Tuesday Tales, Part VI: The Touchstones

“A very long, long time ago, before the memories of the Allos and the Humans and the Skōti and all of the creatures that walk or swim or fly had yet taken root, the Gold God called forth twelve points of light and gave them form.  These light-shards became known as the Touchstones, and their purpose was to weave and reweave the fabric of fate…”

 In the world of Éras there exist twelve god-forged items known collectively as “the Touchstones.”  Created by the Gold God, the Touchstones affect the warp and weft of fate throughout Éras.  They appear and vanish from Human history at the Gold God’s whim, who grants or withholds them to mortals as it sees fit, and they are as unpredictable as the god itself—appearing in any form, at any time, in any place.  Many mortals hold the Touchstones in high esteem, while others loathe them for the power of their affect on the affairs of the Ephemeral Realm; but no matter what any one individual’s outlook, stories abound of those who have held and used the items in the past.

Below is a list of the twelve Touchstones.

 

1.

Dicespinner, the Wind of Fate.  The Touchstone which changes luck.

Dicespinner, often called the “Wind of Fate,” is the most fickle of the Touchstones; as such, it is also one of the most commonly encountered.  There are numerous stories about individuals who have extreme runs of luck before suddenly overplaying their hands as their luck unexpectedly fails them.  The Touchstone is typically believed to be one of the Gold God’s favorites due to its two-sidedness, which mirrors its temperament.

            Stories:

– In 973, the Serenites sent an expedition to Caprina; the party of five hale soldiers was led by a young woman named Jolána Gál.  She had been gifted Dicespinner and felt that its presence was portentous, a sentiment shared by the emperor.  Exactly one week after their departure, Dicespinner returned, falling into a Serenite nobleman’s hands.  The expedition party, however, was never seen or heard from again.

– In the early second century, Dicespinner came into the possession of a Gavellese vintner, Baronet Nicholas Cheyne.  After making an unbelievably large profit on wine sales, Cheyne and his family quickly rose to prominence, and there was even talk that the Cheynes might be awarded a county.  Greedy with his success, Cheyne planted twice as many grapes for the following year—and promptly lost Dicespinner.  By the time harvest had rolled around, the entire vineyard’s worth of grapes had died of blight.  The Cheynes lost their entire fortune, business, and manor, and the family gradually fell into decline.

– In the mid-fifth century there was a knight of great skill but very small fortune named Sir Balin Stepney.  Dicespinner in hand, he gambled everything he owned in order to win a higher title and an estate—and won.  He ought to have stopped there, but he pushed his luck still further, hoping to win a particularly fine set of armor and a destrier on top of what he had already gained.  At the moment of truth, Dicespinner vanished, and Sir Balin’s luck gave out completely.  He lost everything in that instant—his money, his rouncey, even his armor.

 

2.

Truthgiver, the Ender of Lies.  The Touchstone which brings justice.

Truthgiver, also known as the “Ender of Lies,” was created to bring hidden thoughts to light.  It is often considered an equalizer, allowing the oppressed or weak to uncover the deceptions of the powerful and, in so doing, to bring about a reversal of fate.

             Stories:

– During Queen Jaden Ulsfeld’s reign, the members of the Bankers Guild were given an anonymous tip that the Guildmaster had been lying to them in order to make a profit for himself.  In a spectacular and well-recorded Guild meeting, the lowliest member of the Guild used Truthgiver to force the Guildmaster into admitting to his crimes.  The Guildmaster was banished in disgrace and the member who had wielded Truthgiver so effectively was promoted in his stead.

– Although it has never been officially confirmed by historical accounts, many people believe that Circle of Five knight Sir Ryence Berdwell once commanded Truthgiver.  Berdwell, of course, was known for his soft-spoken but unshakable candor in his dealings with others.

 

3.

 Dragonreaver, the Banisher of the Mighty.  The Touchstone which kills dragons.

Dragonreaver, also known as the “Banisher of the Mighty,” has proven to be the only implement able to strike down a dragon.  Because they are considered “old spirits” of great wisdom and often give out boons to the rare individual who manages to encounter them, dragons are usually treated with great reverence and respect by the denizens of Éras.  For this reason, Dragonreaver is one of the most hated of the Touchstones.  Followers or scholars of the Gold God have many different theories as to why it created Dragonreaver.

            Stories:

– The first person to wield Dragonreaver was a knight, Sir Reginald Noxire of Blacknall.  In the year 211, he awoke with the Touchstone in hand and a fate, terrible in its reverberations, echoing in his mind: You will find the golden dragon and slay it with this sword.  Driven by the force of the fate and his own burning curiosity, Sir Reginald trekked deeper and deeper into the Paranomos Mountains in pursuit of a great, golden dragon that was rumored to live there.  According to his personal memoirs—recovered much later, and only by chance—when finally he managed to find the dragon and attack it, it swallowed the sword and vanished.  No one knows what happened to the knight; nothing but his weather-worn journal and a few tattered remnants of his pack were found, several moons later.

 

4.

 Farslayer, the Knife in the Dark.  The Touchstone which destroys distant enemies.

Farslayer, often called the “Knife in the Dark,” is yet another commonly encountered Touchstone.  It is infamous throughout the world, for its nature is insidious: he who holds the Knife in the Dark may use it to strike down any enemy he so chooses—but his enemy, in turn, may strike down the original attacker.  Many people have passed on after initiating a deadly back-and-forth of this Touchstone; in extreme cases, entire families have ceased to exist, caught up in a terrible blood-feud.

             Stories:

– The most famous example of Farslayer’s influence occurred in the early 800s, and is known even to the smallest children throughout Braelin.  Two minor noble families in Blacknall—the Donnetts and the Underhills—lived on abutting properties separated by a thick forest.  Almost simultaneously, but on opposite sides of the wood, a member of each family realized that veins of tungsten and winegrain were hidden beneath the rocks in that forest.  Both the Donnetts and the Underhills started to dig out mines, thinking that they alone knew what lay therein; and so imagine their surprise when, in the course of hollowing out the earth, their mine shafts met.  A great and terrible enmity sprang up between the families, who each believed the mine belonged rightfully to their own.  It was a tragedy, but no great surprise, then, that Farslayer became involved.  No one knows which member of which family struck the first blow, but once the violence erupted it could not be contained.  When Baronetess Donnett passed on, her eldest son plucked the Touchstone from her corpse and flung it back at his mother’s murderer; when Baronet Underhill fell at last, his wife seized the dagger and used it.  Only one individual survived the bloodbath: Elizabeth Donnett, the youngest child in that family, who was only thirteen years old at the time.  It is said that not even she escaped unscathed, dying once to Farslayer before throwing it back a final time, ending her assailant’s life forever.  A band of Travelers discovered her wandering the forest between the two families’ manors, her shirt torn and bloodied.  She refused to speak a word to them but allowed them to take her in and give her food; but in the middle of the following night she disappeared.  Rumor has it that she struck out into the mountains to join the Beast-people.

 

5.

 Swordbreaker, the Tide of Battle.  The Touchstone which disarms opponents and resists attack.

Swordbreaker, often called the “Tide of Battle,” usually only appears in Éras during times of great unrest, but its reputation is legendary.  Whosoever wields the Touchstone becomes nigh untouchable on the field of battle, for it leaves a swathe of devastation in its wake while simultaneously making its holder seemingly impervious to damage.  In keeping with the Gold God’s tricky nature, however, it is well-known that those who possess Swordbreaker can do nothing about anyone who is unarmed.

             Stories:

– During her final campaign against the northern warlords, Queen Raelin Key is said to have appeared on the battlefield with Swordbreaker in hand.  While at the time the presence of the Touchstone was said to be yet further proof of Raelin’s divine right to rule, scholars in later times have pondered why the gods waited until her last battles, which were so relatively unimportant in the grander scheme of things, to grant the Touchstone to her.

– In Summerrise in the year 982, a Serenite pirate named Andor Stormrunner appeared in the harbor of Revma with a fleet of ships.  Accounts of that night report that Stormrunner—whose crew promptly set to besieging the port with blasts of magic—personally entered the city with a veritable army of pirates and mercenaries, Swordbreaker in his grasp.  A frightened dockhand later recounted that Stormrunner, stepping out of his boat and wading up onto shore, looked over the city with an awful gleam in his eye, grinned wide, and instructed his crew, “Don’t ye rest ‘til the whole of the city lies in pieces.”  The pirates did exactly as instructed, ransacking homes, capturing people to sell as slaves, hauling away goods and money, and burning buildings to the ground, sometimes with Braelinese citizens still trapped inside.  The crew absconded with the equivalent of roughly seven hundred gold in coin and goods, as well as upward of two hundred prisoners.  Now known as the “Sack of Revma,” the siege was by far the worst attack ever weathered on Braelinese soil.

 

6.

Sightchanger, the Blinder of Visions.  The Touchstone which changes perception.

Sightchanger, often called the “Blinder of Visions,” is a difficult Touchstone to describe.  As with the Twelfth Touchstone, Sightchanger has been referenced in song and story by the Goldentongues, but no one can say who has held it or what those wielders did with it.  All that is known is that Sightchanger somehow alters mortals’ ability to perceive.

 

7.

Soulrender, the Destroyer of Hope.  The Touchstone which induces despair.

Soulrender, often called the “Destroyer of Hope,” is another rare yet terrible Touchstone; its power is to eat away at hope—that of its wielder as well as that of the individuals who come into contact with it.  The story below represents perhaps the best illustration of its effect.

            Stories:

– Before Blacknall was conquered, there was a warlord named Amália Lévai who, for her ferocity and her ability to conquer huge swathes of land very swiftly, was feared and admired throughout the north.  One day Soulrender fell into her hands, and she used it mercilessly, in order to force more and more of the remaining free tribes to bend to her will.  For a time she was extraordinarily successful; but the Human spirit can endure only so much pain and joylessness before it becomes twisted and dark.  By the time King Shayne the Conqueror appeared to seize Blacknall for himself, Lévai had disappeared into a tall stone tower, where she lived alone, all of her subjects gathered at its base.  They offered no resistance to Shayne when he arrived; and when he scaled the tower he found Lévai hunkered down into one corner of her chamber, her eyes sunken and hollow and haunted, barely Human anymore.  Deeply disturbed by the scene, Shayne ordered his soldiers to bury the Touchstone at once, as far down into the earth as they could, before moving onward with his campaign.

 

8.

 Siegeender, the Hammer of Fear.  The Touchstone which breaks sieges.

Siegeender, often called the “Hammer of Fear,” is another Touchstone which appears in times of war; some followers or scholars of the Gold God have even gone so far as to posit that Siegeender is a twin to Swordbreaker.  Whatever the case, its powers are immense, allowing the wielder to disrupt an entire battlefield’s momentum or to destroy large-scale fortifications with little trouble.

            Stories:

– About twenty years in to the Serenite War, a group of four Serenite raiders appeared on the horizon just beyond the Caxton Wall.  The contingency of Braelinese knights and soldiers posted there laughed, wondering what four Serenites could possibly hope to do against the amassed Braelinese army.  During the middle of the night, however, an alarm was sounded; the soldiers roused just in time to make out the figures of the raiders huddled against the base of the Wall.  For a moment all was still, with the guards atop the Wall warning the Serenites to desist and move away.  But then pandemonium erupted as a ten-foot section of the Wall suddenly blew inward, flinging bits of stone everywhere and injuring or dazing an entire patrol unit.  It turned out that one of the raiders had carried Siegeender; and following the explosion, a Serenite army began to march on the Wall.  The Braelinese managed to hold fast and eventually repaired the damage, but at the cost of many, many lives.

– A particularly popular rumor has it that the Caprinans are in possession of Siegeender, and have been for countless centuries.  How else, it is said, could the island-nation have managed to hold out against the might of Seren and Braelin for so long?

 

9.

Townsaver, the Shield of the Weak.  The Touchstone which protects all others.

Townsaver, often called the “Shield of the Weak,” is usually hailed as one of the kindest of the Touchstones, although like all of the Gold God’s creations, it has its costs.  The Shield of the Weak allows its holder to protect all others from sustaining damage throughout the course of a battle—but only at the price of the wielder’s own life.

            Stories:

– Legends of the Circle of Five relate the following tale:  One night in late Springfall during King Shayne the Conqueror’s initial forays into what would become Hawksworth, the Circle of Five and the king had set up camp and were readying themselves for sleep.  Their explorations had been successful and everyone was in good spirits, when all of a sudden a large raiding party of Xiros set upon the campsite.  No one but the Lady Knight Esdeline Chernock was prepared for battle; foolishly, everyone else had shed their armor and put aside their weapons.  As Lady Knight Esdeline stood to face the raiders alone, a beautifully-crafted necklace appeared around her neck and she fell to her knees as a terrible voice reverberated in her mind:  You will use the Shield of the Weak to protect your companions from harm.  Recognizing what the necklace must be, she called to her fellow knights to leave their armor and take up their weapons.  Forming a circle around Lady Knight Esdeline and the king, the four other knights managed to defeat the entire Xiros force with Esdeline’s help, although the battle lasted for many hours.  When the struggle finally ended, Lady Knight Esdeline looked at King Shayne and murmured, “Long live the king,” before falling to the ground and dying.  She did not pass on at that time, but the Black God returned her to life with one less life stone, as is its duty.

 

10.

Pathfinder, the Guide of Souls.  The Touchstone which guides searchers.

Pathfinder, often called the “Guide of Souls,” is yet another of the so-called “kindly” Touchstones, for its nature appears to be relatively innocuous.  According to historical record, Pathfinder has been used to discover the location of items or people who might otherwise have remained hidden.  It has a catch, though—the paths it blazes are, without exception, only the most direct routes, with no regard for ease of travel or potential obstacles along the way.

            Stories:

– In the early-300s, after the Shankill Butchers had been terrorizing northern Stemma for five years, a distraught peasant-woman named Alanna Greene organized a search party to try and root out the hiding place of the Shankill siblings.  Her young son Barnaby had fallen prey to the Shankills not once, but twice, and Greene and her fellow villagers were sick at heart with the fact of their children’s deaths.  The day before the party was to set out, Greene discovered a small, unfamiliar map on the ground outside her home.  The map showed only the surrounding countryside, but was highly stylized; and yet, Greene took it as a good omen and went to sleep that night with the map tucked under her pillow.  When she woke up the next morning and inspected the map, a path had appeared which pointed the way to the bandits’ lair—a cave that the Shankill siblings had carved into a rock outcropping deep in the wilderness of southern Hawksworth.  The search party followed the map’s directions and sure enough, there was the cave; the bandits were taken by surprise and executed for their crimes.  The map disappeared as soon as Greene and her fellow searchers reached the outcropping.

 

11.

 Hearthealer, the Salve of the Broken.  The Touchstone which heals the wounded.

Hearthealer, often called the “Salve of the Broken,” is the only Touchstone that is popularly believed to be wholly good, for it grants its holder an amazing capacity to heal.  Despite its almost universally positive reception, however, there are some individuals who dread the sight of Hearthealer for its ability to disrupt their plans.  Generally speaking, the Salve of the Broken is an extremely rare Touchstone; and it is commonly assumed to be the most powerful of the Touchstones by followers and scholars of the Gold God.

            Stories:

– After the Traveler and god-chosen Sybell Allard inadvertently spread plague to all corners of Éras in the fifth century, a young Xiros shaman by name of Delanou Natillesri appeared in Esos.  He bore no specific item, but seemed rather to embody the essence of Hearthealer itself; whosoever he touched with his god-granted magic was healed of plague immediately.  He spent many years traveling from region to region, helping to rid the peoples of Éras of Allard’s illness, eventually eradicating it from the world altogether.

 

12.

The Twelfth Touchstone.

Also known as the “Unknown Touchstone,” the Twelfth Touchstone has been referenced by the Goldentongues, although never by name.  No mortal, not even the Goldentongues, know what its abilities are.