Anyone who has ever played D&D surely knows of the holy avenger, the mighty magical sword whose true power manifests only in the hands of a paladin. Where did the notion of the paladin wielding a special sacred weapon first cross into official material for the Forgotten Realms?
In case it helps, I trace the holy avenger back to early editions of D&D where it was presented as but one token of a broader type: the holy sword. The first printed appearance of the holy sword I can find is in AD&D 1e’s Supplement 1: Greyhawk, which presented the holy sword as if it were a class feature part-and-parcel of the paladin:
Paladins with any form of “Holy Sword” are virtually immune to all magic (see MONSTERS & TREASURE, MAGIC & TREASURE, Swords).
(See p. 8.) Two kinds of holy sword were offered there, namely the holy sword +5 and the sword of sharpness. (See pp. 46-47.) In AD&D 1e, the DMG likewise described the holy avenger (technically named “Sword, +5, Holy Avenger”) as “a holy sword.” (See p. 165.) And the 1e PHB again treated the holy sword like a class feature, though without actually describing the properties of the weapon itself:
If a paladin has a “Holy Sword” (a special Magic Sword which your referee is aware of and will explain to you if the need arises), he or she projects a circle of power 1″ in diameter when the Holy Sword is unsheathed and held; and this power dispels magic . . . at the level of magic use equal to the experience level of the paladin.
(p. 22; emphasis mine.) In 2e, the PHB (see pp. 27-28) did essentially the same. At least two 2e volumes specific to the Realms go on to mention holy avengers (though not holy swords):
Faiths & Avatars mentions holy avengers in reference both to characters with the Crusader kit (p. 184), and to the weapon carried by the avatar of Torm: “Duty’s Bond, a massive two-handed holy avenger +5 with all the powers of a sun blade as well” (p. 163).
Warriors and Priests of the Realms mentions the holy avenger, but curiously only in reference to evil Crusader characters. (See p. 64.)
Both Faiths & Avatars and Warriors and Priests of the Realms show publication dates in 1996.
However, given that Faiths & Avatars couches its write-up of Torm in terms of his activity during the Time of Troubles, it is conceivable that an earlier-published Realms novel might have portrayed Torm in his mortal life as a paladin wielding Duty’s Bond or some like weapon.
Are these the earliest-published references to holy avengers (or holy swords) in the Realms? Or is there an earlier origin, perhaps in 1e rulebooks or an early novel?