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From: Matthew Malthouse <matthew.malthouse@guardian.co.uk>
Subject: Re: (urth) Terminus est--another military procurement fiasco?
Date: Wed, 28 Oct 1998 01:09:44 

Peter T. Cash wrote:
> >From: "Robert Borski" <rborski@coredcs.com>
> >Anybody have any notions how Terminus Est came into the possession of
> >Palaemon? The sword, after all, is no mere carnificial sword, but a
> >valuable weapon, owing to its smithing by Jovinian (Agilus claims it's
> >worth a villa). But Palaemon is a mere torturer and the guild itself
> This brings to mind some thoughts I had on Terminus Est when I first read
> about it. The sword is described as having a hollowed blade, partially
> filled with mercury (with the rest of the space consisting of a near
> vaccuum, I assume). Allegedly, this makes the swing really powerful while
> keeping down the weight of the sword, because centrifugal force causes the
> mercury to shift to the point end of the blade, adding mass and, therefore,
> momentum.
> I have my doubts about whether such a sword would really work, even if we
> ignore the structural problems of a hollow blade (it would either be weak or
> very thick, I think). As you swing the blade, there is little centrifugal
> force being exerted at the hilt, since it's moving slowly compared to the
> point. Thus, by the time the mercury gets to the tip end of the blade, your
> swing would likely have been completed (assuming the mercury gets that far
> at all). On the other hand, if we assume that the mercury gets there
> quickly, I think it would have the effect of increasing the effort required
> to make the swing, since you must now accelerate the mass of the mercury
> along with the rest of the blade.
> In any case, having the balance of the blade shifting about during combat
> would be very undesirable. It would make the force required to move the
> blade unpredictable, as would be the momentum of the blade. In other words,
> you might not be able to stop the swing where you want it, or move the blade
> quickly enought to parry. The Sergeant prefers plain steel.
> So my answer to your question, Robert, is that it was military surplus. The
> army got rid of the thing as soon as it could, and sold it quite cheaply.
> Sgt. Rock

Feh!  Are smilies in use on this list. Should there be a few here?

As best I can remember the reason given for the mercur was that in holding the
blade upright the balance would be nearer the heilt making it easier to keep
still while the, possibly long, ceremonial bits were going on. The weight then
tips towards the end during the downstroke gifing some advantage in momentum
when the blade meets the unfortunate neck.

The one problem I can see with this is Sev's description of the 'usual' manner
of execution for women, bound in a chair and with a horzontal stroke. That
would be most awkward with a sword balanced towards the tip.

Apart from all that Terminus Est is explicitly an executioners blade, not a
military piece at all.


*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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