Elminster's Guide to the Realms
The Shrine of Swords
by Ed Greenwood, illustrated by David Day, (Dragon #285)
The eastern side of the High Road south of Neverwinter is lined by many wooded dells. Some of them are sinkholes, some abandoned quarries, and some of unknown origin - but all are ideal camping-places in harsh weather. One that has felt far fewer firewood-seeking axes than most has been made into a wayside shrine to Tempus.
Visitors will see a lone dome-like chamber made of used armor and weaponry welded together in the shape of a gigantic gauntlet or armored hand. The structure encloses a glowing altar fashioned of shields, which is supported by a network of interlaced swords upon a flagstone floor. The place provides spare accommodations, but it is available for a day and night to all who make offerings of weapons, and it often provides vital protection against pursuing brigands or wolves, for no one can draw blood within the sanctified area of the shrine, save in a ritual dedicated to Tempus, without awakening the seven animated blades that guard the shrine. Any priest of Tempus within sight of the shrine can mentally command the blades to strike in accordance with his or her will (as a free action, but the character can only select targets for the blades, not control them otherwise).
Intruders who find the concealed flagstone trapdoor and try to descend beneath it into the rooms reserved for clergy of Tempus and their priests also face attack by the blades. If they try to take anything from the underground armory without uttering the proper pass-phrase; they'll suffer attack from the helmed horror waiting there. Only a priest of Tempus can call off these guardians once they are activated, but the horrors do not pursue targets outside the temple's holy ground.
The Shrine of Swords was established some twenty summers ago by several wandering priests of the wargod, and it has been expanded since then and is often both restocked with weapons and stripped of offerings by needy clergy.
Without revealing rituals to unbelievers. It can be said that the shrine exists as a stopover place for all faithful of Tempus, and its altar allows for the full range of normal - that is, non-battlefield and non-monster-slaying - devotions such as vigils, weapon consecrations, prayers for guidance, "honor woundings," and daily offerings and reverences.
The Guardian Blades
The seven silently hovering longswords that defend the shrine customarily hang vertically, point-down (except for the two that guard the shaft to the Rooms of Refuge). These guardian blades are Small animated objects (see the animated object entry in the Monster Manual) with the following non-standard characteristics: HD 4d10 (22 hp); Init: +2 (Dex); Spd: Fly 60 ft. (perfect); AC 15; Atk +2 melee; Dmg 1d8; SQ SR 20 (spells cast by clerics of Tempus affect the swords normally); SV Fort +1, Ref +3, Will +4.
The underground areas are reserved for the use of clerics of Tempus and those who accompany them, and the guardians are governed by the following pass-phrases that must be uttered while touching either a metal weapon or the buckle or fastening of a piece of armor. Priests of Tempus and those in physical contact with them need not use the pass-phrases.
- The password to pass the blades in the shaft when going down is, "Bright blades forfend." Upward travel is harmless unless the helmed horror is active, where-upon this pass-phrase must be used to avoid attack.
- To open the armory door from the well chamber side without activating the helmed horror one must say, "For the sharpest need."
- Any weapon taken from the armory past the helmed horror will awaken it unless the words "Tempus arms me true" are spoken.
The following phrases work only if uttered by clergy of Tempus:
- To halt any guardian: "Mercy behind the blade."
- To return any guardian to its former position (after halting it; this phrase has no effect on an active guardian): "Vigilance before all."
THE WILL OF THE WARGOD
Some powers of the shrine are extended to non-believers only if they make an offering of either a weapon or blood shed in battle (usually a vial of such blood, but bloodstains are acceptable if the garment is left on the altar, whereupon it, like a weapon offering, will silently fade away before the power takes effect). These powers come without price to the faithful of Tempus.
- The faithful of Tempus or a person who made an offering gains the effect of a ring of warmth throughout the sanctified area (includes underground areas).
- A weapon touched to the altar by a creature who wills it not to be given as an offering but rather to know more about it, will emit visions - scenes that appear above the altar, and remain frozen there, in three dimensions, for some minutes - first of its most recent use to draw blood, and then one of its most important or bloody uses.
If the weapon has an alignment, sentience, inherent magic, or temporary enchantments, all of these things will be made known to the being holding the weapon. The Shrine also reveals if such weapon properties have recently changed (for example, if a permanent or temporary enchantment have recently been applied).
- A poisoned weapon will be purged of such taints instantly upon contact with the altar (this power causes the altar to emit a deep, bell-like tone).
POWERS of the HOLY GROUND
Within the sanctified area of the shrine, where the will of Tempus is strong, certain properties pertain. Some of these are secrets of the faith, but others have become known over the years, including:
- wounds heal (naturally) at double the normal rate
- all healing magic restores twice the usual hit point total when applied to wounds made by manufactured weapons (not claws, fangs, or other such natural weaponry)
- weapons make no sound when struck or striking objects
- no weapon can be broken
- enchanted armor and weapons can be mended with a good chance (governed by the will of Tempus on a case-by-case basis) that their properties will survive or be restored
- no metal will rust
- no guardian blade can be removed from the consecrated area; attempts to magically do so will rebound with harmful and strange effects on the caster or source.
The faith of the Wargod is not my expertise, and Mystra smiles not upon those who cut down any who possess knowledge of the arcane, or an aptitude for magic. Yet I can say something of potions such as those stored at this shrine.
There are many more local and guild symbols, often deliberately cryptic, but these listed are universally understood. To falsely label a potion vial is a serious crime against guild law, Thayan trade rules, and MageFair protocol; the usual punishment is to be magically forced into another shape for a set amount of time (usually not less than half a year).
For some years, the best potions have been prepared and sold in cork-stoppered, wax-sealed steel vials, graven at the necks with symbols to denote their type:
- a circle: cure light wounds
- two circles: cure moderate wounds
- three circles: cure serious wounds
- a triangle: delay poison
- a feather: fly
- a flame: fire breath
- a mouth: truth
- a shield: neutralize poison
- a spider: spider climb
- a star (many crossed rays): remove blindness/deafness
- a sun (circle of radiating rays): remove disease
- an eye: vision
- an eye radiating rays: darkvision