Axe Me a Question

I had a dream – the kind that seeps into my consciousness as I drift upwards toward waking. Sepia tones predominated – a lone rider in a cloak sat astride a horse on a hill overlooking a small town in the middle of nowhere. He carried a battleaxe. No story connected to him, but the image remained accessible instead of fading away, as most of my dreams do.

Then one day the image appeared in my mind again, and I knew I would write his story. The axe was made of a single black diamond, making it essentially indestructible, with an edge that never needed sharpening. And that made it a magic axe.

Thus was born Elegy: The Black Diamond.

It kicked off tons of research!

First I gave the protagonist a name and an identity – a gifted gemsman named Shay Bladen. Gemsman? Okay … so I began to think of what kinds of gems he worked, and what magic they had, if any, and would they be called by the same words we use in the real world?

I looked first at diamonds, especially black diamonds. Diamonds the size of an axe don’t exist in nature. And if you made one into an axe, it would be susceptible to shattering the same way any diamond is. Diamonds are cut along the planes of cleavage, and that’s also where they shatter when struck too hard. Thus, it had to be magic; the diamond was impossibly huge and it wouldn’t shatter. Cool!

But could he use it in battle? As a martial artist I know how quickly the arms can tire from handling a weapon continuously for even a few minutes – and even if it weighs only two or three pounds. How much would this one weigh?

I visited a martial arts supply store owned by a friend, where I took a good look at a double-bitted fantasy axe that looked about the right size. I carefully measured length overall, length and thickness of the shaft alone, and length and thickness of each blade.

I learned the terminology for the various parts of the axe – head, eye, belly, back, shoulder, throat, butt.

Then I found someone who could give me the formula for determining the overall weight of the axe, based on its dimensions. I found conversion charts online – and discovered my axe weighed twelve to fifteen pounds! Way too heavy!

I cut the dimensions down, and down, and down – and the best I could manage was about eight pounds. I’d had no idea diamond was so heavy, having only seen it in gems that didn’t seem heavy to me!

Just because I wanted to know – and figured you would, too – that translates to almost 18,000 carats.

Then I began to wonder about the gems Shay used in his work – what stones, what creations, and how he might have worked them without modern equipment. And the research began again.

Basic Truth: To create believable fantasy, it must at its core be based on fact.

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