Jaromir: “You intend to find vengeance with steel? You must jest, you milk-starved caitiff.”
Antonin: “The challenge would be a battle of wits, but you would arrive unarmed.”
Jaromir: “Come at me then overmorrow, unless your bones be marrowless!”
Antonin: “You are a disease that need be cut away with more haste than that. Presently I would have my duel.”
Jaromir: “I do no duel, whelp. I kill as a butcher kills.”
Antonin: “Then you will die. Now draw. To the purpose!”
-from The Lash and the Thorn, a play by Bohumil Heyduk
An ancient blade of the Zakani ethnic group Winter Court, the Hladčepel has been held by the Zastanz, or champion, of the Zakani since the aftermath of the First Starfall. According to legend, a Zakani knight who had been taken prisoner by Esgalgrath saw and survived the cataclysm. The dungeon he was kept in was shattered by the blast, and he crawled through the rubble, searching for fellow Scheznyk and finding only one—an astromancer who helped call down the starfall, who allowed herself to be captured to provide a locus to triangulate from. The knight, with his companion, happened upon a large ingot of starfall iron. At the insistence of the scholar, the Zastanz took the ingot, and there, in the blasted capital of mankind’s greatest kingdom, the two forged a blade with a thorn in its grip to remind themselves of the cost of slaughter and brought it back to their people with tales of their regret.
The sword itself, still wielded by Zakani chiefs and champions, is forged from one solid piece of lusterless starfall iron. It has a dull, gray, and cracked appearance, and is shaped into a relatively thin, medium-length double-edged sword. The pommel is flared, and the crossguard very small. Traditionally the grip has been re-wrapped by each new owner when he or she comes to own the blade, most often with sharkskin. The most notable feature is the “thorn,” a sharp, squared spike that protrudes from the grip that one must pass through one’s own palm to wield the blade and access its particular enchantment.
The blade’s enchantment makes the sword soak in any blood that touches it and pass the lifeforce unto the wielder. A swordsman using the blade will regenerate wounds as often as he or she can make them. Several duels have been won for the Zakani using this blade, most famously the duel between the Zakani chief Antonin and the rebel lord Jaromir during the Kurkova Rebellion.
The Zakani were loyalists without any holdings or castles to protect themselves, though with great political rank. The rebel lord Jaromir led an assault against their caravan while the chief was away fighting for another lord’s farmland, and Jaromir killed Antonin’s son with a whip and raped his wife. Antonin then went to the Winter Court to petition for aid in punishing the rebel lord, and they famously answered “you have your own sword.” Jaromir was a vicious and capable warrior and Antonin was small and not personally very accomplished in warfare, so when Antonin challenged him to a duel Jaromir accepted with ardor. When they met, Antonin took up Hladčepel, and Jaromir his own whip and saber. At the start of the fight, Antonin simply charged headlong into his foe, taking a single lash of the whip and impaling himself on Jaromir’s blade before plunging Hladčepel down into Jaromir’s chest. Antonin only walked away with scars.