One of the most common items used by Redcaps in Mythic Europe, walking sticks are many things to many travelers: a practical aid to hiking, a component of a disguise, or a discreet weapon when in need. Most walking sticks reach to the wielder’s chest, have a leather grip and lanyard to prevent the tool slipping from the wielder’s hand and have a short blunt iron spike for traction on the end known as a ferrule.
All walking sticks provide a Major equipment bonus (see Grogs, page 47) to a specific activity, in this case reducing the Ease Factor for Athletics (hiking) by 3. Even if not able to obtain a magical item, Redcaps attempt to procure the best quality stick they can – such Redcaps possess Superior Quality versions that grant bonuses of +1 or more to relevant Ability rolls.
Magic for Walking Sticks
Some Redcap owned sticks are enchanted to be able to transform into a spear tip, pick head or polearm blade on command, turning the seemingly innocuous stick into a serious weapon (see below). Bespoke versions of this tool may have pommels carved or cast into exotic animal shapes or incorporating other images. Within examples with larger handles may be concealed wands, daggers or small compartments to hold valuables or a quantity of liquid such as alcohol, holy water or a single potion charge. Depending on a traveler’s needs, they may be enchanted with a variety of useful or defensive magics. Some common enchantments follow:
A Tool of Convenience
MuTe x, R: Per, D: Sun, T: Ind; Pen 0, 6/day; Harnessed, Tethered
This effect transforms the metal pommel or ferrule of a walking stick into the head of a metal tool or shafted weapon.
(Base x, +2 Sun, +x 6/day)
From Hiking to Hunting
MuHe(An) x, R: Per, D: Diam, T: Ind; Pen 0, 24/day; Harnessed, Tethered
This effect transforms a walking stick or staff with a leather lanyard into a bow of the wielder’s choosing.
(Base 3, +1 Diam, +5 24/day)
Several common variants depending on a Redcap’s particular home Tribunal are seen:
The alpenstock, ancestor of the modern icepick, is a long thin staff of oak about 6 feet long, capped at one end with a steel ferrule used to aid climbing and hiking in mountainous areas. It is a favorite tool carried by Redcaps of the Greater Alps and can also be used as a weapon (treat as a quarterstaff) to ward off wolves, bandits and other threats.
The bordón or pilgrim’s staff of southern France is a slightly shorter staff with a hook near the top end and an iron ferrule at the base. Pilgrims consider it symbolic of the lignum crucis, the “Wood of the Cross”, and believe it provides protection against demons and temptation. This style of stick is extensively along the Way of St James pilgrimage route, and is often adopted by many Redcaps of Provencal, northern Iberia and even southern Normandy as part of a pilgrim disguise. The hook is typically used to carry a calebasse – a common bottle gourd made from the hard globose shell of a herbaceous fruit that is used to hold wine or water.
The Basque Makila
A traditional makila is a short wooden staff, cut to the individual’s hip or sternum height and crafted using an ancient technique known only to Basque woodcarvers (see below). Used by shepherds, hunters and hikers throughout the Pyrenees, it is also an important component in particular Basque folk dances. The word makila means variously “stick”, “club” or “rod” in Euskarra, the inscrutable Basque language, but the similar word makilar is used for the verb “to bludgeon”, highlighting its potential martial aspect.
Authentic versions of this practical tool are made of medlar, but chestnut wood is a less commonly used alternative, often indicating the staff is a replica rather than authentic Basque product. The flattened oversized knob or pommel that tops the stick is usually made of ox horn, but metal is sometimes used. The metal used in making a makila is often brass but sometimes steel – the sleeves that hold it to the shaft and the integrated blunt metal tip or ferrule consist of the same metal usually. Woven kid leather forms the hand grip and its attached lanyard. Some ornate makila have their metal components made out of silver, gold or even platinum. These are thought to draw unwanted attention from mundanes if used by Redcaps, who therefore prefer the use of traditional materials but at least one Basque Mercere magus is known to have enchanted such a ceremonial makila as his talisman.
Although primarily used as a walking stick, the makila can also be used as an effective light bludgeon, akin to a short dueling stick (see Lords of Men, page 137). The prominent pommel of the makila is constructed so that it can be easily removed by twisting to reveal a short steel spike. This effectively allows the makila to be used as a short spear or even thrown in desperation like a javelin.
Makila Init Atk Def Dam Range Type
As bludgeon +2 +4 +1 +2 na B
As spear +2 +2 0 +5 na P
As javelin 0 +2 0 +5 10 P
The makila requires Str -1 at least to use, has a Load of 1 and can suffer 2 Damage levels before being destroyed. It is only available from Basque craftsman as a commission and is considered at least an Expensive item, but replicas made by lesser craftsman are becoming more common amongst Redcaps of other Tribunals due to their utility.
Like other walking sticks, a makila provides an equipment bonus to Athletics (hiking) as noted above. As all authentic makila are at least of Superior Quality, the makila also adds at least +1 to any relevant rolls such as Athletics (hiking) or in combat and exceptional items may provide even higher bonuses.
Crafting a Makila
Master makila crafters belong to a small hedge tradition found only in the Pyrenees. The Basque masters are reclusive, speak Euskarra and will only craft a makila for an individual that they feel has proven worthy of such a masterpiece. Although unGifted, each possesses the Arcane Lore, Puissant Craft: Woodcarver and the Touched by Magic Realm Virtues or similar lesser craft magic Virtues.
Unlike most enrichment processes, enrichment of a branch from a Medlar of Virtue takes several years and is only learnt as part of the closely kept (Organisation) Lore of the master Basque woodcarvers rather than using Magic Lore. The woodcarver spends Spring carving intricate designs into the living medlar tree branch but then leaves the tree to rest and recover until late Autumn. This process results in intricate designs as the sap leaks out of the injured wood and expands along the carved patterns as it heals. In Winter, the carver returns to cut the branch down, stripping its bark and then straightening the shaft by heating it in a traditional kiln. The rough staff is then dried for at least three years, stained using a combination of local plants and quicklime then finally engraved with the craftsman’s family symbol and the name or crest of the intended recipient. An enriched medlar branch grants the Puissant Athletics Virtue. The metal finishings complete the tool but are not necessary for this enrichment process.