Michael Nicholson weapon lore

Weapon concept art and associated Lore

When creating original concept art, I always like to tell a story in my mind as I am doing so. It helps my creative process and makes the time spent all the more enjoyable. Normally I never write them down, but while working on weapon designs for Vanguard I decided to keep a record of them. Here are just a few...


Mahlen's Axe of Divine Intervention

This legendary Axe came to be after the fall of the foul mage Ghelshen at the conclusion of the Battle for Holgrem. With all lost, cornered in an abandoned dwarven lumber mill, the spiteful mage cast one final destructive spell in a final act of defiance. The force of the blast utterly decimated the lumber mill, causing debris of wood and metal parts to hurdle outwards in a hail of death. General Mahlen, commanding his troops from a snowy grove of birch trees on a nearby hill, would have met certain doom from a massive flying gear had a clump of snow not fallen from a branch of the birch tree he was beside at the precise moment the gear found it's way to the grove. With the release of the weight of snow, the birch branch sprang up and intercepted the projectile, stopping its flight mere inches away from the General's neck. Declaring this a certain act of the Gods divine intervention, Mahlen ordered the gear not be removed, but to have the tree itself cut down and to fashion it into an axe. Great care was taken to preserve the gear and limb, adorned with prayer beads, and wrapped with strips of sacred cloth and sigils of great power were inscribed upon the unconventional metal blade. From that day forth, General Mahlen carried the unique weapon with him into every battle and was rumored to have never lost a campaign with it in his hand. Over the years many weapon smiths, inspired by the tales of Lore, fashioned their own imitations yet none matched the ferocious power of the original. To this day no one knows the final resting place of the true Axe of Divine Intervention, but there are always those in search of it.


Dread Sword

Inquisitor Merrick enjoyed his craft. Plying his trade on the steady stream of hapless victims from the bowels of the dungeons provided him with great joy. While he employed a great variety of implements to extract information from his reluctant guests, his most favorite of tools was his hot iron poker. Nothing elicited the screams of agony he cherished more than that. One slow prod into an unblinking eye was usually all it took to get the desired results. And so, for Merrick, life was a grand concert of torture and misery. He often mused he was a conductor, dancing around his captive audience, twirling his bright orange baton to the music that only he could hear.

But alas, all good things must come to an end, and Merrick’s livelihood was no exception. Despite repeated warnings that his keep would fall to the hands of the wretched elves that had amassed outside the walls, Merrick remained steadfast in his pursuit of gathering information for his dark masters. Even as the ground shook from the elven assault, and stones fell all around him, he danced and skipped about his lair, shrieking his defiance and swearing allegiance to his Gods. Clutching his most treasured of tools to his chest, Merrick savored the pain and the sickly sweet aroma of his own singed flesh. He cast one final glance upwards as the chamber ceiling collapsed and buried him beneath an avalanche of stone and earth.

It is here that Merrick’s tale of woe and cruelty should have ended, but in a cruel twist of fate (as twists of fate oft are) 13 days after the fall of Klamindar Keep, Merrick rose from his rocky tomb… an animated corpse with a sole purpose and drive: to continue his work. His dead eyes glinted with joy at the sight of what he clutched in his rotting palm. His beloved instrument of pain had been transformed by his dark masters into a thing of true beauty. He surely would have wept with joy had his shriveled orbs allowed such a thing to happen.

Bent on revenge, and extracting information no one cared to hear, the crazed corpse of Inquisitor Merrick set out across the moonlit fields to continue his life’s work, the glowing orange Dread Sword in hand; dancing to the music only he could hear.



Along the coast, a popular tale among fisherman is that of Abruhm’s revenge. As the legend goes, years ago Abruhm was a fisherman of modest means, making his way in life as many still do, harvesting the murky waters for meager reward. Day in and day out, Abruhm toiled away aboard his rickety craft. Battling the choppy waters and jagged reefs that clutched at his boat like the talons of some mythical beast, he often returned empty handed. But optimistic was the young lad. He and his young wife had just set out on life’s journey, and were preparing for the birth of their first child. In his heart he believed his hard work would be rewarded by the gods, and that someday he would be able to provide for his family in a manner he felt they deserved. She was his everything.

 A wicked storm had gathered offshore, and the sky was leaden with slate grey clouds when a great misfortune was visited upon Abruhm and his beloved. Marauding soldiers, drunken and seeking shelter from the storm, happened upon the solitary hut that stood at the water’s edge. Forcing entry and bent on pillaging Abruhm’s meager belongings, the vile men clashed with the fisherman. During the course of the scrum, the young man watched in horror as his wife was run through as she tried to stop the fight. Clutching her blood soaked belly, she fell into her husbands arms. The cowardly men, taken aback by the unexpected turn of events, grabbed what they could and fled.

Beside himself with grief, feeling betrayed by the gods themselves, the fisherman walked to the end of the pier, clutching the still form of his cherished wife. Pelted by the stinging rain, Abruhm screamed his rage into the howling winds. Demanding death or retribution, he flung himself into the churning water.

The next day Abruhm awoke to find himself still alive, washed ashore. Beside him, a cudgel of magnificent design jutted out of the damp sands. A sawblade shell, crawling with the powerful magic runes, was affixed to an intricately carved wooded handle. The handgrip was wrapped with a torn strip of his wife’s bloodstained dress.

Silently the man stood, wrenching his prize free from the sand as the waters lapping at his ankles. A great and terrible power coursed up his arm, filling Abruhm with a sense of strength the likes of which he had never known. Grim faced and determined, he set out across the countryside in search of revenge, Riptide vibrating menacingly in his grip.

Every soldier that visited that lonely hut that night fell to the brutal power of the Riptide. No one escaped Abruhm’s wrath. Their pleads for mercy went unheard as he swung the mighty weapon with the strength of a man who had lost everything he held dear. And when the last man fell, his chest perforated by the ragged fins of the vicious weapon, Abruhm stood weary. His fury spent, the fisherman staggered back to the place he once called home years before. Without so much as a second glance he walked into the waters until he finally knew the peace in death he had known while alive in the arms of his wife.



Deregan Blackhammer stood alone in the stillness of the chamber, his hands trembling as they always did. He looked down upon his ruined hands; the flesh seared and peeled away, and grimaced at the price he paid for his devotion. He brought them up in front of his eyes and felt a long dormant sense of loss stir within his heart as the dull realization of knowing that his dwarven hands could no longer be instruments of creation. These, he mused, are the hands of destruction. He wriggled his stubby fingers, noting the crisscrossing patterns of scar tissue and the cracking of the skin as fresh blood snaked down across his forearms. He giggled in spite of himself; the pain nothing new to Deregan. Through bloodshot eyes, he peered upwards at the sole source of light in the chamber. Several feet above the tortured dwarf the object of his desire hovered menacingly. Bathed in the purple flames of wrath, the Last Hammer twisted slowly, giving the impression it was surveying the chamber itself. From beneath bushy eyebrows the dwarf’s beady eyes nervously darted about, surveying the room to make sure nothing was amiss.  

With clenched, bloodied fists, Deregan stood resolute beneath his creation; his last creation.  How long he has stood there he is unsure. The magic of the Hammer conspired against the dwarf’s sanity and soul alike. Time ceased to have any real meaning to him. It seemed a very real possibility to him that he has always stood there. The longing to reach upwards and wield the weapon was so strong he had to bite his lip deep to maintain his restraint. Not now, he chided himself. Not yet. Pulling back the veil of insanity, Deregan remembered the oath he had taken, and that was all that gave his life meaning. "When the last dwarf swings the last hammer, then all the dwarves' enemies will die with them.” he whispered to himself.  

“Is it time?!” he suddenly shouted to no one in particular. His voice reverberated around the small chamber shaking dust loose from the scattered remains of fools who had dared enter the chamber unbidden. With frightening speed he bolted to the nearest pile of bones and kicked it, sending the pieces flying in every direction. “Is it time?!” he screamed. He ran across the chamber to stand before a loose outcrop of rock. “Say the code!” he bellowed at the stones. Frustrated by no reply, he punched the rock, shattering it into a thousand pieces. He whirled about, facing the Hammer at the chamber’s center. Holding aloft his newly broken hand, his fingers bending out at impossible angles, he shook his arm at the Hammer accusingly. “This is all your fault!” he sobbed. Tears flowed through the deep cracks of the dwarf’s leathery face seeping into his burnt orange beard. His chest heaved in aguish as he screamed his frustration at the ceiling.  

Slowly, methodically, the dwarf shambled to the center of the chamber. As the purple flames danced about the Hammer Deregan felt the bones in his hand mend. Sobbing and giggling simultaneously the dwarf stood resolute beneath his creation. His hands trembled.