The cwenemaker (queenmaker) is a fearsome cleaver and the largest single-handed blade of The Realm. “Heavy as a Heorthgeneat” as the Arkan saying goes. Though Arkans will often use it as a bastard sword, most warriors outside The House of Arko prefer to use two hands in hefting it and categorize it more as a broadsword.
The famed sword of the Arkans differs significantly from the broadswords originally brought to The Realm by the ghoddic mercenaries of Middangeard. At that time, ghodds were fighting with flat wide blades with sides nearly parallel. It wasn’t until the end of the 3rd C. of the Common Era that the blades of the Arkans started to develop a distinct triangular shape. Though swords were never favored by the Dwarves, the Arkan huskarls adopted something of the regular geometry of dwarven axes in their broadswords and the blunt fighting techniques of the Dwarves as well.
A cwenemaker persuades mainly by its heft and ability to cleave. Its shape and size makes it a startling blade to behold. All cwenemakers of the present day inherit their shape and style from Caledbolg, famed weapon of Aetrig First Queen of The House of Arko. It was later used by her nephew Eadric, Prince of Béorfort. Caledbolg had two chimera engraved upon its golden hilt and quillions so that when it was unsheathed in the light of the setting sun the engravings upon its iron blade burst into fire in such a dreadful way that is was never easy to look upon. In its generations of use, Caledbolg developed a storied tradition for hacking off limbs.
Here’s the story of the chase of Prince Eadric by treacherous Lord Aethelfrith. Eadric had been driven from his home and rightful benefice through the plots and machinations of a powerful lord who had killed his father and taken the name of Aethelfrith, meaning “Lord of Peace.” For months Eadric eluded plots for his assassination until Aethelfrith himself took after the prince. Eadric could find no quarter with any lord courageous enough to stand up to the Lord of Peace and in the end, Eadric was flushed out of a cartwright’s stable and up the forested hill of Knockamore with Aethelfrith and his eager warband at his heels. Near the summit, Eadric turned about to face the Lord of Peace and used Caledbolg to hack both his limbs from his torso. Eadric then thrust Caledbolg into a great cleft of exposed bedrock before he himself was hacked limb from limb by Aethelfrith’s eager warband which then fell upon the sword to a man trying to wrench it free. Caledbold stayed in Knockamore for nigh thirty years as a bloody war of succession raged in Béorfort. In R.Y. 342 one of Aetrig’s descendents, Ishild Daughter of Ishelm, claimed it. She drew it from the stone as if unsheathing it from a scabbard, whereupon the flames of the chimera reflecting the setting sun could be seen blazing from Knockamore as far as Castlereigh. A Queen had once again returned to Béorfort. Caledbolg was dubbed The Cwenemaker... and every blade copied from it thereafter.
Caledbolg received its original name for an earlier incident in the hands of Aetrig Daughter of Aescer. Her father had become fast friends with a wyddic lord named Turnik Leesh by the end of the Battle of Dagor Halwah. Leesh had been a skilled captain of the Bracelets of Knights but was also quite petty and an easily insulted man. By a ridiculous turn of fate he came to sue Aetrig for a duel regarding some unintentional impropriety between she and one of his lieutenants, the details being something only a Haartian would remember.
The two met on an appointed afternoon in The Great Hall of Éorforic. In attendance were many of the high lords of The Bracelet as well as the best of Aetrig’s kinspeople. When arms were presented, Leesh of course favored the swift glissknife after Haartian tradition. But to the astonishment of the lords in attendance, even when faced with such a ‘superior’ blade in Leesh’s right hand, Aetrig took hold of her faithful Caledbolg… with both hands.
Leesh measured his time in steady circles around the broad-shouldered Aetrig, delivering grievous injuries by deft dives and the practiced angles of his glissknife while retreating from her counterstrikes. Every quarter of the circle he paced about her, he struck at her, until by pain and injury Aetrig sank to her knees ready to receive the coup de grâce. But when Leesh brought his knife to her chin, Aetrig grasped it full handed by the blade and turned it flat side up spraining Leesh’s wrist and wrenching it free. She sent it clattering brilliantly to the floor along with two of her fingers. Before Leesh could command an understanding of what had happened Caledbolg had been used to cleave both of his arms from frame, whereupon he himself sank to his knees and Aetrig, now standing, relieved him of his head as well. Aetrig was known ever after as “Aetrig Hardcleft” and sometimes in more familiar circles, “Old Eight Fingers.” Her sword received the wyddic name Caled Bolg or “Hard Cleft” and kept that name until Íshild established peace in The Kingdom of Arko and claimed the sword at Knockamore.