Occasional Artwork: The Blade of Dragon Woe

Hello readers! Technically this is a repost, but it’s the first time this material will ever appear on my blog. The Blade of Dragon Woe (named by its bearer, not its maker) is an extravagant longsword I modeled for my cousin Eric’s novel Never Heroes. You can find all the relevant lore-bits in this article HERE (much of the writing is mine as well), so in this gallery I’ll mostly cover the thought process behind the sword or mention specific visual elements I’m proud of.

The blade, fittings and scabbard are all the result of at least two major revisions apiece, and it shows. While there are a few minor touches I wish I could’ve done better, for now this is the best weapon I’ve ever rendered. So, let’s cut the chatter and skip to the pictures. Don’t let the base pictures fool you, these are maximum HD. Click on any or all to get the full experience.

Enjoy.

A preliminary shot depicting the full ensemble. Not pictured: an integrated sword belt.

 

 

The blade unsheathed, giving a nice wide-angle look at the color scheme. I admit it borrows heavily from nihonto, but it came out nicely regardless. This is a perfectly to-scale digital longsword, reminiscent of one equally well adapted for cutting or thrusting. The blade is 38 inches in length, with a grip of 12 inches. Width at the base is a bit under two inches, tapering rapidly to 20 millimeters. This weapon would handle quickly but cut murderously even if it weren’t made with Sapphire Steel (DISCLAIMER: Sapphire Steel is not a real alloy. I made it up as a lore contribution.)

 

 

A reveal shot from the other side. Also, reflections. Shiny, shiny, reflections. I’d have loved to do more of these, but getting the angle right was a huge pain in the ass.
A shot up the length of the blade. This was mostly for more reflections, and I feel no shame in admitting as much. That said, it also gives you a pretty good idea how thin the blade of a longsword really is. That’s why they didn’t ACTUALLY way 20 pounds, y’see. (It was 3. Most longswords weighed 3 pounds. They’re not heavy, the Victorians were just flabby losers.)
The inscription reads, “One man may do what many cannot, if his heart is pure and his hands skilled.” The scene is that of the sword’s arrogant wielder, Slight Fairborn, aggrandizing himself over the corpse of his first slain dragon. Early versions of the guard were in all silver, but I felt this was too flat.
A shot so good, I used it as part of the site’s background. This is one of the few where you can get some idea as to how carefully I contrasted the ruby and collarpiece with the blade. The inscription on this side reads “Master Verdo, for Sir Fairborn,” respectively the sword’s maker and (asshole) bearer. The depictions here are of a sailing ship and a family estate, important images to Fairborn’s lineage. The engravings aren’t perfectly consistent, but considering their actual size and the fact they’d have to be done by hand, they might be TOO precise.
A shot from the opposite direction this time. You don’t really get a feel for a sword until you see it point-first. (No one actually says that)
Further shots down the length of blade, trying to show more of it and the scabbard’s response to light. Note the tendril-patterns along the sword’s edges. Those took me absolutely ages.
A close-up of the scabbard. The dragon’s mouth design is tortured symbolism, which was the point.
This side of the scabbard depicts a remote mountain fortress in gold, and Slight being super inspiring in a definitely-not-fictious binder-ring image.
Another binder ring image. Slight totally spends hours a day praying in front altars under a ray of light. He definitely didn’t browbeat the smith into making THIS up. Also, enjoy the gold-inlay geometric patterns. You don’t want to know how long they took. Hours. They took hours. Or at least it felt that way.
This binder ring contains a statement that cause me serious mental pain to write. I am a decent writer, and I hate overworked nonsense. This is some overworked nonsense: “To my dearest kin, Butoric, Brother, you were taken from us far too soon, and more cruelly than you’d have deserved were you one one-hundredth the man you were. It will forever be my greatest shame that I did not see the madness of that demon in woman’s flesh. As you so often saved me, I should’ve saved you. All Tygan is poorer for the loss of you, and I am poorest of all. Your might and virtue are my great inspiration, Brother. May you cut through the flames of wyrms in eternity. In Your Memory Always, Slight” Blech.
Slight kills a Lich atop a mountain during a giant war. Again, 100% real events that actually happened in series canon. (Not really)
Slight’s picture on the butt of the scabbard. Fitting place for an ass. Also, the side-bars and color scheme are vaguely reminiscent of Nazi flags. I did not plan this, but I’m glad it happened.
An image of Slight’s brother, Butoric. Also an asshole.
Slight and Butoric’s mother, Lady Ashton-Hawn. Actually a good person. Also, based closely on Olivia Hussey at the author’s request.
Slight and Butoric’s father, Vernon. Also actually a good person. Based on some manly man fellow. I actually forget who (oops).
The other side of the scabbard’s mouthpiece, looking fantastically shiny. Also, more sailing ship imagery and (dun-DUN) a Jaws reference if you can find it.
This version of the blade texture, by itself, took me well over 10 hours. You’re darn right I took plenty of shots.
Close-up on a segment of the fuller engraving, showing a dragon, yet another sailing ship as seen from above, and some weird runic symbols. Note the blue mottling on white, intended to represent an etched segment of the blade’s core exposed by grinding the fuller in. Also, the lighting along the “top” edge of the blade hints at the crystalline glow I was going for. It’s more visible in later shots, but the subtlety here is beautiful too.
A shot along the blade towards the guard, offering a particularly good idea of how light affects the steel’s grain. I debate myself about many aspects of it, but this blade is damn near flawless and I will hear no one say otherwise.
More blade shots. If you look at the spot of light in the upper right-hand corner, you can see some speckling and dots of light as well as a clear glowing effect. Some of the many reasons I needed 10 hours for this.
An intermediary shot, but the angling also helps bring out the grainy blues along the edge of the fuller. The group of triangle runes are the far right are supposed to channel magic to strengthen the blade by representing its geometry and various layers.
A shot of sword’s wicked spear-point showing off the glowing effect to the max. Not much else to say.
Another point shot, helping highlight all the activity along the edge here which isn’t visible without direct light. This is a distinctive feature of laminated and folded swords, and I’m still really happy without how well it came out here.
MAXIMUM OVERGLOW. Stilll looks pretty. Also, more geometric “strength” patterns inside the fuller. This shot also gives a good idea how how I broke up the tendrils into denser and looser groups. This was partly motivated by laziness, but became really important to the sword’s look and made it much more distinct than if I’d gone all one way or the other.
The lighting along the upper edge here catches the grain of the darker steel pretty well, and contrasts it with the bright tendrils in a way that wasn’t always apparent elsewhere. Again, a real-world effect I’m happy to have replicated so successfully.
And at last, we come all the way around to the base of the blade on the other side. More fire, dragon and blade-geometry runes, as well as a couple of nice active lighting spots.
The geometry at the base of the blade is a tiny bit wonky. Even though real swords are prone to lighting oddities, I’m not sure this is one of them. Still, the gold and the ruby work well to contrast and enhance the other colors. I’m pretty happy about that. From here you can also see the smoky texture I applied to the black areas inside the handguard. This is the last of the pictures. I hope you enjoyed them, and look forward to more like this in the future.

 

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