A Legend: Nine-Sorrows
There is no family more intimately familiar with the tragedy and the glory of the Dust Road than the family Vol. They spawned a legion of stories in their day, tales which are still told throughout the Far West. The bulk of the family died on the fields of Iaius Fell, struggling virtually alone to hold back the terrible strength of the bandit army known as the Blameless Devils, so called because when their exorbitant ransoms were not met, they left none alive to speak of what they had done.
The ‘Devils had demanded the whole of Iaius Fell’s artistry for a year, a price the legendary crafters of that town would not suffer. When denied their payoff, the bandits moved quickly to lay waste to the city and put its people to the sword. So swift was the Blameless Devils’ response that Iaius Fell had no time to send to their allies for aid. Chance, or perhaps Destiny, intervened then — for Kasran Vol and the majority of his children (five of his six boys, and two of his three girls) were in the settlement on business. The Vols could have easily fled, but they instead chose to defend the town and help its people escape.
The song of that valiant defense is beautiful and sad; the Mariachi sing it still. The Vols fell, one by one, their life’s blood paid for in dozens of bandits each, until at the last, Kasran, head of his family, patriarch of his clan, called forth a mighty kung-fu technique that set his spirit, the town, and every Blameless Devil within a hundred paces ablaze – an inferno not even a devil could withstand. The noble sacrifice of the Vols was not in vain: the bulk of Iaius Fell’s populace escaped unharmed. The Blameless Devils, in rage over their defeat, desecrated the bodies of the Vols they could find, denying them pyres, and retreated back into their mountain strongholds to brood.
The second youngest of Kasran’s sons was not with his family on that fateful day. Askir Vol was a blacksmith by trade and it was widely known that he had long regarded his family’s obsession with kung-fu with bemused suffering. His whole life his family had tried to talk him into using his incredible talent at the forge to make weapons, but he had always resisted them. When the Elders of Iaius Fell came, hats in hand, to Askir’s hearth to tell him what had occurred, he thanked them quietly and told them that he would one day call upon their skills, though he would not explain why.
Askir soon afterwards travelled to the ruins of Iaius Fell in search of his family’s fate. He found them mutilated and strewn about haphazardly, food for the carrion feeders. What he truly sought though, were his family’s queue rings, worn in their hair and passed down along the Vol family line for generations. They were small, but stunningly intricate, each one carved from jade by some master whose name was long lost. Askir found them all, one by one, even his father’s which was scorched almost beyond recognition.
Returning to his forge, Askir disappeared for several months, speaking only to his sole surviving sister, Loora, who brought him his meals. When he emerged at last, he bore a large cloth-wrapped bundle. He kissed his sister farewell for the last time and travelled west to one of the settlements where the most skilled engravers of Iaius Fell had ended up. Taking their Elders behind closed doors, he explained his purpose. If the debt they had owed the Vols had been less, perhaps they would have denied Askir, but they could not refuse the young smith.
A season later, a lone figure arrived at the gates of the Prudent Hold, at the time the strongest of the Blameless Devils’ fortresses in the eastern regions of the Eagles’ Claws. The warrior beat on the massive gates three times before standing well back. Many of the Devils’ took to the walls, as sport was rare in the mountains, and they wished to look upon the fool who had come so far to die.
“Well what have we here?” the leader of the bandits shouted down, to the jeers of his men.
Askir Vol pulled off his cloak to reveal himself and raised aloft a magnificent 9-ring broadsword. The sword jangled musically as the wind through the high passes struck the nine disparate jade rings along its back. The light of the sun barely reflected from the blade, for it was caught in the intricate symbols that covered the sword’s entire surface.
Askir whispered softly, but his voice echoed throughout the pass, “Nine-Sorrows.”
His first blow split the gates asunder, the rest slew Blameless Devils till there was none left alive in that place…
Is the tale true? Who can say? Loora Vol passed East after the death of her family, eventually achieving great and lasting fame throughout the Empire and beyond as a poetess. The Blameless Devils still menace travellers and small settlements in the Far West. Askir Vol may be a myth of the West, but a sword matching the description of his legendary weapon lingers still.
It is said along the Dust Road that certain weapons carry the burden of their creation. If so, few are heavier than Nine-Sorrows. It is a weapon that only those who have lost everything dare wield, the patron sword of all-but-lost causes, a blade continually steeped in tragedy… and yes, glory too.