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.

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