A chunk of stone as big as his fist had been blasted
out of the wall before his eyes. Of the human being
who had been standing on the wall, holding the
opposing Sword, there was almost nothing left.
Although Shieldbreaker appeared the same as ever,
there appeared to be no trace of Doomgiver.
“Doomgiver, gone? Just like that? No, there must
be some pieces here; I’ll find them, and carry them
back to my forge, and make it new!”
But that proved to be impossible. Though Vulcan
diminished himself to half his previous height, the
better to search for tiny scattered objects, he could
not turn up even the smallest fragment of the
shattered blade. He found only the black hilt, bearing
the simple white circle, a line returning on itself. The
Sword of Justice was no more.
He told himself that he might still try to recast it,
some day, beginning the job from the beginning
again; but he was not sure now that he remembered
how he had accomplished it the first time. And
anyway, what need had he of a Sword of Justice
now? Just twenty years ago, things had been simpler;
all the gods knew what they were doing then, and
what they were supposed to do; and no human being
had yet thought of challenging their rule.
Vulcan was angry, as he went limping on toward
the House of Courtenay.
Over rooftops he saw the heads of Apollo, Zeus,
and Diana, come to chide and challenge him again.
Diana demanded: “Why did you strike down
He snarled at them all: “Because he insulted me,
and bothered me! Who needed Mars, anyway? What
was he good for? And as for the Great Dog, I’m not
even sure he’s dead. I wasted no time on him, one
way or the other.”
As soon as Vulcan swelled himself back to his
usual height, and waved Shieldbreaker at them, the
protestors fell back out of his way, as he had known
“By my forge, I think that this must be the house.”
The four-story building, standing close by one of the
branches of the river, had already been attacked by
someone else, and was still smoking. On the flat roof
of the house, amid vines and flowers and garden
paths, a human stood. The little creature was strong
and bulky for a mere man, and held another Sword in
Shiva pounced forward, meaning to take that
weapon for his own. He ignored Vulcan’s rumbled
The Sword in the man’s hand screamed with its
own power. By the shrill note Vulcan recognized it, at
once and with satisfaction. Townsaver!
The god of the four arms screamed too, in pain, not
triumph, and pulled back a badly mangled hand. The
injured god ran reeling, devastating small buildings as
he crashed into them. His screams continued without
pause, as his bounding, bouncing flight took him away
to the city walls again, and over the walls and out of
“Hah, the fool!” Vulcan grumbled to himself in
satisfaction. “Now I’ll take that Sword too. Or else
see it destroyed, like the other.”
He stepped close to the man on the roof, and
slashed quickly with the Sword of Force; right to left
and back again. With the motion of his arm his right
fist struck a corner of the building, close to the part of
the roof where the man was standing. As the two
Swords came in contact, and the Sword of Fury
disappeared in another explosive flash, the building
opened up under the impact of Vulcan’s fist, and the
man who had been holding Townsaver dropped down
inside the walls, disappearing in a cloud of dust and a
small landslide of debris.
“That must have been Townsaver, by its voice . . .
but, by the Spear of Mars, it’s gone now too!
Damnation to all human vermin who destroy my
property! But there may be other Swords in this nest.
He who told me said more than one.”
Vulcan considered the battered structure, its roof
terrace gaping at the corner where his fist had struck,
its lower floors blackened on the outside and still
smoldering where someone had earlier tried an assault
by fire. It would be easy enough to pull the house
down, but it would be awkward to
sift the whole pile of wreckage for his Swords
After taking thought for a few more moments, the
Smith shrank himself once more, this time to little
more than human size. Now he ought to be able to
enter most of their rooms and passages. The
shrinkage of course left his strength undiminished, and
had the extra advantage of making it easier for him to
grip Shieldbreaker’s merely man-sized hilt.
He kept the Sword of Force in hand and ready, just
in case the building when entered might contain
There was no need to kick the front door in;
someone had already taken care of that. Inside, he
encountered first a pile of ugly human dead; nothing
that he wanted there. He could tell now that there
were some live ones also present in the building, but
so far they were all trying to hide from him. It didn’t
matter what they did. He’d seek out what he wanted.
This was some kind of human workshop here. It
was well stocked with weapons, but none of divine
The Smith shouted: “You might as well bring them
out to me! I forged them, all of them, and they are
Next he kicked open a wall, behind which, his
senses told him, there was some kind of a hidden door-
but all he uncovered, all that had been hidden here for
safety, were a plump human girl and the small child
she was trying to shelter.
“Hah! This is their treasure?” The ways and
thoughts of humankind were sometimes small beneath
all Vulcan’s comprehension.
Now a light weight of some kind fell from some
where to land on Vulcan’s neck, and it took him a
moment to realize that it was in fact a living human
body. A man had just jumped deliberately upon him,
from above and behind. A lone man, whose
weaponless arms, looked around Vulcan’s mighty
neck, were straining in an evident effort to strangle
The god laughed at this puny assault; laughed at it,
when he got around to noticing it for what it was. At
first it did not even distract him fully from his search.
The Swords, the Swords . . . there ought to be at least
one more of them around here somewhere . . . .
He would have them all, or he would destroy them
all, to perfect and insure his ultimate power over the
other gods and goddesses. So, they thought the Game
had been abandoned, did they? Well, it was over now,
or very nearly over. But not abandoned. No. He, the
Smith, the cripple, was winning it, he had almost won .
. . . and, just to be sure of course, he needed the
Swords to perfect his power over men and women
too. He wanted at some time to be able to put
Shieldbreaker down and rest; but he thought that time
would not come while even one of the other eleven
remained in other hands than his, or unaccounted for.
He had turned away from the girl and the baby,
ignoring them even as he forgot the rag of living
human flesh that was a large, strong man still hanging
on his neck. He would brush that away the next time
that he thought of it.
Now Vulcan’s progress was blocked by a strong,
closed door, and he grabbed with his free hand at a
projecting corner of the doorframe, intending to tear
the whole framework loose.
But he met startling resistance. Here was mere
wood and stone, and of no heroic dimensions, refusing
to yield to him.
Still, such was the Smith’s impatience that his first
concern was still getting through the door, and not
wondering why he could not. Instinctively he used
Shieldbreaker on the door, which now gave way quite
Irritated by the delay, and more so by the fact that
the room uncovered this time was empty, Vulcan
became more fully aware of another irritation, the
man who was still hanging on his back. The god,
reaching back with his free hand to peel the
annoyance off, achieved a belated recognition.
“What’s this, human? Grown back your right arm,
have you, since last we met? Well, we can fix that . .
But for some reason the puny human body would
not peel free. Applying the best grip that he could one-
handed, without setting Shieldbreaker down, Vulcan
again had the curious sensation of being almost
powerless. The link of those two human arms that
held him would not part.
It was almost as if the chronic lameness in his leg