Saberhagen, Fred – Lost Swords 01 – Woundhealer’s Story

Her visitor had been waiting for an opportunity to reply.

When he was sure that his chance had at last arrived, he said: “My lady, you amaze me as always. How d’you know it’s not the Sword of Mercy that I wear here? You’ve not touched it, and I wear the symbol on the hilt turned in.”

“Amintor, Amintor.” She shook her head a little, as if to rebuke him for his slowness. “The Sword you wear at your side is the one you’re going to grab when danger threatens. No fear of your relying upon the Sword of Love for that- you’ll want to make some wounds, not heal ’em. What then? It can’t be Shieldbreaker, not unless your fortunes have risen higher than the rest of your outfit indicates.”

Amintor smiled. His hand brought the bright metal a few more centimeters out of its scabbard and turned it to give the lady a better look at the black hilt. Now she could see the concentric circles making up a small white target.

“It’s only Farslayer, my lady. Nothing for you to wince at when I start to draw it in your presence.”

“Only Farslayer? And I may be your lady, but I’m Queen no longer; now I can wince whenever the need arises. I’m afraid that any of the Twelve would be likely to make me do so now.”

“Even … ?” Her visitor inclined his head slightly, in the direction of his own waiting troops. There was some laughter out there; apparently they were being fed and somehow entertained.

“Oh, the one you’ve just appropriated has kept me alive when otherwise I would have died. But I’ve had all the help from it now that it can give me. And I won’t be sorry to see it go, for it reminds me of all the rest. But never mind all that. While we have a little time here, tell me all that you’ve been doing. Gods and demons, Amintor, listen to the way I’m babbling on. Seeing you again awakens in me a craving that I had thought was dead. A craving for information, I mean, of course.” There was the hint of a twinkle in the

lady’s eye. “Now that you’re here, and no one seems to be pursuing you, sit with me for a while and talk. If one of the servants ever dares to stick her head in here, I might even be able to offer you a drink.”

Amintor smiled, gestured to show that he was at her disposal, and settled himself a little more solidly in his seat.

The lady demanded: “First tell me what happened to you on the day of that last battle.”

His smile broadened. “Well, to begin with, I was locked up in a closet.”

That closet had made him a dark and well-built prison, on the ground floor of the House of Courtenay, within the city of Tashigang. By the time Amintor was thrust into it and the door barred shut on him, the fighting had already broken out inside the city and was getting close to the house. Something even worse impended also-the wrath of Vulcan, more terrible than any simple human warfare. Or so it was considered at the time.

After Amintor had spent some time in a useless trial of his fingers’ strength upon the hinges of the closet door, he found himself unable to do anything better than curl up in a corner and try to protect his head from falling bricks. The level of the noise outside his prison was now such that he fully expected the walls to start coming down around him at any moment. The battle had definitely arrived in the vicinity of the house, and the building appeared to stand in some danger of actually being knocked down.

Still, there were some voices out there that occasionally were able to make themselves heard above the tumult. There was one in particular whose roaring the Baron thought could only be that of an angry god. Then, just when it seemed that the din could be no worse, it somehow managed to redouble. Only when part of one of the closet walls actually came

down in a thundering brick curtain was Amintor able to do anything to help himself.

When that opportunity arrived at last, he did not waste it. In an instant the Baron had scrambled his bulky body out over the pile of fallen masonry now filling the space where the lower part of the wall had been. Gasping and choking in a fog of dust, he caught dim glimpses of a scene of havoc.

What he had last seen as two rooms on the ground floor of the House of Courtenay had been violently remodeled into one. In this large space there were now a mob of people scuffling, men and women together surrounding the figure of a giant and trying to bear it down. The plain physical dimensions of that central figure, which struggled to maintain its feet, and laid about it with a Sword in its right hand, were little if at all beyond the human scale. But there was something about it all the same that made Amintor at once accept it as gigantic, more than human.

That fact was accepted by the Baron, but it was not of much immediate concern to him. What concerned him first was his own survival. In that first moment of his freedom from the closet the immediate danger that he faced was the mass of staggering, tumbling, rolling bodies, coming his way and threatening to bury him again.

Despite that immediate threat, Amintor’s eyes in the next instant became focused upon the Sword in the giant’s hand. That Sword, generating from within itself a sound of mud-ding like a hammer, went blurring about with superhuman speed and power, smashing furniture and knocking down sections of the remaining walls whenever it touched them. But it did no harm to the bodies of the unarmed folk who found themselves in its path.

Unless Amintor’s eyes were lying to him, that blade passed through their bodies as through shadows, leaving them unharmed.

But when one man came running with a mace to join the wrestling fight against the god, Shieldbreaker turned in its arc with a thud, shattered his weapon into fragments, and in the same stroke clove him gorily in half.

Only later did the Baron have the time to puzzle out some meaning from all this. At the moment he could only do his best to get himself out of the fighters’ way. Doing so was far from easy. He was in a corner with only the ruined closet behind him, and it appeared that he was trapped.

He dodged as best he could.

Just when the crush of struggling bodies was at its nearest to Amintor, threatening to pin him against the wall, he saw at the giant’s waist a sword belt that carried two sheaths. One of them was occupied, and momentarily the black hilt that sprouted from it was almost at the Baron’s hand.

Again he did not hesitate. The tempting second Sword came out of its scabbard into his grip. It was still in his hand as he made his dodging, running, cowering, crawling escape from the building. He came out of the place through what had been the back door but was only a jaggedly enlarged doorway now, from which fragments depended on wrecked hinges. Evidently the fighting had indeed been fierce in and around the building even before that little mob of mad folk, whoever they were, had decided that they were going to wrestle a god. The fallen were everywhere, in the street and on the floor, most of them uniformed in the blue and gold livery that meant Blue Temple guardsmen.

Outside, a large quantity of smoke hung in the air, and Amintor could see that the house he had just got out of, though built mostly of bricks and stone, was trying to burn down.

The other buildings nearby were largely intact, but still there were signs of war down every street. Nearby, the Corgo flowed stained with blood, and rich with debris, including

bodies. The whole city of Tashigang was reeling under the combined assaults of human armies and of gods.

While Amintor was still inside the house, the thought had briefly crossed his mind that he might try out his newly acquired weapon in the melee there, against one side or the other. But the Baron had rejected that notion as soon as it occurred to him. None of the humans in that house were likely to be his friends, whether he helped them now or not; and a god’s gratitude for any kind of help was certain to be chancy at best. He did pause, now that he was outside, and look at his Sword’s hilt, anxious to learn which weapon he had seized.

Farslayer itself! He almost dropped the weapon when he saw the small white target on the hilt. Instead he looked around him quickly to see if he was being pursued, and ran on when he saw that he was not. Right now, he thought, Sightblinder would have been a luckier acquisition, almost certain to mean a safe passage out of all this. He was uncertain of the exact limits on the powers of the Sword of Vengeance, and not at all anxious to have to try them out in open combat. As matters stood, the only playable move for him right now was a quick retreat, a maneuver which Amintor proceeded to carry out with as much dispatch as possible.

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Categories: Saberhagen, Fred