Saberhagen, Fred – The Swords 03 – The Third Book Of Swords

crisis arrived, then he was at his best.

As was the case now. Rejoining the main body of

his army, he called his staff together and issued orders

firmly. In a new, bold voice, the Dark King

commanded them to abandon the siege that they had

scarcely yet begun. Once more he set his whole vast

host in motion, turning it to meet the Silver Queen and


Vulcan’s turn would come, and soon. There were

still certain weapons to which even a god armed with

the Sword of Force would not be immune, the tools of

boldness and intelligence. Meanwhile, for the time

being, Vilkata would abandon the city of Tashigang to

the gods.


In the hour before dawn, at a time when two

hundred of the loyal defenders of Tashigang were

fighting outside the walls, there was treachery in the

Lord Mayor’s palace. Money changed hands, and

weapons flashed, in a corridor on an upper floor,

where one room had been made into a cell for holding

an important prisoner. Chairman and High Priest

Hyrcanus of the Blue Temple was freed, in steps of

bribery and violence.

The move to rescue Hyrcanus was planned and

executed by his immediate subordinates in the Blue

Temple, as part of a general insurrection, in

accordance with the High Priest’s own previous

orders. The intention was to seize control of the city,

and welcome in the Dark King and his army.

Attempts by the Blue Temple Guard to seize the

walls and gates from inside were unsuccessful. The

concurrent try to assassinate the Lord Mayor failed

also, nor were the Blue Temple raiders able to

capture the palace-not all of the Watch there were

easily subverted or taken by surprise. And Hyrcanus

was wounded in his escape, so that he had to be half

carried, gasping and ashen-faced, back to the Blue

Temple’s local headquarters on a street not far away.

Once there, propped up on a couch while a sur-

geon worked on him, the Chairman demanded to be

brought up to date on how the situation stood,

inside the city and out. When his aides had

informed him as best they could, one of his first

orders was to dispatch a company of thirty Blue

Temple Guardsmen against the House of Court-

enay.Their orders were to take or destroy the build-

ing, and seize whatever Swords and other useful

items they could discover-along with any availa-

ble gold and other valuables, of course. They were

also to take the important inhabitants of the house

prisoner if possible, or kill them as second choice;

and in general to crush that place as a possible cen-

ter of resistance. –

Then Hyrcanus began to lay his plans to attack the

walls and gates once more.

When the first Blue Temple raid struck the palace,

in the hour before dawn, Baron Amintor was waiting

in a ground floor room for a good chance to see the

Mayor privately. When the Baron saw the Guard in

its capes of blue and gold come swirling in to the

attack, he immediately decided that he could best

serve his Queen’s interests and his own by remaining

alive and active in the city, whatever the outcome of

this particular skirmish might prove to be. The fate of

the palace and the Mayor still hung in the balance

when Amintor prudently retired, and set out through

the streets to carry warning to the

House of Courtenay. He of course remembered that

that was where the young man named Denis lived,

who was supposed to be able to set a counterattack

of looters in motion against the Blue Temple.

When the Baron reached his destination-not without

a minor adventure or two along the way-he found the

House already on the alert, its doors and windows

sealed. It took him some time and effort, arguing and

cajoling, to get himself admitted to speak with

someone in authority.

Once inside, he found himself face to face with the

tiny woman who had been introduced to him at the

palace as the Lady Sophie. Now, surrounded by her

own determined-looking retainers, she received his

warning with evident suspicion, which he in turn

accepted philosophically.

“I can only suggest, Madam, that you wait and see

if I am right. Wait not in idleness, of course; order

your affairs as if the Blue Temple were indeed

leading a revolt. I will await the result with


“You will await the result in a room by yourself.

Jord, Tamir, disarm him and lock him in that closet.”

The Baron’s capacity for philosophical acceptance

became somewhat strained; but at the moment he had

no real choice.

The attack by the Blue Temple against the house

began presently, just as the Baron had predicted, with

fire and sword and axe against the walls and doors

and windows. But the attackers met fierce resistance

from the start. Brickbats and scalding water were

dumped on them from the flat roof, and the first

window that they managed to break open

immediately sprouted weapons, like teeth in a

warbeast’s mouth.

Denis was not there to aid in the defense. Barbara

had taken the Baron’s warning seriously, enough to

dispatch the young man with orders to put into

operation whatever looting counterattack he could.

The street connections made in his early life ought to

serve him well in the attempt.

And even a feint, or the suggestion of an attack,

might serve as well as the real thing. In a city this big,

the Blue Temple vaults must hold vast treasure; and

Denis had already begun to spread among the city’s

street people the rumor that the Blue Temple’s main

hoard, an agglomeration of wealth well beyond the

capacity of most people to comprehend, had already

been moved into Tashigang for safekeeping. It was

unlikely that even a large mob could succeed in looting

the Temple here, but even the threat ought to make

the misers squirm and roar, and pull in their claws to

defend that which they valued more than their own

lives and limbs.

As the direct attack on her own house began,

Barbara’s first act was to see to it that her daughter,

with Kuan-yin as caretaker and Jord as personal

bodyguard, was put into the safest and strongest room


Then Barbara ran upstairs to get Townsaver. If this

warning and attack were only part of an elaborate

hoax to discover where it was hidden, the Baron was

safely locked up now, and would never see. A few

days ago the Lord Mayor, perhaps trusting the

security of this house as much or more than that of his

own palace, had asked Master and Lady Courtenay to

keep it here.

She was still climbing stairs when a great crash

from below told her that a door had somehow

already been broken in. Smoke and the cries and

clash of battle rose from below, as Barbara knelt to

bring the great Sword out of its hiding place under

her bedroom floor.

Fighting nearby, threatening innocent noncom-

batants in their home, had wakened the Sword of

Fury already. The weighty steel arose with magical

ease and lightness in her grip, the Sword already

making its preliminary faint millsaw whine. For a

moment as she held it, there crossed Barbara’s

mind the thought of Mark’s hands, a small boy’s

hands then, the first time he had held this Sword,

his grip no stronger then perhaps than hers was

now upon this very hilt . . . she was already hur-

rying back toward the stairs.

From below there sounded a new crash, a shout of

triumph in the invaders’ voices.

Their joy would be short lived. In Barbara’s

hands, Townsaver screamed exultantly, and pulled

her running down the stairs.


Ben, caught in Vilkata’s camp when the retreat

turned into a desperate scramble for survival,

bulled his way into the fighting at the mouth of the

no-longer-secret tunnel. But it was quickly obvious

that the tunnel was now hopelessly blocked as a

means of escape. Having no other real choice, he

promptly committed himself to the river instead.

Many other bodies, alive and dead, were afloat in

the Corgo already. All of them, swimming or

bobbing, would eventually reach one or another of

the great water-gates that pierced the city’s walls

only a few hundred meters downstream.

Ben splashed and waded and swam his way well

out into the current, trying to avoid the hail of mis-

siles, slung stones and arrows, now being launched

by enemy troops along the bank. The steadily

growing lightness of the eastern sky brightened the

water as well. The enemy certainly had the tunnel

now. Not that it was going to do them any good as

an invasion route; it had been designed for com-

plete and easy blockage at the point where it

approached the walls, and also at the inner end,

almost below the palace.

The bottom fell off steeply under Ben as he moved

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Categories: Saberhagen, Fred