In the Old Times, before the Royal Queendom of Vallermoore took power and stabilized the country, Vallermoore was little more then a mesh of often warring tribes and clans who would only rarely unite against a greater foe, and for most of the year, skirmishes and battles were frequent.
There was a common saying of those times.
"Me against my brother
Me and my brother against our family
Me and my family against our tribe
Me and my tribe against our clan
Me and my clan against the other clans
Me and the clans against Vallermoore
Me and Vallermoore against the whole world."
The young prince Xan, whose father ruled what is now a large part of northern Vallermoore, was cultured and clever, but to the sorrow of his father had one major flaw which made him unfit to rule if it was not soon corrected; he was a coward in the face of physical danger. A coward would neither be respected by his foes or his own people, and if he did not soon fall in battle, he would be deposed and blinded or outright murdered by his own courtiers and a stronger man would take power. So the young prince's father had a private word with the royal wizard and a magical axe was made at the kingdom's only place where true magical weapons could be made, the Infernal Forge. The king was hesitant to have a weapon made from there, as such infernal weapons always came with built in drawbacks, coming as they did from such a tainted source, but he thought that he had no choice, has he had no other legitimate royal heirs to carry on the dynasty.
Not long after his death the new king had to carry the weapon into battle for the first time, and when he gripped it it gave him a great feeling of bravery, allowing him to charge into battle in an age when warrior kings were expected to lead from the front. He won this battle and came back home brandishing his axe to the cheers of the people. In fact, he liked this axe so much that he was never seen without it either in his hands or by his side, and the axe became known as the Xan-Axe. As he was the king, this was not a problem. Until, that is, in his next battle he managed to drop the Xan-Axe in the middle of the battle. Things were not lost; he wore fine plate armour and a sword had his side and had not been unhorsed, and most of his bodyguards were still alive. But a great wave of fear filled him and he turned and fled the field, and at the sight of their king fleeing his army fall apart and was slaughtered. The king was shortly afterwards found hiding behind a tree and was beheaded with his own weapon, and the new king gave the weapon to one of his barons.
The baron was shortly afterwards called to a banquet at which the guests were to be unarmed, as the new king had a not entirely unjustified fear of being assassinated. But when he tried to leave the Xan-Axe in his lodgings, he was struck by a terrifying fear. So he tried to smuggle the Xan-Axe into the banqueting hall in a bag, but was caught doing so. The angry new ruler saw this has high treason, and had the upstart noble beheaded then and there and the Xan-Axe given to the Royal Executioner, who had been awarded his post under the old king. Because of his fears of being overthrown, new laws were made that only on duty soldiers and nobles could carry swords, axes and the like in public. Those beneath them were limited to work tools and short daggers, and even work tools were only allowed during working hours. To properly enforce these laws, Day Patrols and Night Patrols of soldiers were created, Vallermoore's first proper police force.
When the Royal Executioner was caught at nigh by a Night Patrol, on his way to a tavern holding his Xan-Axe in public, the soldiers ordered him to disarm, but he refused point blank to do so and in the end they had to surrond and kill him, losing three of their own in doing so. After this second incident in his reign involving the Xan-Axe, the new king had it buried in the tomb of one of his nobles who had recently died from an infected sword wound, to get it out of the way. But all too often, tombs are sooner or later robbed, and when that happens, the blessing and the curse of the Xan-Axe will be once more unleashed upon the world.
The great magical boon of the Xan-Axe is the unshakable bravery that it grants to it's user, both in battle and in other situations. The holder of the Xan-Axe will never feel fear, even when perhaps they should.
Unfortunately, at least in the hands of mortal beings, it has an equal bane, and that is that very quickly after the first use of the Xan-Axe it's owner only feels brave whilst in direct contact with it. If it is stolen, confiscated or just mislaid, the owner will rapidly become a quivering coward scared of the slightest thing. The owner effectively needs the Xan-Axe to face the problems of daily life and cannot do without it for any length of time.