of the Sun (5-point Relic)

Damage 3(L), Size 2/L, Durability 2

Description: The Sunburst Axe is a copper axe, bearing pictures of suns and human faces.  A ring at the bottom may have once borne some object or cord, but no longer does.  Curiously, the axe seems to have avoided the worst of the aging process, and the edge is a brilliant gold sheen, which seems slightly anachronistic and not terribly practical.  Nevertheless, appropriate tests confirm its antiquity.

Background: The following legend has been dated to the Southern Cult, around 1000 CE.  It is an Indiana legend from the remnants of the Mississippian empire, but is not well known.  It can be found by a Research action (Intelligence + Academics, see World of Darkness Rulebook, pgs. 55-56) requiring 15 successes.  Finding the dig site is another Intelligence + Academics roll, requiring 10 successes; each roll requires 4 hours of surveying.  Determining how to activate it (which is little more than just an effort of will on the part of the user) requires a Wits + Resolve roll requiring 5 successes; each roll represents 30 minutes of research and trial.

The lake was haunted by a panther, and the Little People lived in the woods, but there was something more terrible in those lands around the lake.  People avoided it, but the horrible Snake Bear came to their tribes and took people for its own feasting.  They refused to worship it, so it came for more.

Finally, one day, a young warrior, Red Horn's Promise, who had not yet proved himself, decided that he would defeat the Snake Bear.  He visited Looks Both Ways, a woman who entered those woods a maiden and returned an old woman.  The Great Spirit had made her wise in the ways of the world, and Red Horn's Promise knew that she would know the answer to his question.  So he asked her, "Grandmother, how will I defeat the creature in these woods, a thing that is part snake and part bear, and that the Elders say fell from the heavens before our people came to these lands?"

Looks Both Ways thought, and said, "I must ponder this question.  Give me three days to think upon this question and to commune with the Sacred Medicine, and I will give you an answer."

Red Horn's Promise returned three days later, and Looks Both Ways told him, "I have seen the answer you seek.  Sun came to me in a sea of fire, and said that the creature had fled before his light for too long.  It is afraid of Sun on earth," she said.

"Fire?" Red Horn's Promise asked.

"No," she replied, "It fears the Sun's metal, what our brothers to the South consider the droppings of the gods.  The beast fears the bite of gold."

"But gold is rare, and our warriors do not craft with it.  How will I make a weapon of gold, O grandmother?"

Looks Both Ways thought, and then said, "There is a man to the North, a man who lives alone, for most others fear him.  He claims to be possessed of great powers, gained by visiting a vast tower to the dead, and he commands the spirits of the ancestors, and crafts fabulous objects that our smiths cannot make.  You will go to him, and ask him to make you a weapon that you can wield against the Snake Bear.  But be cautious, for the ancestors grow angry around him, and they cannot tell friend from foe."

Red Horn's Promise thanked her, and after returning home to give his farewells to the tribe and gather a few items he needed for his journey, he started to travel North.

His journey was long, and the further North he went, the more game became scarce and the more cold he became.  But he continued.

He came, finally, to a place where he found no game and no trees.  The ancestors screamed at him, but he paid no heed.  They assailed him with visions, but his will was strong.  They challenged him to combat, but he ran from them, running closer to his goal.  Soon, he found him, a wizened man sitting outside of a hut of bones.  He smiled and wheezed a ragged laugh.

"You come to request my aid, yet you bring nothing to give me," said the man.

Red Horn's Promise continued, undaunted, "If you do not craft me a weapon, I will strike you down where you stand!"

The man said, "I can turn your weapon into air, if I wish.  If you strike me down, I will return.  If I let the Snake Bear continue to kill your people, my domain increases evermore.  Why should I help you?"

Red Horn's Promise thought, but he knew he had no answer.  Finally, the man laughed and said, "You must work my fields for three days, and if you can make something grow, I will grant you a weapon that can defeat this creature."

Red Horn's Promise knew that such a task was impossible, but thought that he must try for the good of his people.  He planted some few seeds he managed to collect, and over the course of three days and nights, he tilled the soil and gave as much water as he could.  On the third day, he returned to the man.

"Did you make anything grow?" the man asked.

"How could I?  This land is dead, bitten by the cold of winter, scorched by your foulness.  This place is pregnant with death, and I cannot conquer it."

At this, the man's face brightened, and he laughed, an awful sound that Red Horn's Promise had heard before, as the last breath escaping from an old man.  The man said, "You have faced death, and learned that its power is greater than yours.  I will make you a fabulous axe with the edge of the Sun, and you will return to your people with it and fight this beast.  Whether you win or not, you know that you will only prolong your life, but you will never conquer death entirely."

He laughed and entered his hut.

Red Horn's Promise did not see him for a whole day, but when the old man returned, he carried an axe whose blade shown like the Sun, and whose handle bore a cord like the braid of Red Horn.  "Here is a mighty weapon, shining with the edge of the Sun and empowered by the weight of the ancestors.  Use it wisely, but never forget that though this weapon is powerful, there is one foe it will never defeat."

Red Horn's Promise thanked him and began the arduous trip South.  For many turnings of the moon he walked until he finally found his village again.  Yet, it was not the same village he left, for the people had given themselves over to fear and began to worship the Snake Bear.  Red Horn's Promise swore and held his axe aloft in the town square, but the people thought him mad, and prayed to the Snake Bear to take away his misery.  Red Horn's Promise bellowed challenge against the Snake Bear, sending his mighty cry across the plains.

That night, the Snake Bear came to the village, intent to learn which person did not believe in his might.  There he found Red Horn's Promise awaiting him, holding the Axe with the Edge of the Sun.  The Snake Bear growled and told Red Horn's Promise to worship him.  Red Horn's Promise bellowed challenge, praying to Red Horn to grant him strength, and he found that though the Snake Bear was mighty, the Axe with the Edge of the Sun bit deeply into its flesh.  It screamed and howled to the night, but Red Horn's Promise did not get to swing a second time, for the creature was too fast and Red Horn's Promise grew too confident in the injury he had given to the Snake Bear.  So, Snake Bear felled Red Horn's Promise with one swipe of its mighty claws.  However, as the villagers had seen it bleed, they saw that it was no god, and its spell upon them was broken.  So, broken, the Snake Bear fled that town to nurse its wounds.

The people cheered for Red Horn's Promise, and the elders said that he would henceforth be known as Red Horn's Fury for the courage he had shown in battle.  They buried him with his axe, so that he might evermore protect those lands from the might of the Snake Bear.

Effects

Defend (•••): By spending 2 Willpower points, the wielder can make a white light shine from the axe.  This axe grants a -3 penalty to all monster (defined as something following a behavior code other than Morality) attacks on the wielder, physical or mental, in a radius of the yards equal to the wielder's Wits + Resolve.  By spending a Willpower dot, this protection may be extended to up to three others in the radius of effect.

Potent Success, Weaponry (•••): By spending 3 Willpower points, the wielder gains the 9-Again bonus on attacks with this weapon.

Unbreakable (•••): The weapon cannot lose Structure from any mundane attacks.  Magical attacks may damage it normally.

(Curse) Debilitating Loss, Computer: Forged as it was in a bygone era, the magics empowering the weapon are anathema to modern techniques.  After activating one of the axe's powers, the user suffers a -3 penalty to all Computer rolls for a day afterward as she finds it difficult to recall computer science techniques.

(Curse) Derangement: The sense of power gained from using the axe is incredible.  After using one of the powers of the axe, the wielder gains the Megalomania derangement (see World of Darkness Rulebook, pg. 97) until the next day or until she sleeps for eight hours, whichever comes first.

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