(About): A Berserker Needs a Brutal Barbarian Sword
The seed of the Warmonger Sword was planted when Darksword Armory’s master-smith and founder Eyal Azerad saw a door-knocker in Paris that consisted of interwoven bronze snakes, hissing fiercely to ward intruders. He couldn’t get this image out of his head, the snakes coiling over and over in his mind, and he brought them to bear on his next fantasy sword design, mixing equal parts Conan the Barbarian’s Atlantean sword, badass Norse mythology and spooky Parisian door-knockers. The result, like a French bronze-caster’s Camembert-induced fever-dream, is the epic Warmonger Sword.
A Curséd Blade to Unleash your Inner Beast
The design of the Warmonger Sword’s blade is straight out of a fantasy novel. The broad lenticular blade bears a long ricasso framed by cast-bronze langets that draw the eye down its length. This feature draws inspiration from the enormous German Zweihander swords of the 15th-century, which had a secondary cross-guard consisting of a pair of parrierhaken (“parrying hooks”) partway down the sword blade, allowing to be a gripped and used as a heavy puncturing pick-axe whilst the hands remained protected. Such a feature belies its functional use as a barbarian weapon of brute strength.
The fuller extends almost the entire length of the blade, reducing its weight and bringing the point of balance tight in to the hilt for maximum agility. It is inscribed with a dire curse in Norse runes, which reads: “LET MY SWORD BE YOUR LAST WARNING”.
Modern Metallurgical Witchcraft
The Warmonger’s blade, like all of Darksword’s hand-forged swords, is mastercrafted from 5160 spring steel. This material is near-magical in its properties; it was developed for the automotive industry for use in hard-wearing moving parts that required a greater degree of elasticity, returning to shape after being deformed by strong forces. Metallurgists created a carbon steel that has been alloyed with a sprinkling of chromium to give it stainless corrosion resistance as well as spectacular elastic properties. Darksword Armory’s blades are heat-treated with a highly secretive dual-tempering process (that we can only assume involves dark robes and full moons) which results in the edge of their blades achieving a Rockwell hardness of 60 HRC for cutting power and edge retention, whilst their cores are around 48-50 HRC for flex and elasticity.
The results of these processes are staggering: Darksword Armory’s swords have been tested by being bent through 90º (!), only to return to dead-true alignment. Lesser, softer swords can be shorn clean in half by these powerful blades, so make sure to match blade hardnesses with that of your opponent to keep safe if you are using the Warmonger Sword in a simulated combat setting.
A Symphony Cast in Bronze
The hilt of our Warmonger Sword is a stellar example of what can be achieved by top-tier metalsmiths working with talented designers using the highest quality materials. It is cast from solid bronze in a complex multi-part construction: the langets that secure the blade sweep down from a cross-guard consisting of two menacing fanged viper heads at the terminations. The grip is an extra-generous two-handed size, permitting greater leverage and dexterity to make the sword faster and more agile – it has been wrapped in leather for a secure surface to grip in gloves or bare-handed. The pommel is a ‘scent-stopper’ shape – but unlike the medieval arming swords that it first appeared in, around it winds two coiled snakes locked in a mortal duel. But just because this barbarian sword is an aesthetic masterpiece, painstakingly designed and masterfully crafted, this doesn’t mean that Darksword Armory have been content to make a mere fragile show-piece, fit only for pride of place upon your wall. The Warmonger Sword is constructed with a full tang, peened to the pommel – the bronze crossguard, grip and pommel have been keyed onto the tang of the blade, and then the protruding tip of the tang is hammered flat to secure it all in place. This means this weapon is fully battle-ready and functional. The Warmonger Sword also comes with a jaw-dropping rawhide scabbard, along with an optional interlaced sword-belt.
Few swords capture the raw fury of a Norse warrior or the supernatural power of a sword-and-sorcery barbarian like our Warmonger sword. Its unique blend of historical allusions and wild flights of fantasy combine to create a surprisingly versatile sword – it can fulfil a whole range of niches when building a fantasy roleplay outfit: from a proud warrior-king to a raging Celtic berserker. And, of course, it is visually stunning enough to dominate any display collection. Just don’t let it get too close to your other swords – it might eat them when the lights are out…
(About): For Elite Barbarians Only: The Darksword Elite Series Warmonger
For the most discerning of sword-collectors, Darksword have gone the extra mile to create a weapon that is truly special: the Elite Series Warmonger Sword. The blades of the Elite Series swords are made from the mystical substance known as ‘Damascus Steel’: a rippling pattern-weld created by folding and twisting multiple different grades of steel together over and over to form a figure throughout the whole blade that glints and shimmers, seeming to move of its own accord. This is truly the Holy Grail of blade design – and the master smiths at Darksword have selected 1095, 5160, L-6 and O1 steels to give the perfect four-tone contrast in each Elite Series Warmonger blade. The run is limited to only 100 swords, and each is provided with a fitted rawhide scabbard, a tough leather sword-belt and a certificate of Elite Series authenticity, personally signed by master-smith and founder Eyal Azerad, wax-sealed with the Darksword Elite seal. Truly, there is no better way to achieve legendary status and ascend to the Pantheon of the barbarian gods.
(History): The Real Barbarians – Viking Berserkers
Fantasy literature, movies and TV are replete with barbarous warriors who fight unarmored (or even half-naked!) with scant regard for their own safety, like Red Sonja from the Conan the Barbarian comics and movies, or Dothraki warlord Khal Drogo from A Song of Ice and Fire and its TV serialisation Game of Thrones. These champions are frequently boozing, hard-partying tough-nuts, whose awesome martial prowess comes from a heady combination of extreme physical conditioning and the ability to enter an altered state of consciousness: a blood-lust, also known as ‘going berserk’. This fantasy trope is nothing new – in fact, the demon warrior, unhinged and made inhuman by blood-lust, or perhaps by powerful hallucinogens, is an ancient Viking tradition which has haunted our psyche for more than a thousand years: the berserker.
The usual form of Viking military organisation was the household retinue of bodyguards or ‘húskarlar’ (usually Anglicised to ‘housecarls’) who owed their allegiance to their jarl or lord. Viking colonisation brought this form of organisation to Anglo-Saxon England in the 9th-century, and thence it spread outward to become the standard method of creating a military power-base in the Middle Ages. But at the same time, we perceive historical clues to a more marginal, darker brotherhood of warriors who lurk in the shadows of records history’s twilight. The berserker cult, and its associated ‘wolfskin’ alternative, were likely bands of itinerant warriors who reportedly possessed supernatural strength and martial skill, going into a frenzy in battle that none could stand against.
The Cult of the Bear
The word berserker gives us clues as to the ancient origin of the berserker mythos – it consists of ‘ber-’, literally ‘bear’, and ‘sark’, a linen undershirt. Thus the ‘bear-shirt’ is widely thought to mean the warriors who wear the very essence of the bear so as to become mighty and fearsome. Scholars have linked this animal-totem worship to earlier cults of animism which stretch back into the prehistoric past: Germanic bear-warriors appear on Trajan’s Column in Rome, made in 113 CE.
Berserkers in War
Viking berserkers appear almost always at the spearhead of military forces. Their roles in battle make it clear that they were set apart from the usual hierarchy of húskarlar and jarlar. The poetry of Þorbjörn Hornklofi places berserkers as shock-troops in the naval engagement known as the Battle of Hafrsfjord in the last quarter of the 9th-century CE, fighting from their own ships until swept of the very last man. Berserkers were also clearly written of as dangerous and unpredictable – Óláfr Haraldsson (St. Olaf) placed berserkers wielding their barbarian swords in the front line of his troops as the Battle of Stiklestad in his war to regain the throne of Norway in 1030 CE, but the crazed warriors broke ranks and charged forward, fatally breaking up his battle line and leading to tumult and chaos in which he was killed. However, these men are never referred to as ‘insane’ or ‘crazy’; this was not conceived of as a mental affliction – rather, berserkers were thought of as genuinely ‘other’, that iron and fire could not touch them, that they were under the protection of Odin himself, and that they were therefore treated with a mix of terror and awe.
What Makes a Berserker?
Historians have debated (and will likely continue to debate) the source of this apparently inhuman rage that so unnerved the Viking skalds who wrote the fornaldarsögur. Modern psychologists have posited that it may have been a symptom of mania of the early stages of PTSD, which, given the brutality of early-medieval warfare, is highly plausible. Other more outlandish theories include that berserkers doped themselves with the fly agaric mushroom (Amanita muscaria), a common hallucinogen – although the use of psychotropic substances is not mentioned in the sagas. Perhaps the most chilling theory involves ‘psychomotor automatism’ – what the law terms ‘diminished responsibility’ – in which warriors used ritual behaviour to enter a dissociative state, disconnecting themselves from the norms of their society in order to undertake socially-mandated atrocities. It is likely that academics will continue to mine the rich seams of these possibilities for some time yet.
Thus, we have taken a tour deep into the Viking mind to understand the psychology and social role of the fiercest of all vikingr – the ‘bear-shirt’. Our Warmonger Sword is the living embodiment of this fascinating and gruesome slice of history, enabling you to tap into this dark vein and bring it straight to the forefront of your fantasy LARP outfit.
- Total length: 45 inches
- Blade length: 32 inches
- Blade width: 2 inches
- Blade material: 5160 carbon steel (Warmonger Sword) / 1095, 5160, L-6 and O1 steels (Elite Series Warmonger Sword)
- Guard and pommel material: Cast bronze
- Grip materials: Leather
Weight: 5 lbs. 4 oz.