Oath of Swords
1st edition cover
|Cover artist||Larry Elmore|
|Series||War God series|
|Media type||Print (Paperback) & E-book|
|Followed by||The War God's Own|
Oath of Swords is the first novel in the War God fantasy series by American author David Weber. It follows the adventures of Bahzell Bahnakson and his friend Brandark; the format is a swords-and-sorcery land with dwarves, elves, humans, hradani—the Four Races. There is a pantheon of Gods, some good—the Gods of Light—and some vile—the Dark Gods.
This novel begins when Bahzell Bahnakson is an exchange hostage in Navahk. While taking the back way out of the palace to meet his friend Brandark, he hears screaming. When he investigates he finds a hradani woman named Farmah being raped by the crown prince Harnak. He attacks Harnak and frees Farmah, smuggling her out of the city with the help of another servant woman, Tala. He sends the women towards Hurgrum, then strikes off in another direction, hoping to draw pursuit away from them. Brandark joins him and together they set off east to try to find work. Unfortunately hradani are not popular in other lands, and they are unwelcome most places they go. The wealthy dwarven merchant Kilthandaknarthas (Kilthan for short) hires them as caravan guards and they travel with him for some time, beating back several attacks by a group of assassins called the Dog Brothers, who are connected to Sharna's church. Harnak, who has been secretly worshiping Sharna (a practice that would be punished by death if he were ever discovered), is the one who arranged for the Dog Brothers to be sent after Bahzell, though Bahzell and Brandark do not yet realize this, because as long as Bahzell is alive he is a threat to Harnak's position.
Eventually Bahzell and Brandark leave Kilthan in a city called Riverside. They stay there for a while, trying to find jobs. Bahzell finds a job as a bar bouncer but was fired after another assassination attempt failed. While walking to the inn where he and Brandark were staying, he again hears screaming, and follows it into an alley where he rescues a noblewoman from the Empire of the Spear named Zarantha. She tells the city guard that she is his employer, saving him from jail. He and Brandark agree to help her, her servant Rekah and her armsman Tothas, who is unwell, to get home. Brandark, with Zarantha's help, begins writing a song in honor of Bahzell, called the Lay of Bahzell Bloody Hand.
As they travel there are more attacks by the Dog Brothers. They also encounter more divine intervention in their trip, which Bahzell resents, culminating in a personal appearance by Chesmirsa, the Singer of Light, in an effort to recruit Bahzell for her brother Tomanak. Bahzell, like most hradani, wants nothing to do with any gods, none of whom have done anything for his people in living memory, though Tothas, who is a follower of the war god, tries to convince him otherwise. Shortly after that divine visit Rekah is badly hurt and Zarantha is kidnapped. Tothas explains the background that they had not shared with the two hradani before: Zaarantha is a powerful mage, who was sent to be educated in the Empire of the Axe because without proper training Spearman mages generally died before they came into their talents. She plans to set up a mage academy in her native land to give her countrymen the training they need. Someone doesn't want her to make it. She has been kidnapped by dark wizards, who plan to kill her, allowing them to harness her life energy for a magical working. They would prefer to take her home first, as they will get more out of the working if they do it on her own soil. The hradani leave Tothas and Rekah behind, and set off after Zarantha. They meet up with Wencit of Rum, who aids them in the successful attack on the camp. Zarantha was badly hurt in the mind and Wencit needed someone to draw off the army that would chase them. Bahzell volunteered, followed by Brandark.
Harnak and the church of Sharna in Navahk have decided this has gone on long enough. They use a human sacrifice to raise a demon, which they send after Bahzell, and to enchant a sword to allow Sharna himself to reach through the bearer and strike directly. The demon catches up with Bahzell and Brandark as they flee. Bahzell wins, with Tomanak's help, and finally agrees to take sword-oath as a champion of Tomanak. He and Brandark once again run, eventually entering the lands of the half-elven Purple Lords. Bahzell's compulsion for rescuing people leads him to interfere with a Purple Lord who is in the middle of throwing an entire village out into the wilderness for being short of rent. He kills the Purple Lord, and instructs the townspeople to blame everything on a band of invading hradani to draw the pursuit. Harnak is also following them, and the Purple Lords end up tracking him, believing him to be the one who killed the lord of the village.
Harnak eventually catches up with Bahzell and the two of them do battle. The battle however, is not only between them, but also between Sharna —who has opened a portal to his realm through the sword, in order to strike out at Bahzell— and Tomanak who fights against him through his champion. Bahzell eventually defeats Harnak. Brandark fought the prince's entire guard, all of whom had been in the grip of the Rage, and was mortally wounded. Calling out to Tomanak, Bahzell demands to know why his friend must die. Tomanak tells Bahzell that he can heal Brandark through Bahzell, if he can see Brandark as fully healed. Bahzell is successful and Brandark's fatal wounds heal, leaving him alive and recovering, though missing an ear and two fingers. The two companions then travel to Bortalik Bay, where they receive a message from Zarantha that she is safe and well and that her father has adopted the two hradani, offering them any assistance that her house can provide. Bahzell gets them passage on a ship manned by Marfang Island halflings, and they set off for Belhadan.
Bahzell Bahnakson of the Horse Stealer hradani. The son of Bahnak, prince of Hurgrum. Bahzell has strong sense of honor, which gets him into trouble from the get go as he cannot ignore the injustices that happen around him. He is very stubborn and tends to react with violence to any threat that crosses his path. He initially has very little respect and not a trace of awe towards any of the Gods, Light or Dark because of the curse that his people suffered at the hands of the followers of Carnadosa (The Rage), and the apparent indifference of the Gods of Light to their predicament.
Brandark Brandarkson of the Bloody Sword hradani. The son of one of Churnazh's Bloody Sword allies, Brandark is generally held in contempt in Navahk for his civility, which is seen as weakness, and disliked by the prince for his political satire. He is something of dandy dresser with an effete mannerism, an intellectual and a scholar with a lifelong ambition to become a bard (though he lacks a decent singing voice) which is why he favors the goddess Chesmirsa. He has a witty sense of humor and a vicious way with words, which go hand-in-hand with his fighting skills.
Crown Prince Harnak of Navahk of the Bloody Sword hradani. Harnak is a truly loathsome person in every respect as he enjoys causing pain and humiliation to others and cares about nothing but his own pleasures. It is this reason that causes him to worship the Dark God Sharna, who offers him more pleasures of the flesh than he could ever have imagined and promises to him the throne of Navahk in the future.
Kilthandahknarthos (Kilthan): A dwarf merchant who hires Bazhell and Brandark on as caravan guards.
Zarantha: a noblewoman who was sent to the Empire of the Axe for schooling when she was discovered to be a mage. She plans to create a mage academy in her native land, as without proper training and protection the mages there usually die before coming into their powers. She befriends Bazhell and Brandark, and they help her get home.
Wencit of Rum: an ancient white sorcerer. Wencit is the last remaining member of the Council of Ottovar and the most powerful wizard in the world. He wanders about Norfressa, enforcing the ancient Strictures of Ottovar, the code of law that governed the use of magic and assists Bahzell and Brandark in saving Zarantha's life from the Carnadosan priests. He has a wry sense of humor and an uncanny ability to know things about people he's never met.
Tomanak Orfro: God of War and Justice. He is the most powerful god after the father Orr and the war general of the Gods of Light. Throughout the story he attempts to recruit Bahzell into his service, believing that he has what it take to serve the forces of good in the world.
The races of man
Humans: Humans are one of the three original races of man, and actually the first of the three. They are also the only ones to have wizardry. At present Wencit of Rum is the only white wizard.
Dwarves: One of the original three races of man, the dwarves prefer to live underground, and have an affinity for stone and metal. This is related to a talent that some dwarves have: the ability to manipulate stone with a form of magic, Sarthnasikarmanthar. Dwarves tend to be greedy and interested in trade; many are fantastically wealthy.
Hradani: Hradani are one of the original three races of man. larger and tougher than humans, they were originally a very calm, deliberate people. however, in the Wizard Wars, many years ago the dark wizards used wizardry to change the Hradani genetically, in order to use them as shock troops. As a result, male hradani are subject to mad flares of violent anger, known as the Rage. Because of this, and because they served the dark, albeit unwillingly, during the Fall of Kontovar, they are generally hated and feared. After the Fall they fled to deserted areas and were generally reduced to barbarism.
Elves: Elves were created by the two ancient white wizards, Ottovar and Gwynetha. Originally a group of magic users called witches, which were much harder to police than wizards were, they traded their ability to work magic for immortality. They tend to isolate themselves from the world, remaining in their city of Saramfel.
Halflings: Halflings are short creatures with small ivory horns that began to appear after the fall. Where they came from is unsure, but it is possible that they are the result of careless shielding by dark wizards in the Fall of Kontovar.
The original edition was released in February 1995 ISBN 0-671-87642-2.
Other books in the War God series are:
- The War God's Own (May 1998) ISBN 0-671-87873-5
- Wind Rider's Oath (May 2004) ISBN 0-7434-8821-0
- Sword Brother, a novella published together with a January 2007 edition of Oath of Swords, ISBN 1-4165-2086-4