- "Our duty is clear. If you cannot stand against them, then we will take a force and destroy these rat-things that prey upon you. Make way."
- —Lord Adana, Swordmaster of Hoeth.[3a]
The Swordmasters of Hoeth are exemplars of the Elven martial arts. Each has studied warfare and personal combat for decades, or even centuries.
- "From the darkness I cry for you.
The tears you shed for us
are the blood of the elven kind.
here I stand
on the last shore,
a sword in my hand.
Ulthuan shall never fall!"
- —Vow of the Swordmasters of Hoeth.
Since the time of Bel Shanaar, a long and bitter struggle has raged behind the peaceful facade of Ulthuan's courts and palaces. A war fought behind closed doors by the trusted agents of the Phoenix King and the debased worshippers of the Cults of Excess. After centuries of bitter struggle, Phoenix King Aethis requested aid from the sages of the White Tower. In response, the Loremasters of Hoeth unleashed the Swordmasters upon the vile cultists. The legendary warrior-scholars wasted no time taking their unparalleled skills to the dark corners of Ulthuan's great cities, slaughtering the cultists wherever they were found. So began the first chapter in the secret war that has lasted ever since, for the Swordmasters are implacable foes and will not rest until every member of the Cult of Pleasure lies dead.[2a] It was Swordmasters who revealed the growing corruption of the Cults of Excess during the time of Aethis and thus spurred the dark elves into action to kill the Phoenix King.[1a]
It is even said that the highest masters of the order can slay a foe with but a touch, or kill with a single precisely-pitched whistle. When Ulthuan marches to war, none go more eagerly than the Swordmasters of Hoeth, for only in war can they truly unleash the full extent of their deadly art. As the Swordmasters advance, their blades blur and weave, knocking aside arrows in mid-flight and leaving trails of bloody spray wherever Hoeth-forged steel tastes flesh.[1b]
The Swordmasters' greatswords are forged beneath the Tower of Hoeth, by smiths whose secrets are the envy of even the priests of Vaul. Each elegant blade is as long as an Elf is tall, yet is balanced so perfectly that, to a warrior skilled in its use, it seems as light as a feather. So keen is the greatsword's edge, and so enduring are the enchantments woven into its blade, that its sharpness is never dulled, no matter how many helms or skulls are cloven by its strikes.[1b]
Since their inception during the reign of Bel-Korhadris, the Sword Masters have distinguished themselves on thousands of occasions. At the Battle of Hathar Ford, a single regiment of Sword Masters guarded the only river crossing for miles around. Commanded by the feared sorcerers, the Coven of Ten, a vast Dark Elf army sought swift passage across the river, but the Sword Masters denied them at every turn. Fighting knee-deep in the swirling river, the Sword Masters inflicted grievous casualties on the Dark Elves, despite the blistering barrage of spells cast by the Coven. After hours of ceaseless combat, the river became so choked with the bodies of the Dark Elf dead, that the corpses blocked the flow of the river, which soon burst its banks. The timely arrival of the legendary High Elf Mage Teclis to the battlefield brought much-needed respite from the magical assault launched by the Coven of Ten, and the Sword Masters swiftly counter attacked, driving the Dark Elves from the field.[2a]
- In "Defenders of Ulthuan", Swordmasters have a form of cleansing ritual where the swordmaster lays their weapon across their lap and lets the sounds of the surrounding nature ease them into a meditative trance. Their breathing slows and their senses spread out from their body as the swordmaster whispers a mantra taught to them at the Tower of Hoeth. The air around them sparkles as the ambient magic carried on the wind becomes attuned to their subtle vibrations. A soft glow builds beneath their eyelids, then, in one smooth motion, the swordmaster draws their weapon and holds the blade before them. Their legs uncoil and in the blink of an eye they stand with sword raised high above them. The blade spins in their hands and their grip is reversed, the sword slashing in an intricate series of maneuvers nearly too fast for the naked eye to follow. Their feet are in constant motion as they lunge, parry, and thrust at imaginary opponents, the blade cleaving the air in an impenetrable web of ithilmar that swoops gracefully around the swordmaster. One by one the wielder performs the thirty basic exercises of the Swordmasters before moving on to more advanced techniques. Once more, the enormous sword is brought upwards and held before the bearer's face. They spin the blade in a series of maneuvers beyond the skill of all save the most gifted of Ulthuan's warriors. Only through the superlative training of the White Tower's Loremasters can a warrior transcend mere skill and become a true master of the martial arts to perform feats of swordsmanship beyond imagining. With a selection of the most advanced techniques performed, the swordmaster moves into a more personal series of manoeuvres, where their soul flows into the blade and informs its every movement. The sword reaches further and faster, the tip cutting the air in dizzying fast sweeps that would be impossible without decades of training and a mastery of one's own body. At last, the sword ceases in motion; so suddenly an observer might be forgiven in thinking it had never moved at all. With a figurative whip of silver steel it is returned to its sheath and the swordmaster becomes cross-legged once more, their breathing returning to normal as they emerge from meditation, calm and refreshed.
- Each Swordmaster has their own particular style with a blade and each warrior bares an element of their heart when they fight, an aspect of their personality that is so unique and distinct as to be unmistakable to another practitioner of the art.[4a]
- 1: Warhammer Armies: High Elves (8th Edition)
- 2: Warhammer Armies: High Elves (7th Edition)
- 2a: pg. 55
- 3: Children of the Horned Rat (2nd Edition Fantasy Roleplay)
- 3a: pg. 11
- 4: Defenders of Ulthuan (Novel) by Graham McNeill
- 4a: Chapter 2
- 5: Kinstrife (Short Story) by Graham McNeill