Many centuries ago, the prosperous and peaceful kingdom of Arceel suddenly found itself firmly under the rule of Lord Kharos, a powerful and tyrannical death knight. He had come to power quickly, sweeping into the kingdom from the north with his vast host of undead monsters. Arceel was a largely agrarian country, and their standing army was very small and slow to organize against the threat, allowing Kharos to advance towards the capital unchecked and unchallenged. He moved quickly, destroying villages as he passed through, ruining the plentiful farmlands, and finally slaughtering the king and all his heirs before seizing the kingdom’s throne for himself. He quickly set about enslaving the remaining population and began the process of creating a land that was firmly and completely under his control. He worked his slaves to death, and then he brought them back to work for him forever.
For many, many years the kingdom of Arceel was synonymous with the kingdom of death. You did not travel there – evil pervaded the land and the undead servants of Lord Kharos were constantly on the lookout for new “citizens.” If you wandered to close to the border, there was a very good chance that you weren’t going to make it back home unless you were both incredibly skilled and incredibly lucky. Several failed attempts were launched by various groups to try and depose the death knight, but his host had grown too numerous to attack head on, and he was too well protected in his castle. And as the years passed by, he grew more and more secure in his power. And as he grew more secure, he grew bolder, and began pushing outwards, slowly expanding his borders and claiming more territory for his own.
Finally, when hope of ever freeing the land of Arceel was fading, it came to pass that the Lord Paladin Arris forged an alliance between many of the different nations and faiths of the land. This combined force of light mounted an invasion of the kingdom. Arris lead the charge, meeting Kharos’s undead legions on the field of battle. This action allowed a small strike team to slip into the keep and engage Kharos and his advisors directly. It was a ferocious battle, and it cost the forces of light dearly, but in the end, they stood victorious. Kharos had been bested and with that, his forces lost cohesion, allowing them to be routed, and driven from the land in their sudden weakness and confusion. But while the battle against the tyrant was a success, the forces of light quickly realized that decades of Kharos’s influence over the land had poisoned it more effectively than any natural toxin. The land itself was dead, and the few people of Arceel that were left alive were husks of their former selves. Vast concentrations of holy power could probably bring the land back to life, but it would take centuries. Several shrines were erected in the early days, but after a year or so, the ruins of the kingdom were abandoned. The Paladins of Arris still patrol the border, both to keep people out, and keep the denizens that can make their home in the blighted landscape in.
However, the victory wasn’t entirely sour. After his defeat, the corpse of Lord Kharos was spirited away by the forces of light and taken to a secret location. There, several powerful wizards (under the guidance of several powerful grand clerics and Sir Arris himself) forged five powerful weapons from the remains of his armor. These weapons were created with the sole purpose of protecting life by bringing destruction to undead monsters. These “Dead Steel Weapons” were gifted to the surviving heroes that had defeated Kharos, and they carried them until they too were lost to history on another quest. Over the years, these weapons have surfaced from time to time, but they seem to disappear again as quickly as they are found. The weapons are almost always found together. Forged from the same source, they call to each other, feeling a kind of kinship with each other. They long to be united and joined together in common cause. Strangely, the weapons seem to be found around the ancient borders of the ruined kingdom of Arceel, though it is unknown if this is simple coincidence or if the weapons are drawn to the place of their creator’s demise. Still, treasure hunters and adventurers the world over are slow to dismiss even the most outlandish of rumors concerning the Dead Steel Weapons.
Each of the Dead Steel Weapons is a unique creation of light and goodness from a powerful source of darkness and evil. Sunspike is a dagger that is infused with holy power, radiating light and banishing undead from it’s very presence. Shadow Splitter is a battle axe touched with the power of shadow, allowing its wielder to slip between realms and travel through the ethereal plane like a wraith. Bonecrush is a mace that is a brutal as its name suggests, smashing apart undead and other objects with thunderous force. Harrower is a longword that leaves wounds that continue to burn and consume undead opponents, leaving them nothing more than ash. And finally, Corpsebane is a greatsword that prevents those it slays from being reanimated as undead servants.
I ended up exploring the history behind and the creation of these weapons in quite a bit more detail than I had initially intended. However, the idea proved to be too interesting to me to want to cut it any shorter than it is. And as the story behind these magical items grew, I realized that they could easily be utilized in other fantasy campaigns that aren’t run with the Dungeons and Dragons rules. However, these next few weeks will see the individual Dead Steel Weapons covered in more detail as sentient weapons for Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition. So stay tuned.