“Behold Excalibur! The sword of power! Forged when birds and beasts and flower were One with Man, and death was but a dream!” — Merlin, from the movie Excalibur
If you want to trace back the origins of the fantasy genre that we know today, you have to start with the story of King Arthur and his sword, Excalibur. Magic swords are, without a doubt, the heart of many fantasy story arcs. You know their names… Excalibur, Stormbringer, Kusanagi, Glamdring, the Master Sword, etc. Just the mention of their name evokes power.
Many of these blades are based in some form of mythology. For example, Beowolf’s sword Hrunting, was based on the Viking Ulfberht swords. The Ulfberht weren’t magical swords, but great swords of power , none the less. Dating between the 9th and 12th century, the Ulfberht swords were made with crucible steel, making the swords unbelievably strong. Such a sword was recently found in Iceland, completely intact and nearly 1,000 years old.
It’s the history and mythology of swords like this is essential for fantasy writers like myself. There has to be a history with the sword, not just a name and magical power. It has to have a history and a purpose.
My fantasy series, Forever Avalon and The Dark Tides, is centered around the twin swords wielded by the Gil-Gamesh, the champion of Avalon, Twilight and Dusk. These swords were forged from the shards of Excalibur, after the sword was shattered when Merlin focused his magical power through the sword. To protect Avalon, the swords were reforged into the Twin Swords of the Dragon Moon, Twilight and Dusk. The swords were wielded by Percival, the last Knight of the Round Table, who became the first Gil-Gamesh.
I created Twilight and Dusk on the notion that Excalibur shattered because it was tainted by King Arthur… His jealousy of Lancelot and Guinevere, his guilt over Morgana and Mordred. This caused an imbalance within the blade that caused it to shatter. The pieces were reforged into two swords, each with a different powerset. Twilight held the power behind Excalibur… the light of truth, justice and honor. It shined with a light capable of penetrating any darkness. Dusk contained the evil that tainted the sword. It was a soul reaper, fueling the dark with the souls of the wicked.
These swords played an integral part of my story. They define Lord Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh of Avalon, in how he came to be and his abilities as the champion of Avalon. It’s not just a plot device or another element in the story, these swords are almost another character themselves. To demonstrate this, he is an excerpt from Forever Avalon, when the Gil-Gamesh first appeared in the story.
* * *
Biscane pulled out a rolled up piece of parchment paper from his belt, opened it and compared the image on the paper to Stephanie. “Yep, payday boys, it’s her all right,”Biscane proclaimed happily, as he rolled the paper up and tucked it back in his belt. The trolls laughed with glee, deep and hearty. Biscane grabbed Stephanie by the hair and pulled her away from the troll, dragging her toward his horse.
“What about them?”one of the trolls asked Biscane, pointing toward the three children. Biscane looked over at the children and pondered their fate for a moment.
“They’re not on the bounty. Kill them—eat them if you want—just don’t leave anything behind.”
“No!”Stephanie screamed, struggling against Biscane’s hold on her, reaching out to save her children. They screamed in terror, backing up against the boat as the troll reached toward them, chuckling and licking his lips with the thought of a juicy meal of fresh meat. But then, he stopped dead in his tracks and looked down at his chest.
A black blade sliced through him from behind. Dark black-red blood trickled down from the wound. The troll dropped his club as his body began shaking uncontrollably. The monster started to shrink and shrivel to dust and bones—as if consumed by an unnatural force—until what remained of the troll fell into the sand and sea.
The dust settled and now, standing where the troll once stood, a mysterious stranger appeared. A metal sheath hid his face, his head was hooded, hidden by a flowing grey cloak. Only his blue eyes pierced through the shadows under the hood. His body was armored in chain mail. He wielded two swords—one black and one gold colored—each hilt adorned with dragons clutching the blades in their claws. At the bottom of each hilt, the dragon’s tail curled around crystals resembling the moon. On his chest, a coat of arms—a dragon holding the moon coiled in its tail—was proudly worn. The same image rested on a silver pendant, hanging from a heavy chain around his neck.
He turned to face Biscane and the other trolls. Biscane looked in horror and spoke just one name, “Gil-Gamesh!” He looked over at the two remaining trolls, gawking at the stranger in awe and fear. “Well, what are you slobs waiting for, kill him!” Biscane shouted.
The trolls, though afraid and unsure, raised their weapons and rushed to attack. The stranger took a fighting stance, stepping between the hulking beasts and the children. “Take cover behind the boat,” he told them, his voice commanding, ringing with a metallic sound from the mask. Ashley grabbed her brother and sister and quickly pulled them behind the boat. They peeked over the top rail and watched the ensuing battle before them.
The troll swung wildly at the Gil-Gamesh, who reacted quickly by rolling under the swinging club and slashing the troll in his Achilles tendon, across the back of his leg. The troll fell in pain, dropping his club and grabbing his wounded leg. The Gil-Gamesh moved to one knee and thrust his sword in the troll’s forehead, quickly silencing the beast.
# # #
Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Chapter 3 of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.