When a Fist Just isn’t Sharp Enough

What does a Forge-guard do when he or she has lost their favourite axe, and a good punch just won’t do the job? Well, there are a couple of options.

Guard’s Knife – It is what it is. This favoured side arm can be up to half a meter in length. Typically, with Guards who favour the use of the double-axe, the knife is purely a reserve weapon, but it is often used as an off-hand weapon by those equipped with a hand-axe. Again, its shorter length means that it is well suited to being used in confined spaces.

All Guard’s knives have heavy, single edged blades, usually with a ten to twenty centimetre convex clip point, but there are some variations in the knife’s design. Some include a serrated rear blade. This adaptation can be used offensively, and comes in useful when dealing with enemies with thick or armoured hide. Effectively, and wound can be extended by the act of sawing the knife through the skin. Usually, though, the serrated blade is employed for a more practical purpose, and is used for sawing through wood or rope. This effectively turns the weapon into a more versatile tool. The knife’s weight also adds to its versatility, making it capable of chopping through softer undergrowth. It is a popular weapon among Forge-guard and Exploring Engineers given duties in places such as the Cusp Jungle. Weapons carried in these environments often have other augmentations, such as a more rounded point and sometimes a rear mounted guthook, making them more effective for skinning animals. The removal of animal hide for the manufacture of makeshift shelters or equipment is sometimes essential for survival in certain situations.

The idea of the knife being as much a tool as a weapon has been expanded in the last twenty or thirty years. Many recently manufactured weapons have been designed with a hidden chamber in the handle, which can hold a variety of objects. Small screwdrivers and adjustable wrenches are often found in blade handles, and needles and thread for sewing up wounds are also quite common. It is not unknown for other items to be concealed; miniature hand-lights are becoming popular, and one enterprising Guard was known to keep a small boom-stick in the handle of her weapon (more on boom-sticks in a later post)

It has become something of a craze among younger Forge-guard to have these knives, and it is not unknown for there to be competitions among the lower ranks to see who can have a blade with the most number of useful things in the handle. Needless to say, such practices are frowned upon by the senior members of the Guard.

Hurling-knife – A ranged weapon favoured by some Forge Guard. Hurling-knives have wide, leaf shaped blades, are much smaller and lighter than the standard Guard’s knife, and are commonly worn in a bandolier carrying three or four such weapons. They can be used in hand to hand combat, as demonstrated by Junior Engineer Warvitch in the story ‘Escape from Ryazan’, but they are designed to be well balanced enough to be thrown. Although their effective range is short, they do provide a Forge Guard with added flexibility in the field.

Many Forge Guard eschew the use of hurling-knives, preferring to get up close and personal with their enemy, though it is also the case that many do not achieve the requisite skill to use them. There are many instances of their use in ‘Tales of Engines & Demons’.  In the story ‘Rourke’, Forge Guard Warvitch uses one to good effect when dispatching an attacking pihratis, and again, in the final tale ‘The Next Generation of Trouble-makers’, his daughter is equally adept with her own blades. Rather than wearing them in a bandolier, though, she has hers concealed in custom made sheathes on her wrists, which grants her a means of very swift deployment.

So, as each variety of axe has its own function and possible versatility so does the Forge Guard’s humble knife. In my next post, I’ll talk about some other ranged weapons, and will be introducing the technological marvel that is the Engineer comp-bow, along with all the wonderfully devastating ammunition types that come with it.

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By Fist and Axe

For my first post, I thought I’d start off with something simple, and you can’t get much simpler than the fighting style of the Forge-guard. Their basic technique in most combat situations is this; hit your opponent with whatever comes to hand. If nothing comes to hand, use your fist.

I’m probably not doing them justice putting it in those modest terms, but it’s probably not far from the truth. Forge-guard are immensely strong, they are adept at using that strength to their advantage and are quite capable of breaking the body parts of a wide variety of living creatures with just their bare hands. To that end, many Forge-guard favour the use of hide gloves, reinforced with metal bands or bolts, and their boots tend to be heavy in their construction, and strengthened at the toecaps and heel in a similar manner.

This may give the impression that their combat skills are unsophisticated. This could not be further from the truth, as you will see in the next section as we take a look at the different weapons that they employ. Just like any other Engineer, Forge-guard believe strongly that there is a correct tool for every job, and in their choice of weaponry, there is no exception.

Double-axe – Probably the most popular weapon in the Forge-guard’s arsenal. As the name suggests, the weapon has a heavy head, set with a similar sized blade on each side. Senior Forge-guard Tovas, in the opening story of ‘Tales of Engines & Demons’, ‘Escape from Ryazan’ favours such a weapon.

The haft length of a double-axe is nominally around a meter, though some Guard favour longer or shorter versions. Typically the weapon is wielded in one hand; no problem for Forge-guard, who vary in height from two and a half meters, to three meters. The double-axe can, of course, be used in both hands, when the need arises.

One variant of the double-axe is the spike-axe. Here, one of the weapon’s blades is replaced by a heavy spike or ‘beak’; normally straight, but sometimes curved, depending on the wielder’s preference. The spike-axe is best employed against creatures with natural plate armour, as it does a good job of punching straight through it and getting to the critter’s vitals. It is for this reason that Senior Forge-guard Vladov, in the story ‘Lost Love’ carries such a weapon. It is very practical for dealing with the krieve of the southern desert.

Hand-axe – Smaller in size than the double-axe, and having only a single blade and ranging in size from one third to two thirds of a meter. Some Forge-guard prefer this weapon as it is lighter and easier to wield when fighting in confined spaces, as the Guard are often forced to do. Most hand-axes have a blade with an extended ‘heel’ that curves down over the haft. Again, the length of the heel varies depending on the wielder’s preference. Forge-guard Nashtika, also featured in the story ‘Lost Love’ favours a hand-axe.

The blade extension does give a measure of added versatility to the weapon. Foremost, it grants the wielder the ability to use the blade to hook an opponent’s weapon out of the way, and makes them open to attack from the Guard’s off-hand weapon (Or fist, as is often the case). Secondly, the weapon’s wielder has the option of gripping the axe directly beneath its head, with the extended blade curving over their knuckles, and using it like a glorified knuckle-duster. This method of attack is also very useful when fighting in severely cramped conditions.

The most notable user of the hand-axe in ‘Tales of Engines & Demons’ is Junior Engineer Warvitch in the story ‘Escape from Ryazan’. He inherits the weapon from Chief Engineer Drasneval, and he is still employing the same weapon in the story ‘Rourke’, some sixty years later, though at that point he has become a fully-fledged Forge-guard. Since then he has augmented the weapon with a heavier double-axe.

Axe-pike – Often called a boarding-pike, due to its most common use on the Guild of Engineer’s rail-steamers. Most axe-pikes are three to four meters in length, and are used for defending the upper decks of rail-steamers from attackers. Originally, the weapon had a large double blade, with the haft extending to a point, but the design was considered to be too cumbersome when used on the narrow steamer decks. Later variants had smaller, sometimes only single bladed heads, though even those are considered unwieldy by many Forge-guard. Most modern axe-pikes, made in the last thirty to forty years, have no axe blade at all, though they are still referred to as axe-pikes.

That covers the Forge-guard’s primary weapon of choice. Next time I’ll be moving on to something that all Forge-guard carry in one form or another; the not so humble knife.